Canal House, Amsterdam, The Netherlands ****

Q: What is it? A: A better hotel. Those three words describe this quality accommodation in Amsterdam quite well, in the same sense as you refer to your favorite shiraz cabernet as a better wine.

Canal House – Centrum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands – the bedroom
Here’s where you sleep. Or similar. It feels like the entire room was built around this bed. Behind that mirror-like thing are the sinks (see pic below). You also get a tiny glimpse of the bathtub in this photo.

Canal House – Centrum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands – the bedroom, reverse angle
The main area/bed area from a reverse angle. Outside you can see a little bit of the garden. This room had a private seating area. Note the Eames-designed walnut stool. Love them. I have two of those at home.

Canal House – Centrum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands – the bath area
Here’s where you will take your yearly Christmas bath. It looks nice, but I honestly do not get why hotel interior designers have had an almost compulsory design disorder when refusing to put bathtub and sinks in a separate room. Is it to preserve space? Or is it just the flavor of the month?

Canal House – Centrum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands – the lounge
Behind me: The bar that doubles as reception. In front of me (pictured), a little lounge and outside is the Keizersgracht – the Emperor’s Canal – the widest of the three major canals in Amsterdam.

Canal House – Centrum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands – the exterior by night
See the bright entrance? Yes, the one next to the stoop in the middle… precisely, behind the car. That’s the Canal House. The hotel is discreet without big neon signs or flashy façade gimmicks.

Not exactly quantum mechanics, is it?
Here’s the recipe: Make sure you find an attractive building in a central location. Find a sound and attractive balance between classic and modern design. Employ only experienced and service-minded staff. Rely mostly on word-of-mouth to attract guests and make them come back. So simple! It’s probably one single PowerPoint-slide in any investor’s meeting. The tough part? To pull it off. SPOILER WARNING: The Canal House does just that.

I may now upset a few Dutch friends…
I honestly don’t know of any city that so furiously keeps blowing its chances to become a fantastic tourist destination. Is it the Dutch mindset or just me? 1) There seems to be a discrepancy between the ambitions of most of Amsterdam’s restaurants and what they are able to deliver. 2) More than a few hotels lose themselves in over-conceptualization and fail to impress. 3) Too many taxi drivers are downright anti-social and lack any sense of direction! Managers in the hospitality industry should pay a visit to Canal House. Find a chair and sit down to quietly see and learn. Here, as a guest, you have the staff’s full attention. Inquiries get a response. Shirts are cleaned and ironed swiftly. Cabs are booked in a whim. In short; stuff gets fixed.

Praising the staff’s attitude.
Back to my regular rant: During a 24-hour cycle, a hotel has only so few precious opportunities to make an impression. Not that I want doormen standing in attention or receptionists saluting me military style. What I’m looking for is a service-level that matches the room-rate, plus – most of all – feeling that the staff is genuinely interested to help you. Friendly interaction rather than perfection will get any hotel operation very far. The Canal House manages to do this without making my plastic melt.

Standing out by not standing out.
Another hotel, the Dylan, is located only a few blocks south. Their service actually outperforms that of the Canal House, but rates are tailored for P. Diddy. There are other hotels that are trying to be something that they’re not (wanna stay in a cultural embassy?). The Canal House is a pretty down-to-earth operation that comes with a certain rationality that I really appreciate – plus great staff members to back it up. It’s not perfect (see the remark on the open bathroom concept above) but it’s the most sensible Amsterdam hotel I’ve stayed in, so far. Other setbacks? Ummm… it has only 23 rooms, so you’d better book early.

Canal House
Keizersgracht 148
1015 CX Amsterdam
The Netherlands

+31 20 622 5182

Click here if you want to book the Canal House through TabletHotels.com!

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