Monday, July 8, 2019

Amsterdam’s Pulitzer: A Prize for Redefining Posh

The best way to experience the canals? The Pulitzer's vintage boat.
I’ve visited Amsterdam several times in the past 30 years. And with each visit the city grows more interesting (and no, I’m not talking about the Red Light District). Years ago hotel options were basic and tiny, grand and fussy or, when I visited in 1986, well, Spartan and sterile (as in a youth hostel.)

These days, hotel options in the historic city offer much more variety. While the storied, grand hotels for which Europe is known remain, they have creative competition from contemporary spots that redefine luxury. Of course, what does “luxury” even mean anymore? Does it mean silk draperies, plush carpets, servile service, and Louis XIV armchairs? Or maybe today the concept has progressed beyond pretension and fluff and landed in a world equal parts Alice in Wonderland, old school luxury hotel, and creatively-styled, non-chain hotel.

During a recent visit, I stayed at just such a place—The Pulitzer, a one-of-a-kind, quirky hotel smack dab in the center of the old city center. Housed in a cluster of Golden Age canal houses cobbled together and huddled around an expansive courtyard, the hotel manages to be au courant, historic, and refined.

The charm and character here don’t come cheap, however. To save some euros, book a “cosy room” with a view of the courtyard garden. No canal view, you whine? Well, I stayed in such a room with giant windows providing expansive views of the charming gardens, church tower, and jumble of classic Dutch rooftops. But the best part of the room was the birdsong and church chimes that serenaded me in the mornings.

Besides, Amsterdam’s canals are often loud and sometimes traversed by party boats. (Seriously, wouldn’t you prefer a view of a charming courtyard garden the sound of birdsong—while saving those euro for some gouda, or other Dutch treats?)

And speaking of treats, no matter whether you lay your weary head to rest in a canal or garden room, you’ll be subject to a never-ending supply of delectable stroopwafels—a cookie of two thin layers of baked dough with a cavity-inducing, caramel syrup filling.

And what should you drink with this surfeit of stroopwafel? Well, rooms come with a supply of small batch coffees roasted for the hotel and an assortment of premium teas. Though rooms are relatively small, they’re full of well-designed touches like portholes, settees, and art (both contemporary and antique). And because this is Amsterdam, an old school bike tire repair kit is included—perhaps the most unique amenity anywhere.

The Pulitzer's private garden.
Breakfasts in the hotel’s Junz restaurant are ethereal as morning light cascades through the large mullioned windows of the restaurant’s rooms. In the evenings, the Pulitzer Bar is a destination for locals and tourists alike. While the bar’s cocktail program isn’t exceptional, it’s adequate. The real attraction is the fetching design of the rooms and the crowds of happy-go-lucky Dutch who don’t seem to notice—or care.

Intimate Bussia sits steps from the Pulitzer.
Looking for restaurants to complement your sublime stay here? Just around the corner sits Bussia, a small Italian restaurant with a limited, seasonal menu. An upper gallery and open kitchen compete for attention with the street scene outside the large windows. Reservations essential.  

Further afield is the Michelin-starred Het Bosch which boasts views of a small harbor and marshes (and summer sunsets that last hours). Reservations essential.

A Last Hurrah: Experiencing Amsterdam's storied canals is a must. Tour boats ply the centuries-old waterways, offering cheap food and mugs of Heineken. Wish to avoid jostling cheek to jowl with boatloads of other tourists? Well (and doesn’t it figure?), Pulitzer guests have a fetching option: the hotel’s vintage wooden boat. Take one of the regularly-scheduled complimentary cruises with cash bar or even better, book a splurge-worthy, private putter.

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