an empty street in Amsterdam's Red Light District

When you think of Amsterdam, what image does it conjure? For most people the answers are fairly consistent: drugs and sex, or more specifically, smoking pot and hiring hookers. I'll point out first that Amsterdam does offer far more than that. A gorgeous city in its own right, it's bursting with great food, architecture, and some of the world’s most famous art.

But back to drugs and sex. Or really, just sex.

The Red Light District is a place that's truly a lesson in contrasts. For somewhere dripping with sex and suggestive imagery, it’s unexpectedly clean and surprisingly beautiful. Hell, there’s even a church at one end – convenient for sailors who felt the need to atone for their recent sins before setting off to sea again. With one of the city’s iconic canals running through it, it feels both safe and comfortable, provided you can look past the porcelain-doll looking, lingerie-clad prostitutes eyeing you from top to tail and instead focus on the hordes of giggly, selfie-snapping tourists.

There’s an old saying about acting like a Roman when you’re in Rome. In this case, Rome would, of course, be Amsterdam’s Red Light District, so named for the red glow of the windows adorned with sultry babes ready to satisfy your every desire for a negotiable hourly rate. With that in mind, when you and your spouse find yourselves strolling through said famous Red Light District, what do you do? Well, when in Rome…

No, we didn’t hire a helping hand for an impromptu ménages a trois. As much of a good story as that might have made, we instead settled on hitting up a peep show, one complete with live sex, no less. Here's what it was really like.

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We arrive at the aptly named Sex Palace, which, interestingly, is Amsterdam’s last remaining peep show. Upon waltzing into its alluring depths, I was immediately struck by how dingy it seemed in comparison to the quaint street I had just left. But hey, we’d already come this far, so we might as well push on.

I noticed a series of doors in front of me, and a few more curving around corners to my left and right. These doors lead into small, dark rooms where patrons pay a certain rate to watch a live solo, or sex show, and well, enjoy themselves.

The wife and I squeezed our way into one of these all-too-hospitable rooms (they’re mostly meant for personal “enjoyment,” not couples), doing our best to avoid any and all contact with the walls, and shut the door behind us. A quick look around revealed a toilet paper dispenser, of sorts, mounted on the wall for easy cleanup – how convenient, I thought. 

With my back facing the door, I noticed a small console on the wall that had a coin/bill slot and a blacked-out window above it. There’s typically a rate of charge for viewing, and this is where you pay that fee. It’s usually something like €2 per 2 minutes. Pro tip: go with coins instead of bills. Why? There’s no worse situation than being caught with your pants literally down, mid-peep, only to be rudely interrupted by a darkened window and confronted by the frustration of trying to feed a wrinkled bill into a small slot, with one hand.

So we stuck our money in said slot. Once we’d put in the proper amount, the window quickly became clear, and voila, there were two very good-looking people, enjoying some vigorous doggy style, just five feet away from us, on an Austin Powers-style rotating bed (seriously). With as much porn as I’ve watched in my time, I didn't expect to be as, uh, blown away as I was by witnessing the real deal up close. Admittedly, the act did seem a bit robotic, but sex is kind of like pizza, isn’t it? Even when it’s bad, it’s still pretty damn good.

My gaze firmly fixed upon the gyrating two-some, I stared in amazement and bewildered arousal. The couple pounded away at each other, switching positions frequently as the carousel of carnal delights slowly rotated, ensuring that everyone got a proper eye-full of every angle, every hole, and all the corresponding bits and pieces. After the initial shock and awe of realizing there are two real people having sex right in front of me wore off, I looked up to notice the strangest (could this get more strange?), but also the most amusing part, of the whole experience.

It turns out, I could see into all the other six or seven rooms that were viewing the same couple I was. Across the way, there was a cute Aussie couple (who we’d met previously) yelling, screaming, and laughing. There was a completely aghast, sheltered-looking Asian girl who seemed to be teetering somewhere between disgusted and aroused. And, of course, there was a creepy dude that I immediately regretted ever glancing at.

They also say that, “you’ll never forget your first time,” and that applies just as much to your first peeping experience as it does the real deal, no matter how short. As my wife so eloquently described it, the whole ordeal was, “Seedy, surreal, and full of thrusting.”

All in all, it was a little weird, a bit gross, really amusing, and oddly hot. 8/10 would peep again.