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This DoubleTree is one of Amsterdam’s largest and most-known hotels. Pros: Unbeatable ‘centraal’ location, plenty of food-and-beverage options and a rooftop deck that must be seen to be believed. Cons: Rooms were dated and basic, staff didn’t go the extra mile, and the check-in was a 24/7 sea of humanity.
Amsterdam is a charming European city year-round, but especially during summer. It has world-famous canals, picturesque leaning houses, tulips, windmills, coffee shops and a laid-back, liberal ‘live and let live’ attitude. I visit Amsterdam every year in summer, as it’s one of my absolute favourite cities in Europe, and I’ve stayed in various accommodations of various quality.
But recently, armed with Hilton Honors elite status, I was keen to try out one of the largest and well-known properties in the city.
I’ve seen dozens of DoubleTree hotels around the world and also thought of them as solid, four-star properties. Not jaw-dropping luxury but with all the reasonable comforts guests would want.
So how did my first DoubleTree stay go?
Late July is peak summer travel for Amsterdam, and accommodation is not cheap. Base rooms at the DoubleTree were priced at amounts more like the five-star properties in the Honors program like the Conrad Hotels.
The rate for a standard queen room was around 315 euros per night ($350), though these prices dropped significantly, down to 235 euros ($260). You could also redeem 59,000 Hilton Honors points per night for the same room.
The hotel is named ‘Centraal’ because it’s directly next to the city’s central train station, Amsterdam Centraal. As you might have guessed, this means the hotel’s very central. I can’t think of a major hotel that has a better location in this city, given its proximity to train lines and the famous canals. There are trams just a few steps away from the hotel that could take you all over the city.
The city’s infamous red light district is a five-minute walk, yet the hotel is removed enough from all the action that it is completely safe and appropriate for families — you won’t witness anything unsavoury in the hotel or its vicinity.
The hotel is huge and imposing. Everyone here knew exactly where the DoubleTree was when I mentioned where I was staying. Locals also knew of it because of its rooftop.
I arrived fairly late at night in an Uber from Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS). Even at this late hour, the lobby was packed with guests. This was a recurring theme throughout the entire stay — whether it was 1pm or 1am, there was a never-ending sea of people in the lobby all the time. While there were plenty of desks for staff to assist guests, the lack of anywhere to sit created a fairly chaotic atmosphere of people hanging around.
I joined the Honors members priority line and was quickly helped, first by being provided with a complimentary warm chocolate-chip cookie. This is a signature of the DoubleTree brand worldwide and was deliciously welcome after several hours traveling.
I was thanked for being a Hilton Honors member and was advised that, as a result of my Diamond status, had been upgraded from a basic queen room to a deluxe king room for the duration of my stay. I was also advised that I had access to the hotel’s executive lounge, as well as complimentary breakfast each morning, which could be taken either in the main restaurant or in the executive lounge.
I was assigned a room on the 10th floor, the highest for guest rooms. The hallway and doors were plain.
Though I was excited to receive a real room upgrade, when I opened the door, the excitement was short-lived.
The room, while a decent size, was pretty basic. Even when I turned on almost all the lights, it was quite dark and gloomy at night.
The bed had tiny pillows propped up in a way that didn’t invite the guest to sink into the bed after a long day of traveling.
The coffee table was scuffed, and the view over the train lines was, well, sort of disappointing.
There was a desk in the room that also featured an iMac computer, which doubled as the TV. Most information about the hotel was on this screen and was time consuming to find, and I ended up just Googling information, as it was quicker).
There was a small fridge containing only two bottles of complimentary water, as well as a drawer with a basic kettle and tea and coffee supplies. It was surprising to see that a hotel charging $350 a night did not even have a £50 pod coffee machine.
The wardrobe contained a safe, bathrobe and slippers and ironing board and iron. I appreciated that the iron was already in the room — I often have to call for one in a hotel if I need to iron a shirt that has been crushed in my suitcase.
The views from the window (taken the next morning) were OK: half waterways, half the train tracks leading to the nearby station.
There was a reasonably sized bathroom near the door, which, unlike the room itself, was bright and fresh. The bathroom was probably the best part of the room.
Verbena-and-lavender toiletries from Crabtree & Evelyn were stocked in the bathroom.
The room felt more like a three-star hotel than a four-star. I didn’t expect decadence from a DoubleTree, but this room would not have felt out of place at a Holiday Inn or Ibis.
Food and Beverage
For a hotel of this size, there were plenty of food-and-beverage options — so much so I that wasn’t able to experience them all (try as I might!). There were signs in the lobby for the rooftop bar, which the hotel proudly boasted as award winning.
After checking in, I headed up there, eager to try it out. What greeted me was a bit of a shock. The rooftop featured a large indoor area with plenty of seating, both high-top barstools and comfortable lounges (almost all of which were taken) in an intense, hectic, dark purple light.
Being a Friday night, it was packed, but what was so unexpected was in the middle of the room: a DJ playing very loud, offensive hip-hop music (the sort where you would cover your child’s ears so they didn’t hear the offensive and derogatory lyrics). Had there been a heaving dance floor, this may have been appropriate, but given the clientele was mostly older tourists staying at the hotel, the DJ seemed to judge the crowd incorrectly. The atmosphere was not relaxing at all — people were forced to lean into each other and shout in order to have a conversation.
I’m not a prude when it comes to nightlife at all (I was actually in town to attend a music festival), but a big part of being a DJ is judging the crowd, and I found it hard to believe that the majority of the crowd having a quiet drink and chat wanted to hear that music with those lyrics at that volume in a major hotel.
I wandered through to the outdoor area, which had a much more pleasant atmosphere with much quieter music, but given this was so much nicer than the inside area, it was absolutely packed to the rafters, and the staff looked flustered trying to serve everyone.
I quickly gave up and instead opted for a quiet meal at a local cafe on the canals that a friend recommended.
The next day, I returned to the rooftop just after breakfast, and the atmosphere could not have been more different. Inside, it was deserted and peaceful (and the DJ was thankfully nowhere to be seen).
With fingers crossed, I raced outside to the deck and breathed a sigh of relief: plenty of seating, sun shining and relaxed, welcoming staff.
I was presented a menu and opted for an iced coffee, given it was still morning, although the two women next to me were on their second bottle of Champagne at 11am. At 9 euros (£8), this was the most expensive iced coffee I have ever had, but it was delicious, especially in the increasing heat of the summer sun.
The waiter was intrigued by my accent (I’m Australian), and we had a good chat. He explained he really enjoyed working the mornings on the roof because it was relaxing and manageable, while the evenings were manic.
When I told friends which hotel I was staying at when I saw them at the local festival, they all said the same thing: ‘That’s the place with the amazing rooftop!’
I took breakfast in the main restaurant both mornings. Each table was set in an unusual fashion, with items like mugs placed at the outer edges of the tables (rather in the middle). This created a confusing look — it was very hard to tell if the table was cleaned and set for a new guest or if a guest was in the middle of breakfast and grabbing something from the buffet.
With so many people wandering around the restaurant, I had to ask staff each time if they could find me a free table. The entire breakfast restaurant was a sea of people the entire time (the below photos were taken in the final few minutes of the breakfast hours).
The buffet was extensive, and you would be hard-pressed not to find something to eat. The quality of everything was fairly good, although the mass production of some local delicacies like poffertjes was not a patch on local cafes.
There was also the option of having an omelet cooked fresh to order. It was a little difficult to flag down a server in such a busy environment and order one, but when I did, it was fairly oily and overcooked.
I discovered tables outside on the waterfront that could be used for breakfast, and it proved to be a calmer atmosphere. It was pleasant to sit outside and watch the world go by while enjoying breakfast.
There was a bar on the ground floor, which was pretty deserted the entire stay.
I had lunch there one day to try it out. The Bloody Mary was delicious, and the fact that the bartender asked if I wanted it spicy or without spice showed they knew what they were doing. It was delivered with the perfect amount of heat.
I ordered steak tartare for lunch. I’ve had these all over the world, and it was only OK, although I had a much better one at a local cafe the next day. The rice crisps on top were stale.
I peeked into the executive lounge but found it cramped, too crowded to photograph and with very basic facilities. I visited a friend staying at a DoubleTree in London (Tower Hill) last year, and he invited me to drinks in the executive lounge, as he was a Diamond member. That lounge was exactly the same as this one: too small, too loud and seemingly rammed with people who wanted a free drink and were happy to cram in there to get it.
The hotel did not have a swimming pool but featured a decent-sized gym with plenty of equipment and amenities like towels and water.
There was also an underground car park for guests, which was very handy given the ubercentral location (I can’t even think where else you would park a car in this area). I did have two different guests outside reception ask me where the entrance to the car park was, so this was not well-signed, it would seem.
As this was Amsterdam, I was pleased to see there were bikes available for hire at a reasonable price of 12 euros if returned by 10am the following day. I gladly took them up on this, as cycling around Amsterdam is definitely the best and most authentic way to get around the city.
These were available from the guest-services counter. Though this was consistently staffed with two people, either the requests they had before mine were very complex or the service they provided was a bit slow, because they seemed to take at least 10 minutes with each guest in front of me, meaning there was a queue every single time I passed by reception. This added to the 24/7 sea of people in the lobby.
Speaking of guest services, I awoke one morning with severe and unexpected back pains, meaning I could hardly walk and basic tasks like tying my shoelaces were almost impossible. I hobbled down to the counter and explained my predicament. I told them if I was at home I would seek out the services of a chiropractor or physiotherapist, and could they recommend one? After some conversation with each other, they offered to organise a masseuse to come to the hotel.
I declined the offer, as I really needed medical assistance, hoping they had a directory of suitable professionals. After all, being one of the biggest hotels in the city, surely I wasn’t the first guest to seek medical attention. I wasn’t expecting them produce George Clooney (circa “ER”) but was surprised and disappointed when they said they did not know any chiropractors or physiotherapists and could only suggest visiting a local doctor’s office ‘behind the central station’. The station was enormous, so this could have been just about anywhere. I asked for clarification, and they could/would only give vague directions.
Frustrated, I hobbled outside, Googled ‘local physiotherapist’ and started calling anywhere that was open on a weekend. Within 10 minutes, I had an appointment at a local office in 90 minutes. I know the request was somewhat unusual, but guest services certainly didn’t go the extra mile to try and help me, which was disappointing.
A hotel this size in a major European city in the middle of summer has a lot going on, all day and night. There was a never-ending sea of people in the lobby every hour of the day all vying for the attention of the staff, who did their best, but nothing felt very premium or personal. The room, food and beverages were fine but forgettable even with the substantial Diamond status benefits.
What did save this property for me was the incredible rooftop, which during the day was truly one of the best spots in the entire city (and I’m a regular Amsterdam visitor). I could have easily stayed there all day, but overall I expected more from the DoubleTree brand.
All photos by the author.
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