25th July 2013 - All windows in Utrecht red light districts close. This was due to fears that the boats at Zandpad and the buildings on Hardebollentstraat contain trafficked women.
15th August 2013 - Women are seeking to set up a co-operative to run some of the boats themselves.
16th Sept 2013 - Mayor Aleid Wolfsen says he hopes to have a new location before the end of the year. It now seems unlikely though that the boats will re-open because of local objection and problems raising money by the co-operative.
Despite the above news I am leaving this page up as a historic record of one of the most beautiful red light districts in the world.
On this page are my Utrecht interactive maps with handy mouseover images. Just click any location for a larger photos with numbers and further information where necessary.
Utrecht has two red light districts, Zandpad and Hardebollenstraat. By far the largest and most well known is Zandpad which 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 Zandpad means 'sand path' though the sand has long been replaced by tarmac.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.
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