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

Eric Jaffe
Eric Jaffe

Eric Jaffe is the former New York bureau chief for CityLab. He is the author of A Curious Madness and The King's Best Highway.

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