Hotel De l’Europe, Amsterdam’s aristocratic luxury experience

Amsterdam’s oldest hotel, De L’Europe has been playing host to royalty and the most distinguished guests - celebrities and businessmen from around the world, since it opened in 1896. The hotel which has remained independently owned and operated since its establishment, has regained its splendour following a US$ 61 million meticulous renovation which was completed in June 2011. The hotel is uniquely situated in the heart of Amsterdam, in the most lively and authentic quarters of the city, within walking distance to all museums and galleries.

The river location allows spectacular views, both vibrant and authentic - gazing at the swans and boats go down the Amstel river can be the most relaxing and fulfilling moment, while staying in one of the hotel’s rooms or suites. At the time of my visit, just after Christmas, the hotel was beautifully adorned with seasonal decorations, enhancing the romantic mood.

The hotel’s main lobby is home to the Promenade, a salon type lounge, surrounded by replicas of 17th-century Dutch Masters paintings and impressive crystal chandeliers. The majestic Promenade is still the meeting point for the local elite, the most elegant site to be seen, a traditional English afternoon tea serving being the highlight of the Promenade.

Crowning its already iconic reputation, Executive chef Richard van Oostenbrugge of Bord’Eau, the fine dining restaurant of Hotel de L’Europe, was awarded one Michelin star in December 2012. Bord’Eau features contemporary fine dining expectations using locally sourced ingredients.  Head Sommelier Dannis Apeldoorn curates an impressive wine list of more than 1,000 old and new world labels, meticulously stored in Les Caves De L’Europe, the hotel’s very own private cellar. In addition to personally blending an exclusive De L’Europe “house” wine from several Bordeaux varieties, his program offers tastings, seminars and tours by appointment.

The 111 rooms and suites are spread over the two connected buildings, the more classic Rondeel (on the site of the former Rondeel Tower dating back to 1500) and the contemporary Dutch Masters Wing. My favourite was the Rondeel building, with rooms exuding a classic, warm and even plush atmosphere, impressive with the choice of bold covers such as red or blue. The all-suite Dutch Masters wing reflects a more contemporary and sleek design and in contrast with the Rondeel building which is distinctly Dutch, is more neutral with some Nordic accents. (see video of Junior Suite in the Dutch Masters Wing)

Room categories are generously sized, ranging from 25 sqm the entry level category to 40 sqm for a premium deluxe type. For a single traveller or a couple seeking more intimacy, the Junior Suites are ideal. Personally, I was more impressed by design elements such as the wallpaper with  Dutch motives and the traditional wooden headboard, rather than the Dutch Master replica paintings. It is probably because Amsterdam is home to some of the world’s finest museums, where so many of the originals can be admired.

As for the renovation of rooms and suites, while I welcome the introduction of iPads (the hotel has its own interactive app) and furniture built-in remote controlled TV sets with sophisticated sound systems, I believe the hotel missed on some more basic issues such as upgrading of the air-conditioning system, especially in the Dutch Masters Wing – where, in most suites, it can be quite noisy as well as adding larger business desks (only the top suite categories feature comfortable business desks, all other rooms have very small tables, more like make-up boudoirs).

Bathrooms are large, most of them of marble, with separate walk-in shower and bathtub, all featuring the bespoke amenities collection by French perfumer Blaise Mautin, especially created for L’Europe (the amenities line includes bath salts, face anti-aging cream,separate for men and women as well as hand cream). The scent created for L’Europe is infused throughout the hotel and before their arrival, guests are sent a form where they can opt for a room scented or unscented. Also in the pre-arrival form is the preferred amenity (choice of fruits or sweets) – although I made my option, I received no welcome amenity.

Unfortunately, the existing wellness area which includes an indoor swimming pool and fitness were not included in the renovation plan, however there are plans for adding 8 treatment rooms (currently massages are only available in-room) and renovating the pool.

From a service point of view, the hotel could improve: name recognition (I heard quite often staff asking the room number, not knowing the guest) and after all it’s a medium size hotel; the arrival experience (it took 20 minutes to receive my bag and staff are overtly seeking a tip), housekeeping (too often slamming doors or speaking loudly on corridors), speed of the wi-fi internet which can be quite moderate in certain rooms due to lack of router signal,  breakfast (from the maitre to the waiters, service is robotic and impersonal). Service is flawless, genuine and warm throught the Front Office, Concierge and Bord’Eau.

Oliver Petcu in Amsterdam