In Amsterdam, a 37-Step Stairway to Hotel Hell

Hotel Nadia Amsterdam

Know that at Hotel Nadia, a “two-star family hotel with a friendly atmosphere and a three-star service,” rates start at 54 euro/night for single-standard rooms, and top out at 155 euro/night for family rooms, depending on the season. Note, too, that “male groups” are forbidden from booking family rooms. Multiple pages on the hotel’s clip-art website state this policy, though rest assured, ladies, that there is no mention of “female groups.”

Clearly, the idea of women sharing a common living space, of bathing together, dressing together, and sleeping within close proximity of one another — oh, the tawdry eroticism! — is far more titillating.

Situated within a renovated canal gallery on a tacky stretch of Raadhuistrat, a fine shopping strip in which to browse for such essential Amsterdam souvenirs as pot-leaf lighters and pot-leaf t-shirts, Hotel Nadia offers 52 rooms — well, the paper brochure says 52 rooms, the website 48 — equipped with a private shower, cable television, Wi-Fi access, and refrigerator, all inclusive of a sumptuous buffet breakfast.

However, this modest description of Nadia’s rooms and facilities, provided by the hotel’s modestly insane staff, undersells the hotel’s idiosyncratic, mildly sinister charm, modeled after a dark Dutch fairytale set in a tourist-friendly pocket of Hades. Its well-appointed guest rooms — cozy homes away from homes, every one of them — warrant supplementary detail, too, to truly appreciate the half-star upkeep of this two-star family hotel with the three-star service.

Indeed, allow me to give credit where credit is due, for the centrally located Hotel Nadia is so much more than advertised.

The Arrival

To check in to Hotel Nadia is to ascend 37 narrow stairs padded in blood-red carpeting, 37 stairs which don’t so much comprise a staircase but rather a gymnasium climbing wall without the footholds. Upon arrival in the reception area, dead quiet and dead bodies. Just kidding– the staff doesn’t willy-nilly leave dead bodies laying out in the public areas.

A gentleman of Arabic descent offered me a beverage from a small refrigerator behind the reception desk, then invited me to have a seat while my paperwork was processed. I settled into a polished wooden bench, like an electric chair minus the shackles and deadly current, and as I flipped through one of scores of brochures — city tours, canal cruises, bicycle rentals, restaurants, dead-body disposal — out of the corner of my eye I saw movement, thought I heard a squeaky cackle. There was nothing there, however, save for a framed print of Rembrandt’s The Night Watch, a golden vase filled with fake tulips, and myriad figurines of Dutch folklore and iconography. And a Chucky doll.

After waiting a brief 15 minutes to get checked into a room for which I had already paid, I was issued a room key and a television remote control, the latter of a model typically found these days in the bottom of a thrift-store electronics bin. Staff said this remote control was my room deposit, and that I was to return it upon checkout. Less than 24 hours later, the same mild-mannered gentleman who checked me in would scream bloody fucking murder over my room’s corded telephone.

Hotel Nadia Amsterdam

The Room

My single room was located a reassuring two floors above the reception area, reassuring in that climbing is generally not considered Chucky’s strong suit. The comely abode was furnished with what you might optimistically call a writing desk, a dorm-style refrigerator which you might optimistically call working, and a tiny box-of-a-television sourced from my grandfather’s basement in 1981. There was carpeting, there was a wall-mounted wooden bureau of some kind, and there was a squishy single mattress neatly made with red-satin, fleur de lis-patterned sheets. (Red satin!)

As advertised, there was also a private bathroom with a private shower, the latter a corner sectioned off from the grooming and toilet areas by a shower curtain beautifully ringed with traces of mildew. The bathroom soap smelled of Aunt Edna’s sweet post-picnic flatulence. Relieved to finally reach that transcendental moment of the weary long-flight traveler — that is, stripping out of your dirty flight clothes and bathing — I showered, dried off with what you might optimistically call a body towel, and went to turn off the bathroom fan.

Where was the switch? I searched high and low, far and wide, but could not locate thy room’s elusive bathroom fan switch — because there wasn’t one. I later learned that the bathroom fan at Hotel Nadia is an all-or-nothing affair, a curious fact provided by a male receptionist when I inquired as to the switch’s location:

Me: “Hello, I was just wondering if you could tell me where the switch to turn the bathroom fan off is located? I couldn’t find it.”

Him: “You want to turn bathroom fan off?”

Me: “Well, uh… yes, it’s kind of loud, and I’m not sure about leaving it on all night?”

Him: (Siggggghhhhhhh) “No switch. I will have to turn it off.” (Sigggghhhhhhhh)

Me: “Uh, okay, that would be great. No hurry. I’m just stepping out.”

In summary, don’t lose the ancient television remote control, look forward to red-satin sheets, and decide whether you want the bathroom fan on or off. And for god’s sake, lock your fucking door.

The Brushing of the Teeth

It’d been eight years since my last visit to Amsterdam. Following a full day spent bicycling and guzzling AH fruit juice and smoking a pre-rolled joint or two from Grey Area and rekindling a lapsed love affair with a city whose imperfectly perfect landscape, corny as it may sound, can at times nearly bring me to tears, I returned to Hotel Nadia, sated and stoned and a little soaked from a steady late-night drizzle.

All that stood in the way of sinking into my squishy, satin sheet-covered bed and flipping through static-ridden channels on the tube by hand — the batteries in my room deposit were dead — was brushing my teeth. (This tale gets more and more riveting, I know.) I turned on the bathroom faucet, applied toothbrush to teeth, brushed in the manner outlined by my last dentist, and became acutely aware of wet socks.

Now, aside from squarely placing one’s foot into a steaming pile of sidewalk defecation, or perhaps rupturing the tendons and tearing the ligaments in one’s foot during a pick-up game of basketball,  I can think of few foot-related mishaps more uncomfortable than wet socks. Socks that have become soaked whilst brushing one’s teeth in a hotel bathroom at half past midnight? Oh, the horror!

Turns out that the pipe connecting the sink’s drain to the plumbing was not connected, and The Great Bathroom Waterfall of Hotel Nadia became legend.

The Checkout

Sadly, I was scheduled to enjoy the three-star service at the two-star Hotel Nadia for just one night, for my wife was arriving in the morning from an overnight flight from Singapore, and we were checking into an Oud-West apartment rented on Airbnb.

Before meeting her I clambored downstairs and stopped to feast on Hotel Nadia’s inclusive buffet breakfast, a classic European hotel spread of sliced brown bread, cheese, cold croissants, orange juice, Nutella packets, and delicately burned coffee. I was the only guest that was not murdered overnight awake at that early hour, so I enjoyed a peaceful breakfast in perfect silence, the large flat-screen television mounted on the dining room wall muted and tuned to a mesmeric program featuring an attractive Asian woman doing yoga on a mountain cliff.

With a few hours yet to kill before heading to Oud-West, we planned to drop my wife’s bags in the room and grab a cup of coffee somewhere. I also wished to provide her the opportunity to marvel at the majesty of Hotel Nadia, so I invited her to join me for the five minutes needed to schlep her bags up the 50-odd stairs to my room, drop them, then leave.

My room’s phone rang just as I was getting to the bathroom-fan punchline; I answered. A man was screaming in what seemed mid-sentence — surely his mouthpiece was already splashed with spittle — keywords like “sneaking” and “security” and “visitors” popping from within an otherwise unintelligible, very impressive rant, and I thought about those spoons full of complimentary, coffee-bean shaped chocolates across the street at Bagels & Beans, a rather delightful Dutch coffee chain.

Know that visitors, or “unregistered guests,” if you will, are not allowed at Hotel Nadia — neither are groups of gay men.

Hotel Nadia is located at Raadhuisstraat 51 in Amsterdam. +31 (20) 620 1550.

Brian Spencer is a freelance writer and editor based in Singapore; more of his work for the Perceptive Travel Blog is here.

About The Author


  1. Rachel Reply
    • Brian Spencer Reply
  2. Irene Reply
    • Brian Spencer Reply