An alternative hotel guide to Amsterdam

Look beyond the canal belt to the Dutch capital’s lesser-known neighbourhoods, where regeneration and sustainability are resulting in exciting new hotels.

By Gavin Haines
Published 16 Jul 2020, 14:20 BST
Amsterdam is a city that continues to reinvent itself, with lesser-visited districts burgeoning in light of a slew of ...

Amsterdam is a city that continues to reinvent itself, with lesser-visited districts burgeoning in light of a slew of new openings. 

Photograph by Getty Images

Amsterdam still holds strong as one of Europe’s most exciting city-break destinations, but with great popularity comes great responsibility. Managing overtourism is no easy feat, but one of the city’s winning strategies has been to encourage tourists to think beyond the thronging canal belt. Instead, visitors are seeking adventures in lesser-visited districts, many of which are now connected by the Metro. Neighbourhoods like Noord are seeing start-ups, restaurants and hotels rising from the ashes of industry, while Westergas, a power plant-turned-cultural district, continues to ignite interest in leafy Westerpark. Sustainability is a theme in Houthaven, where an old timber harbour is being transformed into the city’s first carbon-neutral neighbourhood, complete with a fancy new riverside hotel. Elsewhere, Amsterdam’s bridge houses are being upcycled into quirky apartments — it’s all a testament to the city’s ability to respectfully reinvent itself.

Hotel TwentySeven also doubles as an art gallery featuring works from local and up-and-coming artists.

Photograph by Hotel TwentySeven

Best for splurging

Hotel TwentySeven 
A lavish oasis in the heart of Dam Square, next door to the Royal Palace, this exclusive, suites-only hotel is a synonym for sumptuousness. Its 16 individually decorated suites all come with their own steam room, whirlpool bath and butler, and look out across the buzzing centre. The hotel also doubles as an art gallery, displaying an ever-changing selection of works curated by a local gallery. The restaurant and cocktail bar, meanwhile, are among the finest in city.
Suites from £330, room only

Best for views 

Built in the traditional Amsterdam School style, BOAT&CO is one of the flagship developments in box-fresh Houthaven, Amsterdam’s first carbon-neutral neighbourhood. Located in the west of the city, about 20 minutes on foot from Amsterdam Centraal, the riverside aparthotel is refined but unpretentious. Rooms are quietly luxurious and many have views over the IJ river to Amsterdam-Noord. The cavernous open-plan restaurant, Vessel, is intended to be ‘the front room of the neighbourhood’ and serves noteworthy fare in elegant surrounds. On sunny days, guests can while away the hours on the terrace, watching ships sail the IJ river. 
Studios from £105, room only

Housed in Amsterdam’s old City Hall, Pestana overlooks the city’s main river and has a beautifully designed spa. 

Photograph by Pestana Amsterdam Riverside

Best for kicking back 

Pestana Amsterdam Riverside 
Housed in a striking building — formerly Amsterdam’s City Hall — this 154-room hotel overlooks the city’s main river, the Amstel, on the edge of uber-trendy De Pijp. In contrast to the elaborate exterior, the interior is contemporary with occasional flashes of art borrowed from museum depots. Unusually for Amsterdam, the hotel has a good-sized swimming pool and there are excellent spa facilities. Peter Lute, a Dutch celebrity chef, heads up the in-house restaurant.
From £120

Best for Sinophiles 

Hotel MAI
MAI pulls off the enviable trick of being in the heart of the city, without feeling like it. Formerly a warehouse that stored imported goods from the Far East, this historic Chinatown property is sympathetic to the neighbourhood’s heritage with frequent use of gold and red, which symbolise wealth and luck in Chinese culture. A short walk from Rembrandt House Museum, Amsterdam Centraal and the Red Light District, there are plenty of distractions on MAI’s doorstep, too. 
Doubles from £70

Best for futurists

Yotel Amsterdam
The reasons to visit Amsterdam Noord become more compelling by the year. The latest hotel to pop up in the old industrial district is the quietly eccentric Yotel. The modular hotel is stacked like LEGO and its adaptable rooms (beds fold out) are supposedly inspired by business-class cabins, though they’re mercifully much roomier. The hotel is 10 minutes on foot from A’DAM Tower, the trendy NDSM district and the free ferry to Centraal. 
Doubles from £65, room only

Jakarta is dominated by an indoor subtropical garden and much of building is heated through solar panels and geothermal heat pumps.

Photograph by Hotel Jakarta

Best for flower power 

Hotel Jakarta 
Hotel Jakarta in the Eastern Docklands, a short tram ride from the city centre is built on a man-made island in the middle of the IJ — from which ships used to depart for the East Indies, hence the name — Jakarta is dominated by an indoor subtropical garden. Focusing on its sustainability credentials, the building meets much of its energy needs through solar panels and geothermal heat pumps and the rooms are bedecked in fast-growing bamboo. There’s also a buzzing bar and restaurant located within the garden. 
Doubles from £140, B&B

Best for nostalgia 

Hiding in plain sight across the capital, Amsterdam’s cosy bridge houses used to be the domain of the city’s bridge operators, who now work remotely from an office. In their absence, the 28 vacant huts, some of which are suspended above the canals, have been reborn as the SWEETS Hotel. While drifting off to the sound swooshing barges, guests can contemplate what life was like for the old bridge masters. 
Doubles from £105, room only

Hotel Asile Flottant sits in De Ceuvel, a shipyard-turned-eco-hub in Noord, where old boats have been dragged ashore.

Photograph by Hotel Asile Flottant

Best for history buffs 

Hotel Asile Flottant
Consisting of six boats saved from the breaker’s yard and converted into sumptuous tourist accommodation. In their previous lives, some of the vessels were used for fishing or to transport cargo, but all have interesting stories. The largest accommodate up to six guests and some even have bathtubs. All boats are docked near De Ceuvel, a shipyard-turned-eco-hub in Noord, where old boats have been dragged ashore and converted into offices for social enterprises. The hub is also home to Café de Ceuvel, a snack bar and late-night pub. 
Boats from £230 for two nights, room only

Best for vegans 

QO Amsterdam
The idea behind QO was to build the most sustainable hotel in Europe. Constructed partly from reclaimed materials, including second-hand concrete, the new-build property has been installed with a biofuel boiler; shutters that close when rooms are empty in order to keep them cool and limit the use of air-con; and a rooftop greenhouse that supplies the hotel’s two vegan-friendly restaurants with fruit, veg and herbs. Rooms have a chic post-industrial aesthetic and are comfortable, albeit not particularly cosy. 
Doubles from £97, room only

Best for park life

Conscious Hotel Westerpark 
Conscious Hotels is on a mission to ‘make sustainability sexy’ while keeping prices low. It’s a model that seems to be working — the burgeoning chain has opened hotel number four in the Westergas complex, a power plant-turned-cultural district located in leafy Westerpark. Supposedly the Netherlands’ first all-electric hotel, handsome and unfussy rooms are kitted out with smart cradle-to-cradle furniture and look onto Westerpark. Downstairs, Bar Kantoor has become a popular local haunt.
Doubles from £80, room only

Published in the Jul/Aug 2020 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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