8 Fun things to do in Amsterdam’s Red Light District

If you're looking for hot sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll, you'll find all you long for on a fun weekend in Amsterdam with very little preparation. The Red Light District, (known locally as De Wallen) is located in an approximate triangle formed by Central Station, Nieuwmarkt, and the Dam, at the very core of the city's international notoriety.

Amsterdam's RLD is currently undergoing a makeover whereby city authorities are trying to cut the number of prostitutes and marijuana-friendly coffee shops.

Why do they want to do this? They hope to attract a classier set of shops, restaurants for marijuana-loving tourists. Being typically Dutch, they consider culture, in every form, is the answer.

While sex and weed are the primary hooks upon which this area thrives, they are surprisingly secondary to window-shopping. Even though people do buy an incredible amount of hooch here – takings are estimated to be worth €500 million annually – many visitors enjoy wandering around, taking in the live exhibits and history of the area at the Erotic Museum, for example, or the Hash Marihuana Hemp Museum.

And in the center of all this fun and turmoil rises the Oude Kerk (Old Church), Amsterdam's oldest building, while nearby the devout Museum Ons' Lieve Heer op Solder attracts thousands of visitors every year. But there's a lot more to see and experience than just this. Read on to find out more about eight famous, and not-so-famous fun things to do in Amsterdam's steamy Red Light District.

1. Cannabis college

This college occupies two floors of a 17th-century monument in the Red Light District and provides the public with a plethora of information about the cannabis plant (including its medicinal uses). Volunteers run the establishment, and the admission is free. But if you do decide to wander around the delightful indoor garden, you will be asked for a small donation.

2. Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museum

Here is where cannabis cravers will get lost ogling life-sized pictures of beautiful plants and gleaming orbs of hash. However, the shrine to ganja is not only for tokers of the herb as straight-laced visitors will also be entertained by the long and fascinating history of the psychedelic plant.

There’s lots of pro-cannabis propaganda here too, including informative facts about its medicinal uses, the environmental assets of hemp over cotton, as well as information about the marijuana culture of today.

Be sure not to miss the indoor grow-op, showcasing plants carefully cultivated for their seeds, guarded by a guru of bhang, who is happy to offer advice on the use of vaporizers.

3. Erotic Museum

Even though the Sex Museum benefits from the passing trade at its Damrak location, it is the Erotic Museum, which lies right in the heart of the Red Light District. Popular exhibits here include a bicycle-powered dildo and a selection of John Lennon’s erotic drawings. Fans of Bettie Page will love the original pictures of the S&M muse on display.

Since 2009, the museum has begun displaying temporary exhibits in the Sexy Art Gallery on the third floor, which ups the anty, (and the pulse). The museum’s name is somewhat inaccurate, though, as despite its best efforts to shock visitors it is surprisingly 'unsexy' and if you are looking for something more sensual, your best bet is to visit one of the many sex shops nearby.

4. Prostitute Information Center

PIC can answer any question you have about the profession, about its professional issues and political fights related to the legalized prostitution industry. It’s run by Mariska Majoor, a former prostitute, and even offers a workshop (€65 including a drink and a photo) that gives punters the chance to spend an hour dressed in “working’ clothes.” PIC’s connected shop, De Wallenwinkel, sells souvenirs in line with the neighborhood, many of them being handmade.

5. Casa Rosso

The entertainment at Casa Rosso leaves nothing to the imagination: onstage you'll see gorgeous striptease girls, couples having all-out sex, and there’s a soft-core S&M performance thrown in just for the heck of it. A recent attempt to pull the shows out of the gutter with a tamer matinee burlesque show was abandoned in favour of the time-tested usual fare.

It’s definitely worth visiting, even though its famed marble cock-and-rotary-ball water fountain has been removed, and in an attempt to make you vacate your seat, busy periods see the recurring action on-stage speeding up to tempos reminiscent of Benny Hill.

6. Bananenbar

Rare and adroit female genitalia can be seen night after night – and, as the prime part of their spellbinding act, their girly bits spit out an average of 15kg (33lbs) of fruit every night. For €50 you get an hour to drink all you want, but the main appeal is the girls who will perform specialty tricks for another €50.

Some grease down their breasts for a team groping, while others push out a banana from their cookie. Owned by the same people who run the Erotic Museum, the Bananenbar is undoubtedly proud of its name and reputation as the curators of sleaze.

7. Museum Ons' Lieve Heer op Solder

Formerly known as the Museum Amstelkring, this is something of an insider secret. The main attraction lies upstairs, going by the name, ‘Our Sweet Lord in the Attic.’ Built back in 1663 this church became a refuge for Catholics after they had been banned from worshipping after the Alteration in the mid 17th century.

The altarpiece features a painting by the 18th-century artist Jacob de Wit. Meanwhile, the wonderfully preserved rooms on the bottom floor offer a realistic idea of what life must have been like during the 17th century.

8. Oude Kerk

The Oude Kerk started its life as a plain wooden chapel in 1306, but today it is touted as Amsterdam’s most fascinating church. With just one look it’s simple to imagine the Sunday Mass pandemonium that was commonplace during the chapel's zenith in the mid-1500s. It had 38 altars, each with its very own guild-sponsored priest.

Now it serves as an inherent contrast to the surrounding Red Light District, and it still holds lessons, as the inscription above the bridal chamber shows, “Marry in haste, mourn in leisure.”

Keep your eyes open for the floor-imbedded grave of Rembrandt’s wife, Saskia, who died in 1642 and also take note of the Gothic and Renaissance details above the northern portal, plus the stunning stained-glass windows, pieces of which date from the 16th and 17th centuries.

For extra shock value, check out the clefts in the choir benches from men evacuating their bowels; they tell a strange tale indeed. Occasional art shows at the chapel offer a range of intriguing subjects, from current local art to the World Press Photo Exhibition.

Amsterdam's Red Light District is truly an exciting part of this great city. What better way to explore it than with one of our gorgeous diva's on your arm? We're sure she'll delight you with some secret sight-seeing tips all of her own!