Red Light District
Start - Dam
Welcome to Amsterdam and to our audio tour of the Red Light District, created by Republic of Amsterdam Radio.
We start the tour where Amsterdam itself began, the very centre of town, called Dam Square. You should be standing in front of the Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky. There’s a big tall column on this side of the square, which depending on the time of day will have groups of people sitting around on it, smoking joints, waiting for friends, or just people-watching. So to ease you into this tour, why don’t you find a good spot somewhere near that column to watch out over the square while we fill you in on some important details to make sure you get the best possible experience while walking around the Red Light District.
I'll be guiding you around Amsterdam today. Think of me as your very knowledgeable imaginary friend. And as your friend, the first thing I need to tell you, is to be careful as you walk around! There are a few particular noises that you should still be able to register in the outside world, despite my voice in your head. One of them sounds like this (tram bell) which is a tram bell, and one of them sounds like this (bike bell) or perhaps like this (Different bike bell), or this (other bell). These are all bike bells. The trams and cyclists take no prisoners, so stay out of their way and look out for them before crossing any street or junction.
The time of day will affect how busy it is around you. Right now, you might be here in the early morning, looking at a largely vacant square with the odd tram or drunk person trying to find, ride or steal a bicycle. Alternatively, it may be late afternoon and there are thousands of people coming and going; locals, visitors, people who have no idea where they are. Throughout this tour we are going to be exploring actual places; things you can really see and take in. But Amsterdam, and especially its Red Light District, is incredibly vibrant, and can border on being hectic. In cases where you want to stop and look at something while listening, please remember to always take account of your surroundings before you do so. Be aware of where you are and what is around you. Do not stand on the road! Even if the footpath is tiny, use it. That is your island of safety.
Amsterdam has a very low crime rate, however, pickpockets can be attracted to the busier spots and target those not paying attention. Please make sure that you are aware of where your belongings are, and that your bag or purse is not open or easily grabbed from you.
This monument - the tall, white statue which you’ve been lurking near - is the National Monument of the Netherlands, built to remember civilian and military casualties in all wars since the beginning of WW2.
Across the square, the grand, imposing building is the Royal Palace of the Netherlands. It's the one with the light-green dome on top. Turn to face it.
For the majority of history, however, this area was a swamp. Peat bog had built up in great mounds, sometimes up to 4m above sea level. River water, that had run all the way from places like Switzerland, Germany and France, flowed in from your left. To your right, it ran out into big lakes, rivers and mudflats, before reaching dunes, which hemmed in this bogland from the pounding tides of the north sea.
The Dam was built maybe 800 years ago as part of the flood defences which are very necessary for the existence of this country. It became the very centre of a little fishing village that expanded out on both sides of the river which used to flow through here. The Dam is so central that the town’s name itself comes from this feat of flood control. The Dam on the Amstel river. The Amstelledamme and, eventually, Amsterdam.
And so with that, let’s head off into the oldest neighbourhood of Amsterdam, where people first started to live along the banks of the Amstel.
If you're not still standing outside the Hotel Kransapolsky, make your way over to it.
[4 SECOND PAUSE]
Facing the hotel, turn slightly to your left, and you should see a road running off, between the Krasnapolsky and the Euro Pub.
[2 SECOND PAUSE]
Head down that street. It’s called Warmoesstraat. Remember to use the footpath, keep an eye out for the interesting shops on your right hand side and, most importantly, watch out for bicycles!
While you walk, let me briefly explain how VoiceMap works.
It uses your location to play audio automatically at the right time and place. This means you can put your phone away now. Don't worry if I'm silent for a while, when I'm not giving directions or telling stories. There's a map on your screen if you ever feel lost, and if you do get way off track without noticing, VoiceMap will let you know.
Keep walking, I'll meet you further up the street.