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Around the World: Amsterdam Reinvents Itself 

Jennifer Merin on

This lovely old city of Amsterdam conscientiously conserves the ancient canals, gabled houses and cobblestone streets for which it is best known to tourists, However, Amsterdam constantly upgrades and updates itself by introducing ultramodern architecture and cutting edge concepts for city planning.

That, of course, makes Amsterdam not only a great place to live, but also a source of ongoing discovery and entertainment for travelers who enjoy regular visits to see what’s new in the old town.

Old buildings are repurposed into wonderful residences and office spaces, and filled with fine traditional and trend-setting cultural venues, shops and eateries that are perfectly modern people-pleasers.

The trendy Zeeburg residential district serves as a fine example. The area was first developed in the 17th century, when engineers reinvented Amsterdam’s already recognizably unique cityscape by creating man-made islands, the Oostelijk Havengebied, to be used for harboring ships. During the ensuing three centuries and until the 1970s, the islands served as shipping depots.  But eventually, the warehouses and other buildings were abandoned and became derelict.  It was a mess.  Reinvention required!

Reinvention delivered! The area was designated for the construction of affordable public and luxury private housing, all created by top Dutch and European architects.  The fabulous collection of apartment buildings and private homes, intriguing bridges and playful public monuments provides a grandly diverse dimension to Amsterdam’s current cityscape.  It‘s a marvelous place for tourists to stroll and see.

Rather than destroy what’s useful from the past, the Dutch reclaim it. So, old warehouses were transformed into artist quarters, condos, entertainment complexes.  And, as the area’s centerpiece, The Hotel Lloyd is a classic landmark building reclaimed from dereliction and reinvented as a superbly sophisticated high-concept hostelry.

The Lloyd, built in 1917, was originally a dormitory-style hotel for impoverished Eastern Europeans emigrating to South America. During the 1930s, it became a refuge for Jews fleeing Nazi Germany-- until Germans occupied Amsterdam, transported the Jews and made Hotel Lloyd a prison for Dutch resistors. The building was, in turn, a prison for German collaborators.  Then, for delinquent boys.  Then it was abandoned.

In the 1980s, artists occupied the building, reclaiming Hotel Lloyd for dwellings and studios.  They introduced new life to the place, but the building was still rundown and unsightly.

When Zeeburg emerged as a trendy residential area, the city called for new use proposals for the ramshackle building.  Cultural animator Suzanne Oxenaar and three partners bid to reinvent Hotel Lloyd as a unique hostelry, utilizing a new hospitality philosophy and redesigning the building to combine salvageable classic elements with high-concept contemporary Dutch interior design.

New hospitality philosophy?  High-concept design?

After renovation and reinventing, the Hotel Lloyd became a cultural hotel, catering to people who work in or are fascinated by the arts. There is an in-house ’cultural embassy‘-- a museum-like family room where guests network and/or present themselves and read their poetry, play piano, exhibit photos, contribute to the hotel‘s 8,000 volume arts-oriented library.              

The hotel has networked with 40 museums, theaters, film studios, concert halls and scores of artists to guests with excellent access to like-minded Dutch counterparts.  You needn’t be a working artist to benefit-- Hotel Lloyd can help guests get sought after tickets to cultural offerings.

The ‘cultural embassy’ concept extends to guest rooms.  Hotel Lloyd’s 120 rooms, rated one to five stars and priced accordingly, range from small berths with shared bathrooms to luxurious suites.  They’re all fabulously designed -- featuring original leaded glass windows, built-in cabinets, wooden beams, pine-paneling, exquisite designer lighting and built-in beds, some big enough to sleep eight, with fluffy white linens.  Unique bathrooms have space-saving foldaway walls or are fashioned from chartreuse fiberglass.

Why one to five stars under one roof? So artists with a lot of talent and not much money can mingle with affluent art collectors who might discover and support their work. What a lovely idea! And what a fine opportunity for networking!

Amsterdam architecture need not be ancient to get a good repurposing makeover. In another section of town – the newly trendy neighborhood known as Amsterdam East, to be specific – the old headquarters of the famous De Volkskrant newspaper have been turned into a hotel, a unique property with individually themed rooms that were decorated by leading Dutch artists and interior designers. Before the redesign, the disused building had been taken over artists who appropriated living spaces and work studios.  With the renovation, the artists who had to leave were offered studios in an adjacent building. The studios can be toured by visiting hotel guests.

The Volks Hotel, like the Lloyd, has sliding scale prices, depending on the level of amenities found in the room. So, the guest mix is. Like that of the Lloyd, inclusive, and always quite interesting. The Volks Hotel also has eateries a nightclub and a common use workspace that are frequented by local folk.  Breakfasts in the rooftop restaurant are extremely popular, not only because of the exquisite buffet with fresh home baked croissants and other such goodies, but also because of the gorgeous wrap around view of Amsterdam. The Volks Hotel is a great place to see how Amsterdam reinvents itself, and to hang out with very friendly neighborhood people whether you intend to stay or just play.


For more information about travel to Amsterdam, visit And be sure to take advantage of the savings available with the iAmsterdam Card. Information can be found at


Copyright 2017 Jennifer Merin


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