Botel: 3-Star Hotel on a Boat
About a quart of Amsterdam consists of water1, so why not book a hotel on a boat?
The Botel in brief:
- small but adequate rooms (in a former river cruise ship) with comfortable beds
- appreciated for its good price/location value
- the location gets high marks from guests
- gets good reviews and many return visitors
- close to the city center: reached via a free, 14-minute ferry ride
- praised for its friendly staff
- Awesome free high speed WiFi
In 2008, the 175-room Botel — an erstwhile river cruiser converted into a floating hotel — was moved from its former location near Amsterdam Central Station to the NDSM Wharf, a former shipyard that is now a popular cultural hotspot in Amsterdam-North.
Oosterdok, the ship’s former location, was — and is — undergoing a metamorphosis in which there no longer is room for the
eyesore huge boat.
Botel (formerly known as the Amstel Botel) and the City negotiated long and hard over an alternative location. The management said it was sad about the fact that their hotel on a boat is no longer located just outside of Central Station.
However, then manager Martin Been was pragmatic about the move, pointing out that the new location offers many advantages and opportunities.
Those include views, for many of the rooms, across the river IJ. Also: a unique location at a popular, world-renowned hot-spot. Plus the center of town is just a free, 14-minute ferry ride away (a fun experience in its own right, actually).
By the way, see our Guide to Hotels in Amsterdam
More boat hotels in Amsterdam
It doesn’t have to be a hotel on a boat. Amsterdam has got it all: Houseboats, floating houses, converted freight ships, yachts, sail boats, and so on.
Moored at NDSM Wharf, world-renowned cultural hot-spot
The NDSM Wharf is a colorful and vital dockside area. A center for underground culture in Amsterdam, it houses workshops and artists’ studios, hip cafes and restaurants, exhibitions and performances. Among others the ‘media wharf’ houses MTV, Robodock, and the IJ-festival.
Docked at the wharf’s piers are a number of historical ships — from a Russian submarine2 to Radio Veronica’s Norderney3. Other neighbors include an old, wooden-hulled minesweeper, and the majestic 3-master, The Pollux, formerly a maritime training vessel and currently a café/restaurant.
You’ll often see Greenpeace ships as well, as the organization’s Netherlands offices are located on the NDSM terrain.
Many NDSM business owners — and visitors to the area — were not happy with the City’s plans to move the otel to its new location. They cited the fact that the huge, stark-white boat was — and is — an eyesore, especially since it dwarfs other ships docked at the wharf’s piers.
However, as often is the case, economic considerations trumped aesthetic concerns. Rumor had it that the hotel boat would be transformed into a “colorful work of art” — with pundits claiming that meant the botel would then become a colorful eyesore.
But the boat remained as white as a dentist’s coat.
Then, in March 2015, the floating hotel managed to turn itself into an even bigger eyesore when the word ‘BOTEL’ was spelled out in huge, 6.5 meter (7 yard) tall letters hoisted onto the roof of the boat.
Visible even from Central Station, the letters also serve as 5 unusual hotel rooms.
The letter B features a halfpipe for skaters. The interior of room O is inspired by the erotic novel, Histoire d’O. The T houses the elevator and is also the Captain’s Room. Designed in coöperation with the Eye Film Institute Netherlands room E includes Holland’s smallest cinema, and the letter L is an ‘oasis’.Unique? Yes. Nice? No. Not if you ask us.
We applaud the City for cleaning up Damrak — part of the ‘Red Carpet’ into Amsterdam.
Forcing businesses to remove a virtual forest of gaudy, glaring and over-sized advertising signs was a good move. Allowing the Botel to then advertise its name across the river IJ was a bad decision that may well set a precedent resulting in ‘Damrak at the IJ.’5
Small consolation: the letters were originally envisioned as each having a different color — a concept the city rejected as too Toys “R” Us-like.
Anyway, when you stay at the Botel you don’t have to look at it, right?
Botel: a Good Hotel Choice
Eyesore or not, the Botel remains a popular budget hotel choice that attracts young and old (including many repeat visitors). It gets mostly positive reviews. Expect a basic hotel, smallish rooms (which some say have rather thin walls), and a very friendly staff.
And while its current location may not be as close to the city’s center as before, downtown Amsterdam is only a free, 14-minute boat ride away. This map shows the new location in relation to Amsterdam Central Station.
Free WiFi, rated ‘excellent’ in guest reviews, is available throughout the hotel. (Note: in 2019 the Botel’s wifi network was upgraded in such as way that it now has a average speed of 133Mbit per user — which is probably quite a bit faster, and more stable, than your wifi connection at home).
For your convenience, you can book the Botel — your Amsterdam hotel on a boat — right here.
Prefer to stay on dry land?
No problem. Take a look at these land-based hotels.
Check out Amsterdam hotel guide for more information.
This entry was first published on January 10, 2008. We update it on a regular basis.
- See the map in our Swimming in Amsterdam article ↩
- This 1956 Zulu class submarine built in Riga has been abandoned by its owners. They had planned to turn the vessel into a discotheque, but they ran out of money. The submarine was removed to a scrapyard on December 16, 2019. ↩
- Until 1974 used as an offshore ‘pirate’ radio ship ↩
- IJ, the name of the river, is pronounced somewhat like ‘eye’ ↩
- When I made this comment while talking with some passengers on the NDSM-Central Station ferry, which passes the Botel, the Amsterdammers agreed they wouldn’t like to see the river IJ polluted by gaudy advertisements. ↩
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