This week, a co-worker asked me if I’d written a post about Amsterdam. Surely I must have, right? I’ve been a few times now, and can’t imagine that I wouldn’t have written about it. Well, as it turns out, I’ve only written about the hotel I stayed in, the Hotel Pulitzer. So now that I’m headed back to Amsterdam (late October) and I have a co-worker planning a trip, this seems like a great time to look back on my last trip.
What I Loved: The Hop-on Hop-off tour. I took one by CitySightseeing. You can get on and get off at every stop, for 24-hours! I love doing these tours in every city that has them because it’s a great way to orient yourself with the city and decide what else you want to do. I loved the Van Gogh Museum. It was amazing to see such iconic images up close and personal. The Anne Frank House is another place you can’t miss – you’ll be transported back in time, to an unimaginable time.
What I Didn’t Love: If you hit Amsterdam during its peak tourist season, you’ll likely stand in a lot of queues (what we Americans call lines.) Getting tickets in advance is very helpful – and sometimes a must!
Amsterdam is a very walkable city, so if you stay in the city center, you can easily get around by foot – or on the public transportation. Another mode of transportation are the 65 miles of canals. Twenty-five percent of the city surface is navigable waterways, making Amsterdam the most “watery” city in the world (source: Amsterdam.com)
You can pack a lot into a weekend (or long-weekend) in Amsterdam. Here’s what I did:
3 hour “hop-on, hop-off” tour
2 hours at the Anne Frank House (including 30 minute wait – and I even had a ticket w/a specific entry time)
2 hours at the Van Gogh Museum (you could easily spend all day here, but I had to pick and choose what I wanted to see)
30 minutes for lunch on the lawn outside the Van Gogh Museum. There are plenty of vendors with all kinds of foods. There are tables (which are hard to come by) and plenty of space to picnic or just sit on a wall and enjoy the view.
2 hour canal tour
3 hours at Artis Zoo and Botanical Gardens (you could spend many hours here, there is so much to see. In 3 hours I saw a good deal and just enough to make me want to go back.
2 hours at the Rembrandt house – you’ll learn a lot of interesting facts – did you know that Rembrandt was his first name? And you’ll see one of the largest collections of his sketches. The collection is housed in the home where Rembrandt once lived and worked. You’ll also find a collection of Rembrandt’s own art collection.
Where to eat: I had an amazing dinner at Keizersgracht 238, behind the Hotel Pulitzer. The restaurant has amazing views and equally amazing food. I had the 238 Burger, a Black Angus burger with onion, lettuce, bacon, cheese and fried egg and a Caesar salad. Restaurant Vinkeles is a modern-French Michelin stared restaurant with an out of this world menu (expect dishes with things like tongue, kidneys and sweetbreads). They also have perhaps the most indulgent Pommes Frites topped with Crème Fraiche and caviar – like noting you’ve had before. Prepare to spend a lot of money on food in Amsterdam, everything is pricy.
Where to stay: 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.
In Review: Amsterdam is a unique and eclectic city – from the red-light district to the museum district, Amsterdam has something for everyone. You’ll fall in love with Amsterdam.