Netherlands Travel: Review of Hotel New York, Rotterdam

During my recent visit to Rotterdam with my five-year-old son, I was lucky enough to stay in one of the most iconic hotels in Rotterdam, and indeed in the whole of the Netherlands: Hotel New York.

Below you will find out the fascinating history of the building the hotel is in, and I will also write up an in-depth, honest review of Hotel New York, Rotterdam so that you can think about if this would be a great place to stay during your visit to Rotterdam with kids, or also without kids! (And if you are in the trip planning stage, you should also check out this city guide and the best things to do in Rotterdam.)

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An Honest Review of Hotel New York, Rotterdam

PLEASE NOTE: We stayed at Hotel New York, Rotterdam in September 2020 when travel restrictions and social distancing rules were in place. We adhered to these during our stay, as did the hotel, but more on that in the review.

I've wanted to stay at Hotel New York for a long time. From my first visit to Rotterdam, in fact, which was a good seven years ago. While it's one of the smallest buildings in the centre of town - Rotterdam is famous for its skyscrapers, skyline and gravity-defying architecture - it's one of the oldest buildings and has a very special history that is integral to the city's story. It's also a beautiful example of Jugendstil architecture, which has similar features, shapes and lines as and Art Nouveau and early Art Deco , which makes sense as Hotel New York was built in 1901, although the facade you see now was added on in 1917.

A Short History of Hotel New York, Rotterdam

It was built and used as the headquarters of the Holland-America Line, which was the shipping company responsible for many of the first transatlantic crossings to take Europeans to the United States of America so they could begin new lives. The building was offices for the shipping company, and it was also a hotel for those who needed a place to sleep before a ship's departure. Inside this is clear to see as there are rooms that look more like office spaces with tall ceilings and wooden clad walls, and other rooms that were better suited to being bedrooms.

I was surprised to learn that the hotel, like many of Rotterdam's oldest harbour buildings on the Kop van Zuid where Hotel New York is to be found, were abandoned, left to deteriorate and then at one point, lived in by squatters. In Hotel New York's case, this happened in the 1980s at the end of a long downturn in the company's fortunes cause by the popularity and availability of flying. Indeed the whole of the Kop van Zuid and Wilhelminapier area was derelict and under-developed now that the majority of the Port of Rotterdam's activities had moved out of the city centre.

This changed in the 1990s when the city simultaneously tried to switch its focus on boosting tourism and many architects and designers saw opportunities in restoring and re-purposing buildings like Hotel New York, This was helped greatly by the building of Erasmusbrug which connected Kop van Zuid with the central area of Rotterdam.

Hotel New York, Rotterdam, opened its doors as a hotel in 1993 and quickly became one of the coolest places to be and to be seen. Many of the buildings original features were kept or restored and once you step inside, it's one of those buildings where you really do feel like you have gone back in time.

It's a national monument and a truly beautiful building inside and out. You also feel like you're on a ship, especially in the restaurant area where there are portholes, and galley areas in the centre of the room similar to those you see on a cruise ship.

I had been to the restaurant a number of times and just loved the atmosphere inside so when I thought about taking my son to visit Rotterdam for a few days I knew exactly where I wanted to stay!

Review of Our Stay at Hotel New York in Rotterdam

We stayed two nights at Hotel New York and I booked on Booking a week or so before we stayed. Thanks to the current travel situation, there was decent availability and a decent price. A few days before we arrived Hotel New York called me to confirm the booking, to ask if I wanted to make any reservations for the restaurant, and to see if I wanted to upgrade to a water view for a discounted price. I agreed and got super excited for our arrival.

As mentioned above, Hotel New York is located on Kop van Zuid, a neighbourhood area located to the south of Rotterdam over on one side of the River Maas which chops the city in two. While there is water between Kop van Zuid and the most central areas of Rotterdam, including the shopping district and Centraal station, the Erasmusbrug connects the two parts of the city. There is also a Metro station at the foot of Erasmusbrug and you can get the Metro from there to all over the city. Hotel New York Rotterdam also have bikes you can hire if you want to explore the city as the locals do. 

We actually brought our bike on the train from Amsterdam and was able to park it just outside the hotel making it really easy to get to, despite Erasmusbrug itself being quite a challenge to ride over - we're just not used to any kind of gradient in the Netherlands.

Our welcome at Hotel New York in Rotterdam was friendly and warm, and I immediately felt charmed by the original features you see in the reception-lobby area. The walls are panelled in wood, and on one wall were old clocks displaying the times in a number of cities, that presumably were once destinations for the Holland-America Line. The hotel even has its original lift which feels old enough that you question whether it still works - a little bit of excitement on your way to your room.

We had a few teething issues at check-in. The first room they gave my son and I was on the front of the hotel, so I did expect a great view of the water, but actually once in the room which was very spacious and had incredibly tall ceilings I noticed the only window was one that began at chest height so you could only see the view from standing up.

It was also not a very "warm" room - presumably because it was so very spacious and with fewer soft furnishings thanks to all that wood - and it did look more like the meeting room or office room I believe it was originally built to be. As an extra plot twist, there was an array of sweets scattered all over the bed and a note saying "Happy 80th Birthday!" to a couple with a different name to us.

Once we explained the mix-up to the reception - again going back down in the rickety old lift with a consertina metal door. - I also mentioned how the water view was a bit of a let down, and that as it was that room wasn't really what I expected. I asked if they had anything a little cozier and they showed us to a room at the other side of the hotel down a long corridor. It was long and thin, painted white and cream, and while it still had the high ceilings, it didn't have the wooden walls so felt much cozier. It also had windows that weren't taller than my son! It also had a bathtub which is always handy when travelling with kids, although it was actually in the same room as our bed.

As it happened the room did have something of a water view as one window looked out across to the pedestrian/cycling bridge that connected Wilhelminapier with the Katendrecht neighbourhood just a short distance across the water behind Hotel New York.

While the official name of this bridge is Rijnhavenbrug, the locals often call it De Hoerenloper, which translates as "Whore's Walk or Way", as the Katendrecht neighbourhood was where sailors often went to "relax" and indulge in things they missed when at sea for months on boats. Having learnt all about this history during previous visits to Rotterdam, and having enjoyed my time over in Katendrecht, especially at the Fenix Food Factory, I quite liked having this view from our room!

In terms of comfort, the room ticked a lot of the boxes I look for a luxury hotel to tick. The bed was big, comfortable and with plenty of pillows for my son to throw off the bed and me to use to get comfortable. There was a desk for me to do a bit of work at while my son played on his iPad, and there was a separate bathroom with a decent shower, large shower and plenty of towels. There were some happy extras I liked in the room too, like a proper wardrobe to hang up my clothes in and put our bags inside, and there was a Nespresso machine.

However, there wasn't any tea-making facilities, and instead there was a note about how I could call room service for a complimentary tea service as and when I needed it. While this does seem like a luxury, it was actually quite annoying.

My son wakes early - around 6am most days - and being able to make a cup of tea at that time is a necessity, and no matter how much they said they didn't mind my calling for tea then, I just couldn't bring myself to do it until much closer to 7am. I just like being able to make myself a cup of tea!

The hotel said it was for hygiene reasons that they didn't provide a kettle in rooms, and this really puzzled me as shouldn't kettles be cleaned in between guests, and why was a Nespresso machine any more hygienic?

This was until one friend I spoke to said she'd heard that people use kettles to wash their underwear, which while making me laugh hysterically for a while, I just really can't believe, especially not in a 4-star hotel which is what Hotel New York in Rotterdam is listed as.

Anyway. Aside from the lack of kettle, the room was excellent and we were very comfortable sleeping in it on both nights we were in Rotterdam.

As for food at the hotel, we didn't have dinner at the hotel but we did have room service on the evening after we checked in, and we paid for breakfast both mornings, which wasn't cheap - about €19 per person, I think.

Because of social distancing restrictions, it was a different breakfast service that involved a sort of one-way-only breakfast buffet, some pre-made offerings (yoghurt and fruit pots, cereal portions), and then just one station where you could get some eggs made to order. There was also a limited staff, and really not that many other guests in the hotel, at least not having breakfast.

While what was on offer for breakfast was more than enough for us - there were croissants and hagelslag (chocolate sprinkles) on toast so my son was happy! - for the money we paid, it was quite limited and certainly a bit restrictive because of the distancing rules. I was hoping for more a la carte options, and also would have liked more choice in fruit and cereal rather than what was pre-prepared.

As for the room service we had on our first evening at Hotel New York, I have to say it was one of the best orders of room service I'd made. The food was hot, freshly cooked, and delicious. We also shared a dessert - an Oreo cheesecake - that was out of this world. I'd possibly go back to the hotel just for room service and that dessert alone!

Throughout our stay the staff was friendly and warm to us. Considering how tumultuous times are in the hospitality industry, it was really nice to be in a hotel and to feel like despite the extra measures and lack of normality in many ways, the staff was proactive and professional about helping keep guests happy.

One thing I feel I should mention, the hotel has been owned by Westcord hotel chain since 2006 and this was actually a bit of a surprise to me. While I don't think it compromises the character or the spirit of the hotel, and especially not its building, it did feel a little strange to be staying in such a unique place that also had some signs of its chain - paper placemats with names of other Westcord hotels on the table at breakfast - and I just wonder if some of the hotel's odd policies (like the no kettle and limited breakfast buffet) was because of Westcord rather than Hotel New York, if that makes sense.

What We Loved About Hotel New York, Rotterdam

If it's not clear from the above review of Hotel New York, we loved that this is such a unique building with a unique history that is so central to the story of Rotterdam, which is something I love learning about and diving into deeper. I am also a sucker for beautifully restored buildings, especially those from the time that Hotel New York was built, and as a writer of fiction, it's impossible to not feel curious about the many lives that moved through the building.

The restaurant is also excellent at Hotel New York, which was proven in our room service order, but also my partner and I have had a few lovely lunches and dinners there during previous visits to Rotterdam, so that's another thing to love about Hotel New York in Rotterdam.

The location is another reason to seriously think about staying at Hotel New York as it has historical significance and is beautiful with the water all around you, and furthermore, it's close to a lot of the things you can do in Rotterdam.

We also loved that outside there's a small play and grass area, and a sculpture that kids can (or maybe they can't but mine did!) play on. It's a metal sculpture of a rack of bags and belongings waiting to be packed onto a ship for America and it really captures the history right in the spot where this took place.

I would also say that the staff is also another reason to stay at Hotel New York, if you like friendly smiles, warm welcomes and happy-to-help attitudes. A special mention needs to go the front desk staff and housekeeping team as my son left his favourite cuddly toy in the room and they retrieved it and sent it back immediately so it actually got back only one day after we did!

All in all, we really enjoyed our stay at Hotel New York in Rotterdam, but truth be told, it felt like a lot of money for a few hiccups and an underwhelming breakfast. Yes, we stayed there during rather strange times, but I still think more could have been done to make it worth the money we spent (around €165 per night). Would I stay there again? Possibly, if the price was right and I wanted to experience that special history again (spoiler alert, I do want to!) but I think I'll be quicker to return to the restaurant as that was what seems to consistently have the wow factor.

That's it for this Hotel New York, Rotterdam, review. You can find more Netherlands travel posts here, read more about Rotterdam here, and also check out my previous hotel reviews here.

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Frances M. Thompson

Londoner turned wanderer, Frankie is an author, freelance writer and blogger. Currently based in Amsterdam, Frankie was nomadic for two years before starting a family with her Australian partner. Frankie is the author of three short story collections, and is a freelance writer for travel and creative brands. In 2017, she launched WriteNOW Cards, affirmation cards for writers that help build a productive and positive writing practice. When not writing contemporary fiction, Frankie shops for vintage clothes, dances to 70s disco music and chases her two young sons around Amsterdam.
Find Frankie on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+.

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