The Waldorf Astoria was Tripadvisor’s #1 hotel in Amsterdam at the time that I booked, and while I don’t trust Tripadvisor all that much, I was at least pretty confident that the #1 hotel in any city is probably going to be halfway decent. Booking this hotel took some doing, since it costs 80,000 Hilton points per night (those 100,000 point bonuses that you can get on various Hilton cards get eaten up pretty fast if you want to use them at top-tier properties). To get four nights here, I combined two weekend night certificates from the Citi Hilton Reserve card plus the 80,000-point sign-up bonuses that Justine and I got on our no-annual-fee Amex Hilton cards.
Three card sign-ups and $7000 in minimum spending for four nights at a hotel… that’s a big opportunity cost, so was it worth it? In a word, yes it was. The thing with hotels is that there isn’t a night-and-day difference like there is with business class versus economy, so it isn’t really that crucial to stay at a top-tier property. My original plan was to use a free night award plus 45,000 Hyatt points to stay at the new Hyatt Regency, which looks perfectly nice and is in a decent neighborhood over by the Intercontinental where we stayed last year. Instead, I decided to hang on to my Chase points and aimed a little higher for a true five-star property, hoping that it would elevate our vacation that little bit extra. I’m glad I did, since our stay at the Waldorf turned out to be the best hotel stay I’ve ever had.
The hotel has a great location on the Herengracht (canal, but calling it the “Herengracht canal” makes you sound stupid, since “gracht” = “canal”), right in the middle of the historic canal ring. It is made up of six connected buildings, so the facade blends seamlessly into the streetscape. If not for the flag outside the front, you wouldn’t even be able to tell it’s a hotel.
We arrived in an Uber, and a bellman swooped down the stairs and took our bags into a separate entrance while we went to check in. Our first instinct that this hotel was going to be fancy AF was when we sat down at the check-in desk and another bellman brought us hot towels. (Any time you sit down at a check-in desk rather than standing at a counter, you know it’s going to be pretty fancy, but the hot towels were over-the-top.) It was a nice treat, since it was approximately minus six million degrees in Amsterdam and we had just gotten off a long flight.
Marta, the check-in agent, was friendly as could be, and she happily told us that not only was our room ready early, but that we had been upgraded a few categories on account of my Diamond status. Honestly, the upgrade was just gravy as soon as she told us the room was ready — we arrived around 10:45 AM and weren’t looking forward to having to kill four hours while we waited for check-in. The check-in experience continued with the hotel’s signature presentation of four scents that you can choose to have sprayed in your room at turndown service, and finally Marta escorted us to our room and pointed out some of the period details of the original buildings that had been preserved.
Our bags were waiting for us in our room, which was a King Grand Premier room as far as I could tell. There are tons of room categories at this hotel, and due to the layout, even rooms in the same category have different sizes/shapes. Our room was on the second floor and didn’t face the canal, but the views were still really good. The best feature of the room is the soaking tub, which sits just below a window that looks out on some typical Amsterdam scenery. The room wasn’t enormous, but it was plenty roomy for us, especially considering the big walk-in closet, which made the room seem bigger by giving us a place to sequester all our stuff.
There were certain touches in the room that really put it over the top in terms of luxury… things like the Nespresso machine for coffee, the extensive array of brand-name bathroom amenities, and of course the writing kit (which I regrettably didn’t photograph). I joked on Twitter about how I’m obsessed with writing accessories, and the Waldorf really went to town in that department. There was a pad of high quality paper on each bedside table, as well as a placemat-size writing pad inside a leather folder on the desk. Instead of the normal cheapo pen, there was a heavy rollerball pen, which I most definitely took with me as a souvenir.
The bathroom was what you’d expect from a hotel of this caliber, with heated floors, a walk-in shower with excellent pressure, a deep soaking tub with a TV, and soap/lotion/shampoo everywhere you looked. Little touches like the name of the hotel and logo in the shower drain drove the point home that this was no ordinary hotel.
On the first floor, past the check-in and concierge areas, there’s a big sitting room (“Peacock Alley,” which I guess is a thing common to all Waldorf Astoria hotels) where you can order food or snack on the free sweets they set up on the table in the middle of the room. On our last day, we had lunch here, and it was probably the best meal we had on our trip (with a cost to match, of course). Even if you’re not there to eat, it’s a really nice place to sit if you’re feeling cooped up in your room, and the views of the garden and nearby buildings out the floor-to-ceiling windows are pretty nice too.
It seemed like the hotel was going out of their way to surprise and delight us throughout our stay. A typical example was this flower vase that showed up in our room on the third day for no apparent reason. We came in from walking around the city and saw it on the little table in the sitting area, brightening up the room with its insane amount of Dutch-ness (yellow tulips in a delftware vase???).
When we checked out, they actually apologized to us for not being able to honor all of my Diamond benefits (which was weird, since I didn’t think they left anything out), so they gave us this delftware jar of stroopwafels just in case we were mad. Neither of us complained about anything during the stay, so I guess this will remain a mystery. Still, for the hotel to proactively offer it underscores how well they take care of their guests.
As a Diamond member, I was entitled to free breakfast every day, and the incredible spread really took the overall stay to another level. Technically Waldorfs Astoria are supposed to provide a continental breakfast or $15 food and beverage credit to Gold and Diamond members, but we were offered the “Full buffet experience” instead. This includes the entire buffet (cold and hot items) as well as a selection of made-to-order items, and it normally costs 37.50 euro. Now, I don’t know if this is only available to Diamonds, or if Gold members get the full buffet too. If they do, that’s a hell of a benefit for a mid-tier elite.
Here are some more photos of the buffet:
After four days of this breakfast, the cozy room, the excellent service, and the drop-dead gorgeous surroundings, I was happy I went to the trouble to line up a stay here versus the Hyatt Regency. The location also made a big difference — while the Regency isn’t that far, it was so frigidly cold while we were there that we didn’t want to do any walking that we didn’t have to. The fact that we were right on the main canals made it easy to get around without 10-15 minutes going from the hotel to the city center every time.
And when I say it was cold, I mean it was really fucking cold. I may live in California now, but I grew up in Chicago, and I know from cold. The temperature most days was between 15-20 degrees Fahrenheit, although the “feels like” temperature was usually below zero. While it was cold to the point of being kind of annoying, it did give me a different perspective on Amsterdam, especially when I saw people ice skating on the canals. (While the weather we had in the Faroe Islands in the days that followed was definitely wilder, it was in the low 30s, which felt positively balmy.)
As our stay was wrapping up, I mentioned to Justine that the cash price for our upgraded room was around $700 per night, and while that’s an insane amount to spend for a room (and an amount much higher than I’ve ever paid for a hotel), I felt like the hotel did enough for me to have felt like I got my money’s worth if I had paid cash. It’s an awfully subjective question, but there were just so many little ways the hotel went above and beyond my expectations that it ended up setting a new bar for what a luxury hotel stay could look like.
My main benchmark for ultra-luxury is the Park Hyatt Paris, which pales in comparison to the Waldorf Amsterdam. When I left the Park Hyatt, I was happy to have satisfied my curiosity about it, but it didn’t really stick with me. Sure it was fancy, but the service was mostly indifferent, the room was fairly small, and I still can’t get on board with the hideous beef jerky monster sculptures that line the walls. I mostly felt like the high price was there to separate the Park Hyatt’s high-end clientele from the types of people who stay at lesser hotels. It didn’t feel like the $600 or so per night that rooms usually cost went toward anything exceptional, and I could never under any circumstances justify paying for a room there. On the other hand, if I got a bonus at work and had some extra money to blow on a trip, I could see myself paying for the Waldorf again.
Who else has stayed here, and did you like it as much as we did? If you’re going to be in Amsterdam and have enough Hilton points, I can’t recommend it enough… just make sure you pick up an Amex Hilton card if you don’t already have status, since the elite benefits here are substantial.
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