Amsterdam’s Lloyd Hotel has remained true to its historic roots as an emigrant center and former prison.
While researching historic accommodations for a 2007 stay in Amsterdam, I came across the Lloyd Hotel, awash with cultural, historical and architectural eccentricities. It is a rather forbidding brown brick structure that overlooks a major city waterway slightly outside the city’s tourist core.
From the website, I learned that there were no two rooms alike in design, furnishings, color scheme or size. But what really piqued my curiosity was the one-star to five-star room ratings all under the same roof. Now that’s quirky! For that first visit in 2007, I booked two nights to allow me to stay in each of these extreme stars. In May 2016 I returned to the Lloyd to try out a four-star room (for an example, see left), and I fell in love with this hotel all over again!
Originally built a century ago as a six-storey emigrant processing center for poor Europeans who hoped for better lives in the New World, it later served as a refugee center for Jewish people during WWII, as a prison for Dutch collaborators after WWII, and as a young offender (age 12 to 18) prison before falling into disuse. By 1996, the Municipality of Amsterdam was looking for a creative idea to upgrade the Eastern Docklands area where the building was such a prominent feature. Could anyone come up with a realistic renovation plan for this towering edifice, preferably with a less heavy history this time?
In summer the terrace off the dining area is a place for stimulating conversation.
Lloyd Hotel Following several years of design creation by four visionary initiators, it re-opened in 2004 as a cultural arts hotel with 117 rooms, an authentic restoration proudly reflecting its chequered history coupled with a relaxed modern atmosphere, including bright library spaces, outdoor terraces and comfy sofas where individual guests and small conference groups may linger for as long as they like to chat … or solve the problems of the world. The hotel was an instant international success with both leisure vacationers and business travelers.
“We always wanted to make the hotel a place that would contribute to the arts and to Dutch culture, both past and present,” says Suzanne Oxenaar, one of those hotel visionaries who continues to play a very hands-on role in the property’s daily life. She points out that the Lloyd is the only hotel in Amsterdam to have an artistic director. “That’s me!” she exclaims with a ready laugh. “Our Cultural Embassy is a significant element of all that we do in the public spaces, in our year round cultural programming, and in the rooms designed by people on the cutting edge of the country’s design scene.”
With no doormen and only a modest entrance, I felt more like I was entering a hostel than a famous hotel. The friendly staff at the tiny reception cubicle where I checked in directed me to the top floor where my five-star attic room awaited. Exiting the sixth floor elevator, narrow hallways were decorated with strips of stained dark brown linoleum, surely from the hotel’s youth prison days. Assured that mine was one of the most popular rooms in the hotel, I entered a dimly-lit industrial space with roughly-bolted wooden beams, silver pipes and battleship-gray concrete floor. Small dormer windows gave harbour glimpses if I stood on tiptoes and leaned out, but luxury became obvious in the queen-size bed and large bathtub, both prominent in the bedroom. By contrast to the bedroom, the ensuite bathroom with shower, toilet and sink shared postage stamp-sized space.
Five-star rooms have the most floor space even if they are in the attic and have original cement floors. Alison Gardner
In addition to leisure travelers of all ages, there are many business people who choose Lloyd Hotel for its comfort, friendliness, health-conscious breakfast buffet and back-to-basics lunch and dinner venue designed with straight back chairs and wooden tables akin to an institutional canteen. Most repeaters have a favorite room in mind too. Equally significant to the owners is the hotel’s reputation as a Cultural Embassy, attracting arts and culture guests who enjoy performances, festivals and exhibits year round hosted in its dramatic, gallery-like public spaces. Many international artists and musicians stay and perform.
Prices and menu choices at the hotel restaurant range from “one-star” chips and soup
to “five-star” seafood and steaks. Alison Gardner
When I made my move down several floors to a one-star room, I was startled by the upgrade of the still-narrow hallway to gleaming gray and red pottery tiles covering the floor and half way up the walls. My one-star bedroom was the size of a modest walk-in closet, with a single metal bed and tiny metal table and chair, with just enough floor space for one medium suitcase.
However, there was no downgrade of the hotel’s amenities, all neatly arranged, including a terry towel bathrobe. A large window gave a panoramic view of Amsterdam’s bustling commercial harbour (without having to stand on tiptoe). Though my boot camp-style single bed looked like it could easily be purchased in a garage sale, in fact each bed was custom-made at a cost of thousands of Euros, based on the original design used by the youthful inmates. With a first class mattress, two feather pillows and a duvet topping the bed frame, I have no doubt that I experienced a comfort level none of the bad boys ever knew.
A couple of doors down the tiled hallway was my shared bathroom, labelled BADKAMER, for which occupants of three bathroom-less accommodations on my floor each had a key for their exclusive use. With two ceiling-to-knees windows, the immaculately-kept black and white tiled bathroom was four times the size of my one-star room!
So how does this quirky hotel choose a rating for rooms? I kid you not … it is by size! No matter the number of beds, the view or the floor on which the room resides, it’s all about the square footage. Only the one-star rooms have shared bathrooms.
The one-star bathroom was four times the size of my one-star bedroom! Lloyd Hotel
Today Amsterdam’s Eastern Docklands area is a thriving destination with a picturesque walkable waterfront, varied eateries and plenty of shops. With the visionary decision to create a very unique hotel and – equally important – a dynamic Cultural Embassy, the Lloyd Hotel has served as a catalyst for the area’s development, and a stimulating alternative to staying in Amsterdam’s tourism center.
Check out different room designs on the Lloyd Hotel website, www.lloydhotel.com, and book early no matter what the time of year you are visiting Amsterdam. If you are interested in the arts, also check out the scheduled performances and art shows offered by the Cultural Embassy.
Room prices vary from 95 to 450 Euros. A sumptuous breakfast buffet is 17.50 Euros extra. The hotel is reached by taxi or by frequent tram service just a three minute walk away.
Visit www.holland.com and www.iamsterdam.com for complete information on travel in Holland and around the wonderful city of Amsterdam. If you are an independent traveler visiting Amsterdam for more than a day, consider buying an I amsterdam City Card for 24, 48, 72 or 96 hours, purchasable in advance over the internet or at Amsterdam Tourism offices. Arriving by air? Visit the tourism office at the Schiphol Airport to buy the card which provides free entrance to a myriad of museums and major attractions, unlimited public transportation as well as discounts and special offers.
Photo: A five-star bedroom with grand piano is an attractive option for an international concert pianist performing at the Cultural Embassy or a guest who just likes to tinkle the ivories. Lloyd Hotel
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Whether you are traveling first class or on a limited budget, this Eyewitness Top 10 guide will lead you straight to the very best that the wonderful city of Amsterdam has to offer.
There are dozens of Top 10 lists – from the Top 10 paintings in the fabulous Rijksmuseum and Top 10 off-the-beaten-track experiences to the Top 10 restaurants, shops, and hotels – providing the insider knowledge every creative traveler craves. And to save time and money, there is even a list of the Top 10 Things to Avoid!
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Full color throughout; 128 pages plus a pullout map.
Alison Gardner is a travel journalist, magazine editor, guidebook author, and consultant. She specializes in researching alternative vacations throughout the world, suitable for people over 50 and for women travelers of all ages. She is also the publisher and editor of Travel with a Challenge web magazine. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.