The Hotel Pulitzer, Amsterdam is a Starwood Luxury Collection hotel with a story steeped in history. Located just a block from the Anne Frank House – the famous attic where Frank hid during WWII and now museum – the hotel has a history of its own.
Consisting of 25 historical canal houses – some dating back to the 1600s – the original houses were built more than 400 years ago. In the late 1960s, Herbert Pulitzer, a businessman, purchased the first 10 canal houses that would become the hotel. Over the years, additional canal houses are purchased. In the early 90s, Pulitzer decides to sell the hotel and it is first bought by an Italian chain and then in 1995 purchased by Starwood as a Sheraton hotel.
Between 1998 and 2000, the hotel was completely renovated and upon the completion, joined the Luxury Collection. The hotel fills several blocks and is in-between Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht with the entrance facing Prinsengracht and the restaurant on the backside facing Keizersgracht. The canal houses that face Prinsengracht were originally shops, warehouses and doubled as homes (the Anne Frank house is on Prinsengracht.) The canal houses on Keizersgracht were more grand and imposing as they were considered upscale when they were built.
The first houses were built in 1615 and today house the restaurant, bar and bedrooms ending with numbers 60 & 79. The imposing mansion at 224 Keizersgracht was built in 1620, and named De Saxenburg by its owner, Hans Lenaertsz. You can still see the name on the building today. In 1630, the Lenaertz bought several more houses today those are guestrooms ending in 12 – 19 and 31-57. I stayed in room 312 – pretty amazing to know that I was in a room dating back to the early 1600s.
In 1796 the estate is sold to Pieter van Winter and he adds Prinsengracht 323 and rebuilds it into a coach house today is contains guest rooms ending in 10 and 30 and the ground floor holds the lobby. After Winter’s death in 1807, the De Saxenburg mansion is turned into a chocolate factory and the rest is renovated into office and factory space. The residence was finally purchased in 1986 and became part of the Hotel Pulitzer.
The hotel retains much of its original charm. There are original hard-wood floors in some of the rooms, Delft tiles in the bathtubs and the hotel is a virtual maze connecting all of the canal houses that today make up the hotel.
The hotel is very conveniently located – about a 5-10 minute ride from Central Amsterdam Station or about a 20 minute walk, a 2-5 minute walk to the Anne Frank House, a 10 minute walk to the Dag Square and provides easy access to all other areas of the historic city.
The hotel offers a canal cruise on a historic canal boat that is more than 103 years old. The Tourist as it’s called, has carried hotel guests, celebrities and dignitaries – including Winston Churchill and the Queen of England. The cruise will cost €35 per person and takes about 1 hour. The group size is limited to around 10 -12 guests and children are welcome. I was very disappointed in the cruise – there were many other longer, less expensive cruise options that departed from in front of the hotel. In addition, the captain of the cruise was supposed to provide commentary throughout the cruise. Twice he stopped to talk on his cell phone. In addition, he let two young children (7/8 years old) steer the boat and then stand in the front of the boat blocking views for others. There was also a group – one man and his two teenage sons – who stood up the whole time blocking the windows on the left side of the boat for the entire cruise. Not one time did the captain ask them to sit down – I don’t think he could since he was so busy with the kids and his phone. As a result – I would recommend that you save money and take one of the non-hotel cruises.
The hotel has a restaurant, a Bar, an espresso Bar, a gym and several gardens. I didn’t visit the espresso bar, but they did offer take-away breakfast options (like muffins, rolls, fruits, etc…)
Check-in was quick and easy – however, as a Platinum member there were no room upgrades available. The receptionist told me that since it was Easter weekend they were at capacity. I was also informed that breakfast was included, so for my Platinum check-in amenity I selected the points. I headed up to my room and quickly discovered some of the hotels charm – small elevators and sets of stairs that lead up and down through the corridors of the old canal houses that have been pieced together into the hotel. My room was only down one set of stairs – which was nice since I had luggage to carry.
Upon entering my room, I noticed immediately that it was small – and by small I mean like a shoebox. The room had a king-sized bed – you couldn’t stand two-by-two on either side of the bed and there probably wasn’t enough room to pass someone next to the bed. There was a very small desk – not enough room for my computer (a 13 inch laptop) and a tray from room service – with a small desk lamp and phone. There was a dresser with robe and slippers and safe – and some room for hanging and folded items as well.
There was also a mini-bar in the room. I opened the mini-bar – which I’ve now named the lamest mini-bar ever – to discover 1 bottle of wine, a can of beer, flavored water and an energy drink. On top of the min-bar were some peanuts and tic-tacs. The mini-bar menu was much more extensive and so I called the front desk to enquire. They said it should have been replenished and offered to have someone come and fill it. Friday went by, Saturday went by and Sunday went by and when I checked out Monday the mini-bar still contained the exact same items – no one came to refill it.
The bathroom was small but sufficient and had a shower inside the bath tub. After my first shower, I noticed that the shower head was broken. It couldn’t be positioned at all – it would just dangle straight down towards the wall. This made it awkward to shower since the bathtub had a curve to it and you had to stand as close to the wall as possible to get under the water stream. I called Saturday about getting that fixed and when I checked out on Monday it still hadn’t been fixed. The water temperature was also erratic – sometimes it would turn scalding hot or freezing cold without warning. This seems to happen in old hotels (I experienced the same thing in London and Brussels in historic hotels.)
The room was very clean and I could always smell cleaning products used by housekeeping for several hours after they cleaned. The wood floors creaked in some areas and definitely showed wear and tear.
The view from my room was of a cement wall. I called the front desk to ask about changing rooms to one with a better view – I told them I understood that no upgrades were available – but could I get a room with a view of something? I was told by the person who answered the room that because of the rate type I booked I couldn’t change rooms. Disappointed with that answer, I tweeted @SPGInsider and they called the hotel. Shortly after, I talked with the duty manager who explained that the hotel was full for Saturday night, but that on Sunday she’d be more than happy to move me to a room with a better view. So was the other person at the front desk that I spoke with earlier wrong when she told me it was based on my rate type? I certainly felt like I got a bit of a run-around and conflicting information. In the end, I declined the move because it would have been a bit challenging to move all my things and I had gotten used to looking at the wall.
The last thing I will mention about the rooms is that you can hear absolutely everything that occurs in the halls and adjacent rooms. I mean you can literally hear conversations – and other things – people are having. It’s awkward at times. You can also hear housekeeping in the mornings – someone knocked on my door at 8:23 am Saturday morning and when I asked that she come back later, I could hear her talk for 5 minutes or so outside my door. I also heard her (or another housekeeper) knock on an adjacent room and literally heard the guy scream ‘go-away’ and I mean he screamed! Why is housekeeping knocking on doors at 8:23 am on a Saturday morning anyway?
The restaurant – Grill 223 – is a Michelin Star rated restaurant and having enjoyed dinner there myself, I can see why. When I arrived for dinner the restaurant was pretty empty – granted it was Good Friday – and it took a few minutes for someone to greet me. Once seated, it took another 12 minutes before someone came over with a menu and then 7 more minutes before my waiter greeted me. Based on that start, I was a little worried, but once my waiter finally came over, thing turned around. I was served bread with three spreads – an olive tapenade, butter and a garlic spread. They were all good. I started with a traditional Caesar salad that was very good and had the perfect amount of dressing. The salad was topped with two soft boiled eggs and a crouton. For dinner, I had the burger duo. Two sliders – one with Gouda and one with cheddar and bacon. They were delicious and reasonably priced. I really enjoyed the meal and would go back again. I do have to note that not everything on the menu was reasonably priced.
Upon checking out, I told the receptionist that of the two issues in the room (the mini-bar and the shower head) she apologized and said, “Oh, I see you’ve had breakfast in the restaurant, I’ll remove that for your inconvenience.” I responded by saying that I thought breakfast was included. She checked and in fact, breakfast was included – so she removed that charge from my bill. It was a lovely offer and in the end, since the charge was removed from my bill because it was in error, she didn’t offer anything else for the inconveniences. Checkout was speedy and I was on my way to the train station very quickly.
The Pulitzer bills itself as a 5 star hotel. I’m afraid I don’t agree with the 5 star rating. If you look online at Trip Advisor, Orbitz and Kayak the hotel is rated with 4 stars, Frommer’s rates the hotel 1 star (1 Frommer star means highly recommended (they go from 1-3 stars with 3 stars being exceptional), Hotels.com rates the hotel 3 stars. The only 5 star rating comes from the hotel itself as far as I can see. I would rate the hotel a 4 star hotel by most standards.
The rooms are quaint, the hotel has charm and the restaurant is excellent – so there are many positive things about the hotel in addition to the drawbacks.
The Pulitzer is the only Starwood Property in Amsterdam – so if you’re trying to stick with Starwood, it’s your only choice. If I was to return to Amsterdam – which I currently have no plans to – I am not sure if I would stay at the Pulitzer again based on this experience. I would either go with the Intercontinental (It is one of the 5 star hotels in Amsterdam) or one of the Marriott’s because I like earning points there as a backup.