Amsterdam's Red Light district covers a large area of the oldest part of the city. The buildings are tall, thin and crowd together, overlooking the tree-lined canals. It is a beautiful part of the city, but the later it gets, the busier it gets. The darker it gets, the more obvious the glow of the fluorescent red lights above the many windows in the area become.
Dating back to the 14th Century when sailors arrived in need of some female company, the district is full of sex shops, brothels1, gay bars, and museums of one kind or another, although the shops also sprawl outside of the district. Covering a relatively small part of Amsterdam, it is one of the main tourist attractions.
Although a few streets away from the red light district near Central Station, this is Amsterdam's 'official' sex museum. It was opened in 1985 and attracts over 500,000 visitors annually. Open every day from 10am until 11.30pm, visitors are greeted at the entrance by a limbless Satyr with an erect penis. The sexual history of the world lies inside, although most exhibits are from the 18th and 19th Century.
Once paid and inside the exhibits start straight away with a cabinet full of satyrs and representations of the devil. On the other side of the hall is an exhibit as an advert for a fetish club, and then a model of a young man and a lady behind a screen engaging in a sexual act. This sort of moving exhibit appears on all three of the floors in the museum, mingling with the lingerie, art, literature and photographs. The exhibits range from educational and informative, through ritual and decorative, to obscene. It shows sex in popular culture, art, and the evolution of movies, and possesses an enormous range of artifacts from around the world. Captions and explanations for the exhibits are printed in English, Dutch, German and French.
Most of the exhibits are very tame, but towards the end of the museum at the bottom of the back stairs is a side room with a Warning: Some things in this exhibit may be considered offensive. Enter at your own risk. No complaints please. The sign is accompanied by a skull and crossbones and should be heeded. The sign is not lying; the room is full of photographs that will shock many people in one way or another.
Situated in the middle of the red light district, the Erotic Museum covers five floors with erotic art of all kinds. At the cash desk is a model of a young lady on a bicycle. Look under her skirt as you pass, she won't mind. The most popular attraction seems to be the television room decorated as a 'grotto', with toadstools for chairs and cartoons around the walls. It plays cartoons constantly, the usual fairy stories normally associated with Disney, but purely pornographic. The museum also has drawings done by John Lennon, given to Yoko Ono as a wedding present.
The museum doesn't have as many exhibits as Venus Temple, showing mainly erotic art from different periods in history and cultures, and also photographs, playing cards and dioramas of various types. There is a section with three booths playing pornographic films, although they are open. The entire top floor is dioramas of an BDSM2 nature, including a dungeon, a medical set up, and hanging from the ceiling at the top of the stairs a suspended glass ceiling has a mannequin poised above it emptying her bladder.