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InterContinental Amstel Amsterdam, a Thorough Hotel Appraisal

Liz and her husband hope to help other travelers by sharing their experience of hotels they have stayed in across a range of star ratings.

InterContinental Amstel, Amsterdam.

InterContinental Amstel, Amsterdam.

Why We Chose This Hotel

We first went to Amsterdam over 10 years ago. Like many other visitors to the city, we took a canal cruise. As the boat passed from the Singelgracht into the River Amstel, we saw an impressive building. The commentary explained that this was the Amstel, Amsterdam's top hotel, used by the rich and famous. Although we were intrigued, we could not imagine ever staying there.

Roll on 10 years and we had a rewards night to use in any IHG brand hotel. We noticed that the Amstel was a member of the InterContinental Hotel Group, but there were no nights available. The next time we had a rewards night, we tried again and, with a little perseverance and help from central bookings, we managed to make a reservation.

A trip to Amsterdam was planned around our night in the InterContinental Amstel. This is the story of our experience.

Canal boats regularly pass the Amstel Hotel.

Canal boats regularly pass the Amstel Hotel.

The Exterior

The River Side

Most visitors to Amsterdam see only the river side of the Amstel Hotel. This was opened in 1867 as the west wing of a much bigger hotel which was intended to face the Sarphatistraat and to have 4 wings. The rest of the hotel was never built, so the entrance was made on the back of the west wing. Some have described the style of the hotel as Renaissance, with the yellow and red brick facades seen as typical Dutch. But it is easy to see the influence of some of Europe's most famous buildings on this Golden Age hotel. In 1900 another floor was added above the cornice and in 1953 a lounge was built on the river terrace. In the early 1990s, the lounge was replaced by a glass extension.

The Front Entrance

A large balcony overlooks the grand pillared entrance to the hotel with flags hanging from it, decorated with the hotel motif. There are three sets of carpeted steps leading up between the columns to three entrances. The main section of the blue carpet has the hotel crest on it. The combination makes an impressive front entrance.

Makeover

A full restoration of the roof and outside of the Amstel Hotel took place from February 2017, taking a year and a day (the same time the hotel took to be built). It has restored the hotel to its former glory and, at great effort and expense, the lions have been replaced on the building.

First Impressions

We arrived at the Amstel in a Tesla X taxi. With its falcon-wing doors, the ride was an experience in itself and fitting transport to this prestigious hotel. The entrance of the Amstel is on the relatively quiet tree-lined area of Professor Tulpplein. Even a dull day could not dim its grandeur.

As soon as we exited the taxi our bags were taken from us by the smartly dressed porters and we were handed a ticket.

A grand entrance.

A grand entrance.

The Entrance Hall

I went to open the revolving door but found it hard to push unaided. I was motioned towards one of the side doors by a porter. The lobby area was very ornate. Before us lay an impressive floral display and a grand staircase leading up to the next level and an open balcony, which overlooked the arched lobby area.

To the left, under the arches, were the check-in desks and to the right was the concierge's station.

Check in and Welcome

We were ushered towards a desk under the arches on the left, where the guest service assistant offered us a seat each, similar to an appointment with a solicitor. We were welcomed to the hotel, booking details were confirmed, passports checked and we handed over the baggage ticket. Welcome points were awarded and we were offered a glass of prosecco or water (not a great choice of alcohol-free beverages I thought). We chose the prosecco and stood the glasses on the pull-out shelves. My husband asked about the standard offer of drinks vouchers at check-in. This was agreed upon but promptly forgotten. My husband returned later to collect the vouchers.

A Choice of Rooms

We were told that a nice room on the top floor had been selected for us. We asked a few questions about its location and the view. The guest service assistant was keen to emphasize the size of the room but conceded that it only had a side river view. He had an alternative, however, with a river view on a lower floor, but it was smaller. Which would we like?

It is difficult to make a decision when you are unfamiliar with the options, so he offered to show us both. Without further ado, he grabbed a key and headed to the lift. We were left with a dilemma. Remember the two glasses of prosecco? Should we leave them, take them with us or drink them quickly? Putting all thought of correct etiquette aside, we downed the prosecco at speed and played follow-my-leader through the hotel.

The Prosecco Challenge

The Choice

Moving fast, we followed the guest service assistant to a rather dated, but well-decorated lift. He took us up to a room at the far end of the building, which was in the eaves of the roof. The floor space was impressive, but the views were disappointing, as the windows were at floor level, so the view was best appreciated by sitting on the floor or bending over, which was not ideal. Added to that, the main view was overlooking Sarphatistraat. We later noticed that this was quite a busy road from the bridge over the river and a frequent tram route, so it was not the quietest of locations. With its sloping roof and low windows, this room felt like the servants' quarters.

The guest service assistant struggled to contain his disappointment, when, taking him at his word, we asked to see the second room. Added to that, he had been so confident of us taking the upper room that he had no key for the alternative. We then had a rapid walk back to the lift and his desk to get another key.

It was certainly worth the effort, as our minds were quickly made up when we saw room 220. It was a little smaller, but the two large windows overlooking the River Amstel more than made up for the size reduction. We were happy with our choice, but the guest service assistant did not appear to be too impressed.

Our two room choices.

Our two room choices.

Room Choices

Our Room

In keeping with the rest of the Amstel Hotel, room 220, was furnished and decorated in an elegant antique style, with the occasional concession to the modern era.

The layout

A small entrance, with a wardrobe to the left, led into a high-ceilinged bedroom. There was a connecting locked door on the right wall to the neighboring room. Two large windows were on the wall opposite the entrance and a door on the other side of the room opened into the bathroom.

Decor

Three of the walls were covered with a cream-patterned wallpaper. A printed wallpaper in orange and peach of country scenes was on the wall behind the bed and also around the main door. This print was repeated on the material of the headboard, a runner across the bed, two cushions, and on a long stool at the end of the bed.

The bed base was beige, but the duvet was in a white stripe, with a white sheet and pillows.

There was a good quality diamond-patterned carpet in beige and orange.

The full-length black-out curtains, net curtains, and cream curtains with gold and orange rope tie-backs at each of the windows were effective at cutting out the light.

There were several quality prints on the walls. The 'Entree de Charles VII dans Rouen' was in a gold frame by the door. Old Amsterdam prints of the 'Maison de Misericorde' and 'Chapelle de Vieux Quartier' were either side of the TV. Between the windows, there was a dull framed floral print. A print of 'Maison des Pauvres', Amsterdam was on the wall near the bathroom door.

Fixtures and Fittings

By the main door, there was a built-in old-fashioned wardrobe, which has witnessed the comings and goings of many guests over the years. Once opened, a light came on to reveal the interior. There was a basket inside the wardrobe for guests' shoes to be placed outside the door for cleaning and a shoehorn. Some of the 12 hangers were padded. There was an iron and ironing board, a high shelf across the top, a safe on a side shelf, and a mirror inside the door.

A large square mirror in a gold-painted frame was hung on the wall behind the desk.

Furniture

Beyond the connecting door was a large wood, brass-trimmed cupboard on legs, with a peach marble top. It had 4 cubby holes and a minibar in it.

There was a folding wooden-framed suitcase holder with black webbing.

An ornate, high-backed armchair in a gold and orange patterned material with a roll cushion and curved wooden legs matched the upright chair by the desk. The latter had a slightly worn seat and the back looked to have been recently reupholstered. There were beige leather pads on the wooden arms.

A wooden brass-trimmed cupboard with three drawers with drop handles and a peach marble top was located between the windows. The bedside tables were in a matching design, each with two drawers (one fixed and one opening).

The bed base was large, as it was two single bases put together. The bed and the pillows were very comfortable.

An ornate glass-topped desk, with curved legs and brass decoration on it, was along the wall near the bathroom door. It had a single slim drawer.

Lighting and electrics

There was a standard lamp with a large pleated white shade and a circular table around its stand. It had a very old plug, which went into a dated multi-point plug socket.

On either side of the bed, there were large floral-decorated China-based lamps with pleated white shades matching the standard lamp. A brass switch box by the bed controlled lighting and air conditioning. On the other bedside table, there was a mounted double European plug socket. 6 plug sockets were below the desk with another at desk height.

The print by the door had a light over it and there was a ceiling light directed towards the floral print between the windows. An old-fashioned hooded brass desk light with a pull switch stood on the desk.

The main air conditioning control was located near the bathroom door as well as a useful dimmer switch for the bathroom lighting.

The modern elements

The safe was a touch-button one.

There was a large flat-screen TV and a soundbar on top of the cupboard near the connecting door. We wondered if the large black box on the floor to the side had something to do with the TV or the internet signal.

An Illy espresso machine with 2 lungo and 2 decaffeinated capsules, stood on top of the cupboard between the windows. An electric hot water jug for hot drinks was nearby. However the lead was not long enough to reach the plug socket, so we moved it to the desktop.

A glow stick and a safety booklet were in one of the bedside drawers.

There were two standard hotel telephones, one by the bed and one on the desk.

The bin by the desk was split into two sections for recycling.

Refreshments

There were two categories of refreshments; the free ones, and the payable ones. These were accompanied by a selection of 2 cups and saucers, 2 glass latte cups, 2 crystal tumblers, 2 wine glasses, and 2 more glasses.

Free

In addition to the coffee capsules, there was a selection of tea bags: lemon fresh, herbal infusion, Rooibos cream orange, English breakfast, and Earl Grey as well as sugar, creamer, and cocoa.

There was a single 50cl bottle of Evian water on the desk with a bottle opener and 2 glass tumblers.

Chargeable

Four sealed glass jars of various snacks were on a silver stand, along with a selection of wine and spirits in sealed bottles. The minibar price list was on the desk in a leather binder.

Miscellaneous

A New Testament Bible was in one of the bedside drawers. At one time most hotels had Gideon bibles, but there are not so many these days.

A Gassan magazine, publicizing the diamond company, was in the other bedside drawer.

There was a book on Amsterdam in the desk drawer as well as a sewing kit and writing paper. Paper coasters with the hotel monogram were on the desk, along with a notepad and pen.

The 9th edition of the Amstel Hotel lifestyle magazine, with articles on the hotel, was in the room for guests to read.

The River View

The two tall windows each had two large inward opening panels at the bottom, revealing a low balustrade outside. The room looked down to a river terrace with outdoor seating below and the hotel's own two rivercraft. To the left below was the glass roof of the hotel lounge.

We were privileged to overlook an everchanging scene by day and night. Rivercraft of all sizes passed by, as well as the hotel's own launches. I only wish I had been quick enough with a camera to capture the guy on a paddleboard on his way to work. The bridge by the hotel was raised to allow a large vessel to get through and at the other extreme, we saw a couple in a pedalo.

The Bathroom

The spacious bathroom was split into three areas, the main bath and sink area, a separate shower off to the left, and a toilet cubicle beyond the bath.

The bath and sink area

The bathroom was tastefully decorated with cream and beige square floor tiles matching similar colored wall tiles, topped part way up with an orange trim. Above the tile line, the walls were decorated with a cream-patterned wallpaper, lifting off in places along the seam. There were more tiles around the arch into the shower cubicle, one of which, near the bottom of the door frame, had been cracked and repaired.

A rectangular mirror in a gold-colored frame hung on the wall opposite the main door, with a hairdryer fixed next to it and a heated towel rail below with two monogrammed bath towels.

Two monogrammed bathrobes were on hangers inside the bathroom door. To the side of the door, there was an oval white sink with old-fashioned taps, set in a cream marble curved top with a cream wooden fascia matching the side of the bath. A free-standing circular shaving mirror with a chrome stand was to the right. There was also a small chrome tissue box, soap dish, vanity kit, cotton balls, shower cap, and cotton pads, as well as a chrome sign drawing attention to the hot water.