High fidelity: Conservatorium Amsterdam hotel review
Former bank and musical conservatory transformed with a stunning contemporary makeover
For all hotels around the globe, location is without doubt a make or break factor. In New York City, hedonistic - and perhaps foolish - punters will shell out a small fortune to sleep in the shadow of Times Square, while in London, any room within a mile of Big Ben will fetch over-the-odds for those seeking an action-packed city break.
But even if your hotel were suspended atop St Paul’s Cathedral, the feeling of centrality - of being “in the mix” - it offered would likely pale in comparison to one of Amsterdam’s grandest hotels: the Conservatorium.
The Van Gogh Museum, the Rijksmuseum, the Concertgebouw, Vondelpark, and even the I ❤️ Amsterdam sign are all within one minute’s walk from the doors of this elegant 19th-century building.
Respectful of its heritage, The Conservatorium Hotel incorporates an unusually large percentage of its host building’s The hotel's red brick facade. Award-winning designer and architect Piero Lissoni retained the core of the existing structure while adding contemporary touches to its interior.
Nowhere is the Lissoni's vision more evident than in the hotel’s main atrium. Opened in 2011 it houses a vast communal area where guests check in, eat breakfast, listen to live music or just sit and watch other patrons come and go.
Swallowing the courtyard that was once at the rear of the building, Lissoni has converted the atrium into a colossal jumble of angular lines intersecting one another, from the zig-zagging lighting rig above the hotel’s Brasserie & Lounge restaurant, to the obsidian countertops of the reception and check-in desk.
Although no two Lissoni projects look alike, his style is evident throughout the hotel - bright, vivid splashes of colour punctuating muted tones, such as the atrium’s lime green armchairs, or the sunset yellow desk framed by the otherwise subdued palette of my duplex room.
Originally a bank before its conversion into a prestigious music conservatory, the Conservatorium Hotel has hints of the past throughout, including century-old motifs of piggy banks, honey bees and spider webs in the tiling.
The hotel’s 129 rooms exhibit an variety of layouts, all of which use the original building’s high ceilings in different ways. My split-level duplex room crams in an almost treehouse-like sleeping area above the living room and bathroom situated on the floor below. With 25ft-high blackout curtains, warm wooden floors and wall-mounted surround sound bluetooth speakers, the room offers guests a snug, homely space to retreat to each night.
Meanwhile the hotel’s larger rooms - some of which reach up to 170 sq metres - are more flamboyant, the most notable example of which is the Conservatorium’s Van Baerle Suite. With almost five metre high ceilings and white walls, the Van Baerle is undoubtedly the brightest, airiest room in the building.
But the I Love Amsterdam Suite - nestled in the converted roof of the original building - is the real showstopper, with wooden beams framing this triplex apartment in a deep brown, interrupting the otherwise off-white hues of this appealing room. From the cuboid sunken bath to the ornate iron spiral staircase, this suite is the most lavish offering at the Conservatorium.
And that’s not all - after a day of biking, boating or strolling through the streets of the city, guests in this suite can climb up to their own private 360-degree viewing platform to sip champagne while looking out across the city.
Downstairs under the glass ceiling of the atrium, the Brasserie & Lounge serves up a shifting menu throughout the day. In the mornings the restaurant offers no-nonsense breakfast options, the highlights of which include a pitch-perfect eggs royale topped with salmon roe, and a solid shakshuka.
For dinner, the brasserie offers cote de veau, snow crab and royal cabanon oysters, or for a less local option, guests can book into the hotel’s contemporary Asian restaurant Taiko, named after a Japanese drum - another sly nod to the building’s past as a music conservatory.
Opened in 2014 and headed by Amsterdam native Schilo van Coevorden, Taiko delivers Japanese and pan-Asian food, with red king crab - its “ingredient of the year” - popping up on its nigiri, sushi and sashimi menus.
Those open to the more daring side of Japanese cuisine can opt for one of the two “Omakase” menus, named for the Japanese concept that roughly translates to “I’ll leave it up to you”. Needless to say, you never know quite what you’re going to get with these mammoth 12-course culinary undertakings.
Buried deep in the basement, the soundproofed Akasha wellness centre is one of the most tranquil spas in Amsterdam, offering a roomy sauna, a blue-green marble hammam and a heated pool. It also features a range of spa treatments, from facials to hot sea shell massages.
The Conservatorium offers a respectful kind of innovation, taking a building steeped in history and cultural significance and turning it into a grand, ultra-modern luxury hotel. Stately yet fashionable, the Conservatorium cuts no corners.
The Conservatorium Amsterdam, Van Baerlestraat 27, 1071 Amsterdam; conservatoriumhotel.com