The Dutch capital has a wealth of great accommodation suitable for all types of travellers. Sonia Soltani picks her favourite hotels.
Best for design: Andaz Amsterdam Prinsengracht
The lowdown: As soon as I entered what used to be Amsterdam’s public library, a bouncy ‘host’, more stand-up comedian than studious librarian, came towards me with an iPad to check me in while offering a glass of Champagne. It set the tone for my stay at this impressive hotel, which is a real feast for the eye — achingly cool without taking itself too seriously.
Standing on the elegant Prince’s Canal in the trendy Jordaan district the hotel’s lobby showcases oversized light fittings, striking decorative items relating to Dutch seafaring history such as the navigation charts on the floor, and orange armchairs (a nod to the national colour).
It took me much longer than usual to appraise every minute detail in my Garden View King room, with its standalone make-up table and sink, colourful touches, and contemporary-baroque furniture. The view over the gardens revealed quirky statues and a wall fresco with an Alice in Wonderland theme which, in line with the hotel’s ethos, was more sexy graphic novel than Walt Disney schmaltz.
Other nice touches included free wi-fi and local phone calls, as well as a complimentary mini-bar containing non-alcoholic drinks and healthy snacks. The separate loo was cleverly decorated with Delft Blue motifs, quotes from the likes of Spinoza and titbits of local history. The rest of the Andaz was characterised by low-lit corridors linking the 122 rooms to the spa, 24-hour gym, and superb Bluespoon restaurant.
X-factor: Hate it or love it, the Marcel Wanders-designed hotel is bold, big and beautiful. I was mesmerised by Wanders’ spectacular ‘from hell to heaven’ mural, visible from the glass-sided elevator as it took me up to my room, less convinced by the video art running on giant screens, but generally under the spell of this sleek and inventive hotel.
Contact: T: 00 31 20 523 1234. www.andaz.com
Best for wellness: Conservatorium
The lowdown: An imposing building right by the Museumplein, Amsterdam’s cultural heart, the Conservatorium epitomises how an imaginative restoration of a 19th-century building can create a spectacular modern hotel. Originally a bank, the building housed a music school in the 1980s, before being converted into a luxury hotel. It’s surrounded by high-end designer shops and is just a short walk from three of the Dutch capital’s most exciting museums: the Rijksmuseum, Stedelijk and Van Gogh.
The Conservatorium features 129 bedrooms and suites, the stylish Tunes restaurant and bar, a shopping gallery and a beautiful lobby area perfect for intimate chats and afternoon drinks. I stayed in a Grand Duplex Suite which, at more than 500sq ft, felt bigger than my London flat — and definitely more comfortable. It had everything I needed for a city break: a great working area with free wi-fi, a cosy lounge, a huge bathroom with a deep tub on the first floor and another one by the bedroom on the duplex level. I loved the elegant, understated colour palette and the local touches such as clog murals and Old Masters-inspired photos.
X-factor: The superb 10,000sq ft Akasha Wellbeing Centre offers fitness and yoga classes free of charge, exceptionally skilled therapists, a heated pool, and fitness facilities so beautiful you’re tempted never to venture outside.
Contact: T: 00 31 20 570 0000. www.conservatoriumhotel.com
Best for food: Hotel Okura
The lowdown: A member of the Great Hotels of the World Luxury Collection, Hotel Okura is a slice of Japan in the Dutch capital. Located around 10 minutes’ drive — or ride, if you make like the locals and cycle everywhere — from the main landmarks, including Vondelpark and the Rijksmuseum, it features neutral colours and zen-style interiors throughout. As soon as I checked in, the concierge handed me a batch of maps and leaflets about the local attractions, and every single one of my requests was met efficiently throughout my stay.
Linked to the hotel by a funky airport boarding gate-style bridge, the Nagomi Spa & Health has a fitness centre overlooking the 60ft swimming pool, as well as a Jacuzzi, sauna and steam bath. It was the ideal place to relax after a day wandering the city and before enjoying cocktails at the Twenty Third Bar on the — yes, you guessed right — 23rd floor, offering a intimate and romantic atmosphere as well as panoramic views of the city.
X-factor: When staying at the 300-room property you could be forgiven for eating solely at the four on-site restaurants — the two Michelin-star Ciel Bleu, international cuisine at Serre, and Japanese menus at Yamazato and Sazanka — as well as the relaxing Le Camelia, where a sumptuous Asia-meets-Europe buffet breakfast is served.
Contact: T: 31 20 678 7111. www.okura.nl
Best for nightlife: DoubleTree by Hilton — Hotel Amsterdam Centraal Station
The lowdown: As convenient locations go, this DoubleTree by Hilton is hard to beat, less than five minutes’ walk from Centraal Station, which links Amsterdam to its airport in under 20 minutes. I was pleasantly surprised not to enter a bland corporate lobby but a stylish and inviting one, and to add to the feeling of homeliness the friendly receptionist handed me a warm chocolate chip cookie as I was about to check in. Some green apples were also on offer, for the health-conscious.
The room’s decor was minimal with modern furniture, crisp white bed linen, and everything a traveller might wish for: an extremely comfortable bed, a brilliant hairdryer and an Apple TV with complimentary wi-fi. The real draw was the floor-to-ceiling window, which afforded a stunning view over the charming city centre.
X-factor: Whatever the time of day, the SkyLounge is the place to chill out with soft drinks — even a simple tea comes beautifully presented with chocolates and biscuits — or spectacular cocktails. The stunning 360-degree views of the city, attractive outdoor area with massive armchairs to really kick back in, and the stylish interior mean this is a popular hangout for tourists and locals alike.
Contact: T: 00 31 20 530 0800. doubletree3.hilton.com
Best for budget: Hotel Rembrandt
The lowdown: Located in the quiet Plantage district, this discreet hotel has retained some original features from its time as a private home, giving guests an insight into the genteel life of a wealthy merchant in 19th-century Amsterdam. Back then I hope they had servants to carry heavy loads because the stairs are quite steep and there’s no lift, so staying on the top floor when you have a bad habit of not travelling light proved a bit of a challenge. That aside, the staff were laid-back yet helpful.
Check-in is in the cosy library, which contains books in a variety of languages, comfy leather seats and appropriately enough a portrait of Rembrandt himself. I was there with a group of friends, all staying in different rooms, and everyone praised the hotel’s cleanliness and attractive rooms, each individually decorated.
A short walk from the hotel are lesser known attractions such as the Hortus Botanicus, one of the oldest botanic gardens in the world, the Artis Royal Zoo, the 17th-century Portuguese Synagogue, and the Jewish Historical Museum.
X-factor: The most memorable room in the house was the breakfast room, and not only because of its generous and varied buffet at a mere £10 — the hall features dark wooden panels, a grand fireplace, painted tapestries and traditional Flemish paintings. It made you feel as though you were starting the day in a much more expensive hotel.
Contact: T: 00 31 20 627 2714. www.hotelrembrandt.nl
This article was originally published on CountrybyCountry.com
[Photo credit: Andaz Amsterdam Prinsengracht]