There are places in the world that beckon exploration. They are mysterious, awesome places that call to the heart, and must be experienced. There are no souvenirs, but you can’t leave them without leaving an imprint on your soul.
These are not those places. Well, they might still beckon you, but for all the wrong reasons. And if you go, you might come away with the kind of imprint on your soul that you’ll need to treat with antibiotics.
This is a definitive ranking of the world’s five best tourist-accessible Red Light Districts. Just to get this out of the way, I do not encourage support of or patronizing a prostitute as a personal choice, but if you are going to do it, at least the places on this list are government sponsored and tourist friendly. Some more than others. Stay safe out there, and try not to contribute to human trafficking. Just a PSA.
5. Reeperbahn, Hamburg, Germany
The Reeperbahn comes in at #5 because it’s not as much of a clear cut Red Light District as the others. RB is a more mixed zone, with many bars and clubs in between the (very low grade) street walkers. It’s also historically significant. This is where the Beatles originally got started, which is why some of their earliest songs are also in German (Komme Gib Mir Diene Hand anyone? Nein?) From personal experience, there’s an upper level club with pretty decent popcorn grouse, if that’s your thing. The street walkers are very aggressive, so just be prepared to get the size of your schwanz called into question loudly and publicly.
4. Zona Norte, Tijuana, Mexico
Zona Norte is by far the oldest, wildest and most famous RLD on the west coast. It’s also very easily accessible from the United States, so if you’re a traveler on a budget, this might appeal to you.
If you’re a fan of hygiene and not paying random bribes to the cops, you might want to temper your expectations.
Either way, you’re in for a wild and unforgettable night in North America’s sweaty grundle.
3. Kabukichō, Tokyo, Japan
Prostitution’s illegal here (although there are escorts), but Kabukichō is a great place to get closer to the locals. This one’s #3 because I have a buddy who went here in high school on a business trip with his dad and got laid, so I know it’s a sure thing. He said it was all in Japanese, there was some weird stuff, and he still doesn’t know exactly what happened. Sounds great.
There’s a lot of interesting nightlife stuff to do here (including naked karaoke) as well as some super weird niche themed clubs. Do what you’re into, I guess.
2. Bangkok, Thailand
Popularly known as “Soi Cowboy” this is the one place on this list that isn’t government sponsored and comes with a big disclaimer. Bangkok is notorious for being one of the seediest, cheapest, and darkest RLDs in the world. And that alone makes it an unmissable checkmark on the Frat Bucket List.
Everything’s for sale, anything you want to see you can. Just watch out for lady boys and don’t insult the Thai monarchy. They love those guys.
1. De Wallen, Amsterdam
You might wonder why the rating for this one is so high because the Amsterdam RLD is basically Disneyland. It’s family friendly, there are swans everywhere and kids running around. Plus, with so much legal marijuana in the US now, Freedom City has lost a good amount of its lure.
But you need to get over it, because some respect is due here. De Wallen in Amsterdam is the uncontested champion of RLDs and without question the most famous in the world. Being that it is also totally government sponsored, an industry which provides health care to sex workers, De Wallen is a shining example of libertarian policies and how openness makes things safer and cleaner.
Also, it is the only place in the world I know of where you can take a vodka shot from a turkey baster. A turkey baster, and some truly impressive pelvic floor muscles.
I’ll let you fill in the rest of the details..
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