Amsterdam's oldest neighborhood (known as de Wallen in Dutch) has hosted the world's oldest profession ever since the city's inception... more » in the 13th century.
It is said that the term "Red Light" dates to the late 19th century and originated with early railroaders. The men carried lit red lanterns when they left the train so they could be found in case of emergency. These lanterns were left outside bordellos when the men paid them a visit and were sometimes brought inside and placed in a window. Later the red lights came to signify a bordello.
In 2000 prostitution was legalized and regulated in Amsterdam. Prior to that it was tolerated but not strictly legal. Ironically, legalization also brought a greater influence of organized crime through the 2000s. Since 2009 the city has waged an effort to remove organized crime from the sex business, which has resulted in the closing of coffeeshops (i.e., cannabis cafes) and sex-related businesses. At the same time, the city is requiring many of the old buildings and canals in the RLD to undergo renovations to make sure they are stable and up to current safety standards. Therefore, as of mid-2011, the RLD is going through significant change.
Today, Amsterdam's approximately 8,000 prostitutes are taxed on their earnings and provided with health insurance. However, human trafficking is still a serious problem that the city must address.
In researching this tour I visited many of the sex shops in the RLD. What I found is that all of the shops I visited are kitschy at best and sleazy at worst. Therefore, I have recommended a sex shop that is a 10-minute walk from the RLD as a minor POI. If you're interested in visiting a sex shop I strongly recommend Female & Partners over any of the shops found in the RLD. less «