Bring your boat shoes and woollen pullover to the Inn on the Lake, 11 minutes from Amsterdam’s central station. Far from being the misspelled title of a dystopian novel, Broek in Waterland is in fact an idyllic Dutch village, the centrepiece of which is a gorgeous 17th-century church on the edge of a lake – and almost upstaging its tree-coddled spire is this cosseting inn, the church’s former vicarage and now a private guesthouse of traditionally appointed rooms aging gracefully beneath tall beams and other original features. And making this a must-stay outside the capital is the hidden wine cellar and the hotel's private boat, which will ferry you on days out along picture-perfect lakes and riverways.
Get this when you book through us:
Free Nespresso coffee throughout your stay, and 50 per cent off bus and tram fares in the city
11am, but flexible, subject to availability and a €50 charge. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £236.55 (€275), including tax at 9 per cent.
Rates include breakfast.
Ask nicely, and the owners will give you a tour of the wine cellar tucked away behind a quaint hatch door. There’s a stash of coffee-table tomes (including, if you’ll ’scuse the plug, some Smith hotel guides), for guests to browse and/or buy.
At the hotel
Garden with three terraces, library, free WiFi, and a stash of CDs and DVDs. In rooms: flatscreen TV, DVD/CD player, minibar and Pascal Morabito bath products.
Our favourite rooms
Given the hotel’s rural setting, the Black Room’s city-savvy styling is unexpected eye candy: bold monochrome decor, smart black armchairs, flamboyant floral and striped wallpaper, a big freestanding bath tub opposite the bed, and a striking chandelier. The spacious Red Room is equally seductive, with warm ruby hues, a slanted, high ceiling, elegant chaise longue, oodles of lounging space, and a raised balcony area, once used for smoking fish in the chimney.
No pool as such, but intrepid guests can take a dip in the lake (beware the – ahem – muddy bottom). There’s also a more swimmer-suited lake with fewer boats nearby; ask the owners for directions.
Match the season – bring goggles and spandex for ice-skating in winter, and a picnic hamper for alfresco lakeside meals in summer. You’ll also want to jot down Pamela’s mouthwatering recipes, so bring a notebook.
Smokers can light up in the conservatory, as long as food isn’t being served.
Pets can stay in the Taupe room for €20 a night. The room has convenient access to the garden, and your favourite pooch will be treated to a welcome dinner, a chewy bone, a feeding bowl and a dog towel. See more pet-friendly hotels in Amsterdam.
Welcome, except in the Black and White Room. Under-2s stay in free cots; extra beds for under-12s are available for €30 a night. Babysitting is available for €10 an hour.
Stake out one of the conservatory tables, facing the lake. If there’s a load of you, sit on the raised dining area near reception.
There’s something of Vermeer in the decor, so dress to match (and no, we’re not talking pearl earrings); try one of the painter’s signature hues: peacock blue, chartreuse or amber – maybe with a touch of velvet.
The Inn’s technically a guesthouse, and Pamela rustles up an impressive morning spread (try her wholesome home-made muesli). Dinner is available on request, for €39.50 a head; there’s a set menu of polished home cooking every week, but you'll need to arrange meals when booking your room, or at least a few days in advance. Pamela has culinary pedigree: her father was a restaurateur and her brother is on the Dutch Masterchef jury.
Guests can help themselves fron the honesty bar, where cool drinks and ice are always available. There are two Nespresso machines – on one each floor – should a caffeine craving hit you.
Breakfast is served from 8am until 10am; lunch is between noon and 4pm; dinner (booked in advance) usually between 7pm and 10pm. You can get a drink until midnight.
The Inn on the Lake is situated in the pretty village of Broek in Waterland, just outside Amsterdam.
Amsterdam's Schiphol airport is 20 minutes away by car. EasyJet (www.easyjet.com) and British Airways (www.ba.com) operate direct flights; KLM (www.klm.com) flies to Amsterdam from major cities including Milan, Paris, Rome and Copenhagen.
Amsterdam's main rail hub, Centraal Station, is a 10-minute drive away, and connects to Rotterdam, Brussels, Antwerp and Paris, with services run by Eurostar (www.eurostar.com) and Thalys (www.thalys.com).
It takes less than 10 minutes to drive to the hotel from the city centre, and the hotel has free parking. However, Amsterdam’s public transport system is excellent, and it's pleasant for pedestrians, so a car is by no means essential.
Worth getting out of bed for
Between April and October (if the weather’s favourable), owner Karel runs boat trips around the Waterland and into Amsterdam (prices vary, depending on the excursion). In winter, ice-skate into the city. The owners offer several half-day (€56) and full-day (€110) tours: a favourite is the Zaanse Schans trip, which includes an engaging tour of three Dutch icons: windmills, a cheese farm, and a clog workshop. Another great option is the trip to Gouda and Delft: the former is host to a number of impressive 15th-century Dutch buildings (and of course, the eponymous creamy waist-enhancer); the latter is renowned for its ornate blue pottery, typically tumbledown canal-side merchant houses, and its former inhabitant – Vermeer.
Order pancakes with fruit, meat, cheese or vegetables at De Witte Swaen (+31 (0)10 403 1525), a 16th-century wooden house on Dorpstraat in Broek in Waterland. The boeren omelette wrapped in crispy bacon, is another traditional dish; come hungry, as portions are more than generous. Carnivores will relish a meal at De Drie Noten (+31 (0)20 403 1295) on Parallelweg. The steakhouse serves succulent cuts alongside the classic Dutch combo: fries and mayonnaise. Venture further afield to the Smith-approved Suitehotel Posthoorn and its Michelin-starred Restaurant Posthoorn in Monnickendam. The dining space is housed in two adjoining 17th-century buildings, overlooking the hotel’s gorgeous gardens. Eat in stately surroundings at the Damhotel (+31 (0)29 937 1766) on Keizersgracht in Edam. The restaurant serves light, flavoursome dishes: fowl broth with mushrooms and preserved duck, for example, and fried langoustines with polenta and sesame.
Hop in a taxi to the city and work your way through the extensive cocktail list at Moko (+31 (0)20 626 1199) on Amstelveld. The bar/restaurant is set in a wooden church, with views of one of Amsterdam’s most picturesque squares.
Mrs Smith and I have established a mid-winter tradition: the local getaway. When we lived in New Amsterdam, we’d hop on trains from New York to the Hudson Valley for a bracing shot of quaint. Here in Europe, hoping to repeat the pattern in our newly adopted Amsterdam, we set out for the four-room Inn on the Lake in Broek in Waterland. Translation? ‘Trousers in Water Country.’ Pants packed, we jump in a cab in central Amsterdam, and as much as the cliché will allow, in 20 minutes we’re a world away.
Inn visitors have a choice to make: to Dam or not to Dam? (As in Amsterdam.) While this Broek in Waterland boutique B&B still grants access to one of the most compellingly beautiful cities in the world, we’re happy to stay put in the neighbourhood of our Noord-Holland guesthouse. Peering in the window of the refinished vicar’s quarters opposite the village church, we spy a buck trophy and chocolate-velvet chair tableau. Innkeeper Karel meets us at the lacquered door and leads us up the original wooden spiral staircase to one of the four rooms.
We’re in the Blue Room where a pretty ivy-like chandelier hangs over the Frette-linen-clad queen bed and a cute alcove looks perfect for little tagalongs – though we have none of our own so far. It’s heel gezellig – content and cosy – with a smartly fixed bathroom featuring a rain shower, granite sink, and an extra-warm towel rack. A tub might have been nice for a bit a leisurely co-bathing, but for an enticing claw-footer, book the Black and White room.
The hospitality here is heartfelt – owners Pamela and Karel make leaving the Inn deliciously difficult, whipping up restaurant-rivalling dinners. The weekly changing menu kicks off for us carnivorously, with a wrap of roast beef stuffed with local Serrano ham first, followed by cashew-encrusted cod, and a trifecta of mousse. Wine lovers note, the ghost of Calvinist past seemingly looms in the dining room (the inn can be a bit slow on the pour), but this doesn’t keep me from requesting a glass of port at the end of the meal. It is the last in the house; thankfully co-owner, chef and award-winning decoratrix Pamela, has a lovely sherry on back-up.
In the morning, a low yellow sun jousts with lumbering clouds fit for van Ruisdael. We linger over lattés, fresh fruit, yoghurt, dainty breads oven-baked with precision and decadent butter-poached eggs, peering out at the winter landscape. While a Lake Superior devotee might think this darling lake is a closer relation to a pond in dimensions, even they would have to admit it is mesmerising. With two rivers flowing in and out, and direct access to the sea, it is delightful. Frozen thick, it spends much of this season full of blonde skaters. The Dutch are inordinately attached to the idea of blades under foot and will jump on any body of water – canal, lake, pond, puddle – at the first hint of molecular realignment. It is a sight worth catching. More typically, the lake is covered in waterfowl cutting Vs in the water, and during temperate months the inn has a beautifully restored wooden cruising boat for hire. A sunny canal cruise with some hopjes sweeties and a few biertjes is among the great experiences in Holland, so if the weather is right, be sure to sign up.
Starved as these city-dwellers are of country light and air, we head north of Broek in Waterland by foot, though bicycles hired from Wim Tweewielers would really be the way to go. Speaking from experience, if you haven’t been on a bike in some time, you’ll feel as though you are 10 years old again, and the paths outside of Amsterdam are manageably clear of traffic. Gangs of local sheep stare us down until we arrive at Monnickendam. We continue north into the centre of a fishing and sailing town notable for its sloops and expertise in smoked eel. There are smokehouses throughout and even a statue dedicated to the trade.
Edam, best known for its cheese, is our next stop. We make an obligatory visit to the central shop which is seemingly held up by pillars of stacked yellow wheels. The beautifully restored L’Auberge in the lobby of the Damhotel lures us for lunch. The terrace, outfitted with sheepskin throws at every table, no doubt pulses in warmer months, and I plant a seed with Mrs Smith to make it back in the spring. Being so close to the water inspires an appetite for fish and so we pick at oysters and a mini sandwiches of shrimp, salmon and eel.
Drunk by now on chocolate-box cuteness, we forget to book anywhere for dinner. And Holland is a reservation country. You can walk into a half-empty restaurant and be refused service for not having a reservation. The upside is that there is no such thing as table churn, so you can loiter for as long as you like. We scramble to get a table at the raved-about Michelin-starred Posthoorn back in Monnickendam, but it’s with no luck. Kicking ourselves, yes, but at least we’re armed with another reason to return.
We find an opening at the local bistro De Drie Noten, one of only two restaurants in the 2,000-population village. The other is a pancake house slathered in Dutchery – single story, gabled roof, mounted Delftware, tulips, lacquered doors, Flemish script, rambunctious blonde families. It’s a wonder the staff isn’t clogged.
On the way back to our snug for a nightcap, I fantasise of taking up residence in the pastel-shaded village, given Broek in Waterland’s convenient proximity to the Dam. Mrs Smith, a third-generation New Yorker, pauses. ‘Let’s keep it for getaways,’ she says patting my head. As 15 minutes’ worth of get-yourself-to-church bells peal the following morning, I wonder to myself if, as much as we love it here, maybe if these sleepyheads might just keep it for weekend getaways.