House & Garden arts editor Emily Tobin visits Amsterdam for a new exhibition at the Hermitage and discovers Amsterdam's coolest new hotel
In the late 1660s, the artist Pieter Janssens Elinga painted a sun lit room in a Dutch house. It's a simple composition imbued with typical Delft quietness. The floor is a geometric stone design and the curtains are a brilliant shade of tangerine. It's an exceptionally beautiful domestic interior and forms part of the Hermitage collection in St Petersburg. This and 63 other works by Dutch Masters have briefly returned home to Amsterdam in an exhibition celebrating the Golden Age. It's a rare opportunity to see works by Rembrandt, Hals, Steen and Van der Heyden in the city where they were created.
Amsterdam continues to be as achingly tasteful today as the rooms depicted by Janssens Elinga over 350 years ago. Moreover, the Dutch aversion to curtains affords tantalising views into chic 21st century apartments. With its narrow, gabled buildings and pretty bridges arching over stately canals, the city has a village-like charm yet it is packed with tiny boutiques and great restaurants.
Last year, The Pulitzer reopened after an eighteen-month refurb. With impressive deftness, twenty-five canal houses have been combined to become one refreshingly idiosyncratic hotel with 225 rooms. The man charged with solving this puzzle was Jacu Strauss, formerly senior designer at Tom Dixon's Design Research Studio - he has cleverly breathed life into these 400-year-old buildings while managing to maintain the Dutch atmosphere. With some parts dating back as far as 1615, The Pulitzer runs along the Prinsengracht and Keizergracht canals. Rooms are navigated via a rabbit warren of skinny passages and tiny flights of stairs with each new house demarcated by a different paint colour.
There are plenty of nods to the city's heritage from concierge desks lined with antique Delft tiles, oil portraits and contemporary Dutch design. A grand piano hangs from the ceiling in the foyer above bunches of blooms for sale. No two rooms look the same, ours overlooked the canal and came complete with a powder blue rotary phone, bicycle repair kit and Le Labo soaps and shampoos. It was supremely comfortable which was a necessity after a dinner at Jansz, the in-house restaurant. This is made up of four buildings which were once owned by a 17th century copper smelter called, Volkert Jansz - hence the name. Reached via an old apothecary shop, the menu boasts all sorts of treats including a delicious and decadent lobster risotto.
Amsterdam is best seen from the water. The Pulitzer's handsome wooden boat dates from 1909 and sets off daily at 5pm just as the sun begins to lower in the sky, wending its way lazily through the canals while the captain wryly tells the city's best stories. Rumour has it, Winston Churchill toured Amsterdam in this vessel in 1946.
The Pulitzer neatly encapsulates all that the city has to offer. Unique, eccentric and underpinned by a rich history - it's the perfect springboard to explore Amsterdam and its manifold treasures.
A double room at starts from £235; Dutch Masters from the Hermitage: Treasures of the Tsars is open until 27th May 2018