Putting off the Ritz – Article

By Ivo Weyel

Five-star hotels in many world cities may revel in gaudy ostentation, but not here in Amsterdam. Here, high-paying guests are treated to suites with the snazz––just old-fashioned luxury with all the services, and perhaps a private cinema thrown in.

Who has the biggest, the most fabulous, the most expensive? Hotels around the world claim to offer the most luxurious suite on Earth.

Four zeros mean private lifts, private chefs, butlers, bulletproof glass, helicopter landing pads, private pools and €100,000 chandeliers. That is global standard.

The Netherlands is more sober. It’s in the national DNA. Luxury is all fine and dandy, but here it cannot be brash or vulgar. Think functional not superfluous. No gold taps. That is precisely what makes Amsterdam’s suites so unique. This is straightforward, down-to-earth luxury and value for money.

For weathered rockers, footballers and financial moguls, Hotel Sofitel Legend the Grand finds a formula to fit their needs with discretion. “A big-name rock group has been staying here for days, but we aren’t broadcasting it,” says Kees Hogetoorn, Director of Sales & Marketing. Each band member has his own suite, the most expensive on offer. The Canal House Suites are located in three historic merchant houses from the 17th century, each with its own canal entrance. Admiral Tromp, a Dutch maritime hero from the days of the Spanish Armada, lived in one during the 17th century. As Hogetoorn underlines, “What we have is history and distinguished provenance.”

The canal houses at The Pulitzer Amsterdam have been converted into its Weergaloze Suites (Unparalleled Suites)—each with its own canal access, each individually designed and decorated. The Art Collector’s Suite is filled with contemporary works of art, the Book Collector’s Suite has a private library, and the Music Collector’s Suite displays musical instruments on the wall. “Our guests truly feel as if they’re living along the canal, and they just love it,” says a hotel spokesman. “They can sit on their own private stoop at the end of the day, glass of wine in hand, and look at the boats, just like an Amsterdammer.”

The Waldorf Astoria can also lay claim to a fair amount of city history. Accompanying its restaurant of two Michelin stars, Librije’s Zusje, a row of 17th-century canal houses contains premium suites named after illustrious Amsterdam families Roëll, Backer and Van Loon. This latter is a duplex suite with a private 17th-century spiral staircase, lending direct access to a Guerlain Spa and pool from the bathrooms. The hotel, in typical Dutch style, has implemented comfort instead of extravagance when choosing its fittings. There are hand showers everywhere instead of erstwhile popular rain variety. “Women prefer to shower without getting their hair wet,” explains the manager.

However quirky these Amsterdam suites might be, there’s no skimping on service. Guests are contacted prior to arrival to make specific requirements such as brand of champagne, music, type of pillow or favorite flowers. Many hotels can arrange swift customs transit for guests in their suites, circumventing any delay at Schiphol, as well as personal accompaniment directly from aircraft stairway to hotel entrance.

Any more specific requests? At Sofitel Legend the Grand, a regular guest flies in from the Caribbean, and has a whole winter wardrobe permanently stored at the hotel. “He doesn’t need it where he lives anyway,” says Sales & Marketing Director Hogetoorn. “When he comes, we move his clothes into his suite so they’re ready before he arrives. When he leaves, everything is steamed and pressed, then stored away until his next visit.”

One guest at the Royal Suite of the InterContinental Amstel Amsterdam once asked to have no less (and no more) than 27 trash cans in their accommodation. “Naturally, we obliged,” insists the manager. “And he actually did use every one of them!” In addition, the curtains around the four-poster bed feature thousands of hand-stitched beads, all the windows have bulletproof glass, and half the surrounding floor of the hotel can be closed off. These days, security and celebrity go hand in hand.

Beds are always the distinguishing factor. In the Suite Provocateur at De L’Europe Amsterdam, a round bed sits under a starlit sky like in a scene from van Gogh, sparkling hundreds of little lights, while the view out takes in the real Amsterdam night sky. No fewer than six beds, in six bedrooms, feature in the Penthouse Suite, each with its own bathroom. The InterContinental Amstel provides its Executive River View Suite with a unique FreshBed whose ultra-modern technology enables the thermostat to regulate the temperature of the mattress. The warmer the guest at night, the cooler the mattress becomes. The air is filtered and humidity maintained. This takes sleeping, and waking, onto a whole new level. A magnum, chilled and robust, awaits new arrivals at the Amstel’s Dom Pérignon Suite, decorated with prints on loan from the Rijksmuseum.

At the Conservatorium Hotel, a sliding ladder of upgrades allows anyone reserving a suite to elevate their status for a surcharge, advancing until six moves later they’re in the Penthouse Suite, with its own cinema, treatment room, and the softest Frette sheets that Madonna once slept on. Windows extend from floor to ceiling. Prime shopping in this former bank building involves the finest jewelry, the most exclusive perfumes, and even a Bentley, the car du choix for airport pick-ups.

Luxury Suites offers only 25 luxury suites, plush with satin and velvet, soft and subdued in shade. Each has its own kitchenette, if working at home is a must. Enlarged Dutch Masters adorn the walls, valet parking comes extra.

For location, the NH Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky is as central as it gets, Dam Square. From the bed in the Royal Suite, accessed by private elevator, the view suitably takes in the Royal Palace. Those occupying the suite on May 4 get front row seats to see the laying of the wreath by Royal couple Willem-Alexander and Máxima on Remembrance Day.

It’s all very regal at the Prinsengracht Suite of the Andaz Hotel, too. Renowned Dutch designer Marcel Wanders’ interiors resemble something out of a fairy story, with enormous antique wardrobes, chandeliers and cupboards stacked with Dutch-themed treasure. Overly tall Delft blue vases rub shoulders with porcelain houses given as KLM gifts to trusted customers since the 1950s. Gilded clay vases stand alongside photographs of King Willem-Alexander, his mother and grandmother. Centerpiecing the bedroom, the oversized tub dubbed Soap Bath has gained Wanders iconic status within the design world. The large private terrace offers panoramic views over Prinsengracht, the Prince’s Canal with its houses built during the Golden Age. No other vantage point in the city offers a better view of the colorful Canal Parade boat procession that glides past during Amsterdam Pride, cheered on by up to million onlookers.

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