Quaint canal houses, historic monuments and timeless old-world charm: That’s one side of Amsterdam. But it’s no longer the only side of hospitality there. There’s a high-concept hotel revolution under way. Major U.S. brands are shaking things up with contemporary, fantastical and utterly unexpected design.
Opened in May as Kimpton’s first hotel outside of North America, the De Witt occupies a collection of buildings, some from the 17th century and others from the 1980s, which have been smartly combined into a space that transcends time and place. It’s a modern labyrinth of contemporary millwork and rich layers.
Longtime Kimpton creative director Ave Bradley gave the hotel a playful personality with locally inspired touches and golden-age gravitas. Think mismatched blue-and-white Delft-ish tiles and a living plant wall in the lobby, a glass-walled “indoor garden” with hanging nest chairs, and upper-floor rooms with original pitched ceilings, support beams and structural arches.
The 274 rooms have warm, elegant touches like Atelier Areti bird-shaped reading lamps, Pols Potten porcelain gold-dipped parrots and abstract plays on classic Dutch art. Many of them have inviting freestanding bathtubs. Along with the 15 special rooms that have extra historic touches, there’s a lavish three-story suite with two king bedrooms and a lounge, which the hotel bills as a house within a hotel. It is, in fact, that. Incorporated into the buildings around it, it was the 17th-century home of native playwright P.C. Hooft. Another sunny suite feels more like a private apartment with a fireplace, spiral staircase and 300-square-foot terrace looking over the city.
Wyers, the restaurant, serves American-style comfort food with Dutch ingredients—made by a Brooklyn-born chef—such as lollipop chicken wings, Rueben sandwiches and lobster rolls with craft beer. The House Bar, in the most historic part of the hotel, harks back to the Dutch Golden Age, but with experimental cocktails made with hyperlocal gins and genevers. There’s also a complimentary afternoon cocktail hour with wine to encourage guests to treat the lobby as a social space.
A couple kilometers away, Hyatt made a similar move with its Andaz Amsterdam Prinsengracht hotel a few years ago. (Disclosure: I stayed at both hotels as their guest.) Local design superstar Marcel Wanders brought his signature whimsy—what he calls “A World of Love, Passion and Dreams”—to the hotel, whose design is unusually adventurous for a big international brand.
The 122 rooms and suites have boldly patterned carpet, curvaceous chairs, Alice in Wonderland vanities with hand-painted (by the artist himself) basins and eye-popping murals of fish—perhaps a reference to the Netherlands’ seafaring history. They also have terrific views over Amsterdam’s canals and gardens.
Those historical reference points are clearer in the public spaces (and the building used to be the public library of Amsterdam), like the atrium’s carpeted floor that resembles a map of the world and a lighting design based on old celestial navigation systems. The glass elevators pass a fantasy world of magical murals, Saturn-like rings and stories written out on the wall. Along with those, there are more than 50 pieces of contemporary video art throughout the hotel.
Like the De Witt, it has a rustic farm-to-table restaurant (called Bluespoon) using Dutch ingredients for international comfort food, plus thoroughly modern niceties like complimentary bicycles to borrow, a wine social hour and a garden lounge tucked within the hotel—this one actually outdoors, with more Alice-through-the-looking-glass elements like checkerboard pathways and elaborate topiaries.
Both hotels certainly made me want to fall down the rabbit hole.
By Ann Abel Courtesy Forbes