Damrak, 50, Amsterdam; 31-20-561-36-99; exchangeamsterdam.com. 61 rooms from €100 ($125) a night. No eco-rating.
The Exchange is a hotel with a greater mission than to provide guests with a bed for the night. It provides a showcase for the country’s rising fashion talents.
After renovations, the hotel was given over to students from the Amsterdam Fashion Institute, who were told to dress the rooms as though they were dressing a model. The results range from a frothy Marie Antoinette theme to the jokey minimalism of a room inspired by The Emperor’s New Clothes.
Owners Otto Nan and Suzanne Oxenaar first used the concept for the Lloyd Hotel, which is in Amsterdam’s gentrified Eastern Docklands neighbourhood.
But The Exchange is really in the thick of things in an emerging urban neighbourhood. It’s located on Damrak, a main artery in Amsterdam, and faces one of the city’s more interesting buildings, Beurs van Berlage (the old stock exchange). This early-20th-century building is often cited as a masterpiece of modern architecture.
The hotel is designed to cover all budgets as it offers rooms ranging from one star to five stars.
The hotel is situated in three typically narrow Dutch buildings. Its nondescript sign and entrance suggest that the Exchange is no different from the many low-budget hotels lining the street. But just wait until you get inside. The fashion-design influence is everywhere. Inviting, colourful ottomans sit beneath dress dummies in a common space. (There are also sewing machines nearby for the use of guests.)
Owned by the same people as the hotel, the adjacent shop and café are two of the biggest draws. Options is an interior fashion emporium offering the coolest of international and Dutch design. Think Parisian boutique Colette with arty magazines, cute kids clothes, cannabis-scented lifestyle candles and gold-painted granny bikes. Throw pillows, fabrics and other items designed for the rooms are also sold here.
Free WiFi sounds promising until you try it and find that it is throw-your-computer-out-the-window slow. (Staff say this is being rectified.) All rooms have LCD TVs and pricier rooms have Ritual brand products. Need an espresso machine? Make sure you book a five-star room.
Sleep in the Juanita (€100 a night), a one-star room with an ethno-chic theme, and there’s just enough room for a bed, Inca-inspired wicker stool and India-inspired multicoloured glass lamp. But book a five-star (€280) and you’ll get more space with good city views through great big Dutch windows.
One of the most requested rooms is the three-star Crinoline Cage room – a giant crinoline serves as a bed canopy in this cozy attic room. It feels as if you are sleeping under a skirt.
Interestingly, none of the rooms have closets: There are hooks, hangers and shelves, so you can consider your clothes hanging on the wall “art,” or find it all a nuisance. All rooms have space to store suitcases.
Front-desk staff came across as warm and welcoming and are happy to give plugged-in advice on where to go. They will also give guests a tour of the rooms when time permits; there is a formal tour once a week.
The hotel has no room service, but the adjacent Café Stock serves all-day breakfast using locally sourced ingredients to make fresh soups, sandwiches and pastries. The café’s design as an au courant melting pot of guests and locals means that you will probably enter into spontaneous conversations over cappuccinos and pear ice tea. Like the hotel, it accepts credit cards only, no cash.
This is one of the Europe’s coolest hotels, even if most of the rooms emphasize style over size. Guests will feel part of a scene as well as an exciting urban-renewal project as the hotel brings together a mix of cash-strapped creatives and the moneyed people who like to follow them, the very DNA of gentrification.