The area of the Oudezijds in Amsterdam
Southeast of Centraal Station, Oudezijds lays between the Damrak and the scenic Oudeschans canal. It is capped on its southern end by the River Amstel. The Red Light District only takes up a small portion: within a triangle roughly formed by Centraal Station and the two main squares, the Dam, with the Royal Palace, and scenic Nieuwmarkt, with the Waag, a medieval weighing house, as its centrepiece.
It is said that Amsterdam was founded by two fishermen and a seasick dog sometime before 1000 AD. Only around 1300, with the building of Zeedijk, did it become more than a fishing village with barely enough bog to stand on.
By the 15th century, with the establishment of the East India Trading Company and the incoming ships filled with spices and booty from the high seas, the area became a centre of trade and a place where sailors came to unwind. But to temper excess, many churches and religious orders also set up shop. And so the balance remained for centuries to come.
Residents live in the heart of the city – but that does mean avoiding the occasional wayward tourists on bikes or revelling party-goers. With the building of the Amsterdam Public Library, one can not only enjoy one of Europe's largest public collections but also the expansive view of Amsterdam Centre from the rooftop café.
It's easy to avoid the Red Light District, busy arteries like Damrak and the very touristy Warmoesstraat and Damstraat. On a local level there's an intense and diverse brand of social interaction between residents, shopkeepers, trades people and, yes, also your friendly neighbourhood prostitute. In a funny way, the area comes across as a surreal Sesame Street of sorts. And the locals are steadfast: during the 1970s, when the area around Nieuwmarkt was threatened with destruction by the building of a Metro line, the community came together to save the historical buildings.
Eating, drinking etc
The city policy of Project 1012 seeks to clean and open up the Red Light District; so far it has opened the area to higher-range restaurants and bars, as well as artists and fashion designers now dwelling behind some of the red-framed windows, while tourist strip Warmoesstraat now features more cafés than coffeeshops.
Chinatown around Zeedijk is on hand for a quick bite, while Nieuwmarkt is crowded with the terraces of countless bars and restaurants. There's also more traditional brown cafés to be found, and time-honoured bars such as 't Mandje, Amsterdam's oldest gay bar, and the jenever tasting house Wynand Fockink, which has been there since 1679.