From the outside, Pulitzer Amsterdam looks more like an art gallery than a hotel, with a grand piano suspended from the ceiling, walls weighed down by Old Masters and an installation of pretty glass bottles facing the side street.
This is a hotel with history. It’s set within 25 restored 17th and 18th-century houses that were once home to merchants and aristocrats. High ceilings and large windows were historically a sign of wealth in Amsterdam, and these houses were once home to the metropolitan elite.
American farmer-turned-businessman Peter Pulitzer (the grandson of the man whose bequest established the famous prize) bought the houses in 1960 to convert them into a hotel and at gallery. He sold them in 1990, but the art collection has been kept and is in evidence around the hotel.
It was restored and reopened last year, after switching ownership (from Starwood to Lux Preferred), and has been establishing itself as a cultural hub since then. There’s the Jansz restaurant, named after 17th-century craftsman Volkert Jansz, known for its lively dinners, and the Pulitzer Bar, where award-winning London barman Ryan Chetiyawardana recently put on a Dandelyan pop-up. Not that it’s too ritzy; in its previous incarnation, the bar was popular with locals, and they’ve tried hard to retain that neighbourhood vibe. There’s a separate entrance for both the restaurant and bar, so you don’t feel like you are traipsing through a touristy hotel to get there.
The redesign was overseen by Jacu Strauss, responsible for Jamie Oliver’s Barbecoa and the Mondrian London in the old Sea Containers building on the Southbank. He stayed in each of the 225 rooms to decide what would work where, and the result is thoughtfully designed luxury with a playful nod to the hotel’s part in Amsterdam’s history.
The whole experience is one of tasteful entertainment – there are books to borrow in reception, and plenty of curiosities to browse, as well as the works of art. Staff are obliging, with ready recommendations about what to see and how to avoid the queues at the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh museum, and the seating areas are a pleasant place to recover from the bustle of the city – either in the courtyard with its heated seats, a fire at your table and a view of Westerkerk’s cheery orange spire; or in one of the snugs next to an old master.
Guests are encouraged to take to the water with 75-minute canal trips on Pulitzer’s 1909 salon boat twice a day (from €39 per person). It’s no ordinary canal cruise – previous passengers include Winston Churchill, who toured the city on this polished teak and brass vessel in 1946.
Today, passengers hole up post-cruise for a buttery stroopwafel at Pause, the hotel’s informal café.
Overlooking a canal and surrounded by winding streets, the Pulitzer’s location is peak Amsterdam. It’s a five-minute walk from the Anne Frank House, on the edge of the Nine Streets shopping quarter and a 10-minute tram ride from the Vondelpark, home to the museums and art galleries.
The area is a mix of inviting cafes serving waffles, bars and expensively furnished townhouses – homes in Amsterdam don’t have curtains so it’s tempting (and often encouraged) to peer into every window.
Noorderkerk church is a 15-minute walk away – it has an excellent Saturday food market with plenty of free cheese samples, cones of chips and mayonnaise, oysters and champagne.
Each room is different – that’s what you get when you repurpose a historical building. Many have canal views and all come with the story of the whichever house you're in on the wall.
The hotel prides itself on “supremely comfortable beds” and they don’t disappoint. The décor is tasteful, mainly muted tones of grey and beige and flashes of lime, yellow and purple. Bathrooms are in marble, with heated mirrors and Le Labo toiletries. Essentials in every room include a bicycle repair kit, guide to the city and a bedtime story (ours was an Amsterdam-appropriate tale about Rembrandt painting a vain merchant).
Suites feel more like private apartments (they’re bigger than any London flat I’ve seen) and have private canal entrances.
Hotel Pulitzer, Prinsengracht 323, Amsterdam, The Netherlands (0031 (0) 20 5235235, pulitzeramsterdam.com). Doubles from £255, B&B.
Access: One fully-fitted accessible guest room
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies