Amsterdam has long been a bit of asordid playground – it is one of the only places in the world where you can go to legally smoke some pot and visit a prostitute.
Because of its very liberal laws, Amsterdam created a pretty bad image of itself. To many people, the first thing they think of when you mention Amsterdam is not its many canals and beautiful architecture, but hookers and weed. It’s the main reason thousands upon thousands of tourists visit the city each year, helped by extremely low airfares from the European carriers.
The Amsterdam council is trying its best to change that image, and has started project “1012” (1012 is the postcode number for the city center).
The city has already purchased, and closed over 100 of the windows where women would display their “goods”. Next up are the many coffeeshops, which obviously sell more than just coffee. The city has created a multi-million Euro fund to pay for converting these stores to something less sleazy, like an ice cream shop or bar. One entrepreneur was paid 25 million Euro’s to close 60 of his windows, obviously making for a pretty decent retirement payment.
The end result should hopefully convert the old Wallen into a more tourist friendly district, without window after window of prostitution. That does not mean the city is completely abolishing the Red Light district – there will still be some windows, just a lot less than the current 482. Amsterdam clearly hopes to attract a different kind of tourist than the ones heading to their city for nothing more than sex and drugs.