Amsterdam is a truly relaxed destination for a luxury weekend — cruise along winding canals, savour Michelin-starred cuisine and soak up the historic architecture and café culture. From chic boutiques to five-star hotels, Casey Gillespie reveals its highlights
The Dylan hotel’s covered garden is the perfect spot to relax.
SLEEP Once you escape the touristy madness that surrounds Centraal Station, you’ll find that Amsterdam is an oasis of unique five-star hotels with impeccable style and hospitable service. Many offer guests use of their hotel bicycles, which is, of course, the best way to get around. And don’t underrate the restaurants housed at the most-talked-about hotels, they are some of the best the city has to offer.
The Amstel is Amsterdam's most iconic hotel.
Situated in the heart of the De Negen Straatjes (The Nine Streets) district and directly on the Keizersgracht canal, The Dylan is where history meets modern luxury. This intimate hotel enjoys one of the most historic locations in Amsterdam and is a short stroll from everything. If grand hotels are more your style, then the iconic Amstel Amsterdam is a natural fit. Opened in 1867, the hotel remains a beacon of luxury and top-notch service that never waivers. The Sir Albert is one of the newer kids on the block but is a haven of elegant, modern design. Housed in a former diamond factory, high ceilings, big windows and the latest digital comforts are de rigueur.
EAT Perhaps one of the most underrated virtues of Amsterdam is its cuisine. With 13 two-Michelin starred and two three-Michelin starred restaurants, the municipality is brimming with culinary surprises. And don’t underestimate the small cafés and restaurants serving fare from every corner of the globe as well as authentic local delights. With so much to choose from, a night out could very well see you walking from place to place, nibbling as you go. We would suggest starting with High Wine at The Dylan. This is a unique version of afternoon tea, where small gourmet plates, both savoury and sweet, are perfectly paired with complementary wines (the Michelin-starred Vinkeles is also here, so expect nothing short of the best). There are a surprising number of upscale sushi restaurants in Amsterdam, with Tunes Bar coming high on the list. It is a buzzing night-time destination with a mouthwatering menu and an inventive cocktail list that could keep you entertained for hours. Small, sharing plates are the name of the game at 5&33, which serves modern Mediterranean fare, with both chefs having honed their skills at the Soho House group in London. Even if you are staying elsewhere, breakfast at 5&33 is a revelation and worth getting out of
bed and travelling for.
HPS, a charming cocktail bar, is a favourite with the locals.
SHOP The days when Amsterdam was defined by its coffee shops and Red Light District are a distant memory. Now, visitors revel in the seemingly endless choice of privately owned shops brimming with designer labels and charming cafés dotted in-between, perfect for refuelling and resting weary feet. The heart of the city’s luxury shopping beats on
The newly opened Art’otel’s 5&33 restaurant combines stylish decor, dining and gallery space.
P.C. Hooftstraat, a street named after the 17th-century poet and playwright Pieter Corneliszoon Hooft, which hosts all the top labels, including Louis Vuitton, Mulberry, Burberry, Chopard, Chanel, Gucci and a delightful Taschen boutique, among many others. Van Baerlestraat runs parallel and offers some of the better-known Dutch designers as well as a selection of other chic boutiques. For truly unique finds, you must head to the De Negen Straatjes (The Nine Streets) area. The shopping district crisscrosses Amsterdam’s central canal ring and shops are ripe with wonderful lesser-known designer labels, snug cafés and various vintage shops. Every corner is a treasure trove of one-off pieces and perfect for picking up something no one back home will have.
DO You will never be left wondering what to do in this bustling city. From art galleries that house large collections from some of the greats (think Van Gogh, Escher and Rembrandt) to smaller, quirkier museums worth their weight in gold, the only obstacle is choosing where to start. At TheConcertgebouw there is a non-stop schedule of exciting concerts and you can enjoy everything from classical music to jazz and opera. No trip to Amsterdam is complete without a canal cruise. Amsterdam Jewel Cruises is an antique riverboat that offers dinner cruises with gourmet à la carte dining and priceless views of the city from the canals. Night owls will love the many upscale bars and lounges that stay open until the wee hours serving up innovative cocktails and endless opportunities to mingle with the sociable locals. For tempting tipples and a vibrant, stylish crowd head to HPS—short for hidden in plain sight—, Door 74 and Bluespoon Bar.
CityJet flies direct from London City Airport to Amsterdam Schiphol Airport www.cityjet.com
Images: Melody Rae Photography