Hotel Review: A “Wonderful” Room at the W Amsterdam
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To The Point
The W Amsterdam aims to be more than just a hotel. It’s an entire social hub in the city, thanks to its restaurants, lounge and spa. The pros: a cool bar scene, spacious rooms, friendly staff. The cons: it’s in tourist central and some room amenities aren’t up to par for the price.
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The hotel originally opened in October 2015 in a historic telephone exchange building dating to the 1920s, before expanding to a 1908 bank building across Spuistraat about a year later — W touts the buildings as two distinct but integrated experiences to suit your mood. Altogether, there are 238 rooms and suites. The Exchange building (which I stayed in) has 182 of them, including 10 suites, while the Bank building houses the rest and the hotel’s restaurants and other amenities are split across the two.
Because I was looking at a midweek stay at the end of February, room rates were relatively low. The Exchange rooms tended to be about 30 euros (~$32) cheaper than equivalent rooms in the Bank wing, so I just decided to get one in the Exchange wing and save a few ducats. The Bank’s rooms seemed bigger with higher ceilings and a distinct decor theme that incorporated gold and diamond elements in a nod to that particular building’s past.
I booked a room in the starter category: a “Cozy Exchange Room” for 277 euros (~$297) including taxes and fees for the night. It’s a Starwood Category 6 property, so an award night would have cost 20,000 Starpoints or 10,000 Starpoints plus $180 in taxes and fees and given me a value of between 1.1 and 1.5 cents per point according to TPG’s latest valuations. Sorry, but that’s not good enough to tempt me to use some of my SPG points stash.
I actually have both the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express. The four stays and 10 nights of credit I get each year toward elite status helps me maintain my Gold status each year — though really, I’m going for Platinum. Thanks to that and by paying with my SPG personal card while taking advantage of SPG’s “Double Take” promo, I was able to earn 1,960 Starpoints for my one-night stay.
Check-In and Lobby
I arrived in Amsterdam via the train from the airport, and walked from the central station to the hotel in about 10 minutes. The hotel’s centralized location — near the heart of the historic canals, several museums and the train — was part of the reason I booked it. That said, it’s definitely tourist central as well, so if you want to get away from the hordes, this might not be the place for you.
On the western side of Spuistraat is the older Bank building, while on the eastern side is the (slightly) more modern Exchange building, which is where I was headed. The aesthetic of the building, with its open public spaces and visible copper piping, reflects the building’s history as a place where people literally connected with the city.
There were a couple of yellow W bicycles out front that guests can rent, plus a doorman who walked me inside and showed me to the bank of two elevators. The hotel’s signature Whatever/Whenever desk is also here at the entrance, but that’s about it. Reception is up on the sixth floor, along with the bar and the Mr. Porter restaurant. The short elevator ride is just long enough to admire the sketches by Dutch illustrator Jan Rothuizen on the shafts through the elevators’ glass walls.
This used to be the building’s rooftop, but when it was converted into a hotel, the space was enclosed in a kind of glass box, creating an entirely new floor. No other guests were at the shimmering metallic check-in desks, so I was greeted immediately, and as soon as the agent looked up my reservation, she thanked me for being an SPG Gold member and offered me a glass of water or Cava.
She also informed me that I’d been upgraded one room category to a “Wonderful Exchange Room,” which would have cost 308 euros (~$330) for the night I stayed, giving me an extra $33 in value. The check-in agent gave me a quick orientation of the hotel’s amenities, handed over my room keys and sent me down to the third floor, where I’d be staying.
The first thing that struck me about the room was the size. It’s around 300 square feet, which is already pretty big by European standards, but it had a few things in its favor that made it feel even bigger.
First, it was laid out with an open floor plan, so the bathroom was part of the main room. The other major feature that made the space seem larger was the floor-to-ceiling windows looking out to the Bank building wing of the hotel — they let in a lot of natural light, which added to the sense of expansiveness. I also liked that the bed was facing the windows, a nice bit of feng shui that turned the attention away from the walls and door and toward the city.
The bed was dressed in white sheets and topped with a gray blanket featuring patterns made up of words from bedtime stories. It looked welcoming, and I have to say, I got a great night’s sleep. It was the right mix of firmness and cushioning, and I woke up in a makeshift nest of all the pillows. The shades as well as the lights, air conditioning and do not disturb/housekeeping signs were all controlled by electronic touch panels throughout the room, including next to the bed.
One of the bedside panels also held a variety of outlets for charging electronics. There was no desk to speak of; instead, there was a sort of high swivel chair tucked into the counter that doubled as the bathroom sink. I would highly suggest not putting your computer or phone up there in case you’re a sink splasher.
Running along the windows was a nice little love seat and a mini-bar.
The mini-bar was stocked with the usual snacks and beverages as well as a coffee maker, which I love having in my room in the morning. On the wall next to the mini-bar was a wall-mounted television.
And now for the bathroom. As I mentioned, the room had a very open floor plan, so there’s really no separation and you basically walk into the bathroom when you enter the room. The WC with the toilet was inside a small, very bright orange closet right next to the front door.
Around the corner was the single sink and a large mirror next to it that you could swivel to use; the sink was a rectangular flat-bottomed basin made from cast concrete. While it boasts clean design, it also allows water to pool in the bottom and can take a while to drain. So if you shave over it, your facial hair will stick around the sides for the rest of your stay. The other thing I’ve noticed about W hotels is that the bathroom lighting tends to be dim. I don’t wear makeup, but I can’t imagine that applying it would be an easy task with this setup.
Next to the vanity was the shower, which was a glass chamber covered with quotes about life, travel and other whimsical thoughts, all etched into the otherwise frosted glass. Its design was meant to evoke the old phone booths that once dotted Amsterdam — another subtle reminder that this building used to be the telephone exchange. The floor inside the shower was sort of strange because it was composed of big stone tiles that were not quite fixed into place, and water drained out in the cracks between them. The shower heads were controlled by buttons — simply press on, then press off — making them easier to use than most other hotel showers. As is standard with W hotels, the bath products are from Bliss.
Although I had some quibbles with the bathroom, overall I found the room to be comfortable. The controls were easy to use. The windows let a lot of light in, and the bed was great. I also didn’t hear anything from the hallway or the rooms above or below me, though I did hear a few street sounds — not enough to be an issue, though.
One more thing to mention: When I first got into the room, I found a note and a monogrammed pillow waiting in the room for someone named François. I called the Whatever/Whenever desk to ask about it since I was afraid I’d been given another person’s room, but they said that no, I was in the room meant for me and it was a mix-up on their part. They sent someone up to pick up the note and the pillow within a couple of minutes, and in exchange, he handed over a plate of chocolate truffles, which was a nice touch.
Food and Beverage
The hotel has four main dining outlets as well as a lounge and bar. The W Lounge is located up on the sixth floor around the corner from reception and is composed of a few different seating areas, some of which were rather… interesting.
Nearest to reception were a number of chairs placed around an indoor chalet-style fireplace, which seemed to be the most popular area in the evenings. There were armchairs and ottomans arranged along the windows, all the way to the bar on the other side of the floor.
A raised platform ran through the middle of the lounge with chairs and benches on various levels. I felt bad for the staff, who were taking orders and trying not to trip stepping up and down from level to level. On the far side of the bar were several semi-private sitting areas separated from one another by copper poles (another homage to connectivity) and furnished with bright blue and purple sofas.
The focus here is on the cocktail list, with sections of the menu named after neighborhoods in New York, though the cocktails had names that didn’t seem to have anything to do with them. Among the more unique options, the King’s Beer, with Willem’s Wermoed vermouth, Talisker 10 Year Scotch, lemon juice, ginger syrup, clementine-infused tonic and egg white. DJs spin every evening, and the music otherwise is selected by the hotel’s music curator, Kristina Dolgova.
The other restaurant in the Exchange building is called Mr. Porter and focuses on steaks — its huge, glassed-in aging room can be seen in the photo below. The lunch and dinner menus here are what I’d call contemporary chophouse, with things like calamari, fish crudo and vegetable carpaccio, shrimp salad and whole sea bream. The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day, with closures of about an hour or two between each meal.
There’s also a casual burger joint called The Butcher that offers upscale fast food — there are other locations in Amsterdam as well as in Berlin and Milan. Its main entrance is on the ground level on Paleisstraat, which is part of the trendy 9 Streets district, so you’ll get a good mix of locals and non-hotel diners passing through as well as guests.
Across the street in the Bank building are the other two food outlets. The first is X BAR, which is basically a coffee and juice bar selling products by local cold-press juicer, Juice Brothers. The most interesting (and sinister-sounding) option? The Unicorn’s Blood immune booster, with pineapple, watermelon, ginger and lemon. On the other hand, you can also get a glass of wine or a beer, light bites like fruit and granola bowls or a salad with quinoa, goji berries, avocado, broccoli and spinach.
The W’s signature restaurant, though, is The Duchess, which is open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and afternoon tea. You get to it by walking up a baronial set of stairs and the main dining room is palatial, set in a multi-story atrium with a glass roof ringed by stained-glass panels and supported by enormous marble columns.
The space is lit by enormous spiral chandeliers, which give it dramatic but romantic ambiance, as well as wall sconces that hark back to 19th-century street lamps. There’s a striking standing clock anchoring one side of the room and a statue of Hermes on the other, closer to the bar.
The tables are also an homage to the building’s banking past, with classic green marble tops and tufted leather chairs. Here, the focus is on Mediterranean cuisine and seafood. I started with a delicious salad of shaved fennel, pistachio, orange and grapefruit. For my main dish, I tried the prawns in Champagne sauce, which were also delicious. Next time I’d go for one of the fish options, like salt-baked whole sea bass.
When I was ready to pay, the computer system was down, so the server wrote out a receipt for me with the total and just trusted that I gave him my correct name and room number. I also got another plate of chocolate truffles for the inconvenience.
After all those truffles, I definitely needed to hit the FIT gym, located past the reception desk of the Bank building and down a small hallway. While not big, it had a few cardio machines and some free weights and weight machines. Its windows looked right out onto the street, so passersby can peer in as they walk past.
The Bank building also holds the hotel’s AWAY Spa, which is in the former vaults — there’s a small indoor pool here, too. I didn’t get a chance to check out the spa, but the menu of treatments featured options such as hot stone massages, anti-aging cool plasma facials and a selection of men’s grooming options, including a classic wet shave.
The shop, X Bank, is also located on the ground and second floors of the Bank building, and has the feel of a pop-up store, with products, books, jewelry, art and fashion inspired by Amsterdam’s urban landscape. The artists and designers on display rotate on a monthly basis.
Perhaps the most distinctive hotel amenity is the WET rooftop pool and deck on the top floor of the Exchange building. The pool itself is more like a narrow lap pool and there are a couple of places to sit around it, but it doesn’t really seem to be a place for full-on sunbathing or lounging.
That said, in the summertime, non-guests can come and enjoy it with a minimum spending requirement of 25 euros (~$27) Monday through Thursday and 50 euros (~$54) Friday through Sunday. The staff told me it’s popular on summer weekends and that they’ll often hold special events and cocktail parties here. I can understand why, considering the views of the historic city center, including the Royal Palace.
Though my stay at the W Amsterdam was short, I had a great experience. The hotel’s centralized location meant I could get here from the airport in a relatively short amount of time (15-20 minutes) and make the most of my time in the city. The staff were all gracious and welcoming, and the hotel’s public spaces felt chic and worth spending time in. While I appreciated many of the room features, including the comfortable bed, huge windows and modern technology, I thought the bathroom and the lighting could use work. That said, I wouldn’t hesitate to stay here again.
Have you stayed at the W Amsterdam? Tell us about your experience, below.
All images by the author.
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