Where urban morals, margins, and mainstream converge — under cover of a neon glow.

Recently the journal City gave a blushing tribute to Amsterdam's red light district: seven scholarly papers tracking the cultural, political, and aesthetic history of the (in)famous locale. In their introduction to the special section, guest editors Manuel Aalbers of the University of Amsterdam and Magdalena Sabat of New York University argue that Amsterdam's De Wallen area "may be the quintessential and perhaps even the paradigmatic red light district."

But of course it's not the only one. As Aalbers and Sabat also point out, cities around the world have a long-standing "special relationship" with the sex industry. In some cities, the red light district is an identifiable place of prostitution (legal, illegal, and illegally regulated alike). In others, it's limited to sex shops, strip clubs, and adult cinemas. Universally it's the place where urban morals, margins, and mainstream converge — under cover of a neon glow.

Here's a SFW-ish peep at ten of the world's most popular red light districts, as viewed by Flickr's creative commons community.

De Wallen - Amsterdam

Courtesy of Flickr user Cédric Puisney.

Soi Cowboy - Bangkok

Courtesy of Flickr user moomoobloo.

Frankfurt, Germany

Courtesy of Flickr user ComùnicaTI.

Montmarte - Paris

Courtesy of Flickr user Mark Turner.

Kabukicho - Tokyo

Courtesy of Flickr user rahims.

Hamburg, Germany

Courtesy of Flickr user Spanner Dan.

Villa Tinto - Antwerp

Courtesy of Flickr user Amaury Henderick.

Perth, Australia

Courtesy of Flickr user mollyeh11.

Geylang - Singapore

Courtesy of Flickr user idi0tekue.

Broadway - San Francisco

Courtesy of Flickr user dotpolka.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Perspective

    Why Car-Free Streets Will Soon Be the Norm

    In cities like New York, Paris, Rotterdam, and soon San Francisco, car-free streets are emerging amid a growing movement.

  2. photo: an Uber driver.
    Perspective

    Did Uber Just Enable Discrimination by Destination?

    In California, the ride-hailing company is changing a policy used as a safeguard against driver discrimination against low-income and minority riders.

  3. Transportation

    How Media Coverage of Car Crashes Downplays the Role of Drivers

    Safety advocates have long complained that media outlets tend to blame pedestrians and cyclists who are hit by cars. Research suggests they’re right.

  4. photo: a Tower Records Japan Inc. store in Tokyo, Japan.
    Life

    The Bankrupt American Brands Still Thriving in Japan

    Cultural cachet, licensing deals, and density explain why Toys ‘R’ Us, Tower Records, Barneys, and other faded U.S. retailers remain big across the Pacific.

  5. Environment

    Don’t Alienate the Suburbs on Climate

    The suburbs can help cities fight climate change.

×