LNOF Guide to Amsterdam
Amsterdam is as chilled-out as it is hedonistic, as quaint and picturesque as it is eccentric and as innocent as it is unashamedly illicit – and it is this cultural fusion that makes Amsterdam such a spectacular location for a hen weekend.
Amsterdam is knock-your-socks-off gorgeous, and you’ll be blown away by the stunning architecture and beautiful network of canals. By day, the city is happily bustling with its café culture, and by night, the city comes to life with bars, clubs and, of course, the infamous Red Light District.
There are, in fact, three red light districts in Amsterdam, but the most famous by far is De Wallen, located in the Centrum. This warren of medieval alleyways is made up of almost 300 windows, the neon red lights reflecting in the canals, which are interspersed with other such venues; sex shops, erotic museums and outrageous performance venues.
Yet despite its scandalous reputation, The Red Light District is one of the safest places in the city. Prostitution is legal in Amsterdam and the area is heavily policed with 24-hour CCTV. The legality of prostitution has weaved the sex industry into part of the fabric of Amsterdam’s culture. There is a defiantly playful feel about the red light areas, due to their honesty and openness; it’s as shocking and explicit as it’s ever been, but there’s the sense that the city is embracing fun, pleasure and indulgence, rather than being purely about lust.
These qualities make The Red Light District a huge tourist attraction - the city itself pulls in over 20 million tourists each year and - unlike red light districts of other countries, where women are banned - Amsterdam welcomes everyone with open arms to revel in the Moulin Rouge-esque ‘carnival of sin’. Whether you’re interested in the industry, just want to satisfy your curiosity or just want a laugh – The Red Light District is not to be missed on your hen weekend.
However, there is much more to The Dam than its salaciousness and Amsterdam’s nightlife is one of the wildest in Europe - if not the world. Rembrandtplein and Leidseplein, both set in the Southern Canal Ring neighbourhood, are the city’s two premier places to party, with megaclubs and a dance scene that rivals that of Berlin.
In rich contrast to the nocturnal mayhem, the city also has relaxed personality and a gentle pace. Many of the Amsterdam stereotypes reign true: Amsterdam is a picture postcard city and there are indeed windmills, flowers, 17th century splendour and bicycles galore. Between March and May, the city explodes in colour as billions of flowers bloom. Amsterdam is famously ‘gezellig’ (a Dutch quality that translates as ‘cosy’) and it is often described as ‘a place where time stands still’. The café culture is a major contributor to this cool, calm atmosphere and cafés and bars spill onto the streets, where you can watch the world go by.
Amsterdam melds beauty and charm with wild nightlife and a carnival of erotica – the perfect combination for a relaxed and raucous hen weekend away.