Hotels that rock - Amsterdam

Hilary Lancaster Hilary Lancaster Uploaded

The home of the first citizenM (2008), the recently opened Andaz (2013), the stunning five-star Conservatorium Hotel (2011), and Sir Albert (2013), the latest design hotel, Amsterdam is rapidly shedding its conservative reputation. And what with all of the recent events happening in this bustling city of cycling - the opening of three major museums, the Amsterdam Canal Ring celebrating its 400th Jubilee and Queen Beatrix handing over the monarchy to a new generation - the creative energy is freely flowing and can be seen manifested in an up-and-coming boutique hotel scene.

And speaking of home, if your definition of a boutique hotel is a home away from home, with a service that makes you comfortable and relaxed, the Dutch probably do this better than any other people in the world. It is as though being welcoming is in their DNA. Add to this that many of the smaller hotels are converted from dwellings from the 17th and 18th centuries and therefore retain the intimacy inherent in the original building.

So it wouldn't be right not to start with citizenM one of the first internationally known high-tech boutique (pod) hotels in Amsterdam, masterminded by its original COO entrepreneur Hans Meyer, managing director of HotelsAhead.  Now a phenomenon rolling out globally, its signature lobby is designed to feel like your own living room. Relaxed dining, space for working, lounging, reading and watching television all help to create the communal vibe in a contemporary crisp, clean-line interior.

Hotel V Frederiksplein which now has two locations (A second, Hotel V Nesplein has just opened) also places emphasis on the lobby as your living room with an open fireplace, a library and chesterfield sofas. They call it a"living lobby"-where locals and internationals converge. When it comes to the rooms though, comparing these two hotels is like comparing chalk and cheese. CitizenM is all about technology where a'moodpad'allows you to change the ambience and control the functions of the room. The shower and loo are in clever space-saving circular glass pods. HOTEL V (which also has very small rooms), on the other hand is about creating the cosy home experience with furniture you could have in your own pad.

In another group - more luxurious and less urban - come the new Andaz, Canal House and Sir Albert. Andaz by Marcel Wanders takes quirky to the max. You arrive and there is no reception. The staff come to you with check-in devices so you don't have to stand behind a desk. You have now entered the fantasyland that is Mooi. All furniture is by Mooi, as Marcel Wanders said himself :"We prefer designing furniture than shopping for it". Who can argue with that? Canal House is not nearly as innovative but still seductive, contemporary and high quality, with amusing to-the-point room names from "The Better Room" to "The Best Room, meaning the better rooms do not have all the gadgets and space that the best room has. Then you have Sir Albert a luxury boutique hotel which (to quote their website) "embodies the modern aristocratic attitude. That means: living like the upper crust but having an approach that's distinctly down to earth." The concept for the interiors is interesting as it was once a diamond factory, so the harmony of keeping original architectural features alongside a contemporary interior is well executed.  The Conservatorium, which is larger and not as cosy and boutique, with three cafes, three restaurants and three bars, also deserves a mention for its exquisite design and attention to detail. It also has that personalised service which surpasses expectations.

Another innovative hotel concept being developed in Amsterdam as we speak is the Sweets Hotel. This hotel consists of 28 bridge-keepers' houses spread over the city of Amsterdam. Some of these quaint architectural gems are in busy inner-city locations, some are on the outskirts of the city in quiet rural spots. All 28 are situated on vantage points on rivers and canals and will open in mid-2014.

Then finally you have many other cool, quirky, cosy establishments. To name a few there are The Poet Hotel (clean, bright, white and fresh and minimalist with poetry on the walls), The Seven One Seven (an old home to a wealthy sugar trader with stunning high quality traditional style rooms), The Nottinghill (attempting to be designer but a little disappointingly lacking coherence of concept), College Hotel (A beautifully restored college), Inn on the Lake (only four rooms with interiors designed to be your sanctuary), Lloyd Hotel (it has a clever concept of having 1-5 Star rooms within the same hotel).

See them all in visuals on my pinterest site.

Our top three summary is:

1. HOTEL V Frederiksplein and Hotel V Nesplein
Rooms: 48 / 43
Design features: While both the Hotel Vs are cool, hip, chic, urban designs with an emphasis on the lobby experience, Nesplein has a stronger concept running through, as it is located in the theatre district. This explains the huge chandelier in the lobby (originally from a theatre) and the bar and restaurant styling with its gold stage-like curtain wall. This dynamic space buzzes with Amsterdammers too. Hotel V also sells some of the items you can find in your hotel room. A perfect way of bringing that hotel feeling to guest's own homes. Also they are eco-friendly, a huge plus in my books!

Rooms: 90
Design features: Created by BK architects, everything in this hotel is designer, from the furniture to the coffee machines. Understated elegance. The Albert Suites with their beautiful baths and open bathrooms (all in black) are sumptuous and luxurious. If you like Japanese food try their in-house restaurant, another a feature in itself with its open kitchen and slick clean lines mixed with that edgy urban Amsterdam style.

Rooms: 122
Design features: The hotel is loaded with design features - perhaps the strongest are the artworks behind each bed, which represent the polarity of Amsterdam (being open-minded and closed-minded at the same time). Thus fish and spoon, fish and brush, fish and vase always joined together with the Amsterdam city logo of three Xs (although as you will see the X's are always vertically stacked). As the hotel is in the building of the old national library the theme of books is actualised in writing on the walls and a special reading room.


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