With more canals than Venice and more bridges than, quite literally, any other city in the world, Amsterdam’s waterways are at the core of this ancient Dutch capital. The epic canal network was built during the Dutch Golden Age, when Amsterdam was the largest trading port in the world, and has served to transport cargo and keep the city above sea level for over four hundred years.
Throughout Amsterdam’s history, bridge houses were home to the many keepers who watched over these impressive bridge structures, opening them when tall ships were passing through. Over the last few decades, the introduction of a centralised bridge control system has meant that 28 little houses dotted across the city’s waterways were suddenly to become redundant.
Spotting the potential, various Amsterdam designers, architects and hoteliers began to form a plan for a collaborative project to save these landmark buildings. A plan was eventually presented to the city of Amsterdam to transform the city’s bridge houses into 28 tiny, independent hotel suites: SWEETS Hotel.
Though the hotel only has 28 rooms dotted across the city, it has taken seven years to meticulously re-purpose these unique bridge houses, with the final few still to open. For visitors wanting a traditional hotel experience, SWEETS Hotel may take some getting used to. It’s worth bearing in mind that there is no lobby, and certainly no one to welcome you on the door; access is granted through a futuristic app, which is scanned on the front door. To get under the skin of Amsterdam, however, the experience is unparalleled.
I arrived on the Eurostar one crisp October weekend, and ambled a short fifteen-minute walk from Amsterdam Centraal Station to Bridge House 202: Kortjewantsbrug, where I stayed. The bridge houses vary enormously; some are ancient national monuments, some are modern and brutalist in style, with the most recent building only being completed in 2009. All are totally unique, and all an integral part of the city’s architectural tapestry.
What was special about my SWEETS Hotel room was that it’s completely cylindrical, with a round bed, spiral staircase, and 360º windows overlooking the city. On one side, the medieval Schreierstoren tower dates back to 1487; on the other, the modern Nemo Science Museum glows in the darkness, designed to resemble a ship at anchor.
SWEETS Hotel’s interior design, overseen by artistic director Suzanne Oxenaar and co-creators Otto Nan and Gerrit Groen, reflects the architecture and era of each building. Mine, built in 1967 by eminent Dutch architect Dic Slebos, was suitably retro, with red lacquer paint and funky designer lamps. From my little tower, I watched the rain pound onto the glass fronted walls as boats came and went. On the floor below was a simple but practical kitchenette and bathroom, also charmingly mid-century in style. Kortjewantsbrug was one of the last bridge houses to be completed, only opening its doors as a part of the SWEETS Hotel in July 2019.
By contrast, 204: Hortusbrug resembles a three-dimensional Mondriaan painting, and is located right next to Amsterdam’s 375-year-old botanical garden. Meanwhile 306: Beltbrug has cosy tones of blue and beige, nestled close to local cafés in trendy West Amsterdam. The oldest bridge house is also the SWEETS Hotel’s penthouse equivalent: Amstelschutsluis, the most exceptional of the whole collection. The house is an island in the middle of the Amstel river, and requires a private captain to take guests to and from shore.
Amstelschutsluis dates back to 1673, the height of the Dutch empire, and is located on top of the middlemost island of Amstelsluizen, a national monument and an important water gateway into Amsterdam, with magnificent views over the Skinny Bridge (Magere Brug). The interiors took craftsmen almost a year to complete, renovating original 17th century shutters, linen walls and panelling while installing a luxurious modern kitchen, rain shower and underfloor heating. This house costs upwards of €950 a night, and a private chef can be hired on request.
In a nutshell
The vision of SWEETS Hotel is to introduce travellers to new experiences, and it’s a wonderful addition to the city.
Rooms can be booked from €120 per night.
Phone: +31 (0)20 740 1010