From cannabis to the city’s Red Light District, tough new rules are being introduced which may have an impact on your Amsterdam stag weekend.
Officials have launched a new campaign called ‘Stay Away, aimed at deterring what they call ‘nuisance tourism’. The drive is currently aimed at British males aged 18 to 35. If tourists in that age range plan on visiting to drink heavily or take drugs, officials are using the campaign to warn them that locals don’t want them to come.
Given Amsterdam’s popularity with grooms (it is currently one of our top 10 most popular stag do destinations), Last Night of Freedom has created a handy Q&A guide filled with everything you and your group will need to know about the new rules – including what you can and can’t do in Amsterdam.
I’m a British male aged 18-35, will I be welcome?
Almost certainly. Amsterdam has a global reputation for being friendly, relaxed and liberal. A PR campaign doesn’t change that overnight. Last Night of Freedom visited Amsterdam in March 2023 shortly before the launch of the campaign. Most of our staff fall into the age range being targeted. There was no hostility. There was no anger. Everybody we met in the city’s bars, clubs and hotels – or during our activities – was incredibly warm and welcoming. You must remember what politicians say often differs wildly from the reality on the ground. Politicians want to get re-elected, so this campaign exists largely for domestic consumption to show they are listening to the concerns of some vocal locals.
However, bar owners and businesses in the main tourist sections – such as Leidseplein or Rembrandtplein – still want your custom. Amsterdam is a major tourist destination, with the sector worth billions each year. And while they may be projecting otherwise, the city still wants tourists. Just do what most stags do, and keep on the right side of the law and the locals – and you’ll have a great time.
Are stag parties banned in Amsterdam?
No. In the words of city officials, this is a “discouragement campaign”. If you search online for certain terms – such as ‘Amsterdam stag do’ - you could be targeted with pop-up videos warning of criminal consequences if you misbehave. Yet those consequences, such as a fine or arrest, are ultimately no different to what would happen if you were partying anywhere else in Europe. As Last Night of Freedom’s argued in the press, including the New York Times, there’s an element of scaremongering with this campaign.
But, again, it is about trying to deter you – not ban you. If you aren’t put off by the campaign, then you should have a great Amsterdam stag do.
Can I still legally smoke cannabis in Amsterdam?
Yes. Cannabis hasn’t been banned in Amsterdam and there are currently no plans to do so. The drug is still widely available to buy legally across the city. You can still smoke cannabis in coffee shops across the city. However, the new rules do make it illegal to publically smoke cannabis in the Red Light District. That’s after residents complained that it was linked to increased late night anti-social behaviour there.
That ban comes in from mid-May 2023, although the municipality (Amsterdam’s version of the council) has warned that the rules could be further tightened if the “nuisance does not descrease enough”. The authority has stated that stricter measures, such as banning smoking weed on the terraces of coffee shop, could be introduced further down the line. However, there’s no talk yet of banning weed from being smoked inside coffee shops, which are popular for a reason – they are a safer, more relaxed setting to smoke. The Red Light District is a major tourist spot and is often overcrowded, making it a far from perfect spot to light up – plus you are right next to the city’s canals, without railings, so maybe think about taking it indoors.
Is the Red Light District being shut down?
Not quite. The Red Light District – known locally as De Wallen - has been scaled back substantially in the last 20 years. In 2008, the number of windows where sex workers operate from was slashed from 482 to 243.
Under the current crackdown, around 100 more will be moved to a large, multi-story ‘erotic centre’ away from the city centre. The aim is to try and deter people from congregating in the Red Light District, which when Last Night of Freedom visited to take part in a Red Light Photo Shoot, was absolutely packed with tourists. Officials say this action is needed because many of these tourists ‘don’t contribute to the city in a positive way’.
However, that will still leave over 100 windows operating in what is a relatively small section of the city. Sex will still be for sale, while there are still a ton of sex shops and shows – it may just be a bit harder to seek out.
Are there any new rules around buying alcohol in Amsterdam?
Yes, although they are all centred around the Red Light District.
Alcohol can’t be bought from a shop after 4pm from Thursday until Sunday. Stores are being told to either hide it, or remove it from the shelves completely, during these hours. Officials hope that will subtlety influence groups to drink less. But you can still order a cold Heineken in any of the hundreds of licenced venues around the city.
And if the new rules haven't put you off Amsterdam (and trust us, they really shouldn't), head to to our Amsterdam stag weekends or hen weekends page and book your weekend.