The Septaway: A Weekend In Amsterdam
No longer seen as a party town or defined by its red-light district, Amsterdam has morphed into a hub of sophistication. From luxurious accommodations and elegant sustainable dining to world-class museums, it beguiles. The iconic gable houses, tiny arched bridges and meandering canals have a romantic old-world feel and, when we’re in Europe, it’s such a short flight from London and Paris that it’s one of our favourite weekend getaways in the world.
WHERE TO STAY
In a city with no shortage of excellent hotels, The Grand, an award-winning Sofitel Legend property, is our pick for many reasons. A characterful building that began as a 15th-century convent, it is located in the heart of the city but feels more like a quiet refuge. It’s nestled between two 17th-century canals designated with UNESCO world-heritage status, frequented by royals and rock stars and flawlessly melds historical heft with modern comfort and design. But what really stands out is the service: a warm welcome (we were served the most delicious housemade ice tea and biscuits as we checked in) and butler service, which is not something we normally opt for. The Grand’s butlers are special: friendly yet discreet and experts at making any stay flawless – they also like to welcome you to your room with a glass of champagne! We stayed in a canal-facing suite and highly recommend them.The hotel offers tours of its historic premises daily at 11am. If time permits, it’s worth checking out.
WHAT TO DO
It might seem super touristy but a canal boat tour really is the best way to get a sense of this pretty city – public hop-on hop-off ones are easy to access or you could splurge (we did!) and hire a private boat. Amsterdam is brimming with museums that are compelling and special in their own way: Rijksmuseum for Dutch Masters, Rembrandt House Museum (the charming historic home where the painter lived for 20 years), The Hermitage (sister to the St Petersburg original with great temporary exhibits and a portrait gallery) and Stedelijk Museum (a stunning modern structure housing contemporary art and design). Of course, the Flower Market, which is the world’s only floating one; Canadians will swoon with delight at the prices – a fraction of what they cost here.
WHERE TO EAT
Lucius is an old-school fish resto which has been serving up stellar seafood for over 40 years – it’s tiny and popular so reservations are a must. We love the casual and busy Toscanini for its well-prepared Italian food as much as its relaxed and fun atmosphere. For fresh and local, head to De Kas, located in a set of greenhouses and specializing in just-grown delicacies, ethereal vegetables and menus that change daily. For the sweet tooth, the family-owned Patisserie Holtkamp is a must – exquisite cakes and pastries, as well as savoury croquettes fried on site (the shrimp ones are divine!).