A perfect romantic break in the center of Amsterdam

With its serpentine canals, sprawling parks and artist’s heart, Amsterdam provides an effortless backdrop to romance. The city’s Conservatorium Hotel is just the spot to cocoon in sensory splendor, while remaining mere steps from the city’s famed museums, designer shops, and bohemian cafes. Built in the 19th Century, with incarnations as both a bank and a music conservatory, the 129 room Conservatorium has been reimagined by Italian designer Piero Lissoni as a harmonious sanctuary of beauty, calm and comfort.

The hotel

Although we arrive at an outrageously early hour, we’re escorted to our room after only a brief interlude spent sipping cappuccino beneath the majestic glass atrium in the warm, sunlit lobby. The corridors leading to our suite showcase restorations of the original historic architecture, while our room is luxuriously contemporary.

Conservatorium Hotel

Defined areas for sleeping, lounging and working reflect pale shades of cream and tan, vast curtained windows operate at push button command, while bed and bath are the stuff of dreams: a lofty down duvet, silky Egyptian cotton sheets, pillows that put most others to shame—and, of course, a pillow menu, just in case. The roomy walk-in closet stretches the full length of the sleeping zone, while a spa bathroom sports most hideaway essentials: rainfall shower, deep soaking tub, towels like clouds, even a mirror-image TV. Not all of the hotel’s guestrooms have such oversized bathrooms, however. Vaulted-ceiling duplexes comprise nearly half of the rooms, and these have more conservatively sized upstairs and downstairs bathrooms.

Of note: our room (#330) is in a section of the hotel that once housed a bank vault, and the reinforced structure produces a resounding quiet that is at once eerie and ever so welcome. We don’t hear a peep beyond the walls of our room, nor do our voices drift outside it. This is an unexpectedly delightful touch — especially with romance in mind.

The Akasha Wellness Center

Every romantic escape is as much about sensory pleasure as it is about relaxing and opening one’s heart. At the Akasha Holistic Center within the hotel, expert hands knead knots from my overstressed muscles. Afterward, lounging to the music of trickling waters, my limbs turn to limp but happy noodles. There is also a state-of-the-art gym, indoor swimming pool, Watsu pool, Hammam, and additional signature healing and beauty treatments to round out the possibilities for refreshing body, mind, and energies.

Food, glorious food

Breakfast in the glass encased, light infused Brasserie is, quite literally, a buffet of riches. If you crave something that doesn’t appear, ask and thou shalt receive. Lunch is a mystery. I can’t tell you much about lunch because, after breakfast, I am always far too well fed until cocktail hour to even consider eating again.

Cocktails within: At the Tunes bar, an array of infused gins and tonics are blended to yield tongue-tingling surprises. It’s easy to have one too many of these delectable inventions just for the pleasure of tasting them all, so don’t be shy about asking for half portions.

Cocktails without: When you’re ready to tear yourself away from this haven and explore other parts of the city, meander toward the Nine Streets — a seat of shopping and café culture — then stop at the nearby Dylan Hotel for their splendid evening High Wine.

Where the Conservatorium is grand, the Dylan is artfully petite, yet for sheer Dutch charm it has few peers in the city. However, you needn’t be sleeping at the Dylan to enjoy Executive Chef Dennis Kuipers’ “makeover” of British high tea in the lounge of his Michelin starred Vinkeles restaurant. Here, you’ll find a selection of 4 wines from the Dylan cellar and 4 small savory dishes. When I was there, High Wine began with a delicately crispy leg of rabbit resting on a cabbage salad amidst a bright cumin dressing, wisely paired with a Hans Wirsching Silvaner 2011 Iphofer Kronsberg. After three more courses and wines, it became abundantly clear that High Wine can easily serve as a sumptuous late lunch or light dinner.

Dinner within: The culinary highlight of any visit to Amsterdam may be the tasting menu at Tunes in the Conservatorium. Chef Schilo van Coevorden and sommelier Alvaro Steenbergen, both with roots among the imaginative fusion restaurants of Spain, have created a menu that may not be traditionally Dutch by anyone’s estimation, but is unquestionably inspired. Standout dishes included the heavenly foam of Cappuccino Beach Crab paired with a Chilean sauvignon blanc bursting with peach and grapefruit notes, and a smoked Lacquered Eel Roll with kimchee sauce, served with a Spanish white tempranillo – the first of its kind in the modern world. Sommelier Steenbergen is a natural storyteller; in love with his wines, he revels in relating as much of the tale behind each vintage as a patron wishes to absorb.

We visited Tunes on the last night of our stay at the Conservatorium, and it remains at the height of an altogether memorable visit.

Comments (1)

  1. Elyn Aviva says:

    Mouth-watering sensorial story! Makes me long to return to Amsterdam and do it differently this time. Thanks, Joy!

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