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What comes to mind when you think of Amsterdam? Is the tulips? Windmills? Cute wooden clogs? Probably not. While these things are associated with Amsterdam, most tourists know it for two other things: marijuana and sex. Pretty much anything to do with sex really; sex shops, condom shops, live sex shows and more. I’ll admit, I was definitely curious but I wasn’t really ready to walk into a sex show. Especially not alone. However, when I had the opportunity to see a peep show in Amsterdam, I took it. 

Amsterdam Red Light District

As weird as it was, I actually loved the Red Light District. Not because I’m into marijuana (or prostitutes), it’s just one of the quirkiest places I’ve been to. There’s something really funny about watching men get pulled into windows (especially at 10am on a Sunday morning) by scantily clad women. Maybe I’m a little juvenile, but the whole sex craze that is so apparent in this area makes me laugh. It’s so over the top and extreme that I can’t help but giggle at some of the things. Seriously though, who would buy a blow-up doll with a penis AND breasts?

But as entertaining as it was peeking into these sex shops with their interesting wares, I wanted to know more about what went on behind the scenes of the graphic posters and vulgar neon lights. As someone who used to work in the victim industry and studied human trafficking (which is usually linked to sex tourism), I wanted to know how the system here actually worked. Which led me to sign up for a guided Red Light District tour which just happened to include a stop at one of the popular peep shows in Amsterdam.

Some of the more interesting 'toys' to be found in the sex shops

Over the course of a couple of hours, I learned a lot about the sex trade in Amsterdam. I learned about the process of becoming a prostitute, the history, and how it is controlled and legislated. I learned about the old local church, and how it used to thrive thanks to needy sailors, and of course I got some great and hilarious stories of the prostitutes of old who were pretty bad-ass. Then, as the tour wrapped up, we had one last opportunity: to see a peep show in Amsterdam. 

The venue we stopped out side of showed a large sign stating “2€=2minutes” with a possible viewing of: guy on girl, girl on girl, or solo girl.

“Go on” our guide prompted us, “you’re in Amsterdam, where else are you going to get the chance to do this?”

Peep show in Amsterdam

It was funny seeing everyone kind of shuffle their feet at the idea of seeing a peep show in Amsterdam. You could tell most wanted to, but felt awkward about doing so. In fairness, so did I. I wanted the experience, but I didn’t really want to sit in the booth alone so I ended up going in with another woman in my group. 

The two of us ourselves into tiny, dark booth, shoved a 2€ coin in the box and watched as the little shutter over the window slid open, revealing a single woman on a round rotating bed. The top half of her was clothed; trying to disguise what I’m convinced was a pregnant belly, but she was nude from the waist down. She wasn’t drop dead gorgeous, but she was pretty enough and took advantage of her long, blonde hair as she rolled around in front of us touching herself for everyone in the booths to see.

What made it weirder was that not only would we see her and her us, but we could see across the room into the other booth windows and their viewers. The booths were set up in a circular fashion around the room, so we had a clear view of the working girl… and everyone else. It wasn’t too bad because everyone was in our group and clearly uncomfortable, but I imagine if you (or someone you saw) were really into it, it could be pretty weird.

Even knowing we were all part of the tour, it was awkward. Of course, my go-to in awkward situations is to laugh, but thankfully I wasn’t the only one. Not only were the other viewers stifling their laughs behind their hands but our ‘showgirl’ quickly realized what was going on and joined in. But instead of fading off I think it just encouraged her to give us more of a show as she tried to shock us. I won’t get into intense details but I definitely saw more than I wanted. But then again, what did I expect at a peep show in Amsterdam?

Peep Show in Amsterdam

After what seemed more like 5 minutes, our 2 minutes ran out and as quickly as it opened, our black shutter slammed closed indicating our time was over. My viewing partner and I exited our booth and joined the rest of the group back in front of the theatre where our guide waited to hear about our experience.

Was I glad I that I went to a peep show in Amsterdam? Yes I was. It was awkward, however it was also definitely one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

Would I do it again though? Probably not.

Tips for Visiting The Red Light District

  • Do not take photos of the working girls (or men); it may be legal to be a prostitute in Amsterdam, but a lot of these women aren’t Dutch and it is illegal back in their home countries. Your ‘funny souvenir’ could actually land them in jail.
  • Hide your cameras in the area, as mentioned above photographing the workers can be dangerous to them and they will protect themselves. This might mean smashing your camera or throwing things at you, like urine or worse. Consider yourself warned
  • Be careful for pickpockets at night. The red light district is busiest between 11pm to about 2am and sticky fingers tend to come out with the crowds.
  • Dealers also come out late at night, do not buy anything in the streets. Marijuana is technically illegal, but the law has some sort of arrangement with the cafes. Buying outside of these cafes will land you in  a lot of trouble.

First time to Amsterdam? Here’s why the iAMsterdam city card is totally worth it. 

Want to stay close to the Red Light District? Check out the Swissotel Amsterdam, or for something a little cheaper try Intel Hostels Amsterdam Central.  Check Airbnb for options as well.

Planning a Trip? Don’t Leave Home Without


39 Comments

  1. Alli on June 24, 2014 at 2:05 pm

    This post brings back so many memories! Your experience made for a great post. “Seriously though, who would buy a blow-up doll with a penis AND breasts?” LOL. No kiddin’!!

  2. Lucy on June 24, 2014 at 2:49 pm

    Definitely a once in a lifetime experience! I went to a Ping Pong Show in Thailand years ago and that was another one that stays in the memory long after!

    • hannahlogan21@gmail.com on June 24, 2014 at 11:20 pm

      Haha I’ve heard stories about those! May have to go when I visit- another ‘just to say I did it’

  3. Sammi Wanderlustin' on June 24, 2014 at 3:14 pm

    Ohmygod! This sounds HILARIOUS! I loved the Red Light District, too, my friend (who is from Amsterdam) took me to a coffee shop and then the Red Light District so I giggled my way around!

  4. Tammyonthemove on June 24, 2014 at 3:27 pm

    Ha ha, good old Ámsterdam. When I went to the red light district I wasn`t too shocked to be honest as I used to live near a red light district as a student in Germany. 🙂

    • hannahlogan21@gmail.com on June 24, 2014 at 11:19 pm

      Haha we have nothing like that here at home so it was a bit of a shocker to me!

  5. Ashley @ A Southern Gypsy on June 24, 2014 at 3:30 pm

    Okay, I would seriously do this just to say I did it. I’ve been to Amsterdam but with family so didn’t get a chance to visit the Red Light District – next time!

    • hannahlogan21@gmail.com on June 24, 2014 at 11:17 pm

      Haha right? Not many people can say they have done it and it makes for a hilarious story to tell friends.

  6. Tara on June 24, 2014 at 3:45 pm

    Interesting post, I have to say it sounds like one of those unique Amsterdam things that you just can’t find anywhere else!

  7. Dave Cole on June 24, 2014 at 4:21 pm

    That is quite the store display – a bit different from the mannequins you find elsewhere! Good for you for trying it. I didn’t end up doing this tour when I was in Amsterdam many years ago, but it sounds like a very unique and memorable experience.

    • hannahlogan21@gmail.com on June 24, 2014 at 11:16 pm

      Haha yes- window shopping at a whole new level for sure! If your in Amsterdam again you’ll have to take a tour- it’s very interesting!

  8. Paul on June 24, 2014 at 7:04 pm

    Lol!! Brilliant article, I’m not sure about the toy with the breasts and penis… if it had a vagina I’d buy 5! ^_^ A very refreshing view of Amsterdam’s Red Light district – Thanks for the share

  9. antonette - we12travel on June 24, 2014 at 7:59 pm

    Oh yes Amsterdam is special. The first time I went to the Red Light District was only a couple of years ago and I felt totally inconvenient. Especially because there were quite some young (eastern European looking) girls that I’m sure of did not want to be there … Luckily the rules for this have become tighter. Las summer I guided a group of 20 ladies (and 2 men) around here and it was so much fun to see them in the sex shop 🙂

  10. Anna | slightly astray on June 25, 2014 at 9:23 pm

    Hahahah I love this story!! What an experience. I’ll be in Amsterdam soon (in July) and I’m SO curious about the red-light district. I didn’t know you could do a night tour, but I think I may just have to do it!! Where did you go to sign up for such a thing?

    • hannahlogan21@gmail.com on June 25, 2014 at 9:49 pm

      It was pretty funny! I believe there are a couple tours. I did the one with Sandemans (who also runs a great free city tour daily at 11, and 2). We just met in Dam Square at the allotted time the night of- just make sure you are there a few minutes early to buy your ticket. Super easy and I would highly recommend it!

  11. Kate on June 26, 2014 at 10:10 pm

    Very funny post, I would laugh if I was in there too! I haven’t been to Amsterdam yet but have a friend living out there and I’m sure she would take me. Just like a ping pong show, its a once in a lifetime thing to do!

  12. Brianna on June 27, 2014 at 11:29 am

    When in Rome, right? When I see sex toys like the ones you mentioned I can’t help but think about the people working in the factory where these are manufactured.

  13. Joao Sa on June 27, 2014 at 9:56 pm

    Ahah, love Amsterdam ! When I was there we went on a private show ( sponsored by the hostel ), which was 30 euros, quite expensive, but it was worth it, just for the laugh. We had a malaysian boy in the group, and he was used as a “helper” by the stripper, and the things she did to her.. You had to be there to witness it, ahah.

  14. Anu (Country Hopping Couple) on June 28, 2014 at 9:03 pm

    This is definitely a once in a lifetime experience everyone should do while in Amsterdam. It reminded me of my travels to Red light districts, shows and sex museum. Cheap fun!

  15. Bianca @itsallbee on June 28, 2014 at 10:51 pm

    My flight back from Zambia has a stop over in Amsterdam so hopefully I will tour around…and of course the red light district too as I have heard so much about it.

    Dubai | A Visual Diary

  16. Simone on July 13, 2014 at 9:58 pm

    We are in Amsterdam right now and I’m not sure I can bring myself to go. A tour would be a fun way to take it all in though!

    • hannahlogan21@gmail.com on July 13, 2014 at 10:31 pm

      You should do it! It’s awkward but kinda fun-and easier since you are in a group. Take the plunge- when in Amsterdam right? Enjoy your travels!

  17. Marcel on January 7, 2015 at 11:52 pm

    Haha, great article!
    I have recently joined a tour like this. Even though I’m Dutch, i din’t know much of the Red Light District. And because it’s the oldest area in Amsterdam, I wanted to learn and see more of it… It was great!
    Would defo recommend it.

  18. Marcel on January 8, 2015 at 11:05 am

    Hey, I’ve posted a comment yesterday. I’ve added a link to a site where I booked, so that other could check it out.
    Why did you remove the link?

    • Hannah Logan on January 8, 2015 at 11:31 am

      Hi Marcel,
      While I appreciate your visit and comment I do not allow promotional links on my blog (as mentioned in my contact me section). This is business and as a travel authority I do not endorse anything that I have not experienced myself. If I had taken part in your specific tour, that would be a whole other story.
      If you would prefer I delete all your comments, just let me know.

  19. […] dumb, just watch porn! A more authentic, and affordable Amsterdam activity to do is see a peep show for a euro a minute. My friend and I entered a small closet sized room and when we deposited our […]

  20. Jenna on April 30, 2016 at 12:58 pm

    Can you only go in on your own now because when I watched a documentary on this, I saw a sign with 2 men and a line through it?

    • Hannah Logan on April 30, 2016 at 1:00 pm

      Hmm I’m not sure? I went in 2013 and 2 people were allowed.

  21. […] The red light district tends to be something that tourists either really want to see or have zero interest in. Personally, as an ex-victim worker with an interest in human trafficking, I find it fascinating. Nighttime is the best time to see it in ‘action’ but I suggest taking a tour rather than just walking around on your own. There is a lot of history in the area and a lot to learn about the working women (and men) that you see in the windows. Plus, the tours have some great stories and interesting opportunities. The one I took gave us the opportunity to check out a peep show which was…interesting. You can read about my peep show in Amsterdam experience here. […]

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