The Best 8 Euros I Ever Spent. Or: How to Have Fun in Amsterdam’s Red Light District

I went to Amsterdam a few weeks ago with the marketing club.

On Thursday and Friday, we went to four company visits. The most interesting was Unilever, who was about to launch Axe’s new “Find Your Magic” campaign. We talked through the product’s value proposition and life cycle, then debated its marketing strategy and global segment challenges.

The above paragraph is nerd-speak for: It was awesome.


At Uber with ESADE Marketing club

So, I did some sight seeing: Van Gogh museum (snooze-fest), Anne Frank house (meh), and Heineken brewery tour (legit).

Sight seeing near a canal

As night fell, I began wandering around downtown Amsterdam.  I crossed a canal, rounded a corner…and stumbled head-first into the Red Light District.

I stared wide-eyed at the long, narrow street, lined with window after red-lit window of half-naked women, selling their trade.

To be honest, I had forgotten that the Red Light District even existed. So, it was startling to me that such the sex trade would be so out in the open.

I wasn’t sure how to react.

Maybe I should have covered my virgin eyes and hustled my pure-white petticoats to the nearest God-fearing church, but…I mean, come on.

Who doesn’t want to see that shit?

So, I opened up my doe eyes, took a deep breath, and slipped into the (mostly-male) crowd, winding its way through the Red Light District.

It was fascinating. Like a car crash, you just can’t look away.

Eventually, my shock wore off and my MBA brain kicked in:

How much do these women get paid? Do their revenues cover their expenses? Is there a bottleneck in the process?

I needed answers.

The next day, I discovered a fabulous place called, “Red Light Secrets: The Museum of Prostitution.”

It cost 8 euros to get in and, I swear to God, it was the best money I have ever spent.

The museum consisted of eight rooms.

The first room displayed the fashion of the decades.

1900s: A high-necked, Laura Ingalls Wilder nightgown

1980s: Madonna’s pyramid boobcups

Today: Some strange, black-laced contraption that would make Kim Kardashian blush

The second room showed award-winning movies portraying leading ladies as prostitutes.

Helloooo, Pretty Woman.

The third room offered stories from the working girls.

Some had been dragged into the sex trade and were under the thumb of a pimp (although the government tries hard to regulate this).

Others love their job.

The fourth room had large, red-lit window so you could pretend to be a working girl and wave at the people outside of the museum (hard pass, thankyouverymuch). And it gave tips on how to attract the attention of a potential client.

My favorite was “tap on the glass.” I literally laughed out loud.

They totally do this.

It’s like a zoo…in reverse.

The fifth room showed a working girl’s bedroom, complete with the necessary accessories on the bathroom counter. It displayed information about their trade.

There are 290 window in the Red Light District. The prostitutes rent them out for 150 euros per shift. A shift usually lasts 8 hours.

A visit with a prostitute seldom lasts longer than 10 minutes and costs around 50 euros.

70% of the prostitutes are in a relationship.

Prostitution was officially legalized in the Netherlands in 2000.

Working girls are considered “entrepreneurs.” Therefore, they have to pay taxes to the government.

There is a street where only she-males work. Those windows blue lights.

The sixth room had a BDSM set up, with cages and electro shock equipment.

Side note: The following night, I bumped into a dude wearing a full leather, S&M body suit – literally from head to toe.

He was on the street and he looked nervous, which I found ironic. I had to assume he was following the orders of his mistress.

Oh yeah, and the outfit was complete with a silver-studded dog collar.


The seventh room was more of a hallway, decorated with the things men had accidentally left behind.

Some dude left his dentures.

You heard me.

His dentures.

The eight – and final – room had a wall of handwritten confessions from the guests who had walked through the museum. (I think this confession wall was intended to reference “Let he without sin cast the first stone, blah blah blah.”)

49% of the confessions were so messed up, they were clearly fake.

49% of the confessions were also messed up, but clearly real.

And the final 2% of the confessions….I don’t even know what to say.

They were super, hyper, Hulk-styled, capital letters F****ED UP…

…but they also could theoretically, possibly, logistically, potentially have happened.

I just don’t know.

Those confessions made me cock my head to the side in puzzlement while simultaneously cringing in horror and disgust. I looked like I was having a stroke.

It was like reading The Game and I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell…at the same time...but worse.

I left the museum with an increased understanding of the Red Light District and a decreased faith in humanity.

Best 8 euros I have ever spent.