Amsterdam Closing Brothels, Marijuana Shops

Amsterdam Red Light district

Amsterdam Red Light district

Amsterdam is closing most of its brothels and marijuana shops.

My wife and I spent a week in Amsterdam two years ago and found it to be incredibly clean and safe. Certainly, it was pristine in comparison to major American cities, including New York and Washington, given the virtual absence of panhandlers and street people. The coffee shops were well marked and easily avoidable. The smattering of rather unattractive prostitutes peddling their wares were somewhat disconcerting but not enough so to detract from the city’s charm.

Photo by Flickr user Stuck in Customs under Creative Commons license.

FILED UNDER: Europe, World Politics, , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Continuum says:

    Perhaps if you really want a santized version of reality and still seem to visit Europe, you might dry Disneyland in Orlando. Most of the prostitutes and dope dealings are done most behind closed doors there. Nothing broadens your horizons as much as international travel without those disgusting habits and laws and customs of the local inhabitants.

  2. dutchmarbel says:

    They did that to the Zeedijk (top of that area) 20 years ago. It used to be a really bad neighborhood, but has improved immensely. So I have confidence 😉

    The search for a loophole in the coffeshop-laws is for a big part because Amsterdam has a few highschools right in the centre of town. So the Bulldog (first coffeeshop and best known by tourists) on the Leidseplein would have to close down since the Barlaeus Gymnasium is right around the corner.

  3. Dutchgirl says:

    Its also no coincidence that the Amsterdam red-light district is prime real estate with lots of developers salivating over the prospects of those buildings opening up. The question is, what will replace it? more souvenier shops? As for safety, the area is a bit sketchy at a certain hour, say 5 am, when I stood on the achterburgwal, waiting for someone to open the gate so I could do make-up for official zwarte-pieten. Happpy Sinterklaas everyone.

  4. Joe R. says:

    I went about two or three years ago as well. It seemed clean and safe to me–and utterly boring, compared to other cities like San Francisco, Hong Kong, New York, Bangkok, and Shanghai. If you’re not looking for cannabis or sex, or aren’t of Dutch descent, I frankly recommend pretty much anywhere else. The architecture and museums don’t make up for the bland food and monotony.

    I noticed a couple of different red light areas–one of them held noticeably less attractive and older prostitutes, which I suppose is what you saw. Another area apparently had the more attractive (and presumably more expensive) ones.