Golden Age elegance with plenty of contemporary luxury
Amsterdam is changing; a city reclaiming its identity as a sophisticated, European Capital with a diverse cultural offering. It’s enhancing its ‘brand’: its cultural museum quarter is renewed; luxury retail is growing and the city is being far less tolerant of low cost tourism such a stag and hen night weekends. In addition, through its 1012 project, Amsterdam is working to diversify businesses in its infamous Red Light District, with artists’ studios, boutiques and fine dining such as Restaurant Anna.
This ‘city renewal’ approach appears to be already paying dividends, as luxury brands are once again investing in the city.
This May saw the opening of the Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam, and I was fortunate enough to be amongst the first this year to experience the property, part of Waldorf Astoria Hotel and Resorts’ flagship luxury properties, within the Hilton Worldwide portfolio.
The elegant gabled 17th and 18th century townhouses of the UNESCO canal district are iconic of this Dutch capital and it is here that one finds the Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam. Six of these very special townhouses in the prestigious and historic Herengracht district have been totally renovated and reimagined as a 93 room luxe city hotel. The property offers stunning canal views or peaceful garden facing rooms – pretty much a win/win.
In 2013, Amsterdam celebrated its 400th Anniversary of the canal district and the area has probably never looked better.
For example, during June I was able to enjoy the Open Gardens Days, where many of the ‘secret’ oases that are normally hidden behind the ornate facades of this elegant, historic buildings, are opened to the public. The Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam is part of this cultural programme, sharing its spacious city garden to non-residents during these few special days.
The property is only a few months old, and when I visited it had not yet become a mainstay of the city scene, so the bar and signature Peacock Alley lobby lounge were still relatively peaceful, but I am sure it will soon become a popular meeting place and there will be more of a ‘buzz’ and energy to the place.
As part of the Hilton Worldwide and its Hilton HHonors programme, expect to hear plenty of American accents as you walk through the lobby – and it will increasingly be a popular choice for North American business travellers as well as tourists.
It’s clearly a very elegant property, showcasing some stunning original features typical of these iconic canal district town houses. The monumental, ornate stucco staircase, just off the entrance in the ‘Marot’ house, was designed by the eminent architect Daniel Marot, and is of historical significance in the city and a stunning part of the hotel.
The General Manager, Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam Hotel, Roberto Payer, was at pains to show off the Maurer Room, a private dining space with 18th-century wall paintings and panelling that is museum quality. In fact, throughout the property are interesting and beautiful details, such as rare and opulent marble fireplaces, panelled rooms, and carved ceilings.
The interior design is very cohesive, and in fact for my taste there could have been more vintage or antique items mixed in amongst the decoration to add a more established feel.
At one time one of the houses was a bank and the original vault security boxes have been used as a unique and visually rich backdrop to the aptly named ‘Vault Bar’.
The HR department should maybe consider becoming model scouts – as on my visit it seemed that pretty much every member of the staff was very good looking! Or maybe it was those perfectly tailored uniforms designed by Dutch couturier Jan Taminiau that made every-one look a million dollars, whilst continuing the colour theme of muted earth tones, blue and ochre.
Team members appeared genuinely friendly and well trained; knowledgeable about their hotel and well equipped to help guests.
Rooms & Suites
My suite was very comfortable. The bedroom had two huge windows over-looking the immaculately manicured garden square. Over the marble fireplace was a large TV and beside that was the desk, with adequate plugs (UK & European standards), and networking points.
There was a BOSE radio player with iPhone dock.
The super kind bed was really comfortable, with a thick WA mattress topper, soft linens and great pillows. There was of course a choice of pillows, but I was happy to stick with the classic down.
Lighting was a mix of integrated ceiling halogens and lamps. With the lamps the lighting was slightly more relaxed but probably one of the few comments I would have would be about the lighting, as it didn’t appear possible to ‘dim’ the lights – they were either on or off, and the lights were strong.
There was a large walk-in dressing room with dressing table / desk with lamp and another large window. In the wardrobes were plenty of hangers, pairs of slippers, bathrobes, shoe shine etc. and a safe that was big enough for my notebook PC.
The entrance lobby in the room had a large refreshment centre, discreetly integrated into a piece of elegant furniture, which included a Nespresso machine, and mini bar and necessary accessories.
The bathroom was cavernous, with a large, deep bath at one end, under the window, as well as twin wash basins, and a separate walk in shower with glass door and separate W.C. with frosted glass door. The shower was a traditional style with separate hand held shower head. (Absent was the now almost ubiquitous rain forest style showerhead – supposedly WA research suggested these were unpopular with women guests that didn’t want to be drenched (even with shower cap on) when taking a quick shower). The mirror had lighting all round. The property is generous with towels, a small touch I like in a luxe hotel. Why so many upscale properties feel the need to be so strict with towel allocation, I don’t know. Here there were extra bath towels and face towels and they were replaced at the turn down and again in the morning. Amenities were branded Tuscan Soul by Salvatore Ferragamo and the sizes were again generous, and replenished with the turn down service.
The colour palette is muted, with white, cream, greys, a touches of warmth with dark ochre wooden furniture and blue Murano glass table lamps. The hotel says that the colour accents of blue lapis lazuli and ochre found throughout the property are intended to reference Vermeer’s painting. ‘The Girl With A Pearl Earring’.
My room lacked personality to some degree – it seemed very neutral and elegant but not truly distinctive considering the unique canal houses. I did view suites on the upper floors, in amongst the rafters of the historic canal houses, and these for me were much more characterful.
In addition, the luxury suites such as the Van Loon offer a truly unique experience.
Breakfast was on the ground floor, an intimate dining area, overlooking the garden. Service was friendly, professional and swift. Breakfast items were elegantly presented, and were complemented by a hot a la carte menu. There were items with local provenance such as a cheeses, butter and a refreshing rhubarb juice.
Fine Dining is offered by the hotel’s executive chef, Sidney Schutte, former chef at De Librije who is at the head of the hotel’s Librije’s Zusje (little sister of the Amsterdam destination restaurant De Librije) who created a memorable meal for us one evening.
The Amsterdam Waldorf Astoria spa is provided by World of Guerlain, a stylish, elegant and tranquil space, including a heated pool.
The sum is greater than the parts – the overall experience was exceptional. The clean, light, contemporary style, within the classic canal houses was really appealing.
But I believe the spa has to be one of the special places in the hotel – Guerlain certainly lends exclusivity and heritage, and the ambiance is really unique, and unlike a typical hotel spa.
Oh, and the hotel has its own boat too, so you can book a private cruise of the canals.
- Location, Location, Location! Is the stunning canal district, within restored period canal houses, with all the sights close by
- World-class spa, restaurant…and service
- Exemplary service
- For vintage, period style you need to book your room carefully – the Van Loon Suite is stunning
- It’s early days, but during my visit in June, the public areas lacked a city buzz – I am sure they will soon nolonger be a well kept secret
- One or two vintage or antique touches would work well in the rooms, bringing the contemporary style and period setting together
Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam
1017 CG, Netherlands
(For more information, see my Insider Guide to Amsterdam here)
I was hosted by the WA Amsterdam, via the City of Amsterdam marketing but this has not influenced by piece. Please bear in mind that this site and my articles are intended as entertainment only and not a definitive resource for purchasing decisions. Before making any travel or purchasing decision I recommend that you seek as much information as possible from various sources including review sites, guide books and other blogs. If you act based on my writing you do so at your own risk. If you wish to add anything to this piece, simply comment using the WordPress or Facebook plug-in.