Why Is Amsterdam The City Of Sin? (Find Out Now)

January 19, 2021

The Netherlands may be a small country, but it is brimming with culture and is world-famous for many different aspects. Amsterdam is the most well-known city in the Netherlands, as it is the capital city and has the densest population in the country. Many know Amsterdam for how laid-back and socially acceptable some of the laws seem to be, and of course for the infamous Red Light District. Due to the existence of this district, Amsterdam is known as "the city of sin".

Amsterdam is considered the European City of Sin due to the fact that it is lenient when it comes to several different vices, such as prostitution and marijuana use. The Red Light District is the most known region of Amsterdam for being the best place to find said vices.

Today, we are going to discuss exactly how Amsterdam got the nickname of being the city of sin, and we will explore the various facets of what this unique place consists of. There is a ton of history you likely are not aware of when it comes to Amsterdam being a prominent city of sin, but there is in fact a large amount of it. If you are not very familiar with what to expect with a visit to Amsterdam, this article should help you gain a better understanding of what to anticipate with a trip to this exciting city.

Why Exactly is Amsterdam The City of Sin?

Amsterdam is considered the City of Sin in Europe due to the fact that it is home to the Red Light District, which is a region in the city where one can go to partake in some activities that are not as welcome or socially acceptable as they are in other areas of the world.

This district received its name due to the red lights that line the street in the various shop windows since actually being out on the street is not allowed.

The red lights have been a signal for individuals searching out prostitution services for many years now. Within the Red Light District, one can come across prostitutes in storefront windows and many coffeeshops where one can purchase and consume marijuana.

The Red Light District has been around for hundreds of years and mostly gets its reputation from the sex workers that are prominent and accessible here. The area is also known more officially as De Wallen.

Even if you do not know much about the country of the Netherlands or the city of Amsterdam, you have likely heard about the region of the Red Light District in some sort of context.

The famous red lights at the Red Light District in Amsterdam:

What to Expect from the Red Light District

If and when you have the chance to meander through the Red Light District of Amsterdam, you might want to know what to expect during your outing. Visitors can absolutely still just walk the streets here to get the full Amsterdam experience, as it is still a safe area and is part of what makes up the culture of Amsterdam.

This district unsurprisingly does have a bit of a reputation, but once you see it for yourself you will understand that it is not as intimidating as some may make it out to be.

There are a few things you should know before walking the streets of the Red Light District, and you should be aware of some important rules that everyone here must follow so that you do not find yourself in any dilemmas.

You are not allowed to take any pictures or videos of the workers in the windows lining the district, and you can get in a lot of trouble for this. On top of this, no drinking or belligerent activity is tolerated at all in this district. Save the drinking and partying for nighttime at any of the local bars where this is more acceptable.

If you want to go to a coffeeshop to hang out, you will easily be able to find one in this district. The coffeeshops are not exclusive to this area, though, as they can be located all around the city of Amsterdam. Marijuana has been allowed in Amsterdam for over 30 years, and it is really not seen as a big deal to the locals here. The tourists are typically the ones that are enthusiastic about hitting up the various coffeeshops for the full Amsterdam experience.

There is more to the Red Light District than prostitution and coffeeshops, though, as there are actually multiple museums, an arcade, and even a couple of churches in this region.

The Allard Pierson Museum is within the boundaries of this district and is an ideal place to stop by if you are a history buff and love to learn about the ancient world and archaeology. The TonTon Club is a place you can stop by to play some classic arcade games that will surely leave you feeling nostalgic. There are a number of board games and more modern video games to enjoy here, as well.

Museum Ons' Lieve Heer op Solder is a remarkable secret church that has been around since the 1600s as a way for Catholics to continue their worship after the religion was made illegal in the late 1500s. It is now a museum where visitors can come see this historical and fascinating structure that is in the Red Light District.

Along with the Museum Ons' Lieve Heer op Solder, the oldest church in all of Amsterdam is within the borders of the Red Light District. The church is called Oude Kerk, and it was built back in the 1300s.

You will not be able to overlook this towering gothic piece of architecture, as it stands out in an incredible way along this street. You may even take a guided tour up to the bell tower for fascinating views of the city of Amsterdam that you cannot get just anywhere.

Other Information About the Red Light District

Aside from everything we have just covered, there is still more to know about the ever so infamous Red Light District. The size of it is actually only around 6,500 square meters, which is not all that big considering it is one of the most popular and well-known areas of Amsterdam.

The Red Light District also happens to be one of the oldest portions of Amsterdam, as well. Since it is one of the oldest sections of the city, there are many historical structures and buildings that are situated here. Prostitution services have been present here since the 16th century, which is not even too far after the city came to be. The canals that run through the red light district are also one of the oldest canals in Amsterdam.

As it was mentioned above, the Red Light District is perfectly safe for anyone to peruse, as long as they are following the laws and being respectful. Police do patrol the district here to make sure nothing ever gets out of hand. Anything offered to you on the street should be rejected, as this is illegal and can result in both parties getting in trouble.

There is a lot of culture and history within the borders of the Red Light District that is absolutely worth exploring and expanding your knowledge on.

Is Amsterdam the Main City of Sin?

While Amsterdam is the main City of Sin in the European continent, there are other countries that have their own version of Sin City all over the world.

The other most well-known Sin City is the North American city of Las Vegas, Nevada. In Las Vegas, gambling is the most prominent vice here, and just outside of the city prostitution is legal, as well. There is hardly a place you can go in Las Vegas that does not cater to the gamblers and partiers that make their way here. The catchphrase in Las Vegas is even “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”

In other parts of the world, there is Bangkok in Thailand, Prague in the Czech Republic, Ibiza in Spain, and Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. In most of these places you can find similar vices like in Amsterdam, although none are nearly as tolerant about marijuana use as Amsterdam is.

Amsterdam is easily recognized as the main City of Sin in all of Europe, even though other cities within the European continent have received this nickname, as well.

Then please check out the following articles:

- Why Is Amsterdam Called The Venice Of The North?
- 45 Interesting Facts About Amsterdam (Fully Explained)
- Why Is Amsterdam The Capital Of The Netherlands?

- Why Is Amsterdam Famous? The Best City Guide For 2022


We have now discussed all of the most important information regarding why Amsterdam has been coined as the City of Sin, and what exactly you should expect from a visit to the Red Light District.

The Red Light District in the city is the primary reason that Amsterdam has been given the title as the City of Sin, as many activities that are typically illegal in other places happen to be allowed here.

There is much more to Amsterdam than the sinful recreations that are found here, but if you happen to visit you should still give De Wallen a stroll at some point so that you can receive the full experience that Amsterdam has to offer. Hopefully, this has answered your question about "why is Amsterdam the City of Sin?", and you have a better understanding of what to expect in any future travels that you may have here.

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Written by

Leo van den Berg
As a Dutchman I am extremely proud of the beautiful country in which I live. My goal is to convey my passion and love for the Netherlands to as many people as possible.

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