A stay at The Dylan Amsterdam is the next best thing to living in a canal house on the Keizersgracht.
Taking a boat ride on one of Amsterdam’s historic canals is close to the top of any to-do list for visitors to this city. And gliding through the waters of this “Venice of the North” you can’t help but fantasize what it might be like to live in one of the old townhouses that grace the shores.
The beautiful buildings on the Keizersgracht (one of three major canals specifically designed for residential development) were constructed during the 17th century, called the Dutch Golden Age, because of the Netherlands’ international prominence in trade and culture. At that time, the townhouses along the Keizersgracht housed some of the wealthiest merchants; these properties still remain among the priciest real estate in the city today.
Prior to our AMA Waterways Tulip Cruise that embarked from Amsterdam, we were fortunate to stay at The Dylan Amsterdam for one night and the better part of two days (due to their kind early check-in policy). This intimate, family-owned boutique property with 40 rooms and suites is centrally located on the Keizersgracht Canal.
Arriving at The Dylan
With only modest signage outside, The Dylan is comprised of two adjoining townhouses set behind a small, gated courtyard with a bike rack outside the front door (Bike racks are ubiquitous in this city). Reception takes place at a massive black Parsons table in a room furnished in black and white.
As we were led to our room (Room 24), we walked up a few steps past an inviting bar and lounge area and through one of the hotel’s two restaurants, Brasserie OCCO, which is open for casual dining from 7:30AM to 11PM.
After entering a small elevator, we reached the second floor were we were led down a hall to the door of our room, which was located at the rear of the building. To our surprise, behind the door was a rather steep, spiral staircase that wound its way up to our attic suite on the top level under the gables. (The feel of the staircase construction was reminiscent of our subsequent visit to the nearby Anne Frank House).
Furnished in beige with white walls and light-colored woods, our lofty minimalist-style suite was spacious—with a bedroom alcove (set behind an armoire/wardrobe closet) and an expansive living/desk area with two full-length sofas facing each other. A set of windows overlooked the hotel’s interior garden courtyard with laurel trees; the windows on the other side faced the backyards of neighborhood townhouses on the street behind us.
Our one-of-a-kind suite (no two rooms in the hotel have the same design or décor) had been completely gutted and renovated. The modern en-suite bathroom had a stone counter, shiny nickel hardware, a Rainforest shower, and a full tub at the other end of the room.
When tucked in our bed (with dimmer switches on the night tables beside us), we were able to see the stars and moonlight shining down from the sky. Except for the room’s building’s contours and facade, one might have never suspected the property’s rich history.
A long backstory: Four hundred years
First constructed in wood in 1613, the building was rebuilt five years later to create a permanent stone theater, the first in the Netherlands. Ariana Nozeman, the first female actress to perform on stage in this country, did so here. Antonio Vivaldi (yes, the composer of the “original” Four Seasons) conducted the orchestra in this theater on the auspicious occasion of its 100th anniversary.
Unfortunately, during a performance at the theater in 1772, the entire building burned down sparing only the main entrance gate.
A year later, the site was sold to the Regents of the Roman Catholic Church who rebuilt it as a refuge for the elderly and poor, called the Old and Poor People’s Office. The same church foundation retained ownership of the property for more than two centuries until it was sold in 1998. It was renovated and reopened as The Dylan, a luxury hotel, in 1999.
Restaurant Vinkeles at The Dylan
The highlight of our stay was dinner at Vinkeles, the hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant, named after a Dutch painter and located a short flight of stairs down from Brasserie Occo. We ordered off the regular menu but Vinkeles also offers multi-course tasting menus paired with wines.
Our meal, a creative mix of contemporary and classic French cooking, offered a mélange of delectable tastes coupled with exceptional presentation and flawless service. Many of the ingredients were seasonal and locally sourced.
Three old wood-burning ovens lined the brick exterior wall of the dining room. These were part of the bakery operated by the church foundation to offset the costs of housing the poor souls who lived within these walls. The nine tables were nicely spaced in the comfortable, beamed-ceiling room with brick floor.
With only one seating each evening, Executive Chef Dennis Kupers and Maitre D’ Casper Westerveld have created a hard-to-book but pitch-perfect gastronomic experience no less exciting than a night of great theatre. Our meal was a feast for the senses, served by friendly, knowledgeable and unpretentious wait staff professionals.
For dessert, the very personable and humble chef invited us to enjoy that course at his small Chef’s Table in the kitchen downstairs, which gave us a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the hard-working and talented staff.
A novel spin on high tea that’s popular in many fine hotels, The Dylan has created a late afternoon (3-5PM) “high wine” experience in its Lounge, leading guests through guided pairings of four small seasonal dishes with wines. It was a relaxing and delicious way to wind down from the day in front of a fireplace, as we sampled different wines and chatted with other guests. Michelle, the lovely waitress/sommelier-in-training, explained each of the dishes and wines she poured.
Location, location, location
The location of our home-for-a-day couldn’t have been better. In the short time we were there, we were able to take advantage of our neighborhood, shopping and having breakfast in the charming de negen straatjes (nine streets) district with its galleries, boutique shops, eateries and bars.
The hotel was only ten minutes away from the Anne Frank House, and conveniently located within walking distance of the flower market and major museums.
As bespoke as the setting and as personalized the service, The Dylan feels totally warm and welcoming. Living here, even for a night or two, allows you to feel as if you are a veritable resident of a canal house although everything inside has been updated to appeal to 21st century five-star luxury hotel tastes and sensibilities (even free wireless throughout the hotel).
Not only the hotel but also this vibrant neighborhood has an incredibly rich history dating back generations. I later read that Peter the Great stayed at house number 317 and John Adams stayed at house number 529.
A member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, The Dylan offers its guests an unforgettable, contemporary twist on the quintessential canal house stay as well as a brush with history.
IF YOU GO
The Dylan Amsterdam
Keizersgracht 384, Amsterdam
- Rates vary by room and type of accommodation; special package rates are also available
Also on More Time to Travel: Visiting Amsterdam: Beyond the windmills, clogs and tulips
Disclosure: The Dylan Hotel hosted our stay and we paid for our meal at Vinkeles. Any opinions expressed in this piece are our own.