A Layover in Amsterdamby Joy Pecknold
Choosing to take a lengthy layover in Amsterdam en route to Kenya is a ‘Dam good idea, I recently discovered. The Venice of the North does more than simply break up the monotony of 20-odd hours on planes and in airports; it winds you down and fills you up. There’s even a Dutch word for the feeling: gezellig. Easy to get around, on foot or by bicycle, the city makes a little time go a long way. Art, sightseeing, genever tasting, Michelin star meals—all in under 36 hours.
Where the Amstel River meets Rokin canal, the stately De L’Europe has held corner for more than 120 years, just a few decades younger than its owners’ beer company—the Heineken family, you may have heard of them. In the hotel’s newer Dutch Masters Wing, there are 23 suites dressed in more contemporary garb. Within the original Rondeel Building, a further 88 rooms are a touch more traditional, but richly-hued—Delft-esque blue, for instance—they’re by no means conservative. Sweets and tea await guests’ arrival—that’s what a hungry person notices first. Then there are the Arabesco-Carrera marble bathrooms with heated floors, and all the windows for watching the boats cruise by.
There’s plenty of in-house activities to stave off jet lag, including Freddy’s Bar, named after the Heineken one, with an adjacent cigar lounge. When the weather’s pleasant, there’s al fresco dining at Hèt Terras. Michelin stars seekers will find two at Bord’Eau. But radiating in red and lined with portraits from the Rijksmuseum, the lobby bar is none too shabby either. Food and drink aren’t the only reviving elixirs: hidden downstairs is the Skins Institute spa.
Coffee in hand, it’s a leisurely 15 minute stroll from the hotel to the Rijksmuseum. Open at 9 a.m. every day, it houses many of the most iconic Dutch works, large and small, such as Rembrandt’s The Night Watch and Vermeer’s The Milkmaid. But with more than 8,000 paintings and objets d’art dated from the Middle Ages to present day—including doll houses, musical instruments and a sword as tall as Martin Scorsese—that’s just a drop in the bucket. While it’s not an official exhibit, people-watching over lunch at the museum’s café is also captivating. Starving for more? The Van Gogh Museum and the Stedelijk Museum are also nearby.
A canal tour is a cliché, but the absolutely necessary kind for the perspective it provides. There are operators all over the city, even one right outside Rijks. De L’Europe guests have the option to depart from the property’s own river launch aboard their 28-person Jean Schmitz boat. Requiring a minimum of four passengers, they offer 90-minute guided tours at 10:30 a.m and 4:30 p.m. daily (€38 per person).
Naturally, the hotel offers a next-level experience. Accommodating up to 12 people, their private salon boat Kleyn Amsterdam can be booked on an hourly basis, or for a three-hour dinner cruise—a la carte-style from different restaurants along its route. Among other things, the beauty of this boat is it can squeeze down narrower passageways where typical tour vessels can’t go.
Tucked away in an alleyway near the National Monument, Wynand Fockink is a 338-year-old distillery and tasting tavern. They continue to make liqueurs and genevers—more than 70 varieties—in the original 17th century method. De Boswandeling, or A Walk in the Woods, is one for which they’re renowned. A little pomp and circumstance is involved in the imbibing, as it’s customary to bow to the drink, served in a traditional tulip glass, and slurp the first sip. Ordering a pint to chase it down is also standard. Those looking to walk away more liquor-learned can sign up for one of their 45-minute tours and tasting sessions on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
Located within the NH Collection Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky, The White Room first opened in 1885 with the Dutch name De Witte Zaal. While the design has been refreshed, original wall panels, artworks and ceiling ornaments remain, granting it historical monument status.
Just as the room mingles traditional with modern, the cuisine strikes balance between contrasting flavors. Three Michelin star chef Jacob Jan Boerma’s artful vision is executed by chef de cuisine Arturo Dalhuisen. The most fulfilling journey to take is their signature eight course tasting menu. Ever-changing, on one particular evening it included a delectable Corvina tartar with horseradish and yuzu, and not one, but two exclamation-inducing deserts—one using blueberry and basil, the other mandarin and coconut. If eight is too great, four and six course options are offered. Opt-in on wine pairings, as sommelier Isabel van Bueren makes intriguing selections.