Suite Hotel Pincoffs Outside - Hotel Pincoffs Rotterdam - Frances M Thompson

Not many old buildings still stand in the centre of Rotterdam, a city all but flattened by the Second World War, but there are a few. What is spooky is that the ones that remained, standing tall above the rubble, were arguably the most important buildings; the post office and St Lawrence Church in the centre of the city, and over by the water, the port’s customs house and gatehouse, a structure that stretches over a bridge crossing the Maas.

While much is known about Rotterdam’s re-building and subsequent prominence as a world-leader in modern architecture, it wasn’t until I stayed at Suitehotel Pincoffs that I learned an equally important history lesson about the man who was not only incremental in building the afore-mentioned port buildings, but also in establishing Rotterdam as the world’s largest port, an honour it held for forty years until 2002.

Breakfast Room at Hotel Pincoffs Rotterdam - Frances M

I didn’t expect my stay at Pincoffs to be an educational one. I expected soft towels, neatly made beds, cosy decor and a breakfast I could smell before walking into the dining room. I expected comfort and class and – it is Tripadvisor’s number 1 hotel in Rotterdam – and I hoped for all the things I’ve come to enjoy in a boutique hotel; personal touches, friendly staff and personal tips on how I should spend my time in the city.

Hotel Room Key Hotel Pincoffs Rotterdam - Frances M Thompson

I got all those things plus a bit more while staying at Pincoffs. Upon my arrival late on Sunday night, I was given a recommendation and assistance in ordering a sushi delivery. The following day, bikes were organised for us – and they were excellent, new and sturdy bikes with a saddle so soft I was tempted to ride it all the way back to Amsterdam, ignoring my old rusty Omafiets waiting for me at the station. And the breakfast was one that I not only enjoyed smelling but got much more pleasure out of eating.

Breakfast at Hotel Pincoffs Rotterdam - Frances M Thompson

In fact, the breakfast room was one of my favourite spaces in this hotel that has been lovingly restored by Karen and Edwin, two former journalists who had a dream of opening the perfect hotel.

In 2002 that dream started to become a reality when they bought the old dilapidated port customs house, a space that had been mostly empty since the early 1990s. Listed as a national monument, they spent five years restoring the property in line with numerous laws and regulations, all the while also raising their three young triplet daughters. It’s no surprise to learn that after hearing of their story, a Dutch national TV channel wanted to follow their journey for the opening year of their hotel. One can imagine that RTL expected the family’s struggle to make some good television, but although it was no doubt a challenging time, it has also been a great success. After six years of welcoming guests to Pincoffs, Karen and Edwin are still living their dream. They even have a sister hotel that has recently opened for business, Stroom Rotterdam (“stroom” meaning flow or current in Dutch, a nod to the River Maas that dominates Rotterdam’s layout and lifestyle).

Rotterdam Photos in Hotel Pincoffs Rotterdam - Frances M Thompson

Here are some more photos from my room and others that I was allowed to snoop inside, as long as I didn’t jump on the beds. Every bedroom I looked at was spacious and thoughtfully decorated with different colours and details in each. I especially loved the photos on display throughout the hotel, snapped by three famous photographers of Rotterdam (Cas Oorthuys, Frits Rotgans en Aart Klein) and chosen by Edwin to specifically represent the romantic side of Rotterdam.

Bathroom at Hotel Pincoffs Rotterdam - Frances M Bedroom Hotel Pincoffs Rotterdam - Frances M Thompson Buddha detail at Hotel Pincoffs Rotterdam - Frances M Thompson Suite Hotel Pincoffs Rotterdam - Frances M Thompson

But back to Lodewijk Pincoffs, the man who gave his name to the hotel and a vision to the city.

Because he wasn’t what he seems either, i.e. a respectable man of the community, despite being a pioneer in many ways; he was the first Dutch-Jewish member of the Eerste Kamer (Dutch Senate) and he was one of the founders of the Holland-America Line. For sadly, he was also a fraudster, who swindled away the money intended to fund his envisioned port development from associates and the government and used it to try and keep his own business interests afloat – no pun intended!

Eventually, Pincoffs plummeted into bankruptcy, bringing down many others with him. In 1879, the same year the building work on both the customs house and the gatehouse was completed, Lodewijk Pincoffs, along with his wife and three sons, fled Rotterdam for Liverpool, UK. Just a few days later Rotterdam authorities also arrived in the British city, but they were too late, the Pincoffs family had set sail for New York and the USA, where they settled. For decades thereafter, the name Pincoffs was associated with scandal in Rotterdam, and even today most finance and accounting professionals will be familiar with the name because of its association with greater financial controls which were introduced as a result of Pincoffs’ swindling.

Statue of Lodewijk Pincoffs - Hotel Pincoffs Rotterdam - Frances M Thompson Lodewijk Pincoffs Plaque in Rotterdam - Hotel Pincoffs Rotterdam - Frances M Thompson

I was told this and many other stories as I sat on a brown leather sofa in the bar talking with Karen. As we spoke, my eyes kept drifting into the corner of the room where a tall, phone box sized metal structure stood.

“It’s the old customs house safe,” Karen explained. She went on to tell me that when they first got keys to the building the safe was locked shut and they had no idea – or key – how to open it. Their backgrounds in journalism sniffed out a story and rather than open it in private, they used the cracking open of the safe as a way to publicly announce the hotel to the press and media. Needless to say it attracted a lot of intention, including that TV show.

Sofas in Bar at Hotel Pincoffs Rotterdam - Frances M Thompson

And what was in it? Well, you’ll have to stay at Pincoffs yourself to find out, Karen and Edwin would be only too happy to tell you all about it.

Inside Pincoffs Safe - Hotel Pincoffs Rotterdam - Frances M Thompson

They’d also be happy to explain how proud they are to Green Key award winners, recognition of their commitment to being a sustainable hotel from serving only local organic meats at breakfast to planting new trees in Panama. They’d also love to offer you the chance to enjoy “Pincoffs’ Pink Fizz”, the hotel’s very own sparkling wine. And be sure to find out about their breakfast and bike deals, because of course cycling is the best way to get around the city. (If you’re looking for more things to do in the city, here’s a list of 21 things to get you started.)


View at Breakfast at Hotel Pincoffs Rotterdam - Frances M Thompson

Just be sure to save some time to relax in your room because each one is unique and indeed each is named after people who played their own parts in the Pincoffs story. My room was named after Esther Pincoffs, Lodewijk’s wife who fled with him to New York. I spent a lot of time wondering what her life had been like as she went from being the daughter of a wealthy Amsterdam business owner to the wife of a disgraced swindler and fugitive.

And the room named after her was something special. One of the honeymoon suites, which was spacious but accommodating and with the kind of bathroom I dream about; whirlpool jacuzzi, twin sinks and walk-in shower with two shower heads. But this wasn’t the best thing about the room; that had to be the view – from three tall windows, each offering a different viewpoint – out across the River Maas. With two chairs positioned perfectly so we could sit and watch the sun set as boats sailed past, I got to enjoy a view of Rotterdam not everyone enjoys.

Vintage tea cups at Hotel Pincoffs Rotterdam - Frances M Twin Head Shower at Hotel Pincoffs Rotterdam - Frances M Thompson Clothes hanging up Hotel Pincoffs Rotterdam - Frances M Thompson Bed in Honeymoon Suite at Hotel Pincoffs Rotterdam - Frances M Thompson

Thank you Lodewijk, and Suitehotel Pincoffs, for making that so.

Sunset view Hotel Pincoffs Rotterdam - Frances M Thompson