During this year’s SAIL2015 in Amsterdam, probably one of the world’s most spectacular Maritime Festivals, TLE were guests at Hotel The Grand Amsterdam. This Sofitel Legend flagship Dutch property is one of the capital’s most historic buildings – and we checked-in to see if everything was shipshape.
Amsterdam is one of our favourite European cities, and it’s always a pleasure to discover more of the capital’s fancy, five star hotels! Sofitel’s luxury ‘Legend’ collection of properties typically showcases extraordinary historical architecture, Legendary Places that define a destination. Hotel the Grand Amsterdam is no exception. As the former Admiralty Building, the power base of the Dutch Maritime Empire, the hotel makes for a memorable first impression.
This is, as the name implies, one of the city’s Grand Dame Hotels, with 177 guest rooms and suites. About 30 – 40 minutes from the airport by car, depending on traffic, the property is in the historic UNESCO canal belt, flanked by period buildings and canals. Walking distance to city centre attractions.
The hotel thanks to its interesting history occupies a number of buildings from different periods, located around courtyards.
Dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries the present day luxury hotel is very much a historical place. Originally the site of two convents, the complex was the Court of Princes, (‘Princenhof’), where the city of Amsterdam, one of the world’s first international trading port cities, hosted visiting dignitaries and royalty. Later it was to be the City Hall and then in 1662 it became the Admiralty Building – a remarkable base of world power, as the Netherlands was the greatest Maritime nation in the world at the time.
The magnificent Dutch classical façade of the 17th century Admiralty, designed by master-mason Willem van de Gaffel, remains and is the entrance to The Grand. One of the other wings of the hotel is from the 1920s, again beautifully restored. It is home to the Hotel’s Michelin star ‘Bridges’ restaurant.
If you have the opportunity to meet the charismatic Director of Sales and Marketing, Mr. Kees Hogetoorn, then you will be lucky enough to have an excellent overview of the hotel’s history and details of the architectural and historical secrets the building holds.
The interior of the hotel is elegant, retaining the classical and art deco architectural details of the original buildings with additional, contemporary styling. The staff is well attired in formal suits and are professionally courteous.
On arrival the lobby, sparkling with a crystal chandelier and plenty of silver detailing, was alive with colour from fresh flowers, creatively displayed in various deft china vases, set on silver trays.
Just off reception is the Library ‘Or’ – an intimate, cosy room with an appealing collection of books; a good place to relax on a cooler day or whilst waiting for your room. The Lobby also leads out into the Garden Terrace, a courtyard green space with contemporary ambiance, where drinks, snacks and High Tea are served.
Check-in and Welcome
The reception staff is professional and check-in was plain sailing. This place clearly has an efficient crew. Well groomed, and smartly dressed. Here one finds the Sofitel Legend classical style, so expect too the signature greeting of ‘Bonjour!’ throughout your stay. I didn’t feel any particular warmth or joviality from the Front Desk, but then this is a formal hotel and the team reflected the formal environment.
As seems to be fairly standard, reception requested not only a swipe of my credit card, but actually a physical financial deposit against potential purchasers in the hotel. I have to admit to not liking this at all. I always decline to offer a deposit. It typically takes a week to make its way back onto your card and discrepancies are hard to sort out once you have left the country.
My room was a street view Superior Room. This is one of the simplest rooms in the hotel. In addition to the three signature Suites in the hotel (Canal House; Opera; and Legendary Suites) there are five room grades (Classic; Superior; Luxury; Junior Suite; & Prestige Suite).
The Superior Room avoids feeling cramped (it is less than 30 sq. m) by having a double height ceiling and smart room design that includes a mezzanine level shower-room.
The room has quite a corporate feel, with no references to the historic building, except for the large period windows. It is well finished, to a luxury standard, but had no stand-out qualities.
There is just enough space for the very comfortable double bed, with night stands either side, and at the other end of the small space, a petite chaise longue (not so long) and a TV, side table and table lamp clustered together – looking a little cluttered. I would suggest a unit integrated into the wall to maximise the available space. It’s fair to say the room is compact.
Integrated into the adjacent wall is the smart mini-bar with Nespresso machine and kettle with teas – that design worked very well.
Steps lead up to the mezzanine shower room – very well laid out and designed with striking dark ceramic tiles, against which the white towels and shiny chrome fittings stood out. There was space for a good sized shower; as well as a WC, and a wash basin. Bathroom amenities are Eue d’orange verte by Hermes, in the brand’s distinctive jade coloured bottles.
The requisite bathrobe, slippers and other amenities were all there.
The Sofitel Legend attention to detail showed itself with the turndown service. Each night of my stay a chocolate treat was left on the bed – yet this was no ordinary chocolate. Each was a beautiful, artisan creation. The first night was a dish of handmade chocolates, each individually crafted as cinnamon sticks, star anise and vanilla – an apt celebration of Amsterdam’s maritime trading history and the hotel’s origins as the Admiralty.
The second night was a chocolate sunflower on a dark canvas of black slate – inspired of course by Van Gogh, many of whose works one can see in the nearby Van Gogh Museum. For me these were genuine 5 star luxury touches that lifted the somewhat generic accommodation to a distinctive level.
The hotel has a 350 sq. m SoSPA – with treatment rooms; Turkish hamam, sauna and fitness studio. I managed to find time to enjoy a swim in the heated indoor pool. The spa, pool and changing areas are immaculately presented.
Sofitel Legend The Grand Amsterdam opened its fine-dining restaurant ‘Bridges’ in 2009, collaborating with the Dutch celebrity Chef Ron Blaauw. Last year, Bobby Rust joined as Chef de Cuisine, bringing with him his expertise gained working at Oud Sluis, De Librije and more recently Ron Gastrobar in Amsterdam.
Although I didn’t have the opportunity to visit Bridges, I did however have the privilege of tucking into a private lunch prepared by Bobby Rust and his team – all in the name of research you understand! A truly appetising two course meal that was light yet full of robust flavours. For example I still remember the delicious first plate of smoked salmon. The thickly sliced salmon was smoked over African podouk wood and served with beetroot and horseradish; sensational. The second plate was a creamy and flavoursome slow-cooked skrei risotto with green herbs.
Rust endeavours to ‘Bridge’ the cuisines of France and the Netherlands – something he seems to be achieving to much acclaim.
The lunch was also a chance to see the Private Dining Room that seats up to 12 people – and classy environment for intimate events.
I have been disappointed by hotel breakfasts in Amsterdam before but The Grand really knows how to start the day right. To kick things off with real impact, the first meal of the day is served in the historic Council Chamber of the former Town Hall. The stairs leading up to the large hall, with their remarkable stained glass windows are part of the hotel’s fascinating history, and then once inside the great hall one catches sight of large centre tables laden with a fine selection of breakfast foods. Presentation is excellent and service highly attentive, from immaculately presented staff. The a la carte menu includes expected hot options. I took the eggs benedict, a favourite and I wasn’t disappointed. The breakfast lives up to its monika of the ‘Magnifique Breakfast’.
The hotel also has a number of bars (Raw Bar; Cocktail Bar; Cigar Lounge) where cocktails and drinks can be paired with small bites.
The Sofitel Legend Hotel The Grand is in our Best hotels Amsterdam section
Prices for a superior room start from 300 euros, but expect to pay for breakfast with the more competitive rates. I was not given the opportunity to view other room types, so I can only comment on the somewhat standard Superior Room, but clearly there are more impressive guest room options at this Grand Hotel.
Address: Oudezijds Voorburgwal 197, 1012 Amsterdam, Netherlands