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The Red Light District in Amsterdam is awash with blazes of neon and almost endless vice. If you choose to satisfy your curiosity with a wander around the area, keep your wits about you and watch out for pickpockets. Most importantly, remember that there's more to the Red Light District than its salaciousness — and much more to this multifaceted city than the Red Light District.
A major trading harbour since the Middle Ages made Amsterdam a magnet for the 'world's oldest profession. But sex work wasn't legal until , and brothels weren't legalised until Changes continue: since , city officials have taken measures to clean up the district by reducing the number of red-light windows in an effort to eliminate pimps, human traffickers and money launderers all of which are illegal. Project , named for the area's postal code, encourages fashion studios, art galleries, cafes and other creative enterprises to set up here.
It's a measure designed to combat overtourism, but sex workers have come out against the plan. Ground-zero for red-light windows is, ironically enough, Amsterdam's oldest building, the 14th-century Oude Kerk Old Church. Near its entrance, look down to see the 'golden torso' pavement plaque of a hand groping a breast.
On the Oudekerksplein is Belle , a bronze statue of a sex worker with the inscription 'Respect sex workers all over the world'. Just nearby, the Prostitution Information Centre is a fount of information for both sex workers and visitors, and runs informative 90 minute Red Light District walking tours twice a week. The statement 'Respect sex workers all over the world' is inscribed on the bronze statue of Belle.
You can check out bondage exhibits and other eyebrow-raising displays at the Red Light District's Erotic Museum or, for more raunchy exhibits, head northwest to the Sexmuseum Amsterdam , between Centraal Station and Dam square. Coffeeshops ie cannabis cafes exist all over the city and country , but the Red Light District has an especially high concentration. Cannabis is not technically legal in the Netherlands but the possession and purchase of 5g of 'soft drugs' ie marijuana, hashish, space cakes and truffles is widely tolerated and users won't be prosecuted for this amount.