Lonely Planet Writer

Red light district tours to be banned in Amsterdam next year

From 2020, tourists to Amsterdam will no longer be able to take a tour of the famous red light district.

The Red Light district is a historic part of Amsterdam. Photo by Olena Z/Shutterstock

The new rules will come into effect on 1 January and will protect the medieval district, also called De Wallen, from the increasing effects of overtourism. While the area has a reputation for hedonism, many visitors are not aware it’s also a residential area. A licensing system for guides were introduced in 2018 which has helped but now the city is ready to take it a step further.

These tours cause issues with overcrowding in the district as they often stop and linger at popular spots and Algemeen Dagblad reported that up to 30 groups can stop at Oudekerksplein every hour in peak times. In a recent survey, sex workers also supported the move, with 80% saying these kind of tours were bad for their business.

The majority of sex workers are in favour of the tour ban. Photo by Anoek De Groot/AFP/Getty

While some tours do make a sincere effort to give the full context and history of prostitution – and some former sex-workers have been known to work as tour guides – deputy mayor, Udo Kock, told NOS that it was no longer appropriate to “see sex workers as a tourist attraction”. The ban will also include bar crawls in the area.

Last year, councillors even proposed moving the Red Light district out of the area completely. In other areas of the city, change is also coming. Organised tour groups can now only take a maximum of 15 people (down from 20) and guests will have to pay a small entertainment tax.

The changes come as Amsterdam continues to find ways of dealing with the huge influx of tourism. 19 million people visited the city in 2018, dwarfing the population of 850,000. Tourist tax on rooms were raised last year and more restrictions have been put on renting out Airbnbs. They’re also halting new tourist-centric shops popping up in the city.