Travel in Style – Article

by Kate Carlisle

From horse-drawn carriages to six-seater jets – getting to and around Amsterdam has never been so effortlessly luxurious

At the end of the 17th century, horse-drawn coaches were all the rage among the Amsterdam bourgeoisie. Even then, traffic snarls in the narrow alleys and canal-side streets became such a problem that many throughfares were declared one-way by the local authorities. Most opted to tap into the extensive system of regular and irregular ferries, cruising in on the canals to avoid the chaotic city roads.

Today kings, queens and VIPs saunter unseen — or very seen, as with the royal Golden Carriage still used by the country’s monarchs on special occasions — into Amsterdam. Compared to other major cities, traffic snarls are minimal. Carriage pile-ups are a thing of the past and uncountable, tinkling bicycles keep people moving easily. If you dare to rise to the challenge, which Amsterdam’s cycle traffic is, despite its network of broad cycling lanes, your hotel will readily provide you and your company with an easy to ride model.

DOOR-TO-DOOR

From planes, trains, automobiles and boats, the city of Amsterdam can dish out transport like no-town’s business.

“We can arrange almost anything,” says the sparkling-eyed Isabelle Post, host manager at the exclusive Conservatorium Hotel. “Land on the private Schipol airport strip, and all you have to do is follow the plane steps down and sit in the car service of your choice. The rest is sorted…from check in, customs, baggage pick up. The VIP waiting lounge at Schiphol has refreshments and a library.”

Slipping into a car can mean reclining in a stretch limo, or, the auto du jour, a classic Bentley, with beverages waiting, door-to-door service, music to measure and a discreet chauffeur who will never name names. “You dream it, we love to make it happen. If you don’t want, your feet barely need touch the ground. But when they do, we can even provide a red carpet for them to walk on.”

PRIVATE JETS

Some 20 private jets or charters arrive every day to the city of Amsterdam, usually on the easterly General Aviation runway at Schipol. Private jet and business travellers who arrive here can book the exclusive Summum lounge. Ideal for business meetings, the lounge overlooks your plane parked right in front and is catered by the famous Michelin starred Bokkendoorns-restaurant.

Ronald Wüstefeld of Aerodynamics International Air Charter Brokers has been arranging winged chariots of all shapes and sizes for exclusive clients for more than 30 years. “We handle around 1,000 bookings every year,” says Wüstefeld, “from compact, private jets to 100- seaters.” From soccer fans scrambling for foreign finals to millionaire Cinderellas, his company has seen, and organized, just about everything.

“For the Europa League Final between Ajax and Manchester United in Stockholm in May 2017, we rented out three 100-seater jets and another eight smaller planes,” chuckles Wüstefeld, “and once we had a client rent a plane to pick up a pair of shoes she left in her Paris hotel and bring them to Amsterdam.”

CRUISE THE CANALS

A canal cruise is high on the list for most visitors and one of the best ways to see Amsterdam, from a perspective hard to find from street level. Also on offer, though, are gastronomic cruises that take this concept to a whole new level. Isabelle Post of the Conservatorium again: “It is like a floating platter, in a way. Guests gaze on the city from the comfort of a closed cruise boat. And at every stop, a different restaurant can saunter in with perfectly prepared meals from Amsterdam’s finest culinary venues, like &Samhoud run by renowned chef Moshik Roth, and sophisticated culinary wizards Van De Kaart. Chefs explain each course”.

For a throwback to days past, horse and carriage transort remains an evergreen way to cruise the city’s streets. Two-horse vehicles with elegant green velvet seats and a top-hatted driver leave from Dam square in the city center or pretty much about anywhere accessible by hoof.

CLOUD HOPPING

Still keeping with history but with up-and-away thrills thrown in, a ride by hot-air balloon means floating above great swathes of colorful tulip fields and seeing the city in a new light. Experienced Rob Wiegers Ballooning can number 15 balloon pilots and 20 balloon crew members and a plethora of departure points around the city and beyond. With a champagne landing, Amsterdam by balloon lingers long in the memory. An hour of cloud hopping and landscape gazing costs around €150 per passenger, give or take any special requests.

This article is part of the magazine Amsterdam Luxury Selection dd September 2017.

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