Not knowing exactly what I was looking for, I initially struggled to find my SWEETS room for the evening. That is until I realized the large, extremely obvious UFO-like structure, located in Amsterdam’s Kortjewantsbrug-area, a short walk from central station, was what I was looking for. Once a former bridge house, only a week before my arrival the tower had been introduced as the newest building in SWEETS collection of rooms scattered across the city, each with a unique story and view of the city’s legion of waterways. Quirk, meet history.
Amsterdam’s reputation as the “Venice of the North” began in the 1600s, when the city started digging concentric canals as a way to transport goods across the area. Houses along those canals were installed as a way to open and close bridges, allowing larger loads to pass through. It was a system that worked fairly well, until like so many other careers, automation killed it.
Originally proposed as an urban renewal project, SWEETS goal was to use these vacated spaces as a way to spread tourism across the city, the obvious point being that if you’re sleeping in a neighborhood, you’re likely to spend money there. Of course, the added bonus is that if your bridge house is full of tourists, it’s less likely to be full of squatters (a trend developed in response to rising housing prices in the 1960s, and popularized with multiple locations along Vondelstraats street).
Built between 1673 to 2009, and refurbished beginning in 2017, SWEETS’ bridge houses cover the spread of the city’s history. No two lodgings are the same (owing to original construction) which means the hotel offers 28 unique lodging experiences, with revamped interiors by Space&Matter, a combination that recently earned them the 2019 Entree Award for best concept.
Getting into my house was a very modern experience that involved holding my phone against a sensor. (Customer service promptly answered my borderline luddite questions about this process.) However, entering felt more like a stylish trip back in time. The deep red spiral staircase lit with oversize light bulbs, lead to a tiny kitchen and a bathroom with a pull-chain toilet. On the upper story was a circular bed and wall-spanning circular desk. I’m told this style is called “New Objectivity.” Although given its bright colors and carefully plotted-out symmetry, it played out like one sweater-set short of a Marvelous Mrs. Maisel episode. This was no mistake—each building is designed to reference the era when it was first operational, with bonus amenities like a powerful air conditioner and an iPad control system.
The real selling point, regardless of which SWEETS property you stay in, is the view. In Kortjewantsbrug, my spate of windows looked out on a triangle of Amsterdam history composed by the maritime museum, science museum, and architecture center. Built in 1967 by Dic Slebos, I was housed in one of the city’s four harbor offices, a place where employees could keep an eye on water traffic and perform various administrative tasks. But now the perch feels like a wonderful secret, a unique and totally private perspective of the city’s iconic waterways. After a night spent cheering on the tourist boats that passed under my windows (you will hear the city around you, which is why the hotel also provides earplugs), I felt so strongly about my watery domain that it didn’t even bother me when I was woken up at 5am by a Cinescope-proportioned sunrise. Yes, my room came with blinds, and yes, I was too lazy to close them.
SWEETS is perfect for solo travelers and couples specifically looking for a destination hotel that honors the spirit of the city. (Children under the age of twenty-one aren’t allowed.) Drop your expectations of what you think a hotel exterior should look like (it’ll cut down the time it takes to actually find your room), celebrate that the lack of room service allows you to sample local bakeries, close your blinds, and you’ll be going Dutch in no time.
Editor's Note: This is the latest in our series on exciting new hotels, The New Room with a View.