Amsterdam Travel Guide
If you've been to Amsterdam, then you know it's a city of canals, waffles, bicyclists and historical architecture. If you're a tourist in Amsterdam, then you also know that it's the center of the historical architecture where you find the best hotels, but they weren't always there.
Skyscrapers aren't welcome alongside the still canal waters and, when a hotel wants to open up, it often has to first find a building to repurpose, instead of constructing something brand new. As a result, nearly every hotel in the center of Amsterdam lives on a site with a history, one which may range from something as innocent as a convent to as sad as a jail for the Resistance movement during World War II.
Here's six such notable hotels:
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Amsterdam is kickin’ ass and takin' names these days. It's just that simple. With the re-opening scheduled this year of the Rijksmuseum after a 10-year reno and the Van Gogh Museum after a much shorter reno, the 400th anniversary of the canals, and the re-opening of the Stedelijk modern art and design museum, the city’s hopping.
Hotels, it seems, have all been preparing for the buzz of 2013: the Hotel de l’Europe had major work done, the Andaz Amsterdam opened its doors, as did the Conservatorium Hotel. Earlier this week we also told you about the opening of The Waldorf Astoria expected in early 2014 so everyone's getting in on the act.
They say a picture speaks a thousand words so have a look at the Image Gallery to see what your next trip to Amsterdam might look like.
We’ve told you the luxe Waldorf Astoria brand of the Hilton group is going on a little expansion spree in the next few years, kicked off with the recent re-opening of the historic Caledonian Edinburgh.
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Who would think it’s possible for construction to actually go quicker than expected? Well it certainly has in the Andaz Amsterdam Prinsengracht's case.
We're pleased as punch that the hotel officially opened its doors yesterday, which -- yes -- was a bit later than expected, BUT the hotel's taking reservations for stays starting November 3 instead of November 23 as we originally reported last month. If this is an indication of the way the Andaz Amsterdam’s luck is going to go, we take it as a good omen.
Rates for November 3 atart at 270 EUR ($350) for an Andaz Queen or Andaz King which face the lobby of the hotel and its star-ific Observatory lights.
[Photo: Andaz Amsterdam Prinsengracht]
If you’re looking for a place to hang out in Amsterdam on a warm fall afternoon, make it at one of the world’s first boutique hotels: The Dylan Amsterdam. After having their tasty and inexpensive Lunch Plate at Brasserie OCCO and then their High Wine extravaganza that's served once lunch is over, you’ll really have no reason at all to leave.
We headed over to The Dylan on a sunny afternoon and ate (and drank) on their outdoor patio, which somehow managed to feel like a modern, yet cozy, garden terrace. Lined with trees and flower pots, it had an earthy brown / gray thing going on with hits of bright orange berries on every table. It's a great setting to sit and stay a while.
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Hotel de l'Europe
Amsterdam has many fine hotels with many fine hotel bars inside and with the Andaz Amsterdam coming online soon, there’ll be yet another one to check out. Until then, here are the top two hotel bars that you should visit on your next trip to Amsterdam.
First up, Freddy’s Bar at the recently-renovated Hotel de l’Europe in the heart of the city’s old town. This comfy and tasteful bar is a modern version of Amsterdam’s traditional brown cafe – a relaxed watering hole where one can linger for hours. The original brown cafes -- many still exist -- got their names because of their dark wood interiors (we hear that that may have something to do with years of nicotine staining but we prefer not to think about that). Freddy’s Bar models the same dark wood interior, albeit without the nicotine stains.
Hotel de l'Europe
The namesake of Alfred Heineken a.k.a. Freddy, the bar is classically styled, with dark forest green leather club chairs, brown marble tabletops, walnut wood floors, copper-colored window coverings and burnished gold touches. While you’re admiring the interior, you can get a mellow groove on as you listen to the live jazz pianist. Be sure to keep your eyes open for local celebrities and high-society types, just as it was in Freddy Heineken’s day.
Rendering of the lobby
The Andaz Amsterdam Prinsengracht is going to be a masterpiece of design when it opens mid-October. We had the pleasure of getting an in-person sneak peek of the
construction zone hotel in August and, although much work was to be done, even we could see the great bone structure that will make this latest Andaz a work of art.
This 122-room hotel has wunderkind Marcel Wanders (big name Dutch designer and co-owner of local design shop Moooi) at the design helm and, with the hotel’s savvy management fully behind him, the hotel will be a mixture of modern design that’s warm and inviting in feel, and authentic to Amsterdam, and yet, as with all good design, is beautiful as well as practical.
Hotel Pulitzer is a quirky hotel that's part of Starwood’s Luxury Collection and is comprised of 25 restored canal houses from the 17th-and 18th-century. Being in this hotel is akin to staying in a living maze. For a true workout, at check in say you don’t need help with your bags or in finding your room, and watch the getting-lost antics commence.
One other thing to note: The hotel has a wonderful changing art gallery, so if you get lost while going from your room to the restaurant, you’ll have plenty to see and ponder.
The Hotel Pulitzer is made up of different canal houses that are all joined together so room size may vary greatly even within the same category. Let’s just say that our Deluxe Room was a bit on the bijou side of the scale, at a mere 180 sq ft. This was too small for travelers trekking across the Atlantic for a few days, but rooms in this category do go up in size to approximately 320 sq ft. But they do have lots of character – ours had original wooden ceiling beams and French doors that opened onto the garden (although we did have to move furniture to open both of the doors!)
Although eccentric, and full of Old-World charm, there are some modern shout-outs here. The lobby had a soft reno earlier this year and is an up-to-date vision in black-and-white with plenty of sit and chill-out areas. Right off the lobby there's an Espresso Bar with lattes so foam thick, one is simply not enough. We spent an entire afternoon sipping on them in the attached garden, consisting of separated areas to eat, drink and read.
It's just minor delay but we were slightly crestfallen to hear that Andaz Amsterdam has pushed its opening date back to October instead of late September.
A tipster let us know that the hotel's website has been officially updated with the new opening date. Alas, reservations are still not being accepted. However, there are some new renderings up, including a few that we didn't see earlier this month. (Click the "Explore Hotel" button for a look-see.) Don't worry, the funky goldfish spoons are still in effect.
While we're still waiting to hear when reservations will open up, we have been lucky enough to get our hands on some more renderings of the property which has been done up by renowned Dutch designer Marcel Wanders.
Below you can peep at the lobby (do you hear bells ringing?), the welcome lounge, a larger guest room shot (yup, the sink is next to the bed) as well as the entrance to the spa.
We've known this summer would be the summer of Andaz Hotels as they get to rebrand Avia Hotels in Napa and Savannah as well as open up the long-awaited Andaz Amsterdam but now that the Andaz Amsterdam website is up and running, we find ourselves wishing summer would hurry on up and end!
That's because the Amsterdam property is set for an "Late Summer" opening. Our tipsters say Late September is more likely. The 122-room hotel is located on the site of the former Public Library on Prinsengracht, “Prince Canal” in the heart of the fashionable, art-centric Jordaan district. And its interiors will be Wanderful as in Marcel Wanders Wanderful.
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Something weird is going on with airport hotels. It's a full-circle effect really, in that the original airport hotels opened on auto routes to airpots in the dawn of the jet age, when people considered air travel a rare luxury and made the flight experience an event all its own. The 80s and 90s saw the reputation and quality of airport and roadside hotels drop, but now there's been a definite upturn with the re-introduction of style. Just look at the proliferation of Alofts, Elements and Yotels.
Just a second let's turn the clock back. Let's reflect on those original, full-service hotels that marked the beginning of a landmark trip in someone's life, in the 1960s. Welcome to Euro Motel, located on one of the main motorways leading into/away from Amsterdam-Schiphol International.