A large flag helps me locate this five-star property set amid the pretty canals of Amsterdam’s city centre. Built in the 1970s as a public library, what was once an austere five-storey building has been transformed into an inviting luxury hotel with exuberant interiors by the Dutch designer Marcel Wanders. Once inside, I find myself in a lobby that has a fairy-tale atmosphere, with large, white bell-shaped chandeliers, rings of coloured lights and bright red, oversized chairs.
Prinsengracht is a classic Amsterdam street complete with cobblestones, bicycles, humpbacked bridges and canal boats sailing by, plus tall, grand, gabled buildings all squeezed together in a last-ditch effort to stay upright. It’s part of a well-heeled but not stuffy neighbourhood known as Nine Streets, which is full of charming little shops, engaging museums and snug spots to eat and drink. If you’re new to the city, you couldn’t find a more delightful place to start exploring.
The 122 rooms (including five suites) have views over the canal, gardens or interior and are decorated in a fun style with white walls and a midnight blue ceiling. A large photo of a fish sits above the bed while a pair of clogs painted like a clown’s face hang on the opposite wall. Wi-Fi and the minibar are both complimentary, and there’s a small library of books related to Amsterdam.
Slick and friendly. Unlike many hotels, there is no big reception desk in the lobby− just roving staff with tablet PCs who fix everything. The idea is to break down barriers, and it works.
The Bluespoon Restaurant is an L-shaped space with a large, open kitchen at the corner. The menu focuses on local produce and includes traditional Dutch dishes such as codfish stamppot (mixed with mashed potatoes; €19 [Dh90]).
Breakfast is more successful – a sumptuous buffet (€29; Dh138) featuring Dutch fish, meat, cheeses and honey worth lingering over.
Since opening in October, the hotel has attracted a steady stream of visitors who appreciate the stress--diminishing style of Andaz properties.
Marcel Wanders has a well--deserved following too − described by The New York Times as the “Lady Gaga of the design world”, he co-founded the Moooi label and has worked with companies such as Alessi, MAC Cosmetics, KLM and Marks & Spencer. Everywhere you look you can see his touches, from the specially designed dinner plates to the hand-painted washbasins.
A mural entitled Alice in Amsterdam overlooks a large garden and courtyard, which will be a useful place to relax in summer. The property also has a fitness centre and a (small) Urban Spa with a mixed sauna and two treatment rooms.
The detail in Marcel Wanders’ designs. Many of the walls are covered with words and pictures relating to Amsterdam’s rich history, making the hotel feel like a walk-in book.
The 40 works of video art dotted around the public areas range from the decorative to the unsettling and include a large screen in the lobby showing a woman endlessly jumping up and down on a bed. It gets very tiresome − and the staff agreed.
The pairing of Marcel Wanders’ playful designs with the feel-free philosophy of Andaz Hotels is a winning mix, and the canalside location is as good as it gets in Amsterdam.
The bottom line
A double room costs from €270 (Dh1,300) per night, including taxes. Andaz Amsterdam Prinsengracht, Prinsengracht 587, 1067 HT Amsterdam, Netherlands (www.andazamsterdam.com; 00 31 20 523 1234).