Part 19th-century landmark, part 21st-century architectural showcase, Amsterdam’s luxurious but laid-back Conservatorium hotel houses a top-tier restaurant and hip holistic spa. Austerely seductive suites make for indulgent romantic breaks, and its location is perfect for city strolling.
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Continental buffet breakfast each day (usually €35)
Noon, but this is flexible, subject to availability. Check-in is from 3pm, but you’re welcome to store your luggage and use the spa if you arrive ahead of time.
Double rooms from £411.66 (€453), including tax at 9 per cent.
Breakfast isn’t usually included (buffet, €32 a person if booked in advance; €45 for a buffet with one hot dish), but rates do cover WiFi, entry to the spa, plus fruit, water and newspapers in your room.
In Amsterdam for the architecture? Start right here in your hotel. Italian interiors man Piero Lissoni’s razor-sharp mix of old and new is a real talking point, and has won the Conservatorium countless awards. And we love his quirky, playful touches: a bring-the-outside-inside line of trees separates the brasserie from the lounge, a suspended staircase next to the lift shaft goes nowhere, and a Ferrari-red hippo lives opposite reception. You may be standing in an austere 19th-century landmark building, but straight-laced styling this is not.
Taiko restaurant will be closed from 19 July - 16 August, 2020 (the bar will still be open, though).
At the hotel
Spa with swimming pool, hammam, sauna and Jacuzzi; gym; boutiques; concierge; free WiFi throughout. In rooms: flatscreen TVs, well-stocked minibar, tea- and coffee-making facilities. Bathrooms have LCD bathroom-mirror TVs and Floris bath products.
Our favourite rooms
Many rooms boast brilliant city-centre views. Shh, don’t tell; the hotel’s most secret, most secluded, most romantic spot by far is tucked away in the I Love Amsterdam suite at the top of a spiral staircase leading off a wood-beamed mezzanine. From here, the two of you can step out onto a rooftop terrace for panoramic views of Amsterdam – perfect for a glass of bubbles and a smooch with the city laid before you. If your budget doesn't stretch to penthouse prices, Junior Suite 528 gives you front-row views of the Stedelijk modern art museum via floor-to-ceiling glass and not one but two perfectly appointed bathrooms. Every room has a rainfall shower; some have deep soaking tubs, too.
A serene swimming pool forms part of the luxurious spa that's tucked away in Conservatorium’s basement. There are set daily pool times for over-3s.
Ultra-hip, ultra-healing Akasha Holistic Wellbeing Centre comprises a whirlpool, hamman, sauna and Watsu pool (for Shiatsu massage in water), as well as the natty, neon-lit lap pool. Luxurious signature treatments include the likes of hot seashell massage or jade tonifying facials.
(Un)dress the part in luxe lingerie from Dutch designer darling Marlies Dekkers; pack her signature Undressed undies for lounging around in your suite and her Sundressed swimwear for the spa – or visit her flagship store during your stay (it’s just around the corner at Berenstraat 8).
A cardio room within the spa zone offers yoga and Pilates lessons daily, or you can book a session with a personal trainer (€85 an hour).
Under-12s stay free in existing beds (extra beds are €100 a night). The Brasserie has highchairs and a children’s menu. Babysitting can be arranged with 12 hours' notice for €22.50-28.50 an hour, depending on times.
Design is the talking point wherever you dine in the Conservatorium: you can watch the world go by the Stedelijk from a window table in Tunes but you might just as happily gawp at its floor-to-ceiling pigeon-hole shelving.
Sharp, smart, casual – designer denim by day for pavement-pushing or pushbike-peddling your way round town, your new Hartman en Hartman number for drinks and dinner where you’ll be elbowing Amsterdam’s coolest cats at the bar.
Big-hitting Dutch chef Schilo van Coevorden leads the charge at both the casual Brasserie (all-day light bites set beneath soaring ceilings in the striking internal courtyard) and in his East-Asian flagship Taiko. Named after Japanese percussion, Taiko is a shiny, sultry black bento box of a restaurant that sets the stage for showstopping East Asian dishes. Their seasonal menu includes excellent sushi and sashimi, deliciously delicate dim sum and heavyweights like Kobe-style wagyu beef and Szechuan-peppered lobster.
Thursday is the new Friday at Tunes Bar: it’s the start of a three-night weekender set from the hotel’s resident DJs and the weekly showcase for the hotel’s signature gin-based cocktails (think Hendricks with Fever Tree and cucumber, or No 3 Gin with elderflower tonic and mint). Don’t miss the upscale bar snacks – salmon sashimi, hoi sin duck spring rolls, shrimps with tarragon butter – and look out for the wall of backlit glass shelving given over to spirit bottles and canoodling little bird figurines.
A quietly confident barman will mix you a martini until 1am Monday to Thursday, until 2am Friday and Saturday and until midnight on Sunday. Order food in Tunes, Monday to Saturday until 10.30pm (closed Sunday) and the brasserie daily until 11pm.
Choose from a lengthy menu 24 hours a day: most bases are covered whether you fancy breakfast beneath the duvet, afternoon tea with a bottle of Veuve-Clicquot, a straightforward burger or a bells-and-whistles dinner of lobster bisque and ceps risotto.
Right at the heart of Amsterdam’s world-class museum district, the Conservatorium hotel is opposite the Stedelijk modern art museum and within a skip of the city’s best shops, bars and restaurants.
Amsterdam's well-connected Schiphol airport (www.schiphol.nl) is 20 minutes away by car; there's a taxi rank just outside the terminal.
Centraal Station has high-speed links with Paris (in four hours), Brussels (in three hours) and further afield, as well as national connections to cities like the Hague and Rotterdam. A taxi from the station to Conservatorium is about €20 and takes around 15 minutes.
Parking in the hotel car park is limited – if you can’t nab a space, your alternatives are valet parking 50 metres from the hotel (€50 a day) or the public car park at Museumplein. Our tip? Ditch the car: make like a local and hire a bike to pedal your way through your stay.
Soak up the sights aboard a city tram – after taking the train to Amsterdam Zuid Station, hop aboard the number 5 tram towards Van Hallstraat – there's a stop in front of the hotel (Van Baerlestraat stop); the transfer time is just under 40 minutes. If you're arriving at Amsterdam Central Station, take the number 2 or 12 trams, which stop in front of the hotel entrance on the Paulus Potter Street 50 (Van Gogh Museum stop) 45 to 50 minutes after leaving the station.
Worth getting out of bed for
Whether you’re strolling arm-in-arm through trendy Jordaan’s leafy lanes, on an art trail together at the Museumplein or pedalling your way on bicycles along the city’s 17th-century gabled houses and grand canals, Amsterdam is made for two. You can practically fall out of the Conservatorium’s front door into the Stedelijk, Van Gogh Museum and Rijksmuseum while Jordaan’s bars and boutiques (the city’s best) and the green lungs of Vondelpark are just a wander away. If you want to rent bikes for a two-wheeled tour, try Bike City: their cycles are all-black (no ads as with many competitor outfits) so you can blend in with the locals.
As New York has Central Park, so Amsterdam has its Vondelpark – perfect for a picnic and a people-watch. If you visit in summer you can take in a gig at the open-air theatre and all-year round, the 1930s, flying-saucer-esque Blauwe Theehuis provides a pitstop for coffee, cake or a cold beer. It's the newest tasting room for local brewery Brouwerij ‘t IJ and is just a skip and hop down PC Hooftstraat past Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci et al.
If you're inspired by Conservatorium's aestheric, a Who’s Who of established and up-and-coming Dutch creatives showcase their interior designs, furniture and fabrics at gallery-shop the Frozen Fountain, set across several sprawling rooms at 645 Prinsengracht. Pick up a pretty, unique plate or cleverly designed piece of kitchen kit, or just come for a browse.
The hotel's own Taiko excels in elegant Asian dishes, as does nearby Chang-i: an innovative Chinese joint. Carnivores should get their teeth into the edibles at Uptown Meat Club close by. For the true field-to-fork experience, Netherlands-style, try Restaurant de Kas at 3 Kamerlingh Onneslaan, set in an upcycled 1920s light-filled greenhouse within Frankendael Park and flanked by its own pretty kitchen gardens; it's 10 minutes by car from Conservatorium. Green-fingered chef Gert Jan Hageman harvests herbs, veggies and edible flowers daily from the surrounding soil (alongside farmland just outside Amsterdam) and uses his spanking-fresh ingredients as the basis for a fixed daily-changing menu bursting with Mediterranean flavour. Perfect for a peaceful sunny lunch or, once filled with twinkling light after dark, a romantic dinner à deux. Closed Sundays.
Amsterdam’s many famous bruin cafés (traditional pubs stained by years of tobacco and witness to centuries of lulling, ale-fuelled conversation) offer a place to park a pint and reminisce on gentler times gone by. Built in 1560 and housed in one of the city’s oldest wooden houses, Café Int Aepjen at 1 Zeedijk (+31 (0)20 626 8401) has witnessed more chatter than most, and its trinket-adorned walls make it as much mini-museum as drinking hole.
Get your night started with drinks at Momo on Hobbemastraat – this modern Asian-fusion bar-restaurant, set within hipsters-haunt the Park Hotel, has a strip of bar stools spanning its curved bar where you can sip an Asahi or Thai daiquiri and share plates of top-tier tempura or sashimi. The House of Bols offers a unique gin-infused experience, where you'll take a self-guided tour through the rainbow-hued laboratory of a history lesson which ends with cocktails in the tasting room. Gs Really Nice Place is a tiny Jordaan café with a license. It's a hip café-cum-events space that might morph from supper cluo to mini movie theatre to art gallery over the course of 24 hours.
It is much like any other weekend. Architect Mr Smith is on all fours, studying the plumbing with the intensity of a hawk. I am standing stricken before a wardrobe in which nothing looks ‘right’. Unusually though, there’s no swearing at taps, or cursing at clothes – because we are in room 101: not, it turns out, an Orwellian torture chamber, but a frankly disgustingly good-looking suite at stylish Amsterdam city hotel, Conservatorium.
Cavernous enough to have ‘zones’, the wardrobe interior is as slickly backlit as a Prada showroom. The bathroom has two types of travertine, a Japanese shower stool, and a freestanding bath with a view of Amsterdam’s rooftops. This is a bathroom designed for tall people: the loo is so high up your feet may very well dangle off the floor. The bespoke high-gloss doors and smoked-glass mirrors concealing all the functional stuff are so seamlessly fitted that you have to feel your way around, arms outstretched like a blind zombie, to locate the bathroom or reveal the minibar. Even with the lights on.
Damn the Dutch. Everything is perfect. This is a nightmare. Mr Smith is already texting his contractor to source special invisible door hinges, hang the floating toilet higher up and do other things I don’t understand. Now, since you don’t know me, let me just say: my inner monologue usually runs the gamut of hypercritical pickiness from ‘Meh’ to ‘Wah this free bar of gold is too heavy’, but this glamorous getaway is not going to let me find fault with anything. Bugger.
The other major life skills in my arsenal – planning and research – are also being neglected, thanks to Peter. Peter the Great. Architectural historian and Guest Experience Manager. Knower of things. Getter of tables. Within 20 minutes of our arrival, he’s given us a tour of this former 19th-century bank and music academy’s Neo-Gothic structure, Art Nouveau tiles, and contemporary steel staircases; explained our bedroom’s 67 touch-sensitive lighting options and bespoke Totem media hub; arranged tickets to the newly revamped Rijksmuseum, and booked us into hot local brasserie Willems for dinner. We haven’t even made it to the other end of our hi-tech, high-spec suite yet.
Downstairs, the perfection continues. The overarching modern minimalism is softened with a judicious measure of Eastern aestheticism and tactile textures. It plays with scale, and different surfaces. Architect-designer Piero Lissoni daintily doffs his cap to the Dutch Golden Age, with references to Holland’s trading heritage. The full-height atrium space is a thrilling mix of original brickwork and soaring glass; and the contemporary design classics, mid-century pieces and antique objets aren’t so much ‘on display’ here as ‘at home’ – it is in no way try-hard, and the gob-smacking scale of the place never overwhelms. In short, it’s bloody clever.
This is potentially life-ruining, because we quickly rack up a list of all the things we need to replace or buy when we get home. I will need some wrist-deep velvety area rugs, Porro chairs, some of those mouth-blown double-wall latté glasses, nu-Delft dinner plates, a helluva lot of matt black panelling, a couple of Henk Helmantel still lifes… and some new thumbs, if I ever want to use Instagram again.
Now, it’s OK to play on your hotel’s history as a one-time music academy (there’s a grand piano in the atrium, a glossy installation of vintage violins and a suite dubbed the Concerto, for starters), but if you’re going to call your restaurant Tunes, you’re going to have to put up with punny reviews and facile similes. We fully expect chef Schilo van Coevorden to dish up a harmony of this and a rhapsody of that, but what’s delivered is a symphony – nay, a veritable jazz syncopation – of flavours, crescendoing through several seafood-themed tasting courses up to the Wagyu beef. ‘Mmm-nomwow!’ we chorus, washing it down with satiny glasses of Spanish tempranillo-shiraz. High notes (sorry) include the lobster cappuccino with tomato foam – Mr Smith is mid-moan about pretentious foams when he tries it, and rapidly revises his opinion – and Schilo’s signature ‘Textures of Chocolate’ dessert, with baffling powders of panna cotta and praline.
I confess, by the end, we were so full of fine food and posh booze, I would have paid to make the courses stop coming: we are just way too greedy to leave even a crumb of that delicious meal unfinished. And so, waddling like fattened geese, we stagger into Conservatorium’s bar, a temple to fine drinking. No respite there: our gin and tonics – served in massive bowls lined with cucumber stripes of school-ruler proportions – could have felled Oliver Reed. And – bliss for naughty parents who enjoy the occasional social smoke – there’s a post-prandial cigar lounge on the upper floor, with a view of the DJ booth and the well-groomed crowd. There isn’t a single person in here who doesn’t look as though they share genetic code with Rutger Hauer, Karen Mulder or Lara Stone.
This sea of beauty prompts us to get ourselves into the hotel’s hammam-toting Akasha spa first thing the next day, just to see if there’s something in the Watsu pool that turns you tall and lissom. Mr Smith plops in and paddles to the other side at the speed of Continental drift. I torpedo through several dozen lengths with the efficiency of a Shaolin wahoo, admiring the vertical garden and space-agey staircase on my way. (Don’t tell Mr Smith I wrote that. One of those statements might not be 100 per cent true). We colonise the state-of-the-art whirlpool for as long as we dare (it’s big enough for a rugby team, but everyone’s too polite to share). A lengthy tenure seems only fair, since it took three minutes of stealthy zombie arms to find the ‘on’ button amid all that flawlessly lit white Corian. Mr Smith has to text his contractor again when we get out.
For those with romance in mind, a secret staircase leads to a rooftop balcony that offers the two of you panoramic vistas. Which is about as much of the city we saw. Apologies, Amsterdam fans. We did not touch a bicycle, or a canal boat. We didn’t go to Anne Frank’s house, or the Van Gogh museum. We entirely missed the marathon, the music festival and the design event that was on that weekend in this most easygoing of cultural getaways. We were just way too busy admiring the bathrooms.