Naughty Amsterdam: The Red Light District

This article was originally published by Boom Chicago magazine at and is published here with their courtesy.

Naughty Amsterdam: Sex
First of all, the red light district is basically safe. Sure, keep your eyes open and your money out of sight, but the red light district is not as dangerous as you might think.

During the day, the red light district seems more like a neighborhood. People live there. People work there. People pass through there on the way to someplace else. But the ladies in the windows are there too. And after dark, when the red lights shine brighter, the place is much more exciting.

Just like every city and town around the world, Amsterdam has hookers. Unlike most cities, here they sit in windows with red lights. Not that you were thinking about it, but most women charge €50 for what they unpoetically call a 'suck and fuck' (always with a condom). It takes about fifteen minutes, and probably won't be the most romantic experience you've ever had.

Naturally there also are more expensive call girls who work for escort services who will charge you a lot more for a 'date.' The most famous and upscale brothel in Amsterdam is Yab Yum at Singel 295. Your cabbie will be happy to tell you all about it and receive a commission for bringing you there. In Amsterdam, some prostitutes are trapped in debt and drugs, and many Eastern European and Asian women seem to be having quite a unique 'vacation' in Holland, but many are in control of their own destiny. These women rent their windows for € 50-75 for an eight-hour shift, and popular ones take in around €250-€400 a day. They fill out tax returns, and many belong to a loose union, the Red Thread.

Porno shops:
No one should be embarrassed or scared to poke their heads in a sex shop. These are legitimate stores run by real businessmen who pay (at least some of) their taxes. You won't be ripped off or intimidated.

Look through the magazines, but not too long. You can be sure that the man behind the counter knows "Hey, this isn't a library" in every language.

If you're looking to spice up your relationship, the most beautiful shop in the red light district is Absolute Danny. No dildos and novelty dogshit here, just a mix of underwear and outerwear where fetish meets lingerie. Everything is kind of expensive, but rubber panties are cheaper than psychiatrist bills if you repress your sexual fantasies. Near Casa Rosso's main theater at Oudezijds Achter-burgwal 78. Open 6 days 12-8, Sunday 12-6, 421 0915

Real Live Sex Shows
Believe it or not, expect exactly what the signs promise. After haggling about the price with the multilingual doorman (discounts can usually be negotiated), you will be seated in a small cabaret theater.

One can expect most of the following: a vaginal muscle demonstration that involves gripping objects or dildos, a male stripper, a lesbian 69 number, and the grand finale: real live sex. But set your sights right. In the long run, it will probably turn out to be more interesting than erotic. But no matter how you slice it, a man and a woman will come on stage, engage in mechanical foreplay, work the gentleman to typical porno-style 3/4-erection, and have sex before your eyes. Write about that in your postcards home!

If you are interested in a higher-quality experience, the best show in the red light district is at the Theater Casa Rosso (Oudezijds Actherburgwal 106). No haggling about the price here; everybody pays the posted €25. But you get a choreographed, reasonably sexy show starring attractive men and women in a clean, well-lit theater. When we were at Casa Rosso, much to our surprise, a full third of the audience was women. If you show a Boom! magazine to the cashier (or print out this page), the first drink is on the house. So why not make it an expensive cocktail?

If the Casa Rosso is not enough for you, head down the street to the nastier Banana Bar (Oudezijds Achter-burgwal 37). This is a, uh, unique place where naked women alternate between filling your drinks and performing erotic parlor tricks, including their trademark banana routine.

For better or worse, the action happens on the bar right in front of your face. €40 includes all you can drink for an hour and an experience you won't soon forget. Best to go when its busy when there's more action as the Banana Bar is a place where someone has to pay to start a performance. Whether you want to be the focus of the show or near the person who is the focus of the show is up to you. Not surprisingly, the bachelor party mentality pervades at the Banana Bar and (clothed) women would definitely feel out of place.

Strangely enough, there is no world-class strip club in Amsterdam. What we do have is Blue Bell , a slighly outdated, but strangely captivating, ‘hostess bar' just off the Rembrandt-plein, a ten minute walk from the Red Light District. Maybe it's the red aluminium foil on the ceiling, maybe it's the DJ who introduces every dancer with the same ‘de beautiful, de one and only...' but this place has some charm. That it's so tiny and cramped makes it more intimate and gezellig than American super-clubs. There are probably only a few dancers working on a given night, but they are attractive and friendly.

Entry is free, but beer is €6,50. All you have to spend is that, but naturally they prefer people with money in their pocket. Instead of tipping dollars in g-strings to everyone US style, here you buy your favorite one champagne (bottles range from expensive to very expensive). In return, she talks, flirts, and probably punctuates her sentences by touching your knee and arm. Maybe you're ready for a €55 nude lap dance in a private room? The dancer will lay out the rules, but respectful touching is OK. As you leave, tip the doorman. €2 is fine. €10 makes you a rock star. Thorbecke-plein 24, tel 623 3386. Open 10-3 or 4.



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