A Hotel with History in Rotterdam – Hotel New York:
Table of Contents
Introduction and History of the Hotel New York, Rotterdam:
Hotel New York sits like a grand dame overlooking the Nieuwe Maas, the waterway that links Rotterdam to the North Sea. The three-storied hotel is situated at the end of a finger of land, the Wilhelminakade, that juts out into the water and is surrounded by towering, contemporary buildings, several designed by architectural luminaries such as Renzo Piano, Sir Norman Foster and Rem Koolhaas. The juxtaposition of the old with the new feels appropriate in a city that was destroyed by bombing during WWII and has risen again with dynamism and style.
The 1901 building was originally the headquarters of the Holland-America Line which provided passage for nearly 1 million emigrants to New York, many of them Eastern European Jews fleeing persecution in the late 19th and early 20th century. Further waves of emigrants left Europe to seek a better life in America and embarked on ships alongside where the hotel sits today. By the mid-1970s, air travel had become popular with former sea passengers. The regularly scheduled line that had transported some 4 million passengers was terminated and the office closed in 1982. The building stood empty, was occupied by squatters and eventually found a new lease of life in 1993 when creatively restored, it opened as a hotel. Further development took place in 2006 when a new owner, the family business WestCord, introduced further refurbishment. Former boardrooms were transformed into luxury bedrooms with the sort of unique features, including rooms in turrets, one will never find in a purpose built hotel. While each room offers a different décor and aspect, what they have in common is style and comfort. The building is a Rijksmonument (a national monument and listed building) and provides visitors with a powerful link to Rotterdam’s history of emigration and shipping.
Staying at the Hotel New York Today:
I checked into Hotel New York in rather inauspicious circumstances. The weather was foul – drenching rain with the sort of wind that turns the umbrella inside out. The walk from the metro station was only 5 minutes long – still long enough for a soaking. As I lugged my luggage up the few stairs to the lobby, my glasses steamed up along with my mood.
From then on the pampering began. The check-in staff were helpful and friendly, and while I had arrived early and my room not yet ready, they whisked away my luggage and suggested a visit to the restaurant alongside. I popped next door to the excellent Nederlands Fotomuseum, returning just in time for a walking tour with UrbanGuides. Late in the afternoon, the sun made a brief appearance so I grabbed the chance of a self-guided walk of the fascinating architecture in Rotterdam before returning in the early evening to the hotel.
After six hours on the trot, I headed straight for the shower that had a massive glass window over the water. Watching the cold rain pelting down outside while enjoying a hot rain shower myself had to be the best bathing experience ever. I did wonder whether the people on the boats that drifted past could see me, but there is a blind for the modest.
I climbed into a really comfortable bed dressed with Percal sheets and watched the sun set behind the Euromast – one of Rotterdam’s iconic structures. The room was warm and the view superb. Ahead stretched the Nieuwe Maas, crisscrossed by water taxis. Over the water, the city began to twinkle, its post-war buildings such an exciting addition to the city centre.
My room, a reminder of the history of the Hotel New York, Rotterdam was decorated with packing trunks reminiscent of the millions of emigrants and passengers who departed from the pier alongside the hotel. It also contained a large desk, a TV, and modern classics such as a pair of white Barcelona chairs and attractive lamps. A huge black and white photograph covered one wall depicting a family waving goodbye as they left for a new life.
The nautical theme was dotted about – a large searchlight, a porthole in the bathroom door which was mirrored in the twin, round basins. And then there was the view – ships, barges, water taxis, constant life on the river that was mesmerising. The view from room 205 was uplifting with three large windows and even a small balcony accessed via two doors with huge glass panes. It felt like being on a boat without rolling about on the waves. From the room I could see the working port – industry on the left while on the right lay the city.
Restaurants and Bars at the Hotel New York, Rotterdam:
If I had not had a reservation in the restaurant I might well have opted for an evening in bed, watching the boats on the river while ordering room service. The hotel boasts two restaurants. NY Basement is a cocktail bar and fine dining restaurant in the basement of the hotel. It is decorated in the style of a pre-war Manhattan jazz club. The ground floor restaurant is a very large space overlooking the water. It reminded me of a Parisian brasserie with an oyster bar where a man stood shucking oysters and preparing shellfish. The centre of the space is occupied by a long bar which is a very inviting space to sit and people watch. Above the bar, I noticed a curious sight – a set of what appeared to be staff offices constructed in the shape of a ship’s quarters.
The large space has a stylish industrial chic meets nautical feel with exposed pipework, wood and metal all used to good effect along with models of ships. I admired the casual tables, wooden with metal frames, some painted in bright colours, some in checkerboard, others looking more like flags. During lunch and dinner service the large space was packed with couples, families and groups. Afternoon tea is also served.
Having admired the Oyster bar on entering the restaurant, I had to try a few bivalves and followed the waiter’s recommendation of a half dozen Zeeland flat oysters. Aside from a further five varieties of oyster, the restaurant also serves lobsters, clams, cockles, shrimp, crab and winkles from the Oyster bar. I made a mental note to return in the summer to sit outdoors on the waterside terrace to fully explore the delights of a shellfish platter. In the meantime, the rain lashed down while a chilled bottle of wine was opened, a crisp Sauvignon Blanc, Round House 2017 from Stellenbosch, South Africa. My partner chose razor clams to start – one of my favourite treats from the sea. A generous platter arrived with the hot clams bathed in a white wine, chilli and parsley sauce which was both rich and mildly spicy. It was so delicious we mopped up every drop.
The menu offers a wide variety of choices from sashimi and salads to steak, lamb, pork and chicken. Vegetarians are offered a range of starters and mains of ravioli, lasagne, goats cheese salad, falafel burger or portobello in puff pastry.
Continuing with the piscine theme I chose a main course dish called Taste of the Sea. A heap of spinach was overlaid with a tangle of spiralised vegetables and topped with a perfectly cooked fillet of haddock and another of salmon. A few tiny clams, a shrimp and a razor clam completed the dish which was served with a chilli sauce that packed just the right amount of heat for my liking.
My partner opted for Surf and Turf which brought two shrimp and a small, tender fillet steak served in a rather lovely creamy, lobster sauce. Leeks, carrots and cauliflower completed the plate. Hand cut fries were served with mayo.
Since I had not eaten since breakfast, I managed to find a space for dessert. I chose a pavlova which was served on an attractive red plate. A meringue disc was topped with a ball of Crème Fraiche, a scattering of raspberries and slices of marinated peach. While the meringue lacked the marshmallowy interior I prefer, it was a pretty dish.
My partner enjoyed an Ecological Cheese Platter which included a Dutch blue cheese, goat’s cheese, Munster and Gorgonzola along with a dollop of fig chutney and slices of muesli bread.
Exploring the Hotel New York, Rotterdam:
We walked off this generous meal by exploring the hotel. The centre of this historic building contains the original wrought iron staircase which is very atmospheric and transported me straight back to a time of elegance and opulence.
Presumably because of the layout of the original building as an office, each floor of the hotel has curious open spaces which now house installations of packing cases and unique artworks many with a nautical theme. The building is full of nooks and crannies and even has two rooms in turrets. One could spend a few hours examining each piece of art and glass cases filled with unique paraphernalia from the building’s original use.
Those interested in history will enjoy, as I did, a book on the building, entitled This Is Where It Happened, which guides the reader through the past century and the evolution of the hotel which celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2018. The 72 rooms are individual with different personalities, furnishings, lighting and décor. It is as charmingly quirky as it is comfortable.
After a comfortable night, I had to tear myself out of bed far too early to catch a water taxi to nearby Delfsahven for a tour. The water taxi is situated right next door and we bounced across the Nieuwe Maas as the sun rose behind Hotel New York. It was a sight worth waking for.
The Hotel New York Breakfast:
Fortunately, I returned to the hotel before the breakfast buffet closed at 10 am. Having worked up an appetite I found the offerings were copious. An array of breads, pastries and assorted granolas and muesli were accompanied by glass jars of jams, mixed nuts and dried fruits. Small jars were filled with yoghurts – plain or fruit flavoured – so much more elegant than serving them in those large glass bowls many hotels use.
A good selection of sliced, fresh fruits followed. Usually, this selection would have been quite enough with which to start the day. Yet, having secured a seat at the window overlooking the water, the sun streaming in, I felt moved to venture onto the hot selection. The egg section offered hard or soft-boiled, scrambled or fried to order – one could even request an omelette to be freshly prepared. There was a platter of thickly sliced smoked salmon, trays of bacon, mini sausages, hash brown, baked beans and pancakes. I chose a couple of slices of the delicious smoked salmon and a spoon or two of scrambled egg which was, most unusually for a buffet, creamy and really good – I am very fussy about my scrambled eggs. Orange juice was dispensed from a machine that squeezed the oranges to order and there was a pleasing range of teas as well as coffees.
When breakfast was over I returned to my room to pack. I felt rather forlorn having to leave so soon and wished I could install myself at the deck overlooking the river, writing undisturbed and enjoying the city and the views. The singer Anouk once lived in the hotel while preparing for her 2004 album which she called Hotel New York. Her room was once a boardroom and still boasts wood panelling and a massive fireplace plus large sofas and a bath in front of the window overlooking the river. Having had but one night in this delightful hotel, I can quite understand how one could simply move in and never want to leave.
Hotel New York
3072 AD Rotterdam
T 010 4390500
For self-guided tours of Rotterdam, I recommend UrbanGuides
I was a guest of Rotterdam Tourist Board. For more information about visiting Rotterdam please see their website
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Looking for somewhere to stay in Amsterdam? We recommend the budget hotel Motel One in Amsterdam for a quirky, no-frills stay.