waldorf astoria amsterdam

Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam: Subtle luxury and artistic gastronomy create five-star success

07 Nov 2023 | |By Annie Lewis

Less is more at the Waldorf Astoria’s Dutch hotel, which dominates six historic palaces lining Amsterdam’s grandest canal

So elegantly understated is the entrance to the Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam that I completely miss it as I walk down a canalside street in the UNESCO area of Herengracht in search of my home for the weekend. A world away from the grand facades which dominate many of London’s five-star hotels, the approach here is refreshingly subtle – so subtle, in fact, I walk right past it, wrapped up in the autumnal aura bathing the Dutch city on this sunny Saturday morning. But, while the minimalist exterior may suggest there’s nothing to see here, behind the glass, porter-manned doors, that couldn’t be further from the truth. This is, after all, the Waldorf Astoria.

That this five-star property, which opened in 2014, is the epitome of subtle luxury is somewhat surprising given its outlandish New York City roots (the Amsterdam outpost does nod to the brand’s flagship, naming its casual dining room Peacock Alley after the famous 300-foot marble corridor that married the original NYC Waldorf Hotel, built in 1893 by William Waldorf Astor, and his cousin, John Jacob Astor IV’s, adjacent hotel). However, the interiors here are refined and sophisticated, clean and neutral – and, unlike many of the newer establishments opening at home and away, there is a good reason for its minimalist aesthetic. 

Comprising six canal palaces, each with its own fascinating tale dating back to the 17th and 18th century and their own name – De Wildt, Kemp, Hooft, Marot, Sautijn and Brentano – the 93-room hotel is an architectural masterpiece. It boasts an historical exterior (hence having remained largely untouched) and a grand staircase attributed to the architect Daniel Marot, famed for his commissions from King Louis XIV of France and William III of England. 

Designed so guests are likely unaware where one original house ends and the next begins, the eagle-eyed will spot how the Louis XIV-style stucco at the entrance transforms into a more romantic Rococo style as the property moves into the quarters formerly found in the Hooft house. It’s clear that the hotel’s design team chose preservation over modernisation – and so they should when the buildings already featured prized period accents including pale-blue tones, original architraves, fine marble and wood floors throughout.

The hotel spans a section of Amsterdam’s grandest canal, the Herengracht, built during the Dutch Golden Age of the 17th century. Otherwise known as the Golden Bend – where Amsterdam’s wealthiest members of high society built regal residences lining the water – canal cruises wind through here daily, which I watch come and go from the king-size bed in my canalside suite. Fitted with spacious marble bathrooms and walk-in wardrobes, the room is decorated in accents of lapis lazuli and ochre: a theme across the hotel which subtly references native painter Johannes Vermeer, whose most famous works include Girl with A Pearl Earring

While none of Vermeer’s actual works adorn the hotel’s walls (best to leave that to the Metropolitan Museum in New York and London’s National Gallery), you can find his work brought to life at Peacock Alley’s impressive afternoon tea. The seasonally-changing theme focuses on Dutch painters, reimagining works by Vermeer, Vincent van Gogh, Rembrandt van Rijn, Piet Cornelis Mondriaan and Hieronymus Bosch into sweet and savoury morsels paired with tea and champagne

Vermeer’s The Milkmaid, for example, inspired brioche toasted in brown butter with milk panna cotta, while Bosch’s paintings centering around sin and delight influenced a delectable mousse cake with mango, passionfruit and banana. Helpful waiters instruct on the best way to eat the selection of treats to maximise flavours and recommend we end on a sweet note with van Gogh’s iconic Starry Night. Combining blackcurrant ganache with toasted almonds and dark chocolate, this edible canvas is hand-painted to replicate the famous work while providing the cherry on the cake of the most magnificent afternoon tea I’ve ever had – and that’s coming from a Brit. 

Foodies can also delight in the two Michelin-star restaurant Spectrum, led by executive chef Sidney Schutte, serving a picture-perfect seven-course tasting menu featuring plates of cod liver, jalapeño and watermelon, red mullet with mussel and mezcal and the playful Amsterdam Dame Blanche: marijuana leaf-shaped chocolate. The Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam also takes breakfast seriously, offering its signature selection of berries, natural yoghurt, pastries, breads, Dutch cheeses, cold cuts and smoked salmon on cake stands which wouldn’t look remiss in Peacock Alley. Pair with Belgian waffles, delicious mini Dutch pancakes or Perle Imperial caviar eggs Benedict and you’ve got a feast fit for a king. Well, you are dining in a canalside palace, after all. 

Elsewhere in the hotel, discover the award-winning Guerlain spa featuring soothing neutral colours inspired by Amsterdam’s artistic heritage throughout its three treatment rooms, sophisticated relaxation areas and indoor heated pool overlooking a private garden – a rare find in the city. 

Go beyond Waldorf Astoria’s four walls and you’ll find yourself at the heart of the city that famously never sleeps. The hotel’s no-fuss, complimentary bikes – which handily come with locks so you can explore the breadth and depth of the city – are available at a click of your fingers thanks to the dedicated front-of-house team, as are umbrellas if the city’s inclement weather strikes. Amsterdam’s safe cycling lanes make it a breeze to travel to the hip Jordaan neighbourhood and the Anne Frank museum (beware of the queues) while the leafy Vondelpark is where you’ll fit in with the cycling-mad locals. 

While I’d recommend spending a day exploring the city by bike, the Waldorf Astoria’s prime location makes it easy for culture vultures to reach the Rijksmuseum, the Royal Palace, Foam Photography Museum and Museum Van Loon on foot. Get lost in De 9 Straatjes – the nine streets – filled with unique boutiques, chic cafes and independent galleries, and the city’s central canalside walkways, where I can guarantee you’ll stumble across traditional pubs and charming Dutch restaurants, ready to welcome you with open arms. 

waldorf astoria amsterdam

Once a European city I dismissed as a hub for British stag dos and boozy weekends, it didn’t take long to convince me this assumption was far from reality, and had cost me the pleasure of visiting Amsterdam much earlier than I did. And if all the city’s five-star stays can come close to the impeccable service, thoughtful design, creative gastronomy and home-from-home experiences found at the Waldorf Amsterdam Astoria, you can bet I’ll be back in no time. 

From £752 per night, visit hilton.com

Read more: The ultimate ski chalets to rent in the Alps this winter