Up to date details of Utrecht's brand new red light district (opening in 2017) can be found here.
Looking back at Holland's unique houseboat red light district
On 25th July 2013 all red light windows in Utrecht closed. This included the picturesque canal boats at Zandpad as well as the small city centre Hardebollenstraat. The closures were due to suspected trafficking of women and rule breaking by the owners. As with most red light districts in Holland the rooms (boats in this case) are owned by a company that rents them to the ladies on a daily basis. Since the girls are in a vulnerable position there are strict rules about how the company must act. If there is any suspicion of abuse or exploitation the company loses it's license to operate.
I created this page when both areas were open and have decided to leave it as an historic record. Zandpad lies 2.5 km (1.5 miles) North of the main station. It's like no other red light district in Holland. It consists of 34 house boats on a picturesque narrow stretch of river. 17 boats are South of the Marnixbrug and the other 17 are just North of it. Zandpad means 'sand path' though the sand has long been replaced by tarmac. Please note that the name Zandpad is also used on other stretches of the same river.
Boarded up boats in Zandpad
To get to Zandpad from the main station, exit to the East and go to the neighbouring bus station (Utrecht Centraal, Busstation Noord). Get bus no.6, no.7 or no.26 ensuring that it's going in the direction of Rozenstraat, Sint Jacobsstraat, Oudenoord, David van Mollemstraat, Nijenoord and Anton Geesink. After 7 or 8 minutes get off at stop Anton Geesink
(Note the other bus stop for your return journey towards the other end of Anton Geesink). Near the bus stop you will see a bridge with a fancy red structure. Cross this bridge and immediately turn left so you are walking along Jagerskade beside the river. After 700m (760 yards) or so you will be at the first house boat (no.102) on Zandpad. There are other routes but I consider this the best.
Hardebollentstraat is the other red light district in Utrecht. It's a small road about 800m (1/2 mile) NE of the main station. You can see where it is on the map immediately below. The street only has a tiny number of windows and is mostly used by locals. See my map lower down page.
A historic drawing of Hardebollenstraat from the late 17th century can be seen here