In Dutch, a canal is called a gracht. Amsterdam’s canal district in the center of town was added to the Unesco World Heritage list in 2010. The canals were built in the 1600s after Amsterdam expanded its medieval walls, and a plan of concentrated waterways was established. The major ones are the Singelgracht, Keizersgracht, Herengracht and Prinsengracht. The Prinsengracht is named after William Prince of Orange and the First Dutch Royalty, and is today one of the liveliest canals with its houseboats, cafés and boutiques.
Many consider Herengracht to be the most elegant canal. In the 17th century, it housed the wealthiest merchants of the Dutch East India Company, and their majestic mansions stood along the waterway. Take a stroll down the canal on a sunny day, and you’re in for a visual feast as picturesque facades follow one another to create an enchanting backdrop. Some of the tall facades are quite narrow. Property taxes levied in the 17th century depended on the width of the facades encouraging owners to reduce as much as possible the spread of their building.Yet with their decorative dormers and elaborate frontons, they will take your breath away.
At 341 Herengracht stands the Ambassade Hotel. In a row of ten narrow 17th century townhouses along the canal, the hotel is an absolute Amsterdam gem. It counts 60 rooms, each more breathtaking than the other and each different in size, layout and decoration. Step in cautiously so as not to miss any detail of the charming reception with its clean, serene yet highly stylized environment. Upstairs, enjoy meandering along a red carpeted corridor. It may lead to a narrow spiral staircase or a slightly lower leveled section as you step into another building.
The exquisite decor is such that your eyes will never tire of gazing at the many original art prints and paintings on the walls. In a cozy library next to the entrance, you can sit in a leather arm chair and browse through the signed books of more than 4000 authors who have stayed at the Ambassade. Prints from CoBrA Artists and photographs of the authors also line up the white walls. Drinks are available at a counter in the back of the room for your enjoyment.
My room was truly stunning with its soothing color palette of pale mauves and bright golds, heightened by whimsical light fixtures and fine draperies.
Different light sources helped create a warm relaxing atmosphere and the large contemporary styled bathroom with its immaculate tiles, gleaming glass partitions and open lay out was fun to use. Towels were kept warm on a hot elegant radiator, a nice touch in cold weather. A bathrobe, slippers, luxury soaps, shampoos are also provided for your comfort.
The hotel’s refinement extends as well to the Brasserie restaurant that presents a luxurious environment with classic French cuisine and a farm-to-table feel — in two large rooms decorated with colorful paintings by famous CoBrA Artists. I ate a delicious steak with crisp fries and a fresh salad with the perfect seasoning. Enjoy their impressive selections of wine, too.
At breakfast, I feasted on a rich buffet of fresh breads, buns, croissants, salmon, herrings, yogurt, grains and cereals, bacon & eggs, fresh berries, several types of juices, and unlimited cappuccinos. The staff is noted for its inconspicuous attention: the ability to be helpful without being overbearing. It’s one more reason you’ll fall in love with this hotel.
Ambassade Hotel is located close to the Spuistraat, which lively with bars and restaurants and the shopping streets Kalverstraat and Rokin. You’re a mere 10 minutes from the Rijks and the Anne Frank Museum. For more information go to http://www.ambassade-hotel.nl
There are more grachts to explore west to east such as the Brouwersgracht, Leidsegracht and Reguliersgracht. They are all extraordinarily picturesque but none is quite as lovely as Herengracht with its majestic facades and serene banks.
tel: 31 20 55 50 222