The Lloyd Hotel and Cultural Embassy, Amsterdam

Amsterdam is a tricky destination when it comes to accommodation. The city has a population density of just under 4,500 people per square kilometre, so space is at a premium. Combine that with its status as a tourist magnet–further boosted in 2013 by the 400th anniversary of the Canal Ring, the reopening of the mighty Rijksmuseum after a 10-year renovation and a hugely successful marketing drive by I Amsterdam–and you’re left with some truly astronomical hotel prices.

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A decent, spacious, stylish, quiet room for around €100 a night is almost unheard of in the city centre–at least within the Canal Ring. But there’s something about the Lloyd that drew me back for a second stay, despite (or perhaps because of) its peripheral location in the Eastern Docklands area. Just ten minutes from the Canal Ring (tram #10) and Centraal Station (#26), the hotel has space to spare. Amsterdam may be beautiful, but I can’t be the only one who finds it claustrophobic at times. Escaping to the Lloyd feels like a secret luxury, undiscovered by the crowds of Centrum.

The original Lloyd Hotel was opened in 1920, built on the banks of the IJ River by shipping company Royal Dutch Lloyd to accommodate new, wealthy arrivals to the city. During WWII and the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, the building was used as a prison for detaining members of the resistance, and then went on to become a juvenile detention centre. Throughout the nineties, the space was rented out as artists’ studios, before undergoing complete renovation to open in 2004 as the Lloyd Hotel and Cultural Embassy.

Aside from the fact that it’s not a higgledy-piggledy, oh-so-quaint canalhouse with paper thin walls and shoebox rooms, one of the most refreshing aspects of the Lloyd is that it doesn’t have a star rating. Or rather, it has accommodation ranging from one- to five-star. It’s not the only hotel to do this, but it does claim to have been the first. I opted for a three-star room for my first visit. It was huge and original, with some beautiful retro furniture. I knew, without seeing any of the other rooms, that mine was completely unique. Unlike some restored luxury hotels, there was nothing fussy or generic about the space. It was somehow at ease with its imperfections, and then, so was I.

The fourth floor is home to a gorgeous library where guests can go to read, relax and peruse a growing selection of books on a range of subjects and in different languages. On the same floor, a corridor straight out of my schooldays sparked a bout of delicious nostalgia.The staircase is one of steepest and most lovely I’ve ever encountered, and down on the ground floor, the cafe and restaurant is a profoundly pleasing space whose ceiling soars stories high and myriad windows admit light in abundance. The Cultural Embassy refers to an ongoing rotation of events, exhibitions and projects that take place within the hotel. The whole building exudes a spirit of innovation: the architects and designers have skillfully managed to highlight the positive aspects of the hotel’s history–from luxurious lodgings to artists’ ateliers–whilst erasing any hint of the darker sides of its colourful past.

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