The people who live in Amsterdam have a problem.
Amsterdam, and in particular the Red Light District (or the De Wallen neighborhood) suffers from a high number of tourists attracted by the city’s world-famous permissive attitude.
“Residents of the old town suffer a lot from mass tourism and alcohol and drug abuse in the streets,” the Municipality of Amsterdam said in a statement. “Tourists also attract street dealers who in turn cause crime and insecurity. Especially at night, the atmosphere can get grim. People who are under the influence hang around for a long time. Residents cannot sleep well and the neighborhood becomes unsafe and unlivable.”
Now, in a move intended to eliminate “nuisances” and improve the quality of life for the city’s residents, Amsterdam’s city council has announced a number of changes will soon take place.
Chief among them are that it will soon be illegal to smoke marijuana in the street. Other changes include further restricting the sale of alcohol in the Red Light District — the center of the city’s legal sex work trade.
The new laws will take effect in mid-May.
The new laws are being called “historic” by the Amsterdam newspaper Het Parool.
Amsterdam has been known as a city “where everything was possible and everything was permissible — including smoking weed on the street,” the paper explains.
On the other hand, the city now suffers from “over tourism” and foreign tourists and domestic visitors “make a lot of noise, urinate in the street, vomit, and treat the Red Light District as an amusement park, not a residential area,” the paper continued.
Explosive Growth In Tourism
More than 18 million visitors are expected to travel to Amsterdam and spend at least the night this year, according to the city’s research. At the same time, the city expects around another 25 million visitors who have traveled to the city for the day.
While the growth in tourism is climbing, it isn’t exactly new. Indeed, Amsterdam has had a “We Live Here” campaign for years that is intended to remind visitors that people live in the Red Light District in hopes it will discourage excess behavior.
What has changed is that when the number of overnight visitors reaches 18 million, Amsterdam’s city council is “obliged to intervene” under a 2021 ordinance called “Amsterdam Tourism in Balance.”
That’s why the new laws are being implemented this year.
Amsterdam’s New Laws
Here’s what’s changing in May, just in time for the impending tourist season.
First of all, smoking marijuana in the street will be illegal. That law, however, won’t affect the sale of marijuana at coffee shops or patrons smoking their purchases while seated on those shops’ terraces.
Secondly, bars, cafés, and restaurants will need to close at 2 a.m. instead of 3 a.m. on weekdays and at 4 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, according to The Guardian.
And while shops and liquor stores are already prohibited from selling alcohol after 4 p.m. Thursday through Sunday, beginning in May, they must remove bottles and cans from their windows — or at least cover them up.
A ban on public drinking will also be strictly enforced.
Finally, sex workers will need to close their shops at 3 a.m. rather than 6 a.m.
If you’re thinking of a trip, or simply want to learn more, be sure to read all of our Amsterdam content, including: