Weather is a fickle mistress for those born in late March. In 2012, I rolled into Paris on Eurostar with my wife to find a city bathed in glorious sunshine: we unspooled our souls and gloried in the heat of a few, precious Parisian days. Exactly a year on, we found ourselves in Amsterdam, a city locked in the vice-like grip of a northern European winter that never seemed to end. Everything shivered, including the tulips and the cheeky herrings. Even the brace of mallards that sought solace (and a steady flow of fresh breadcrumbs) at one of the bustling bike-hire kiosks looked chilly.
It’s in these moments that you bless your foresight in securing the right choice of hotel. Anyone can get away with building a hut on a beach in Bali or the Seychelles, stringing a hammock between two swaying palms, and delivering a stiff pink gin on a cheap tin tray. It takes method, design, craft, imagination, ingenuity, the right location and a great number-cruncher on staff to make a hotel work in a city where space, never cheap, is the ultimate commodity.
Hence the joy we both felt on entering the five-star Andaz Hotel on Prinsengracht in the Jordaan district. It was a real brass monkey day outside, so bundling through the Andaz’s doors, laden with baggage, to find a foyer filled with warmth, light and laughter – and a member of staff waiting with a complimentary beverage – was a blessed relief. Our moods immediately lifted, we checked in and chivvied ourselves upstairs. There, our room was waiting, offering yet more delight for cold and weary travellers.
A big, fluffy bed helped, as did a real bath – a relative rarity in space-conscious Amsterdam – and a prize view out over Prinsengracht. We took our time enjoying the room before spiraling out to see the rest of the Andaz. The hotel was originally a public library, and it shows. Sizeable but not sprawling, the Andaz, with 122 rooms, takes up a hefty chunk of Prinsengracht, one of the more expensive retail-residential streets in Europe. The literary theme, designed into the hotel by Marcel Wanders, is retained in the illuminated elevators, lined by a backdrop of bookshelves.
The Andaz is curious too, in that it feels like a cross between a brand hotel and a boutique, providing intimacy but also a price that won’t break the bank. A haven for both the leisure and the business guest, it comes equipped with an excellent 24-hour gym and a sauna that warmed our bones. (An important note: the hotel is dog- and cat-friendly, so if you have a pampered canine or feline, they are welcome too).
Nor does the Andaz hold back in the dining department. An excellent breakfast and brunch bar was expected. But personal highlights were the Bluespoon Bar, with its speakeasy-style atmosphere, offering a plethora of artisanal cocktails, and the Bluespoon Restaurant, providing seasonal farm-to-fork dishes from the mind and palette of chief Julien Piguet.
On its Website, the Andaz owners stress the importance of keeping things “nice and simple”. This was simplicity as it should be: a hotel fit for any traveller offering, quietly but very impressively and properly, a true premium service. This was hospitality without airs and graces, yet offering the sort of high-end luxury expected from modern city boutiques.
Last but not least, the Andaz is placed plum in the heart of one of the world’s most charming and quixotic cities. Amsterdam is a city that just keeps on giving – all human life is outside in the alleyways, boulevards and canal-side terraces, in the bars and clubs and restaurants and museums. Come, but come when it’s warm. And when you, stay at the Andaz.