Artistic Amsterdam

An artful itinerary in Holland’s eclectic capital

Amsterdam in and of itself is a work of art. The colorful capital city of the Netherlands is celebrated for its architecture, canals built in the 16th century and preservation of centuries-old buildings. It has also served as home for artists including Rembrandt van Rijn, Johannes Vermeer, Vincent Van Gogh and Piet Mondrian (just to name a few). It’s a must-visit destination for art aficionados and history enthusiasts.

Among the world’s most renowned—and largest—art museums is the Rijksmuseum. Located in Museum Square, the 19th-century building closed its doors for 10 years as it underwent renovations. The 375 million renovation (in euros)  was unveiled four years ago.

The collection of works covers 800 years of Dutch history—from the Middle Ages to present day. The castle-like museum houses masterpieces including Van Gogh’s Self-portrait, Rembrandt’s The Night Watch and four 17th-century works by Vermeer including The Little Street and Woman in Blue Reading a Letter.

Near the Rijksmuseum are two more must-visit museums: the Van Gogh Museum, which exhibits the richest collection of his work, and the Stedelijk Museum, where 90,000 modern and contemporary art and design works are on display.

“The Rijksmuseum took twice as long to complete and twice the budget,” says Hotel Pulitzer Amsterdam’s creative director, Jacu Strauss. “It was worth it.” The South African interior designer tapped for the refurbishment of the historic hotel drew inspiration from the Rijksmuseum. “It’s a spectacular museum,” he says.

Seeing the “Old Masters” and how they were showcased inspired him most. Like the Rijksmuseum, Hotel Pulitzer Amsterdam, which sits along the canals, is protected from any structural changes. The hotel is comprised of 25 canal houses built in the 17th and 18th centuries. They are connected to each other through a labyrinth of corridors.

“I loved that bit of mystery,” Strauss says about the unknown history of some of the buildings. “Sometimes I would lay awake at night and come up with dreams of the memories that may have lived here at some stage.”

Guests walking through the corridors can distinguish where a building begins and ends because each canal house is adorned with a different wall and carpet color. Strauss quips that it wasn’t until he ordered the carpets for the corridors that he understood the scale of the hotel.

Throughout the hotel, numerous old portraits hang from brass railings. The lobby displays Strauss’ biggest splurge: an oversize contemporary painting by Richard Kuiper. At first glance the work appears to be a still life portrait like that of Old Masters from the 17th century. Upon closer examination, it’s apparent that the items in the portrait are formed from plastic.

Every room, hallway, courtyard and corner of the hotel offers a chance for discovery. For instance, one of the three inner courtyards displays a five-story bicycle installation. Twenty salvaged bicycles from Amsterdam’s canals (up to 15,000 bicycles are retrieved from the canals every year) are suspended along the courtyard’s stark white wall.

There’s more art to discover in the hotel’s “Extraordinary Suites.” In addition to the hotel’s 225 rooms, five suites reflect what Strauss imagined the homes of various Dutch collectors would look like. Each suite has its own private entrance like a canal house.

The Art Collector’s Suite showcases art collected by the hotel over the years. In the wide, gallery-inspired hallway is a massive interpretation of The Last Supper. Hals Brunch by Thierry de Cromieres features cans of beer, M&Ms, hamburgers, a laptop, cellphone and skateboard. Other suites include the Antique Collector’s Suite and the Music Collector’s Suite.

To see how an Old Master lived in real life visit the Rembrandt House Museum, where Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn lived for 20 years. Located in the center of Amsterdam, the museum exhibits not only his life but also an almost-complete collection of his etchings as well as paintings by other artists including his teacher Pieter Lastman.

Visitors to Amsterdam Canal Painting can learn to paint like Vincent Van Gogh. Owned by Dutch artist Minerva, the sundrenched studio is a short bike ride from Hotel Pulitzer Amsterdam. Choose from one of Van Gogh’s masterpieces to recreate and learn about his life and work while painting and sipping mimosas.

Enjoy art in the form of food at Chef Jaimie van Heije’s namesake restaurant. Choose from a three- to eight-course dinner with wine pairings and enjoy a memorable meal. Attention is paid to every detail of each dish and its presentation. Decked out with noteworthy art, the restaurant, in collaboration with Dutch neo-pop artist Selwyn Senatori, could also pass as a gallery.