Amsterdam fights tourist masses

in the Red Light District

By ANNARITA MARINARO | March 10, 2020

Cover photo: A woman wait for her friend who briefly entered a Live Show at night in the Red Light District of Amsterdam. Charley Rousset / The Amsterdammer

Every year more than 19 million tourists visit the city of Amsterdam. This is a remarkable number as it is approximately 19 times the number of the city’s inhabitants; generating a lack of harmony between the city and its citizens. In order to create a sense of balance between the city center and its surroundings, and to protect sex workers in the Red Light District, the city government has made several attempts to shift the tourists’ attention.

Tourists looking at the windows in the Red Light District at night. Street art representing women are drawn on the wall. Charley Rousset / The Amsterdammer

In a letter to the Geementeerad (regional council) of Amsterdam, Halsema criticized the tourists’ lack of respect towards the sex workers and residents of the area. She finds the matter very important and sees the “humiliation of women” by the curious spectators as unacceptable. In the same letter, she suggested several solutions to reduce the mass tourism in De Wallen, the main red light district. One proposal was the establishment of an “erotic center”, which would accommodate spaces like sex theaters and digitized erotic hotels, in the hopes that such hotels would be a barrier to tourists who only come to gape at sex-workers. Sex workers would also be provided with facilities to regulate their appointments online.

A bystander walking away in a narrow street of the Red Light District at night. Charley Rousset / The Amsterdammer


While the erotic center is one of the many options still being discussed, the city government decided to take a definitive measure in February. After earlier measures taken to reduce tour group sizes did not yield the desired results, the decision was taken to ban ‘Red Light District Tours’ and the area’s public pub crawls completely. Victor Everhardt (the city’s councilor of finance) made a statement to the press, saying that the tours at De Wallen would be banned due to the disrespect involved with treating sex workers as a tourist attraction, demonstrating that this decision combined ethical considerations with the interests of the city. Fines will be imposed upon guides that refuse to comply with the new law. In addition to that, a measure involving police and law enforcement is being processed as many customers, residents, and sex workers feel unsafe due to drug dealers in the area.


In conjunction with GroenLinks’ decision to move the ‘Iamsterdam’ sign, the city seems to be pushing to change how it is experienced and perceived. 

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