Prostitutes of De Wallen: Amsterdam Red Light district revealed
Amsterdam Other worlds

Prostitutes of De Wallen: Amsterdam Red Light district revealed

De Wallen is just one of three Amsterdam areas where everyday life is driven by sex. It is the place known as the Red-light district of Amsterdam worldwide. It has about 400 windows and it is the center of all the activities when talking about this profession. Several centuries ago, almost every ship passing through the city sailed through this district’s channel. Some long gone times in Netherlands are remembered for severe poverty. The poor had offered their wives for money and a few herrings. Herring in a roll along with some garlic and olive oil remains Netherland’s favorite fast food even nowadays. The herrings are not thermally treated, but rather served raw and filleted.

Many stories circle around this district. One of them says that in the times of utmost prohibitions the ladies would write their confessions down on a piece of paper every night after their shifts ended, and slided them under the door of the church located in this very district. The priests of Oude Kerk would seal each written confession with wax and pardon their sins in the act of indulgence each morning, over and over again. The Church was against hustling, but not against the people. And the thing it was least opposed to, was the money. Today, right next to the De Oude Kerk stands a statue of Belle, dedicated to all the ladies of the world. A lot of effort is being put here into removing the stigma off the world’s oldest profession. The most creditable for this are the PIC (Prostitution information center) and Proud union.

de wallen red light district

Hustling is a harsh word, maybe… Prostituting? Nah, hustling sounds better. That word originates from Sanskrit and is associated to Kama Sutra. It signifies uncontrollable lust. Prostitution sounds somewhat frigid, and, when paraphrased, it means ’to push forward’.

Hustling has, therefore, forever been a part of Amsterdam’s life. Often forbidden in the past, but never ceased to exist. It just moved to spaces within which it was less visible. It has been legalized since 1811, but, along with the prohibition of brothels, which made the work much difficult. Since 2000 that too has been legalized and regulated. If you ask the ladies, they will tell you that it is vastly torn away from the hands of pimps and criminals, that it is much safer, organized and healthier for them. When it comes to this profession, there is one single thing prohibited, and that is offering the services on the very street. Hence even greater popularization of the so-called Raamprostitutie, or window hustling.


One ordinary day among the windows

Not much is open around here during the day.  There is a daytime window rent, and it’s much cheaper than the nighttime one. Around 80 Euros. If the girls aren’t working, the bars are. Old Sailor is a popular place for an outset.  It’s excellently positioned when it comes to observing the De Wallen’s everyday life.

de wallen red light district

Across the street, one of the rare ladies engaged in day shift is strutting her breasts, cigarette in hand. She is looking for a way to have a chitchat with the passersby.

While she was approaching the window, she was eating pizza and talking on the phone. Wtf with the pizza, it’s a carb-bomb! Then she waved to her neighbor, some older granny. She waves back at her with a smile and a few words in Dutch. We don’t even know if she paid back the daily rent or not, she is very picky. After all, the ladies decide on their own when and how long they will work.

You can approach the ladies in many ways, yet there is one that will make them go ballistic. It’s photographing. It is not uncommon to see them yelling on the street, pouring down water on those who attempted to take a selfie right besides them, or even maybe from another side of the channel. Those are the ones that end up getting the middle finger.

De Wallen by day is an ordinary Amsterdam quart with a population of around 9.000 people. Typical 14th century Dutch architecture. Tenants go grocery shopping, sit outside on the porch drinking wine and engaging in conversations with part-time ’window-neighbors’. Our friend Deјan expressed it the best way: “Everything is normal here. The only thing left is for you, people, to process and accept it.” It didn’t take us long. 


The Night life in this part of Amsterdam

The neon colors have their specific meanings. Red is for the ladies. Blue is for everyone else. It is hard to find a man behind the window, while there are plenty of transsexuals. As the night descends, first shy fuckers come into sight from across Amsterdam’s stone channel. These are those type of guys who like to came before the others, so that they could remain unnoticed. Mostly teenagers and the Chinese. Everything is expensive for the Chinese. He did not even enter, the lady didn’t have the chance to pull even a half of the curtain over the window, and yet he is being thrown outside. 50 Euros per 15 minutes is apparently too much for him.

In the words of the lady named Caja van Troile, who talks very openly about her experiences with people, a fifteen-minute-long hanging out is offered just to those fuckers who smell decently and look properly showered. Otherwise, the lady might request that the guy washes himself a bit, which would mean that hanging out might take longer than 15 minutes. This practice is particularly prominent in Utrecht, as all of the window-apartments have bathrooms. Caja van Toile says that her every “appointment” starts under the shower. It is true that not everybody follows these rules. To some, odor is okay.

de wallen red light district

Every night the same party, all over again. Everything is crowded with people until the morning hours. Rent fee for De Wallen’s windows is now 150 Euros, and there are waiting lists for most of them. It is possible to get a discount if one books it for several days in advance. The central location, as far as the rental matters go, is Office 52, which is the main intercessor between the ladies and the window owners. The whole week costs about 700 Euros. Caja van Tolie says that, back in some happier times, when the taxes weren’t going up to 70%, one could pay off the entire rent in two to three days. Everything else is pure earnings. Maybe she is complaining without a reason. Statistics say that the average monthly salary is between 5,000 and 10,000 Euros. Gross money, though.

At night, it is often possible to come across professional crews offering the ladies shootings paid little compared to the amount being earned in porn industry. And that is quite okay to some of them.

Most of the ladies come to work by bike, and will be leaving around 6, also by bike. The windows are closed from 6 to 8 am when, in accordance to the Dutch regulations, hygienic arrangements are being performed.



It is said that De Wallen is the world’s safest place after the Vatican. The police patrols the neighborhood regularly. Each window has its own guard. The ladies are never alone. If several windows share the same common space in the back, the guards are inside the very brothel. There is a contractual security at the level of the district, or one contracted directly by the ladies.

Most of the windows look like a bathroom. Everything is tiled, even the bed itself. According to regulations, the pillow is mandatory. Caja van Tolie says that those pillows give chills to many girls.

de wallen red light district

Each showcase has its own hidden alarm, the so-called panic button. We had a misfortune of hearing one of them trigger. It’s similar to a sound of an alarm that is heard when the store is being burgled in the movies. Truth be told, the alarm goes off rarely. And when it does, it’s not just one guard swiftly jumping and rushing in order to help.


Who are the ladies behind the windows

Only 25% of the ladies are from the Netherlands. The rest is from around the world. Near De Oude Kerk there is a Spanish corner where women from Latin America solely are gathered. Other nations don’t stick together that much.

The law is very strict. A lady cannot be under the age of 21. The shift should not be longer than 11 hours. They must carry an ID card copy at all times, along with a registration in the Dutch BRA (Business Registers Agency) and a residence certificate. There are not many ladies who take care of paperwork themselves. Most of them hire an accountant to arrange bills, taxes and fees. Sounds like too much bureaucracy for hustling? So it is. Being a lady is an entrepreneurship here. If you are at the very beginning of your career, PIC organizes training courses of all kinds. For the ladies, it’s a kind of a startup.

Special attention is being paid to shop window owners in order to eradicate human trafficking and pimping. The PIC claims that all the grotesques that accompany hustling are reduced to the lowest possible level since the profession had been legalized. What pleases ladies the most is the health issue. HIV and drug use among them are reduced to a statistical error. Healthcare and regular check-ups are available to all.

Fifty percent of the ladies behind the windows are mothers or divorced women. Only 6% of them claimed they were doing this because they loved sex and excitement. Most of the ladies most commonly view this as an opportunity for gaining good earnings. There are more than a few of those who do this for a living because they simply have no other means to work. It’s the matter of papers and legal residence in the Netherlands.

And physically? From 150 to 210 cm. From 40 to 100 kilograms. From all-natural to all-plastic. Even costumed ones, most frequently wearing police officers and nurses uniforms.


How crazy can it get

Hustling is just the beginning of the story here. Everything that could have been invented, sex-related, can be found in the De Wallen district. Some places have become legendary for their performances that go beyond the limits of the normal. We do not refer to Live Sex Show that can be seen in Moulin Rouge or Casa Rosso, but to the morbid performances of strippers who are able to put almost everything in or out of their crotches… just like, for instance, dancing around the bar with lit candles sticking out of their butts. This is a milder example of some of the ideas that cross their minds. Moulin Rouge is cheaper than Casa Rosso. Here’s a hint for you: buy the tickets that don’t include beverage, it’s cheaper when ordered separately within the club. Here, it’s not just about the sex. The performances are often comical. After all, the point is to entertain people, not shock them. And sex and comedy go side by side phenomenally, especially when there is a perplexed Chinese on the stage, with a stripper taking the glasses off of his head with her breasts.

de wallen red light district

Another De Wallen’s legendary site is the Bananen Bar. The entry is 50 Euros and during the time spent there you can drink as much as you want. This place has become legendary for its naked ladies with a banana in their hand, waiting for your signal so they could show you all the tricks they know. Each trick is paid additionally and you are entangled within the game. 

The biggest enigma is the Peep Show, because you never know what the lady is doing inside the cabin. It’s entirely possible to pay 2 Euros for 5 minutes of Peep, and end up watching the lady picking her nose, getting her nails done, or waxing her groins.

But it doesn’t end here either. A condom store where they teach you how to measure your penis properly, museums of erotica, Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museum, Prostitution Information Center, oldest ladies – 74-year-old twins with over 50 years of career, fetish clothes and props in Absolute Denny, The Hanky ​​Panky School of Prostitution…


Fight for support and understanding

This story was based on information provided by them. The ladies about the ladies, therefore. The reason is simple. Even in the Netherlands itself the stigma is very strong, although 78% of people say they have no problem with this profession. There are even religious leagues fighting hustling.

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The government is not too sympathetic towards them and the rules of the game are often changed. It is not true that this profession is fully accepted. It is true that the government was smart enough to understand how drugs, sexually transmitted diseases and trafficking can be controlled more effectively if society accepts whores. And they did it! By all means, the Netherlands, which has windows in every third city and coffeeshops in every sixth, is the country with one of the lowest crime rates in the world.

Those who have anything negative to say on the subject of hustling should talk to the fuckers, because they are the reason this exists.

The whole interview with Caja van Tolie in English can be read here.