But for some of today’s tourists, all these pleasures are trumped by the allure of gawking at the city’s notorious red light district. The attraction of literally window-shopping for sex workers has become so magnetic, that every week, more than 1,000 guided tours glide along Oudekerksplein, the red light district’s main square.
But not much longer.
The noise and overcrowding created by endless lines of tourists, as well as the perception of Amsterdam as a city of sex workers, has convinced the city government to ban tours of the red light district beginning Jan. 1, 2020.
“We are banning tours that take visitors along sex workers’ windows, not only because we want to prevent overcrowding in the red light district, but also because it is not respectful to sex workers,” Vera Al, a spokeswoman for Amsterdam’s city council, told ABC News.
“Sex workers are not monkeys to be treated as a tourist attraction,” she added. “A survey we conducted showed that 80 percent of sex workers say gawking tourists are bad for their business.”
Amsterdam is a city of 850,000 residents, who can feel buried by the arrival of millions of tourists every year.
The city’s red light district is not only home to the sex trade — it’s an historic neighborhood full of 300-year-old gabled buildings, and the expensive homes of professionals and families with children.
“Women sitting in pink windows are law-abiding and they are not a problem,” said civil engineer Hans Bakker, a resident of Oudekerksplein. “It’s the high school kids on spring break, drunk and stoned travelers that are a problem.”
“With so many tourists, living here has become unbearable,“ Bakker continued, “Drunk tourists screaming their lungs out at 3 a.m., jumping into canals and punching each other — it is simply unlivable.”
A bartender at Bananenbar, a sex club, was pragmatic about the role that sex tourism plays in the city.
“Sex lures more tourists that all of Amsterdam’s museums put together,” said the man, who declined to give his name.
The January 2020 ban will apply to tours that are free, as well as tours that charge a fee.
Starting April 1, the maximum size of guided tour groups that visit other parts of the city will be reduced from 20 people to 15. Guides will need an official permit, and will be checked for the quality of their information, and the decorum of their presentation.
Amsterdam is also clamping down on AirBnB rentals, seeking to slow down the development of new hotels, and increasing taxes on tourists.
When asked for her thoughts on the ban on tour groups, one female sex-worker in the red light district could speak to ABC News only briefly.
“I am in the middle of my work,” she said. “Can you call back in several hours? For me, time is money.”