Known as the Venice of the north thanks to its 165 canals, Amsterdam is amongst Europe’s top weekend break destinations. Absolutely presents a luxury edit of the most immaculate hospitality the Dutch capital has to offer.
Words Patrick Hamilton Courtney
Amsterdam is not a city that struggles to pull in the crowds. Travellers are drawn to its gorgeous architecture, rich history, and unique Dutch charm. Not to mention the, um, “laid back” café culture that has become world famous amongst university students and backpackers.
There’s a holiday at every budget to be had in Amsterdam. Be it wandering the flower markets, bicycle hopping around town, nibbling on bitterballen and stroopwafel, or cruising down the canals, many attractions are easily affordable and a lot of fun. But for those looking to splash out, the city has you covered.
From Michelin starred restaurants to opulent canal side mansions, we’ve picked out the best addresses for living well in the land of windmills and tulips.
Stitched together from 25 now interconnected canal houses, Pulitzer is an independent design hotel with bags of character. Right in the heart of the canal ring, Pulitzer’s location couldn’t be more convenient. It stands just moments from the Negen Straatjes, Anne Frank House, and the Royal Palace.
The hotel was refurbished in 2016 with help from Jacu Strauss, and is now an interior lover’s dream with eclectic furniture and modern art around every corner. Pulitzer boasts a smart neighbourhood restaurant named Jansz, a summer courtyard, a popular bar, well equipped gym, and all day café. If you’re feeling particularly indulgent book one of the “extraordinary suites” which are all decorated around a collecting theme – art, antiques, music, and books. They really are extraordinary.
Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam
Arguably the grandest of all Amsterdam hotels, the Waldorf Astoria’s six magnificent canal-side mansions are perfectly placed on one of the city’s most attractive waterways. The sympathetically restored interiors are a love song to white Carrera marble, finished with an impressive splattering of contemporary art. The jewel in the Astoria’s crown is its two Michelin starred restaurant Librije’s Zusje, one of the finest dining rooms in the city. Elsewhere the hotel benefits from a bar, lobby lounge, spa, pool, and large garden.
This medium sized boutique hotel has had its finger on the pulse of Amsterdam cool for almost two decades. Its striking charcoal grey courtyard is an instagrammers dream; a good spot for whiling away a morning with copious cappuccinos. Décor inside is a meeting of the historic and modern, with contemporary embellishments livening up the 200 year old building. The Dylan runs several restaurants and bars, most significant is Vinkeles, which currently holds one Michelin star. For more casual lunches and suppers, the newly launched Occo Brasserie provides classic bistro fare with a Dutch twist.
Nestled in the gorgeous Sofitel Legend Le Grand hotel, Michelin starred Bridges serves menus inspired by the cooking of legendary chef Ron Blaauw. The speciality here is seafood, and it’s easily amongst the best fish restaurants in Europe. We ate an exquisite meal that included warm cheese puffs, tuna tartare in a sesame crust, squid in almond milk, langoustine tail, and fillet of beef. Puddings where a real highlight. We were presented with a ring of caramelised bundt cake in which sat white chocolate mousse and a perfectly rendered green apple – made from apple ice cream and sugar glaze. Bridges is an absolute must visit in Amsterdam.
Arguably the best restaurant in Amsterdam, two Michelin starred Ciel Bleu is sits in the sophisticated, Japanese styled Hotel Okura. The restaurant is particularly notable for its excellent views, overlooking much of the city. The menu is international, with subtle exotic touches. There are few places better for a romantic dinner, especially at sunset when the restaurant’s view becomes truly spectacular.
Ciel Bleu’s main rival for the “best in the city” title is Waldorf Astoria’s Librije’s Zusje. It also has two Michelin stars, and the cuisine here is arguably more inventive. We dined on an exciting menu that included snails served in their shell, cod loin with bread crumbed rabbit kidney and morels, and Rib-Eye beef fillet with barbecued celeriac and bone marrow. Pudding was a little challenging: based on a classic carbonara, the dish consisted of egg yolk ice cream with deep fried spaghetti, caramelised bacon, and parmesan cheese shavings. Not unpleasant, but suited to those more adventurous with their cuisine. The attractively designed, blue and gold dining room is one of the most elegant spots in the city for lunch or dinner.
This restaurant is actually attached to the illustrious Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam’s answer to the V&A. Forget what you think you know about museum cafes and restaurants, this one offers Michelin starred fine dining with flair. Menus are surprising and their influences far reaching, with dishes living up to Michelin standard expectations. RIJKS suits smart lunches after a long morning of museum trekking.
Van Gogh Museum
Without a doubt the Netherlands’ most famous artist, Vincent van Gogh has a large and fascinating museum dedicated to his work. The gallery, like many in Amsterdam, has a convenient location in the city’s museum district. Come here for influential art history in the flesh. Self-portraits, sunflowers, and sumptuous landscapes.
The Stedilijk museum is Amsterdam’s principal gallery for modern art and modern and contemporary design. The permanent collection includes masterpieces by the likes of Piet Mondrian, Henri Matisse, Marc Chagall, Wassily Kandinsky, and Jackson Pollock. The museum also houses an exceptional collection of mid-century furniture by a number of iconic European designers. Finally, Stedilijk celebrates the applied arts, with a noteworthy collection of ceramics, jewellery, and glass, by important makers such as Wouter Dam and Irene Vonck.
As previously mentioned, the Rijksmuseum shares a number of similarities to London’s Victoria & Albert. The building holds the Netherlands’ greatest collection of art, artefact, and historical objects, and is one of the nation’s premier cultural hubs. Amongst the 8000 objects on display are iconic works by Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Frans Hals. The museum also has a small but fascinating collection of Asian art, housed in a separate pavilion.