Red Light Districts

Of course, any Red Lights District in Europe cannot compete with Amsterdam, where it is referred to many lane streets and embankments.In Brussels, Red Light District is located north to the Northern Railway Station (Gare du Nord) and is represented by two long streets - Rue d’Aerschot and Rue de Brabant. Besides lots of window displays with young women, tourists and locals might visit some sex-shops and bars, drawing attention with red-and-blue glowing neon lights. In addition, there are some related storefronts on the Rue Linne, located nearby.

Surprisingly, prostitution is legal in Belgium; however, to operate "houses of ill fame" is considered a serious infraction of the law. In this context, a defect of Belgian legislation appears to be in absence of exact boundary between pimps and brothel keepers. According to the latest estimates, nearly 20-30 thousand women are engaged in prostitution who come in Belgium from different countries, mainly Europe. The majority of white girls are from Eastern Europe alongside the girls from the neighboring Holland. On the streets, mulattos and African are waiting for their visitors. Red Lights district works without stopping, at night girls appear in glowing underwear to draw the attention of would-be clients. Their rooms are hidden behind colorful curtains.

The other part of Brussels, known for its prostitution activity, is Avenue Louise. It is one of the most luxury areas with lots of shops and expensive apartment buildings. In contrast to Gare du Nord district, this area looks less decent and civil; at night hours lines of girls in short skirts and high heels are looking for potential clients. Despite the fact that the street well lit, foreigners are not recommended to walk late. Especially, it is related the tourists, who reside in the neighboring hotels (Warwick Barsey Hotel, Le Chatelain All Suite Hotel, Conrad Brussels, etc.). It would be really inappropriate to spoil your visit in the Belgian capital by an awkward encounter. 

Brussels also maintains districts much appreciated by sexual minorities. It is associated with Fontainasplein area, where Belgian gays usually gather. There is even a gay association established - Tels quells, which offers different kinds of consultancy for its followers. 

However, Brussels is not the only city in Belgium, where Red Lights District is. In Antwerp prostitution is spread over the port district and is legal only on three streets (Verversrui, Vingerlingstraat and Schippersstraat). Red Light District here is pretty safe and resembles the one in Amsterdam: window cases with young girls of different nationalities. It is often referred to as Sailor’s Quarter, where Greece taverns and window prostitution was popular earlier. Illegal activity there is prohibited and controled by a constant police surveillance. The front building of the Antwerp Red Light District is Villa Tinto - Pleasure Palace. In Ghent Red Lights District it is Brabantdam area, in Liege it is noticed on Rue de Champion and in Ostend - Langestraat and Hazegras.

Red Light District in Antwerp

Termed the ‘shopping mall of sex’ by many locals, Villa Tinto is built and managed in very much the same way that high-street districts are. The difference: this one’s for sex. Here the main drag takes visitors past window after window of women parading themselves in what could easily be the display section of normal retail shops, giving rise to the area’s epithet as “Europe's most high tech bordello”. This is also where you’ll find the central hub of Antwerp’s red light police, who make regular patrols both in and around the Villa. 

But Villa Tinto aside, it is Antwerp’s red light district that has been hailed as one of the most authentic in Europe, retaining the classic port-character that was its original raison d'etre and remaining largely without the gaudy and irritating calls of street promoters looking to drag swathes of unsuspecting tourists into sex shows or private rooms. What’s more, with such a determined round the clock security effort, there’s actually very little to be worried about here, and the area around Oude Manstraat (Old Man St) and Verversrui has been said to be amongst the safest in the city. That said, it pays to be wary of the prolific presence of beggars that has hold in recent years; many aren’t as used to the regular sight of tourists as they may be in larger tourist destinations, and have also been known to become aggressive with travellers.

Red Light District in Ghent

In Ghent the red light district is situated just to the south of the central main town, somewhat ironically close to the looming gothic tower of St Bavo’s Cathedral, the seat of the municipal diocese. Don’t expect the same size or proliferation as in Antwerp and Brussels, and Ghent’s gaudy district certainly has nowhere near the scope of Amsterdam’s. However, like Antwerp the area does manage to steal some charm in the absence of touristy crowds. 

Most of the action is centred on the classic-looking Glazen Straatje (Glass Alley), a recently restored (as of 2012) covered archway style mall that actually oozes a certain Parisian-chic character. If it wasn’t for the semi-nude females you could be forgiven for thinking that this place was actually some pre-war survivor of continental Europe, now home to reworked boutiques and specialised shops. In fact, it’s precisely this architectural charm that draws many visitors to this small section that runs between Pieter Vanderdoncktdoorgang and Brabantdam, but it’s also the after-dark offering of red light’s most popular export, of course. 

The windows in the alleyway represent a number of Ghent’s longest running sex houses - L'Orchidee; Mignon, and Au Plaish – while the establishments themselves now extend well down Pieter Vanderdoncktdoorgang and are dotted sporadically about the surrounding side-streets. 

It’s estimated that Ghent’s red light district is home to only a modest one hundred or so window displays, making it extremely small and compact to the sprawling centres found elsewhere in the country. Consequently safety is rarely a concern and you can generally feel free to walk the streets in curiosity most of the time. That said, it’s still worth observing all the usual precautions necessary for travel in inter-city areas.

Locals in Ghent have actually had a tense relationship with the red light district establishments, and it’s come to something of a head in recent years with the incumbent mayor, Daniel Termont, moving to pass legislation which prevents showgirls from displaying themselves naked or semi-naked in the windows. A city-wide law requiring workers in the industry to dress appropriately came into force last year after local residents lodged a number of complaints detailing the excessive exposure that was on display along with repeated incidents of violence reportedly occurring nearby. 

Red Light District in Liege

The city of Liege is also home to one of Belgium’s more modest of red light districts. Action is generally centred on the Rue du Champion and Rue de l'Agneau, just south of the Rue Leopold main street on the western banks of the River Meuse. Here there is just a cluster of traditional establishment offering red light services, though just like elsewhere in Belgium girls are easy to come by. More recently, other window-shopping style areas have popped up on the Rue de la Glaciere, and nearer to the station on the Varin Road near the Pont de Fragnee crossing

For more shady action, recommendations include the Place Cockerill and the Rue Florimont, but contrary to national law this is largely conducted on the street and away from the eye of the police, so enter at your own risk. Predictably, prices in smaller towns like Liege are reportedly much lower than in larger cities, while variety is somewhat reduced.

In Liege, similar developments as in Ghent have left the red light district in a status of uncertainty. Reportedly as many as fifty establishments have been shut down in recent years, following a clamp down on regulations from local government and politicians associated mainly with the mayor’s office. 

Red Light District in Ostend

The red light district in Ostend has a similar harbour-side vibe to the one in Antwerp though is considerably smaller. Here there are just a couple of establishments and they’re nestled a little anachronistically amidst rows and rows of residential buildings. If you’re looking to visit the area here, check out the streets around Langestraat, or the roads coming off Hazegras near the railway terminal. Apparently the city council has been waging a war against the establishments for some time, a fact that has resulted in a number of extra pressures being placed on managers here. 

Red Light Services in Charleroi

Back nearer to the capital, in the city to the south of Brussels Centrum, the so called ‘triangle de Charleroi’, is another reported hotbed for prostitution and red light establishments. Traditionally this has been a local spot, but with great connections to the airport the centre has featured more and more on the tourist route to the capital.