The lobby of the luxurious Andaz Amsterdam, Prinsengracht hotel // © 2016 Andaz Amsterdam, Prinsengracht
Feature image (above): Designed by Dutch designer Marcel Wanders, the boutique hotel is full of quirky surprises. // © 2016 Andaz Amsterdam, Prinsengracht
Checking into Andaz Amsterdam, Prinsengracht felt like I had flung myself down the depths of the rabbit hole. But unlike author Lewis Carroll’s fictional character Alice who finds herself in “Wonderland,” I was to explore a quirky five-star boutique hotel centrally located along the UNESCO-protected Prinsengracht canal and designed by renowned Dutch designer Marcel Wanders.
The adventure began at the posh hotel’s front entrance — which isn’t quite what it seems. I entered one door only to find more doors: They line each side of the entrance hallway, scaled down as if they had indulged in a sip of “Drink Me” shrinking potion. In the lobby, the hotel’s hosts smoothly handle check-in below chandeliers enclosed by white bells, symbolizing church bells and their welcoming chime.
If there’s a wait, guests can kick back in one of the lobby’s cheeky-red tulip chairs — a nod to the famous blooms that fill the fields outside of Amsterdam come spring. Or, if check-in coincides with the daily happy hour held from 5 to 7 p.m., a complimentary glass of wine awaits in the nearby Library room. This communal area offers art and design books as well, a reminder of the building’s former life as a 1970s public library before reopening as Andaz Amsterdam in October 2012.
Also on the property’s first floor is the 24-hour fitness center, accessible through the on-site spa. The facilities are inside a second building, located behind the first, so guests must walk through a small inner garden to enter either space. In this garden is where they’ll catch sight of the illustrious Alice, immortalized by a large-scale wall mural. She clutches a blue spoon in her hand; incidentally, Bluespoon is the name of the delicious restaurant within the hotel, which offers seasonally inspired European dishes such as duck rillette, deer tenderloin and crispy polenta with truffle.
Guests choose from 122 guestrooms, including Standard rooms that look into the Observatory; Canal or Garden View rooms; and five lavish suites that vary in size. Unsurprisingly, my Garden View King room was as striking and quirky as the rest of the hotel: bold colors, chic furniture and an eye-catching wall design of a half-fish creature. Due to the unusual open-plan bathroom, a sink and vanity were merely steps away from my king-size bed, with no wall in between. Desirable amenities include a separate toilet room, a rain shower, a walk-in closet, a Nespresso machine, a minibar (snacks and nonalcoholic drinks are free) and complimentary Wi-Fi access.
Frankly, guests should allot for extra time to leave the hotel due to the brilliant details guaranteed to halt them in their tracks. Yet another example of such is the “Prince of Lost Dreams” sculptures that lean forward with hands cupped around their wide-open mouths. When I asked a host about their significance, she advised me to scoot close enough to hear my dreams whispered in my ear. Even elevator rides are out of the ordinary: Clear glass windows reveal the “Observatory,” which consists of light structures representing constellations in addition to Delft Blue wallpaper depicting the tumultuous path from hell to heaven and lessons in Dutch history.
From eclectic video art to doors that say “push” but open automatically to holographs reminiscent of the Cheshire Cat, the hotel’s amusing oddities are highly likely to incite your imagination. And for those with a curiosity that rivals Alice’s, Andaz Amsterdam is an experience they'll want to have firsthand.