Sprawling over hundreds of canals and bridges, Amsterdam is a unique city that enjoys unparalleled popularity at the moment with more than 18 Millions visitors last year. It is a heart-stopping experience as you first catch sight of the mesmerizing beauty of the Canal Ring, now a Unesco World Heritage. The ornate facades of the high and narrow townhouses built on concentric waterways delight the eyes with their elaborate moldings and cornices. As you wander along the quays, all worries seem to vanish — and you’re transported by the Old City’s outward charm and won over by Amsterdam’s carefree lifestyle.
Locals often look like characters, whether it is a musician zipping by on a bicycle with an 8-foot bass, or a mother in jeans and vintage sailor cap riding a “stroller-bike” loaded with three adorable children.This is a city for romantics, walkers, and bicyclists. Cars are barely tolerated in the “Grachtengordel,” the ring of the oldest canals built in the 16th century, which strike many as the lost turf of timeless beauty.
To experience the full attractiveness of the old city, treat yourself to a stay at one of its most revered institutions, the Sofitel Legend The Grand Amsterdam in the heart of the “Grachtengordel.” A distinguished hotel in a building that was once used by royals and dignitaries of the state, it originated as a convent in the 15th century. In 1632, Queen Maria de Medici stayed there. Later it provided lodging for the princes of Orange, then was used for the Dutch admiralty before becoming the city hall of Amsterdam. In 1966, Princess Beatrix and Claus von Amsberg were married in the Council Chamber, still open to visitors of the hotel today. As you arrive, look up at the little tower that dates from 1411.
In 2008, a large scale renovation was led by Sybille de Margerie, a prominent French interior interior designer. Today the Grand Amsterdam is the First Sofitel Legend Hotel in Europe, combining a valuable historical setting with first class luxury. Imagine a perfect marriage between Old Amsterdam picturesqueness, French taste, refinement, and meticulous personal service. The reception area sets the tone with its antique marble floors, layered out during the time of the Dutch Admiraldry. Exquisite flower arrangements enhance the graceful lines of the architecture. An elegant receptionist will give you a warm welcome before you’re off to discover your room. Don’t skip tasting one of the fresh madeleines in a plate at the counter while you are being helped.
I loved relaxing in my Superior Room decorated in a color palette of smooth golds, purples, blues and rich iridescent pinks that helped soothe my frayed nerves after a long travel.It came with 24 hour butler service, too. If your dream is to be treated like royalty even just once in your life, this is your opportunity — and if you’re used to an opulent lifestyle, this will suite your taste. The room comes with free wifi, a flat screen TV, and a Nespresso machine.
The bathroom featured an antique-style modern bathtub in the middle of the room, a contemporary walk in shower with dual settings, and a water closet in a separate inner room. A bathrobe, slippers and Hermès luxury toiletries provided a touch of refinement. In the evening, I had the choice between dining at the Michelin one star-rated Bridges or the more casual Le Petit Bistro. I opted for the second choice and found the setting to be pretty and calming, and the service was amicable and deft. The Dutch don’t mess around when it comes to service: it is always prompt, polished and right on the mark.
After my meal I strolled around the neighborhood. In the heart of Amsterdam, I quickly reached the Royal Palace, peeked into the infamous Red Light District, and drifted along the canals in this picture-perfect part of town, known for its coffee shops and bars. If you’re curious for odd and lovely sites, don’t miss this night excursion a few steps from the hotel. A ride on the canals is a possibility day or night, and tickets can be purchased from the hotel concierge or in many shops along the narrow streets. Other close-by attractions include the Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam or Botanical Gardens, and Anne Frank’s house.
The next morning I went for a swim in the SoSpa, winner of the 2014 World Luxury Spa Award and equipped with a hammam, treatment rooms, gym and pool. Again the serene colors and exquisite design of the facility created a sense of relaxation. The pool features with a power flow to practice your stroke against the current, and you can also ask your butler to make an appointment for several services — including massages and facials.
Breakfast was a feast. You’ll be met by an Italian maitre d’hotel who will introduce you to all the options awaiting you at the buffet. All female servers were fun to talk to, as they were well-educated and provided a lot of information about the history of Amsterdam with humor and spirit in perfect English. I enjoyed my time as I feasted on smoked salmon, fresh croissants, local crisp breads, fresh squeezed juices, yogurts and muesli, fruit salad, grains, nuts and hot American options. Unlimited cappuccinos will be brought to your table by the nice servers at your request. Don’t be too shy to ask for anything — they are more than happy to get you whatever you need. This is a place where nothing is too extravagant or unheard of.
As you leave the dining room, reminiscent of the local “grachtes” by Sybille de Margerie, stop in a gallery where a special photo exhibit is on display through the year, then take a few moments in the old library, furnished in traditional Dutch style with tea service provided in the afternoon. A computer room with the latest Apple software is also available for your convenience. During the day, you can order a drink in the Flying Dutchman bar, enjoy oysters at the Raw Bar, a glass of wine in the Vinothèque, a Moët at the Bridges cocktail bar or even a cigar in the lounge. Private dining rooms can be reserved as well.
Enjoy a guided visit of the hotel at 11 a.m. every day and explore the different lounging areas to read or take time by yourself. Always pleasant and elegant, the Sofitel Legend Grand Amsterdam conforms to all your requirements for the perfect luxurious stay in one of Europe’s most beautiful cities.
Address: Oudezijds Voorburgwal 197, 1012 EX Amsterdam,
For more information about the Sofitel Legend Grand Amsterdam, http://www.sofitel-legend-thegrand.com