Luxury hotel rooms have often been at the centre of some extraordinary stories; from Claude Monet’s inspirational stay at the London Savoy; to famous bad-boy behaviour like Johnny Depp & Kate Moss trashing the Presidential Suite at Manhattan’s Mark Hotel. Yet probably the most memorable is John Lennon’s and Yoko Ono’s Bed-In at the Amsterdam Hilton.
Andrew Forbes discovers more about this historic, upscale city hotel.
Hilton is one of the world’s most iconic hospitality companies. It now has more than 13 brands for business & leisure travellers, encompassing luxurious Waldorf Astoria properties; smart Conrad hotels; to more relaxed properties like DoubleTree.
Yet it’s core Hilton brand remains probably the most recognised hotel group in the world. With a history or almost 100 years, it’s an integral part of hospitality heritage, with so many unique properties around the world. Movies A-listers, rock stars and world leaders have all been guests at Hilton Hotels. Many of the group’s hotels are so famous they are part of the world’s popular culture and folklore– think of the Hollywood scandals and shenanigans at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles; or the prohibition tails from the historic Seelbach Hilton Louiseville (did you know it was immortalised in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s ‘The Great Gatsby’?)
My story is from Amsterdam, the most well-known city in the Netherlands. Just a little south of the historic canal district is one of Amsterdam’s most upscale and charming residential areas; where on the canal, with commanding views of the city, one finds the Hilton Amsterdam. It is a landmark within the Apollolaan neighbourhood, an area that has grown from plans created by architect H.P. Berlagere in the early 20th century. This ‘New South’, renowned for its Amsterdam’s School of art deco architecture, has the Amsterdam Hilton as its focal point, with the v-shaped hotel being at the very axis of the two main streets.
A taxi from the airport takes around 20 – 30 minutes’; and many of Amsterdam’s most sophisticated attractions are with 10 – 15 minutes’ walk including the city’s largest park, Vondelpark; the Museum Quarter, probably one of the most renowned in Europe; and the Concertgebouw Concert Hall.
To reach the historic canal district takes about 20 minutes by taxi or public transport.
The landmark Hilton Amsterdam was opened in 1962 by Conrad Hilton, with Holland’s Prince Bernhard. It was the first international hotel in the Netherlands, and one of the first Hilton’s in Europe. The property’s historic importance was recognised in 2011, when it was awarded historic monument status.
The entrance lobby has retained its initial impact that defined the hotel in the 60s. The ‘tulpentapijt’ carpet designed by Sara Galbraith is there, as are the two marble ‘Stucco Veneziano’ polished columns.
The Amsterdam Hilton is often at the centre of the city’s city cultural event diary – such as the recent sculpture biennial ‘Artzuid’ where some fifty monumental abstract sculptures by Dutch artists were positioned in the adjacent Art Deco district, as well as in the hotel’s distinctive foyer.
The property’s location on the water, away from the city centre, affords guests a tranquil environment, with a smart waterside Garden Terrace, which hosts talent from the Jazz Orchestra Concertgebouw for Jazzy Friday.
The main restaurant Roberto’s offers Italian dining; or for light bites and drinks, the Half Moon Lounge overlooking the Hilton Marina has a relaxed atmosphere.
The John & Yoko Suite
Yet it was in March 1969 that the Hilton Amsterdam was to the be the focus of the world’s media. It was during the week of Monday March 24, 1969 that John Lennon and Yoko Ono started their now legendary ‘Bed-In’ for peace.
Arriving in a white Rolls Royce and greeted by admirers and fans with white tulips, the couple booked suite 702 and lounge 704. All the furniture was removed, except the bed. The couple spent the week in that bed, in protest the Vietnam War, in front of the world’s press (invited into the suite from 9am to 9pm).
Hand-drawn signs of ‘Hair Peace’ and Bed Peace’ were pinned to the floor-to-ceiling windows behind the bed.
John Lennon and Yoko Ono at the first day of their Bed-In for Peace in the Amsterdam Hilton Hotel
This corner room, with balcony terrace is now probably the Netherlands’ most famous suite.
Of course, the space has been renovated and the furniture replaced since the 1960s, but the bed remains in the same position, and the design elements of the space are a homage to the period and the couple.
Wood throughout the suite represents nature and John Lennon’s art as a musician; the stone elements reflect Central Park when he spent so much time; and glass is emblematic of transparency.
The suite is now presented with VIP amenities and memorabilia from the era.
You don’t need to book the John and Yoko Suite to enjoy classic Hilton hospitality at the Amsterdam Hilton.
Accommodation includes guest rooms, and spacious suites. Family suites have two connecting bedrooms (a suite and a twin).
For something especially romantic there is the Neptunus suite, named after the Roman sea god, and appropriately nautically theme. Not only does it have a romantic four poster bed; but a small kitchenette when you can rustle up snacks for your very own bed-in!
The King Junior Suites and the executive rooms offer access to an Executive Lounge on the top floor of the hotel with panoramic views (there are a range of business-dedicate services and meeting rooms too).
As a Hilton Hotel, expect a fitness room and sauna; and services and rooms especially for guests with special needs.
King Junior Suite
I stayed in one of the King Junior suites; with generous views out across the water to the city beyond, thanks to a wall of floor to ceiling windows.
The super-comfy king size serenity bed was so nice I was tempted to stage my very own bed-in and not leave the room!
In addition to the sitting area with corner sofa, there’s a workstation desk with international sockets. Expect thoughtful extras like a Bose docking speaker, an Illy espresso machine and gourmet teas. Definitely one of the most spacious and light-filled rooms one can enjoy in Amsterdam – and so peaceful too!
Apollolaan 138, Amsterdam
Photo credit for image of John Lennon and Yoko Ono:
Nationaal Archief, Den Haag, Rijksfotoarchief: Fotocollectie Algemeen Nederlands Fotopersbureau (ANEFO), 1945-1989 – negatiefstroken zwart/wit, nummer toegang 2.24.01.05, bestanddeelnummer 922-2302 – Nationaal Archief http://www.gahetna.nl/over-ons/open-data