5 things you probably didn’t know about the Red Light District

5 things you probably didn’t know about the Red Light District

Amsterdam is filled with many beautiful old buildings and interesting sights. One of the city’s oldest parts is the Red Light District. You can still sense its rich history when looking at its small houses and narrow streets. Here are 5 things you probably didn’t know about this notorious district:

1. A medieval port

Amsterdam was founded by a group of fishermen that were looking for a safe place close to the North Sea to settle in. Since trade was an important part of their life, the small village grew to become an important medieval port. Sailors from nearby towns and countries were coming to the city for business and trade. And were, of course, looking for a little bit of fun whilst there. The area was soon filled with bars, and prostitution was on the rise.

2. “De Wallen”

The area is often referred to as “De Wallen”, which means “The Walls” because it was close to the city walls back then. You can actually see where the walls were located if you look at the map of Amsterdam and the streets Oudezijds Voorburgwal (in front of the city walls) and Oudezijds Achterburgwal (behind the city walls).

The old city entrance still stands there: “De Waag”. After the city expanded, this building was used as a painters’, stonemasons’ and surgeons’ guild house. Later on, it became the weighing house, after which it’s still named today.

3. The world’s first stock exchange market

Another important building which can still be seen in the neighbourhood is the Dutch East India Company building. It was founded at the beginning of the 17th century, and it was one of the first international companies in the world.

Many people from different countries worked for this company. And since they all financed the founding of the company with a certain amount of their own money, they had shares in it. That’s why it is often said that the world’s first stock exchange market was founded in Amsterdam in 1602. You can still see the building and its beautiful courtyard in the Red Light District today.

4. Amsterdam’s Jack the Ripper?

In the last 30 years, at least 127 prostitutes have been murdered in the Netherlands. In a majority of the cases, the crimes were never solved. That’s why a rumour started to spread about a serial killer attacking prostitutes in Amsterdam, just like the infamous Jack the Ripper.

However, the trigger for all these rumours may have been the 1988 movie “Amsterdamned”, about a killer attacking people on Amsterdam’s canals.

5. Buddhism in Amsterdam

Amsterdam has been an attractive destination for people all around the world since the 17th century. During the Golden Age, many people from China came to the city. These people settled close to the port, around today’s Zeedijk. This part of the city is still known as China Town and you can recognise it by the street names written in Chinese characters, and by the many Asian restaurants and shops.

It is also home to the largest temple in Europe built in a traditional Chinese palace style: the Fo Guang Shan He Hua Temple. It is a wonderful place where you can learn more about Buddhism.

Did you know these things about the Red Light District area? Have you ever been? Let us know in the comments!

Tea Gudek Snajdar


Tea Gudek Snajdar

Tea Gudek Snajdar is a founder, a travel blogger and an art guide in the Culture Tourist. She is organising private art tours ( in some of the museums in Amsterdam...

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