There’s a new type of tourist in Amsterdam – one that doesn’t run wild through the streets, waking up all of the locals. This weekend, in fact, the locals are the tourists.
In its 9th version of HotelNacht (Hotel Night), 550 Amsterdam hotels are offering events, dining and keenly-priced bed and breakfast stays to locals in an effort to generate more awareness of the positives of tourism.
“Without all of the tourists, Amsterdam wouldn’t have such fun restaurants, bars, cocktail bars,” said Vincent van Dijk, founder of the initiative. “They can only exist thanks to the revenues from tourism. So everyone who complains about it should know that if you got tourism out of the city, there would be a lot less city!”
The idea, he said, is that in the quietest week of the year for hotels, it makes sense for the hospitality sector to throw open its doors to residents, while these people enjoy another side of the city that they simply don’t see in their daily life.
His creative bureau was approached by the city council to start the initiative a decade ago after he stayed in a different hotel every night for a year and wrote a book about it.
“The nice thing about the concept is that when you check into a hotel, you are suddenly in a holiday mood, even if you only live a street away,” he added. “Then you look at the city through a different lens and you suddenly do things that you don’t normally do – a boat tour, a museum that you always pass by. And you understand better the pull of a city like Amsterdam on tourism.”
At an event to launch this year’s edition – in partnership with Mastercard – at the Antara Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky (where there were luxe rooms for a bargain rate), hotel managers were enthusiastic about the idea. Jolanda Sadni Ziane, general manager of INK Hotel said: “It’s giving something back to the Amsterdammers. I think that the Amsterdammers are a bit tired of the tourism, but when they get the chance to sleep in a hotel, they see how hard we work and what we do. You do need guests that give back to Amsterdam too, instead of vomiting in the streets and making noise – and this is a very nice initiative.”
The event also points out that tourism is an intrinsic part of the Dutch capital and always has been, said Renata Komarzinska, general manager of nhow Amsterdam RAI, part of the NH Hotel Group. “I think it is a part of what Amsterdam is. We make a difference for people and it’s nice when you can offer locals the same, seeing their city from a different perspective.”
Events this Saturday and Sunday included Dom Pérignon on the Dam (‘just’ 50 euros a glass, with three amuse bouches), a pastry or sake workshop at the Okura Amsterdam, make-your-own Rembrandt etching, pool party and ‘silent disco’ at the Hotel Jakarta, disco bingo at the Hoxton, and discount meals. There are fixed-price hotel rooms for two, with breakfast, at top hotels for 184 euros plus tax.
At the charming Hotel 717 on the Prinsengracht, where a canal house has been lovingly restored with beautiful fireplaces, marble shower rooms and shutters, giving a view on the busy city centre, Mastercard HotelNacht guests were welcomed with a homemade bonbon, harpist at breakfast and the same care as normal tourists.
Brita Röhl, general manager, said: “It’s a lovely chance for Amsterdammers to discover the hotel atmosphere in their own city, and there are all kinds of activities in the restaurants and bars where they can experience another aspect of hotels. There’s a lovely, positive vibe and it is for and with the city’s own residents, especially in this dark month.”
In her own neighbourhood, year-round, she said it is important to build a good relationship with neighbours, quite unlike the friction that some have experienced with a flood of Airbnb-style holiday rentals. “Tourism is very important for Amsterdam economically and it also shows us the value of this historic city,” she said.
“There needs to be respect: tourists need to realise that people live here…but tourists walking all over the streets sometimes is also part of the charm. And perhaps local people have an anniversary and want a night away too or they see our garden and want to get married here. This initiative is really a very good idea.”
And as for the locals themselves? Your Dutch News reporter woke up to a quiet room looking over a beautiful canal at the Hotel 717, with no jobs to do, and a completely different view of the city. The house built by a successful 19th century sugar merchant and modernised without losing this history was indeed, as Röhl puts it, “like staying with your rich uncle for a night” (except with a three-course, chef made breakfast in a garden atrium, accompanied by harp music).
Oscar, 61, a gallery owner, is determined to get HotelNacht in his diary for 2025. “It’s a fantastic idea,” he said, “and every year it’s on my list of things to do.”
Dutch News was a guest of HotelNacht. The fee for this article was donated to StreetSmart
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