This collection of characterful canal houses mixes sophisticated design with sumptuous Golden Age decor, says Amelia Duggan
Pulitzer Amsterdam — reopened in summer 2016 following a landmark redesign — is a vision of contemporary cool, its history researched, revivified and splashed with panache across a jumble of 25 Golden Age canal houses on the Prinsengracht. Designer Jacu Strauss, responsible for London’s stylish Sea Containers, spent a year living in the hotel during the design process. The result: 225 guest rooms, all uniquely furnished according to size and character — including four standout luxury apartment suites, each with a different story to tell about a fictional former 18th-century resident.
The hotel makes a fantastic first impression: a stone’s throw from the boutiques and bars of the trendy De Negen Straatjes neighbourhood, and within walking distance of the city’s main sights, it sits on a particularly elegant stretch of canal. A glass atrium housing a flower shop — a nod to Amsterdam’s bulb trading history — gives way to a light reception and concierge area that combines refined, old-world touches (gilt-framed oil paintings, antique curios and a library) with cosy Persian rugs and plush, velvety seating.
I’m welcomed and led to my room, which proves no simple matter to find. The series of interconnected buildings that make up Pulitzer Amsterdam are warren-like, corridors twisting and turning around pretty courtyards. Various artworks, moulded friezes and richly pigmented feature walls catch my eye — aesthetic breadcrumbs I can use to find my way back to the main courtyard (home to the leafy garden cafe, Pause) and the exit. It’s a real joy to walk through, though: so much love has gone into the design. I’m particularly taken with one sculpture that climbs an outer wall: an array of vintage bicycles, salvaged from the depths of the canal.
I adore the eccentricities of my generous King room — more a suite than a double, with all its different nooks — up in the eaves, under dark roof beams. There’s the giant bed with an isosceles headboard (echoing the narrow roof space above it) and lounge area, complete with an oak writing desk and a drinks cabinet that would have impressed Hemingway. I help myself to a herbal tea and a macaron while I explore: windows look out across tiled roofs and down to dark waterways; the bathroom is, in contrast to the rich, muted tones of the bedroom, a sparkling tableau of white marble and antique silver faucets. I discover a retro bicycle repair kit in the writing desk and a luxuriant, bound notebook; I feel the room is telling me to go explore and be inspired.
No problem: moored on the dock outside is the Tourist — a century-old, white canal boat, with polished teak and brass accents — belonging to the hotel. Winston Churchill took a tour in it in 1946, I’m told by the captain as he helps me into my seat at the helm and hands me a blanket. For over an hour, we cruise in style. We pass the church in the Red Light District (where “sailors could have their fun and confess their sins in 30 minutes”), the iconic ‘dancing houses’, wonky because of their collapsed foundations, and plenty more sights.
The next morning affords a chance to experience the Jansz restaurant. It’s a beautiful space, adjacent to the dark, stylish Pulitzer cocktail bar. Heavy velvet curtains in blush pink and navy catch and absorb the light from the big shop-style windows, while modern Edison bulbs dangle overhead. Breakfast is à la carte as well as buffet; I opt for scrambled eggs, truffle butter and avocado on toasted brioche.
It’s heartbreaking to leave the hotel, in part because Pulitzer Amsterdam feels more like a home than a hotel, and because I feel there are still so many more stylish corridors to get lost in. If I could award it a sixth star, I would.
Prinsengracht 315-331, 1016 GZ Amsterdam, Netherlands
Rooms from £270