Amsterdam Red Light District: 12 things to see

When exploring the Red Light District, known as de Wallen, you'll want to visit the marijuana museum, Frascati and more
Red Light District
Photograph: Shutterstock
By Tom Coggins |
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Whereas its less-than-savory reputation at home and abroad might suggest otherwise, there’s a lot more to the Amsterdam Red Light District than coffeeshops and legions of tourists. Locally known as de Wallen, it is the oldest part of the city and still features dozens of historic sites reflecting and commemorating its long history. There are many awesome contemporary hotspots scattered around the neighbourhood too, some often way less crowded than you’d expect given their location. These include several world-class museums, attractions, forward-thinking art spaces and even an old-school video game arcade with a bar. Ready to explore? We’ve got you covered.

Amsterdam Red Light District neighbourhood guide

1
Oudekerk, Museums, Galleries, Amsterdam
Attractions, Historic buildings and sites

Oude Kerk

icon-location-pin Red Light District

The city’s oldest building, Oude Kerk, has played an important role within Amsterdam’s daily life since the 13th century. Built by Catholics then ransacked by Calvinists during the Reformation, the church has witnessed more than its fair share of history over the years. Nowadays, it also serves as a cultural center and regularly hosts site-specific exhibitions created by international artists. Watch your step as you enter: there are around 2,500 gravestones scattered across the church’s floor.

2
TonTon Club Centrum
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Terence G.

TonTon Club Centrum

Grab a beer and relive the glory days of coin-op video games at this awesome arcade-slash-bar in the Red Light District. Geared towards grown-up gamers nostalgic for the 16-bit era, TonTon Club Centrum features around twenty classic arcade machines from the 1980s to 1990s, including Virtual Fighter and Time Crisis II. Just remember to take a break every now and then, because those pixellated graphics play havoc on the eyes.

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3
De Koffieschenkerij
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Aurelie T.

De Koffieschenkerij

Set inside several rooms attached to Oude Kerk, this secluded coffeehouse feels worlds apart from the hubbub of inner Amsterdam. In addition to offering peace and quiet in an otherwise hectic neighbourhood, de Koffieschenekerij serves light lunch meals, fresh coffee and soda from morning until the late afternoon. Don’t leave without trying the homemade apple pie: it’s served with lashings of whipped cream and works wonders alongside a cup of java.

4
Brouwerij de Prael
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Ann D.

Brouwerij de Prael

This brewery with a heart of gold helps people facing difficulties in the job market find meaningful employment. Known for its preference for time-honed recipes, Brouwerij de Prael mainly brews traditional styles of beer from the Netherlands or elsewhere in North-Western Europe. Its massive tasting room has all the charms of an old-school beer hall, featuring dark wooden furniture, vintage collectibles and a bar fitted with silver fonts. Tread carefully: the beers here are notoriously strong (and moreish).

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5
Allard Pierson Museum
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Johanna S.
Museums, History

Allard Pierson Museum

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Home to ancient artefacts ranging from Greek marbles to Egyptian sarcophagi, Allard Pierson Museum ranks among the most well-respected archeological institutions on the continent. Located inside a suitably magnificent building overlooking Rokin canal, the museum has deep ties to the University of Amsterdam and was christened after a local scholar. Aside from presenting its priceless collection of archeological finds, the museum hosts temporary exhibitions throughout the year, delving into different facets of world history.

6
Museum Ons' Lieve Heer op Solder, Nightlife, Amsterdam
Museums, History

Museum Ons' Lieve Heer op Solder

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Discover Amsterdam’s intriguing and turbulent religious heritage at this fascinating museum in the Red Light District. The whole place centers around a clandestine chapel built by an underground Catholic congregation after their religion was outlawed in the 16th century by the Protestant Dutch government. Decorated with pastel pinks and vivid iconography, the chapel looks frozen in time, allowing visitors to experience an important part of local history.

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7
Hangover Information Center
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Coosje K.

Hangover Information Center

Planning to drink a skinful while in Amsterdam but worried about the morning after? Good news: the clever so-and-sos at the Hangover Information Center have (reportedly) found a remedy for alcohol’s dreaded after-effects. Available at Hangover Information Center’s headquarters, this secret formula counteracts chemical imbalances in the body caused by boozing when taken before bedtime. Although it might sound too good to be true, the tonic only costs €5 and could, potentially, save you from a monster hangover. Worth a try, right?

8
Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museum, Nightlife, Amsterdam
Museums, Specialist interest

Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museum

Dedicated to the often overlooked history of cannabis, this museum retraces humanity’s relationship with the infamous herb from prehistoric times to the present. With highlights ranging from Samurai armour made from hemp to American anti-cannabis propaganda created during the height of Reefer Madness, the museum has plenty to offer seasoned stoners and history buffs alike. Apart from its permanent collection, the space hosts several thought-provoking temporary exhibitions per year related to cannabis cultivation, consumption and culture.

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9
Condomerie het Gulden Vlies
Shopping, Independent retailers

Condomerie het Gulden Vlies

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Established back in the 1980s in order to de-stigmatize safe-sex during the AIDS crisis, Condomerie was the world’s first condom specialist store. Besides selling condoms of all shapes and sizes, the store serves as an information centre for safe-sex and offers advice concerning everything from artificial lubrication to personal hygiene. Even though its aims are noble, Condomerie doesn’t shy away from humour and stocks a bunch of novelty items that are often emblazoned with cartoon condoms as well.

10
Latei, Restaurants, Cafés, Amsterdam
© Karl O'Brien
Restaurants, Vegetarian

Latei

icon-location-pin Old Side

Vintage treasure hunters may have difficulty leaving this coffee room empty-handed as its wall-spanning collection of retro knick-knacks, lampshades and embroideries are mostly for sale. While it certainly isn’t the largest spot in central Amsterdam, Latei boasts two cosy floors decorated with shabby-chic furniture and the aforementioned curiosities, plus a small terrace with street-side seating. Food-wise, Latei mainly serves light, lunchtime dishes, like sandwiches, soups and cakes made in its tiny, on-site kitchen.

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11
Frascati
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Berend Jan B.
Theatre

Frascati

icon-location-pin Old Side

Known for focusing on innovative, avant-garde theater, Frascati presents over 500 stage productions each year, leaving space on its program for homegrown talent and international troupes alike. As independent Dutch production companies regularly premier their latest work at Frascati, it is among the best places in Amsterdam to discover the local drama, dance and comedy scenes. There’s also a two-storey bar in-situ, serving light bites and beer brewed in the Benelux region.

12
Camera
Art

W139

icon-location-pin Red Light District

A bulwark of Amsterdam’s underground scene, this experimental exhibition space was founded by a group of squatters in 1979 who were miffed with the mainstream art world. Although its original occupants are long gone, W139 honors its founders’ wishes by giving artists free reign over exhibitions, allowing them to create site-specific pieces and installations that wouldn’t be possible anywhere else. Expect avant-garde, politically-conscious art inside.

Explore the best culture that Amsterdam has to offer

Rijksmuseum
Photograph: Shutterstock
Things to do

The 11 best museums in Amsterdam

The Dutch have a long and illustrious track record when it comes to paintings—see: Vincent van Gogh, Rembrandt van Rijn, Johannes Vermeer—but the impressive line-up of galleries and museums across the nation prove that they’re just as accomplished in other art-related endeavors as well. 

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