Few hotel rooms come with their own cage. In fact, the Mauro Mansion in Amsterdam is admittedly the first I’ve ever seen with such amenities. However, such cheek and edge is only part of what makes the hotel such a darling of trip review websites and wagging tongues.
Built between two former medieval city gates in the 16th century near the top of the Geldersekade Canal, now the eastern edge of the red light district, the cream and charcoal canal house was originally the home of Dutch writer Roemer Visscher, who made the building a hub for painters and poets of the day as well as his three daughters, who became poets in their own right.
In the 1990s, the building adopted a more corporeal tone as the Black Tulip Hotel, an exclusive luxury gay hotel, which facilitated the most ambitious and imaginative sexual fantasies in rooms stocked with a lusty gadgetry, bondage chairs, bed slings, rubber floors, and black iron cages.
Although some cages have been left in situ, new ownership and a thorough redesign in 2010 has fashioned a relaxed, romantic, and quirky 9-room boutique hotel open to all guests, gay or straight, provided they’re more than 12 years old—not for any risk of exposure to adult situations, but just for the sake of the mood. In fact, apart from the cages, there is little to suggest its leathery past.
Instead, the three classes of rooms—terra, courtyard, and canal—charm with a blend of vintage elements, like old barber chairs and original wood beams, and modern Dutch design, manifested in patterned wallpaper, curvaceous floor lamps, and white gauze bed canopies. Additional pluses include iPod docking stations, Ritual bathroom product, underfloor heating, and a fridge full of free welcome drinks. The building’s original Golden Age look has also been coaxed out in the old wood floors, paneled walls, and high ceilings.
My room, a canal (beginning at $175 per night) is the hotel’s best, not just for the greater space and light, but also for the lovely views of the canal through the large windows. The placement of the swiveling vintage barber chair adjacent is an inspired choice and a pleasant place to watch the world float by (or read about the comic side of Dutch culture in your supplied copy of The UnDutchables), especially when boats of playing musicians pass underneath.
The only challenge of the room is a set of very steep stairs, which require a modicum of agility (and sobriety) to ascend easily. The same quality may be needed for the cage, which is set at the top of a ladder, should you wish to employ it. Dimensions also compel a submissive spirit. The print of Edvard Munch’s The Scream inside is a clever touch.
The live-and-let-live Amsterdam spirit inspires the Mauro’s approach of service. Beyond a brief check-in and daily cleaning, intrusiveness is kept to a minimum—great for guests who relish privacy but not for those who like hand holding. In fact, the downstairs bar in the large stone-paved breakfast canteen is honor-based, with guests taking what they want during the stay and indicating amounts at check-out. The breakfast buffet costs 5 euros and includes basic egg dishes cooked to order. No doubt you’ll munch your muffin with a smile. The Mauro Mansion works hard to ensure that and succeeds admirably.
Mike Dunphy stayed as a guest at the Mauro Mansion. All photos by Mike Dunphy