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Amsterdam Bans Tours of the Red Light District Starting in 2020

Amsterdam is known for its iconic canals, bike culture, and museums, but many travelers visit to take advantage of the city’s notoriously lax laws around marijuana and prostitution.

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The latter has become such a draw that, according to The New York Times, over 1,000 tours pass through Oudekerksplein, the Red Light District’s main square, each week.

In response to the overcrowding, unlicensed prostitution and poor work environment for sex workers, the city is banning tours of the district starting Jan. 1, 2020. Until then — and effective April 1 — tours of the Red Light District are prohibited after 7 p.m. (currently, they run till 11 p.m.).

Travelers in 2020 can still visit the district, but without the structure of a tour group, some visitors might turn their attention elsewhere. Here’s what to do in lieu of a guided tour of the Red Light District:

Spend the day museum hopping

Amsterdam is home to the Van Gogh Museum, the Rijksmuseum and perhaps most famously, the Anne Frank House, the 17th-century canal house where Anne Frank and her family lived while hiding from the Nazis during World War II.

Nosh on Dutch foods

Visit the Amsterdam Cheese Museum to snack on free samples and learn how traditional Dutch cheeses are made or seek out the country’s notoriously thick fries and unusual dipping sauces. Top it all off with a stroopwafel, a sweet treat made from two thin waffles stuck together by a layer of caramel syrup.

Tour the canals

The city of Amsterdam has 165 canals, several of which you can explore on a boat tour. In addition to standard tours, Amsterdam Canal Cruises offers dining cruises, hop-on-hop-off options, and cruises for kids.

Cruise the city by bike

According to the city’s tourism site, there are more bikes in Amsterdam than permanent residents. Take a cue from the locals and get around on two wheels by renting a bike and creating your own itinerary or joining a bike tour of the city.

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