Compact, with just 800,000 inhabitants – but over 880,000 bicycles – Amsterdam is one of Europe’s most popular destinations. About six million visitors arrive each year, exceeding the available accommodations in the city centre. New, cutting-edge design hotels have sprung up in the outlying areas and along the fringes of the tourist-thronged historical quarter, in such districts as Amsterdam West.
“Amsterdam West is very popular right now. It’s within walking distance of the popular Jordaan neighbourhood, and it’s not as busy as downtown,” says Vondel Hotels owner Arjen van den Hof. He adds, “A lot of bars, restaurants and trendy stores have just opened in this vibrant area.”
At the heart of this fashionable ’hood, with its active nightlife and proximity to major attractions, is the hotel group’s sixth hospitality project. Opened this past April, Hotel De Hallen is part of the privately funded conversion of a tram depot that dates from 1902. Besides the hotel, the 2,700-square-metre De Hallen project contains a cinema, a library, boutiques, and a covered food market, due to open later this year.
“It’s a historical monument and therefore a protected building. As much as possible, we tried to keep elements from the former depot visible, because they give an industrial touch to the hotel,” explains van den Hof. He took an active role on the project, collaborating with architect Andre van Stigt, whose firm oversaw the conversion and preservation of the seven halls that make up the former industrial complex.
Now meticulously restored, the classic Amsterdam red-brick structure that houses the hotel was essentially an open shed, with steel trusses supporting a roofline that had skylights running its entire length. Rather than carve up the space and lose the daylight, the plan situated the 55 guest rooms within two six-metre-long structures about the width of a streetcar. Made of steel and panelled in oak, they fill what was the storage and repair space for approximately three trams. Each structure is two storeys high, connected by sets of steel staircases and long platforms that resemble exterior fire escapes.
The rooms are not large, but as van den Hof points out, they don’t need to be. “In general, visitors stay for just a few days, spending most of their time in the city centre or in restaurants,” he says. “So why not a small but comfortable 22-square-metre room?”
Designer Marco van Veldhuizen collaborated with van den Hof on the interiors. The rooms were painted a deep moss green, offset by vintage chairs upholstered in plum. Guest rooms open onto a long corridor broken up by five lounge islands, where vintage sofas mix with hefty lamps made from repurposed city street lights. Near the main entrance, Tom Dixon’s copper Fin lights hang above a petite lobby bar banked with Morph stools by Zeitraum. Natural light floods into the lobby and lounge area from large windows behind the bar.
In Remise47, the restaurant, original tram tracks crease the floor. Featuring a French and internationally inspired menu, the dining area is situated between walls of exposed red brick. Vintage Danish chairs are combined with pendant lights from Dutch firm Vroonland Vaandrager. Just above the restaurant, the depot’s old offices have been transformed into three bright, spacious suites.
Outside, a leafy patio offers an ideal spot for drinks and is sure to draw the locals. A quick bike ride from the Museumplein and the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam West and Hotel De Hallen provide a respite from the city’s gritty, increasingly crowded downtown.
If you go
The reopening over the past few years of two important museums, the Rijksmuseum and the Stedelijk – along with a global fixation on all things Vermeer – has been drawing hordes of tourists to the Netherlands’ capital city. Plan your visit for the off-season and book a hotel outside the downtown core
The EYE Filmmuseum’s sleek white facade is a standout on the IJ harbour. Designed by Viennese firm Delugan Meissl, the centre opened in 2012 in the developing North Amsterdam neighbourhood. A movie lovers’ mecca with four theatres, it also offers individual cinema pods, an archive of over 60 million metres of film, an exhibition program, and a waterside restaurant.
After a decade-long transformation, the Rijksmuseum re-opened in April 2013. The monumental renovation, under Spanish architects Cruz y Ortiz, saw a building of the 19th century revamped for the 21st, with the world-famous collection displayed in sumptuously restored galleries. This November, the new Philips Wing will be unveiled with the presentation of Modern Times. Photography in the 20th Century. This inaugural exhibition will occupy all nine of the wing’s new rooms. (Above: Flower pyramid, attributed to De Metaale Pot, c. 1692-1700)
You don’t need to stay at Hôtel Droog to be a guest (in fact, there is only one hotel room). At this restored 17th-century building in the heart of the city, you are welcome to drop by for a drink, a bite to eat or a stroll in the garden; or indulge in retail therapy at the Droog Store, which features the company’s products along with work by local designers.
360 Volt’s lighting hangs in Amsterdam’s Conservatorium Hotel, the Town Hall Hotel in London, and the Rhein Haus in Seattle. The company specializes in original and repurposed industrial lamps. You can find its vintage wares online, and at its store-front on the Prinsengracht.
Local and international designers are represented at the Frozen Fountain, near the Nine Streets retail district. The shop’s permanent collection consists of Zanotta, Moroso, and Vitra, as well as Dutch creations by Studio Job, Droog, Piet Hein Eek and many others. (Above: Tea Set by Vika Mitrichenka)