Hotel Review: A King Grand Premier Room at the Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam
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I decided to split my time on a recent trip to Amsterdam between two very different hotels: the ultra-contemporary W and the Waldorf Astoria, a paragon of old-world elegance. Whereas the W makes its home in two early-20th-century office buildings — one, a bank and the other, a telephone exchange — the Waldorf Astoria, which opened in 2014, was converted from six grand 17th- and 18th-century canal houses and has the charming quirks to prove it. The property has just 93 rooms, suites and lofts spread across three floors as well as one of the largest private gardens in the city, though it was being re-landscaped during my visit. You can read my review of the W Amsterdam here. Here’s how the Waldorf Astoria stacked up.
I was planning to stay on a Tuesday night in February, so as you can imagine, room rates in Amsterdam were relatively affordable. In addition to low-season pricing, there was also a special Hilton Honors winter sale going on at the time, so the rate for a King Deluxe room was discounted from 395 euros (~$432) to a much more reasonable 316 euros (~$345).
I have Hilton Honors Gold status thanks to a Platinum Card® from American Express that I canceled a few months ago, so I figured I had a good shot at a one-category upgrade. Thanks to a winning combination of my earning preferences (Points + Miles), my 25% Gold status bonus, a check-in bonus and 2,000 extra Honors points I'd earned through Hilton’s winter 2K Every Day promo, I ended up earning about 8,000 Honors points for my stay.
Thankfully, I'd made this booking before the changes to Hilton’s loyalty program took effect in February of this year. At the time I made my reservation, the hotel was a Category 10 property, where award nights regularly started at 80,000 to 95,000 Hilton Honors points per night (it was in the 80,000 range for my dates). I didn’t have that many Honors points in my account, although technically I do have both the Citi Premier® Card and Citi Prestige Card and have racked up quite a few Citi ThankYou points — I could have transferred some over to Hilton, but I would rather save them for airline awards instead.
With the new Hilton Honors program, award rates are a bit more dynamic. When I recently checked Hilton’s points calculator page (pictured above), award rates at the property averaged about 79,000 points per night on the low end and up to 95,000 at peak times, so there’s not much of a change here yet anyway.
The Hilton Honors Surpass Card from American Express is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 100,000 Hilton points after you spend $3,000 in the first three months — you'll also earn a free weekend night award after your first anniversary of card membership. The bonus is usually 75,000 Hilton Honors points with the same minimum-spending requirement, so if you were considering this card, it's better to apply now and earn an extra 25,000 points. Note that the card's annual fee is $75.
You can also earn 80,000 Hilton Honors points when you spend $2,000 within your first three months of card membership with the Hilton Honors Card from American Express — that's enough for a free night at the Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam. The standard sign-up offer for this card is 50,000 Honors points after you spend $750 within the first three months. While the minimum-spending requirement for this current offer is substantially higher, you also stand to earn an extra 30,000 points, which can definitely be worth it, especially considering this card has no annual fee. For example, even by taking the relatively low room rate on the night that I got, by redeeming points from this sign-up bonus, you'd be getting nearly $350 back in value on $2,000 in spending — a 17.1% return on your investment. Not bad!
Check-In and Lobby
I arrived at the hotel around noon after checking out of the W Amsterdam and taking an Uber. It turns out that because I'd called the Uber from the W, I was able to earn a Starwood Preferred Guest during-stay points bonus on my ride, which was a nice little cherry on top. The Waldorf Astoria is about a 10-minute drive from the W along a rather stately stretch of the Herengracht, or Gentlemens Canal.
As soon as my car pulled up, two suited doormen appeared, opened my door, took my suitcase from the trunk and escorted me up the staircase to reception. Entering the hotel's bright foyer was like walking into a grand mansion (more on that below). The concierge’s office and desk lie to the left and the two reception desks sit in another room to the right.
I was greeted warmly at reception by the young lady working there, and I handed over my passport and waited to hear about my room. Right off the bat, she acknowledged my Hilton Gold status and thanked me for my loyalty. She then informed me that I'd been upgraded two room categories to a King Grand Premier room. The rate for the night I booked would have been 436 euros (~$477), so I was getting another $132 in value thanks to my elite status.
Before I could go up to the room, I was presented with a box of four different Cire Trudon scents I could choose from to have sprayed in my room at turndown. I opted for La Marquise, which was the lightest of them, a refreshing combination of citronella, verbena, rose, cedarwood and lemon.
I also chatted with the check-in agent about some activities I was interested in. I wanted to have lunch at Foodhallen, an international gourmet food hall with lots of different stalls and bars. She lit up, saying that she loved it there and suggested that I either take an Uber or borrow one of the hotel’s complimentary bikes and ride over since it was a bit far to walk to. I was starving, so Uber it would be, but I decided to walk back and it was the perfect way to digest.
When we were finished talking, she walked me up the grand central staircase, a massive wooden fixture designed by renowned 18th-century architect Daniel Marot — and the only one of its kind still in the city. The walls and ceiling were decorated with enormous baroque sculptures lit by skylights. It was all very rococo, but fitting, and was a nice contrast to the other, more contemporary touches that characterized the rest of the hotel.
As I mentioned, I had been upgraded two room categories to a King Grand Premier room, and when I looked at the breakdown of room types, that upgrade made more sense. There are just eight Deluxe rooms, but there are 31 Grand Premier rooms, so the odds had always been in my favor. That said, I still appreciated having the extra space.
My room, number 546, was just a few doors down from the central staircase on the first floor (or second floor, in US parlance). This particular house was built in 1672 for a man named Willem Sautijn, who was a merchant and eventually became the mayor of Amsterdam. I knew that because there are plaques in the doorways connecting the formerly separate houses that give brief details on the history of each of them.
Just a quick side note: The rooms on the top floor include several lofts with lower ceilings angled due to the gables of the houses, so if you want a little more ambiance, ask for a room on one of the higher floors.
My room was also in the block of that category that looked out onto the back garden rather than the Herengracht. Ordinarily, that would have been a good thing — less noise and hustle on the streets outside, but because the hotel was replanting the garden, all I got was a view of the mud, along with an apologetic letter explaining what was going on.
Still, I really loved this room. It was enormous at nearly 450 square feet and had huge windows that let tons of light in. It was rather warm, so I asked to turn off the radiator, which had to be done via the central system — someone also unlocked the windows for me so I could open them and get some fresh air. When I walked in, I spotted a small sitting area, the windows and the desk directly ahead of me, while the bathroom was through a door to the right.
The bed was dressed in crisp, white linens monogrammed with the Waldorf Astoria logo. On either side was a nightstand with a blue glass lamp and controls for the lights.
Next to the bed was the closet, which was teeny-tiny, even by European standards, and one of the biggest downsides to the room. If I’d been traveling with someone, there wouldn’t have been enough room for all of our things.
The mini-bar was stocked with free bottles of water, which were replenished at turndown service, as well as a nice selection of drinks and spirits. There was also a coffee maker, which I love using in the morning so I don’t have to get dressed and go downstairs (or outside!) or order an overpriced cup of coffee from room service.
The sitting area included a love seat and a little round table. When I got back to the room after my afternoon outing, I found macarons and tulips waiting for me there.
The desk was nice and big, and on it sat the wall-mounted 42-inch flatscreen TV, which I didn’t end up watching.
The understated palette of creams and blues is meant to evoke the colors so masterfully employed by Vermeer. And although that’s a rather cerebral conceit, the effect works when the northern light hits them just right. As I mentioned, the garden was torn up, so the view was a bit depressing, but that should change in time for spring.
The bathroom was enormous, with white tiles and marble everywhere. It had two vanities with a marble counter, a giant mirror with backlighting and a magnifying mirror that lit up as well.
On one side were two separate stalls for the WC and the shower.
On the other side sat the pièce de résistance, a large bathtub looking out the windows — granted, if you’re looking out, someone else could be looking in, so use it with care! There was a TV on the wall across from it, too, so you could catch up on the news while bathing.
As is the Waldorf Astoria standard, the bath products were by Salvatore Ferragamo Tuscan Soul, which I liked because they smell fresh and light, but aren't overly floral.
Although the room was laid out slightly awkwardly due to its length and width, I still enjoyed how much space there was. I got a great night’s sleep in the bed, and I want to give a shout-out to the soundproofing — I didn’t hear another guest the entire time, the doors opened and closed soundlessly and the hallways were silent. The Wi-Fi was fast and free, so it made a great working environment as well.
Food and Beverage
The hotel’s flagship restaurant is chef Sidney Schutte’s two-Michelin-starred Librije’s Zusje Amsterdam, which is only open for dinner. That wasn’t quite in my budget, but the same chef also creates the menus for Goldfinch Brasserie, which is laid out with a sort of open plan on the ground floor. That’s actually a level below the lobby (which is up a set of stairs from the street), so its location gives you a nice view of the garden. Goldfinch is separated from the corridor to the elevators and the restaurant by large screens embroidered with — what else? — goldfinches. It doesn’t quite look like a dining room, but rather as though the hotel planners didn’t have anywhere else to put it. That said, the seating was comfortable and the service was impeccable, though I was one of only three tables being served that evening.
The menu at Goldfinch is a sort of Dutch-Asian fusion with an emphasis on seafood and Chinese spices. I opted for the two-course tasting menu because it was a bargain at just 36 euros (~$39), while the three-course menu clocked in at 46 euros (~$50). The brasserie menu started with a dish of plump little sturgeon shrimps dressed with dill and smoked buttermilk, pickled leek, parmesan and a sprinkling of seeds.
For my main course, I had the signature duck pie. It was hearty and delicious, though a bit heavy — the idea was kind of like Peking duck meets shepherd’s pie. The minced duck meat was layered on the bottom of a large ramekin, laced with a savory-sweet hoisin sauce and white sesame oil. There were slices of orange, white cabbage, spring onion and coriander, and a healthy top layer of creamy mashed potatoes dotted with wonton crackers, microgreens and chilies. It was a nice dish for a cold winter night. After that, I didn’t have room for the sweet Waldorf salad dessert, a play on the iconic salad created at the original Waldorf, yet still made up of green apples, walnuts, celeriac and raisin. It sounded interesting, but not enough to tempt me into turning my two-course meal into three courses.
Like other Waldorf Astoria properties, the lobby lounge here is dubbed Peacock Alley. Although it’s open for lunch and dinner, I only saw folks here having afternoon tea or getting some work done over a coffee in the early evening — it’s certainly a beautiful place for that.
For your inner child, there’s a candy buffet you can graze on, too or, rather, they’ll serve you whatever sweets you select on fine china. What caught my eye, though, was the enormous armillary sphere in the center that’s there to evoke the country’s seafaring past.
My final stop of the night was at the Vault Bar, which is named that because... it’s in a former vault that dates to when this particular house was part of a bank — you can even see old safe deposit boxes behind the bar and there's an enormous vault door to its secondary seating area, but it was closed when I visited. Instead, I entered through the other door and took a seat at one of the tables near the bar.
Everything here is in keeping with the theme. Specialty cocktails are listed in a wallet on slips of paper printed to look like money. The Dhiram, for example, was made with saffron-infused Woodford Reserve bourbon, fermented dates, verjus, turmeric, paprika, candied citrus and cocoa powder, while the Pound had a base of Beefeater 24 gin (of course) infused with Earl Grey and mixed with rhubarb amaro and a vermouth made from late-bottled vintage port. The menu is served in a wallet, with drinks printed on "money."
Almost as interesting as the cocktails was watching them being made — the barman did so with quite a few flourishes, then brought drinks to the table along with a miniature personal safe that you could unlock to snack on the crackers within.
I tend to focus on the dining outlets at hotels, but this one also had a few other remarkable features. The first is its Guerlain Spa, which is a hushed oasis tucked away at the far end of the ground floor. There's a small boutique with beauty products in the check-in area. I sat there chatting with the friendly spa attendant for a while about the treatments, including the spa's signature Fusion Experience, which incorporates both hot oil and ice bubbles to reference the interplay of earth and water in Amsterdam itself.
I was tempted, but I didn’t make an appointment. I did, however, take a walk back through the changing rooms to the indoor pool, where you can also find a sauna and steam room.
Between the spa and Vault Bar is the fitness center. It’s not huge, but it does have a lot of machines, all of which are new and in good shape.
I liked how much natural light there was, thanks to a row of windows overlooking the garden, and I was able to get a great pre-flight workout in on my final morning in Amsterdam.
Down this corridor, there are also whimsical sculptures on loan from the Smelik & Stokking Galleries, providing a dose of culture without even having to set foot outside the hotel.
I was excited to finally be able to check out the Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam. To be honest, I was expecting it to be a bit fusty and subdued, but I was really pleasantly surprised. The luxe touches and grand setting were all there, but it was the warmth of the staff that helped make what was already a great experience even better. Everyone — from the bell desk to reception and the concierge, as well as the staff at Goldfinch and the Vault, and the spa attendant — was so friendly and cheerful and helpful. The downside is you don’t get the crazy nightlife or lively ambiance of some of the city’s other hotels because the clientele here seems to be mostly business-oriented. But the room was lovely, the service was phenomenal and the location was centrally located without being too touristy. I’d stay there again in a heartbeat.
Have you ever stayed at the Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam? Tell us about your experience, below.
All images by the author.