Amstel Lights: A Review of the InterContinental Amsterdam

Feb 21, 2019

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To The Point

I felt like a princess in this historic hotel on the river in my favorite city in Europe. Pros: full of history, elegant and attentive staff. Cons: could be pricey, not in the prime tourist area.

On my first trip to Amsterdam in 2016, my then-fiancé and I took an evening canal cruise just as many tourists do. As we twisted and turned through the canals, the boat brought us past a spectacular building that illuminated the Amstel River. Although I didn’t know what the building was at the time, I fell in love with how elegant it looked and took a few snaps on my camera.

Three years after our first trip, we decided it was time to start planning a second trip to our favorite European city. (Well, one of them — it’s so hard to pick!) As I began my hotel search, I was excited to find that the building I had obsessed over was actually an InterContinental hotel. As an IHG Platinum member with free nights under my belt, I knew that I had to stay at the InterContinental Amstel Amsterdam this time around.

In This Post

Booking

My husband, Eric, and I simultaneously signed up for the IHG Rewards Club Select card three years ago, so we’ve always had our free anniversary night hit at the same time. Even though we have to book our free reward nights as separate bookings, IHG has never had an issue linking the reservations so that we wouldn’t have to switch rooms. We were able to secure two free nights at the InterContinental Amstel Amsterdam, which otherwise would have cost us $465 per night or 60,000 points per night. Since we still have the older Club Select IHG card, we earned two uncapped free nights, but that policy is changing in May — free nights will be capped at 40,000 points per night.

Since this was a free-night reward, I had to select the most basic room — the king-bed executive room with a city view. I was also guaranteed a free upgrade due to my status as an IHG Platinum member, a top-notch perk that comes with the IHG credit cards. Now, while the rule states that you’re technically only eligible for an upgrade one tier higher than the room you’ve selected, this hasn’t stopped me from earning some awesome upgrades in the past. Last year, when I used my IHG reward night at the InterContinental Dubai Marina, I earned an upgrade way higher than the one I was supposed to receive.

The InterContinental Amstel Amsterdam offered seven different types of suites, so I had hope that we would be upgraded to one of them. While there were a few basic suites, there were also a few unique ones that would have really required an upgrade miracle. The Rembrandt Suite boasted an interior that told the story of Rembrandt’s life and art. The presidential business suite offered a room with historical details and artwork that were tributes to the previous presidents and VIP guests who had stayed there. The room I prayed for was the Dom Perignon Executive Luxury Suite, which had a sleek black-and-white design with bottles of Dom showcased around the room.

Photo courtesy of Intercontinental Amsterdam website.
Photo courtesy of InterContinental Amstel Amsterdam.

It was a long shot for sure, but a girl could dream. Overall, I would have been happy with any sort of upgrade at all.

Location

The InterContinental Amstel Amsterdam was on the bottom right of the canal ring, right on the Amstel. Amsterdam Central Station was easily accessible by train, so we were able to take a 15-minute ride directly from Schiphol Airport (AMS). Once we reached the station, we hopped on a tram, which brought us just a block from the hotel in under 10 minutes.

The hotel was a 20-minute walk from many of the popular, touristy attractions near the red-light district. But that didn’t mean that the hotel wasn’t in a great location. The trendy De Pijp neighborhood was less than a 10-minute walk west.

One of my favorite attractions in De Pijp is the Albert Cuyp Market. This yearlong outdoor market features some of my favorite Dutch treats, including freshly made stroopwaffles and poffertjes (tiny pancakes covered in Nutella and powdered sugar). The area is also home to the Heineken Experience and adjacent to the Rijksmuseum — just don’t expect to see the famous “Iamsterdam” sign there anymore.

Check-in

We arrived at the hotel at 1pm, two hours prior to the official check-in time. The lobby was quiet, with no other guests in sight. We were quickly invited to take a seat in front of the reception desk. I loved how personalized check-in felt and that we were able to sit down and relax during the process. We were both offered a glass of fruit-infused water to sip on while we went over all of the details. Eric and I were thanked for being IHG Platinum members, and we both earned 600 welcome points for our respective nights.

Then, we got some bad news: We’d been upgraded from the executive room with a city view to the executive room with a river view. I would most definitely not be living the suite life that I had hoped for. I did happen to check online to see if any of the suites were still available, and they all were. Clearly, this IHG hotel played by the rules. Lesson learned: Spend a little extra money to upgrade to the room with the best view to guarantee a real room upgrade.

Once we were all checked in, we strolled through the most elaborate hotel lobby I had ever stepped foot in.

The lobby was complete with high ceilings, fancy chandeliers and marble floors.

The stunning, 19th-century staircase gave off major Titanic vibes. I instantly pictured Rose coming down to meet Jack for dinner.

After gawking around the lobby, we made our way to the elevator, which, of course, was just as elegant.

I enjoyed a Dutch candy from the lobby to snack on for the ride up. Kaneelstokjes, anyone?

Room

We were assigned to Room 316, which happened to be right next to the elevator. We didn’t hear any noise, though. Not even an elevator ding.


The first thing I did was walk over to the window to check out our river view. Not bad, but not as good as an upgrade to a suite would have been. Yes, I’m still bitter.

The room itself was spacious and filled with antique furniture.

The detailed wallpaper and bedding were inspired by the Toile de Jouy motifs, which were designed “to show the lives of past times as a protest against the monarchy leading up to the French Revolution.” (Don’t be too impressed with my art-history knowledge. I read that on an info card in the lobby.)

The bed was comfortable and much appreciated after a long day of walking throughout Amsterdam’s city center. There were four fluffy pillows and three accent pillows that matched the wallpaper.

Two power outlets were on the right side of the bed, attached to the end table, next to a phone and pad.

The other end table didn’t have any outlets that would allow me to charge my phone while lying in bed. Instead, it had a control switch for the lights and air conditioning.

Instead, I plugged my phone in under the desk. So close, but so far away.

On top of the desk, there was a phone, pad and pen, room-service menu, minibar menu and a complimentary bottle of Evian water.

Inside the desk was a jogging map, sewing kit and an international-outlet adapter.

A coffeemaker sat alongside snacks and liquor for purchase.

Since there weren’t any stores in the immediate area opened late at night, I wound up taking a $7 Evian bottle from the mini-fridge. Ugh.

The television was sandwiched between two large closets that had full-length mirrors inside of each of the doors. The closet on the left had a safe and an iron.

The closet to the right had an ironing board and a basket to place shoes to be shined.

Speaking of turndown service: When we arrived back in our room after a day of exploring, there was a mat with slippers placed next to the bed, a tiny bag of chocolates on the pillow and a menu for room-service breakfast.

Along with the breakfast menu, housekeeping left a card that had the next day’s weather forecast. Cloudy in Amsterdam? Shocker!

On the desk, I found a handwritten note from the hotel manager and a tiny pair of porcelain clogs with a bow. I collect Christmas ornaments when I travel, so I was really excited about this little gift!

The bathroom was average in size with a single sink, bathtub and shower.

The shower and toilet were separate from the rest of the bathroom.

A note that warned guests of the hot water was next to the sink. The warning was warranted, considering the water turned hot within seconds. Like, really hot. You didn’t have to worry about taking a cold shower here.

Another helpful tip was left on the faucet of the bathtub to prevent an overflow: “Bath will fill within two minutes.”

The usual IHG shampoo, condition and shower gel trio was on the edge of the tub. I did take a bath, and I used the loofah that was left alongside the soaps. I really liked the loofah. I almost took it home with me.

Another thing I appreciated was the dimmable light in the bathroom, which allowed for a more relaxing bath.

There was a scale under the sink to remind me not to eat too many stroopwaffles.

The one tiny flaw I found in the room did happen to be in the bathroom. There was a crack in the toilet seat.

Within 20 minutes of settling into the room, a woman from the front desk called to check in on us. I appreciated that they took the time to call to make sure everything was A-OK.

Food and Beverage

I didn’t eat at any of the on-site restaurants, but I did creepily pop in to snap photos.

The hotel is home to a fine-dining, French-Mediterranean restaurant called La Rive. Since 1993, the restaurant teetered between one and two Michelin stars before losing Michelin status in 2016. I was told at check-in that I would be able to earn an extra 1,000 IHG points if I decided to dine at the restaurant. The tasting menu started at 125 euros ($140) per person.

La Rive was on the lower floor, on the same level as the river. On the opposite side of the wall was another restaurant called Amstel Brasserie. The brasserie was more casual dining, with a reasonable 49 euros ($50) three-course menu.

There was a bar called A Bar (how fitting?) on the main floor just past the lobby.

The prettiest dining option of all was the Amstel Lounge. The dark-blue room with glass ceilings and crystal chandeliers made for a picture-perfect place to enjoy an afternoon high tea. (I didn’t, but I totally would have if I’d had more time in Amsterdam.)

A set of doors from the lounge led out to the terrace, which had an outdoor bar and tons of seating. It seemed like it would be a great summertime hangout.

There were plenty of spots to sit and take in the tranquility of the river.

The hotel had heated igloos on the terrace, set up during the winter months — and perfect for Instagram!

Due to popular demand, there was a minimum spend of $250 per booking, which included a bottle of “R” de Ruinart Champagne and a selection of small plates. I thought the price was a little steep, especially for just the two of us.

At night, the igloos lit the terrace up in purple.

There are many reasons why people love Amsterdam. While some love the liberal laws and others bask in the beauty of the canals, my absolute favorite thing about the Dutch city is the cheese. Not only is the cheese really Gouda (get it?), but there are dozens of cheese shops that offer endless amounts of free samples. Red-pepper Gouda, truffle Gouda, garlic Gouda — I literally cannot get enough.

My days in Amsterdam are typically spent popping in and out of cheese shops and grabbing various street foods (and lots of sweets) during the day, and this trip was no different. After not actually eating a proper meal after the first day, we found ourselves hungry later that night and decided to order room service.

Since it was already past 1am, we only had a late-night menu that offered slim pickings. We went with a chicken Caesar salad and a pizza with arugula.

As a native New Yorker, I am picky about pizza, but it wasn’t bad. The crust was doughy, and the sauce was flavorful. I also enjoyed the salad, as it had anchovies mixed in just as a traditional Caesar salad should. The Caesar dressing was served mixed into the salad rather than served on the side — TPG would approve.

Since I’m not a huge breakfast eater and we were ballin’ on a budget, we ordered just one breakfast to share (something I often do when ordering breakfast at luxury hotels).

In true TPG fashion, I had to go with the caviar option. We ordered the 52.50 euro ($60) Royal Breakfast for the following morning. I checked off the option, requested a 10:15am breakfast time and hung the menu on the front door.

The next morning, there was a knock on the door at 10:14am.

It wasn’t until just now, while looking at the photo, that I realized they forgot our smoothie! Other than that (and me squirting my eggs Benny all over the place out of my own stupidity), the breakfast was great. We didn’t even finish all the cheese, so we saved the leftovers for a late-night snack.

Amenities

Well, let’s start with the negative first. I was eager to see the pool, because I saw beautiful photos of it on the website. I took the elevator to the health and fitness club, and I was greeted by this sign as soon as the elevator doors slid open.

Everything was closed for annual maintenance work. That meant no pool, sauna, steam room or cold plunge bath. I couldn’t even go to the gym. (Who am I kidding? I wasn’t going anyway.)

Instead, I got my workout in by venturing up the lobby stairs.

I took a lap around the second floor.

The business center was tucked into the corner, near a window that looked out toward the street. It was a simple desk with a computer and printer.

The hotel has been around since 1860s, and that history was proudly showcased. Photos of celebrities, royal families and US presidents were displayed alongside Dutch antiques.

My favorite piece from the miniature museum was a hotel guest book from the 19th century.

Back on the first floor, there was a smoking lounge with a large assortment of cigars.

Overall Impression

I thoroughly enjoyed my stay at the InterContinental Amstel Amsterdam. I only wish I had more time to enjoy a dinner at one of the restaurants. I felt like a princess staying in such a fancy hotel. From the elegant rooms to the attentive staff, I couldn’t have expected more from an InterContinental hotel (well, besides a better upgrade). The location may not be right in the prime tourist area, but it’s in a neighborhood with a charm of its own.

While I would definitely be happy to stay at this hotel again, I would also be open to staying in a different neighborhood just to switch it up. Perhaps, I’ll give the Kimpton a try next time around.

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