FELL IN LOVE WITH HOTELS & SPAS

Hotel Review: A luxury canal house stay at The Dylan Amsterdam

May 16, 2015
Edible pearl amuse bouche filled with tanqueray gin, lime and oyster juice
Entrance Gate to The Dylan (Credit: The Dylan)

Entrance Gate to The Dylan (Credit: The Dylan)

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.

Amsterdam's canal ring area is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Amsterdam’s canal ring area is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site

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.

Brasserie OCCO

Brasserie OCCO

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).

View of our Anne-Frank-staircase from above

View of our Anne-Frank-staircase from above

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 bedroom alcove

Our bedroom alcove

View of the courtyard from our room window

View of the courtyard from our room window

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.

Our bathroom sink

Our bathroom sink

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.

Edible pearl amuse bouche filled with  tanqueray gin, lime and oyster juice

Edible pearl amuse bouche of cocoa butter filled with Tanqueray gin, lime and oyster juice

Glazed sweetbreads, oxtail broth, fregula sarda, Green tomatoes, ras al hanou

Glazed sweetbreads, oxtail broth, fregula sarda, Green tomatoes, ras al hanou

Duck liver flan, spiced caramel, red cabbage and smoked duck breast

Duck liver flan, spiced caramel, red cabbage and smoked duck breast

Texel's lamb saddle "9425" with roasted white asparagus, mustard, kohlrabi, kidney bun and cappers gravy

Texel’s lamb saddle “9425” with roasted white asparagus, mustard, kohlrabi, kidney bun and cappers gravy

Wild sea bass served lukewarm with Sobrasada Iberico, radish, cannabis seed, baby squid, white grapes and parsley root

Wild sea bass served lukewarm with Sobrasada Iberico, radish, cannabis seed, baby squid, white grapes and parsley root

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.

Ready for dessert at the Chef's Table

Ready for dessert at the Chef’s Table

Chef de Cuisine Jurgen van der Zalm and Executive Chef  Dennis Kulpers

Chef de Cuisine Jurgen van der Zalm and Executive Chef Dennis Kulpers

High Wine

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.

Setting for High Wine in the Lounge

Setting for High Wine in the Lounge

Duck breast with dried cherries, king oyster, sugar snaps and walnut in Madeira sauce

Small plate of duck breast with dried cherries, king oyster, sugar snaps and walnut in Madeira sauce

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.

Adjacent Keisersgracht Canal

Adjacent Keisersgracht Canal

Bottom line

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.

  • Reply
    Laura
    May 17, 2015 at 12:37 am

    What a magical place to stay! Thanks for sharing, Irene.

  • Reply
    alison abbott
    May 18, 2015 at 10:13 am

    Looks like a really nice experience Irene, and what a great location. I love eating pretty food with a sense of humor, and I’d say Vinkeles is a restaurant where I could be quite happy. They would have had me at the ‘pearl’.

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      May 18, 2015 at 4:44 pm

      A serious chef who doesn’t take himself too seriously is the best!

  • Reply
    Suzanne Stavert
    May 18, 2015 at 11:16 am

    Heavenly! The Dylan looks incredibly chic and luxurious and the food…OMG! Not only was the cuisine a feast for the eyes, it was delicious as well. Lucky you!!

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      May 18, 2015 at 4:45 pm

      Yes, we were lucky! A property that is equally great for a stay or for a meal~

  • Reply
    Rachel
    May 18, 2015 at 3:06 pm

    That food looks too perfect to eat! What a lovely place to stay, and in a perfect location. I would point out that the winding, narrow staircase you remarked on is completely standard in Holland. Pretty much all houses have staircases like that, even brand new ones.

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      May 18, 2015 at 4:46 pm

      Yes, it was a great location and really felt like living in a canal house~

  • Reply
    Elaine J. Masters
    May 18, 2015 at 3:12 pm

    What an incredible journey and the meals look astounding. There’s been such an explosion of plating creativity and small plate artistry as of late and now I know where in Amsterdam.

  • Reply
    Betsy Wuebker | PassingThru
    May 18, 2015 at 4:37 pm

    Having watched a couple of International House Hunter episodes with Amsterdam canal properties featured, I was totally unprepared for the innovative design of this property’s interior. Just amazing use of space. The food looks to die for, particularly the whimsical presentation of the sea bass dish. What a memory for you to think about long after!

  • Reply
    Sand In My Suitcase
    May 18, 2015 at 5:23 pm

    What a great place to stay! Being able to walk to local shops and restaurants is a real plus ☺. The “high wine” spin on high tea sounds enticing – who isn’t ready for a glass after a day of sightseeing!

  • Irene S. Levine
    Reply
    Irene S. Levine
    May 18, 2015 at 5:25 pm

    The one “first-world problem” was that tea was so close to dinner time and the high tea could have been a meal in itself. But we didn’t want to miss the experience!

  • Reply
    santafetraveler
    May 18, 2015 at 5:34 pm

    The Dylan and Vinkeles look and sound incredible. There’s something I love about canals- pair it with a boutique hotel in a historic building and I’m in heaven.

  • Irene S. Levine
    Reply
    Irene S. Levine
    May 18, 2015 at 6:39 pm

    On our river cruise, Bruges was another city we visited that sits on canals.

  • Reply
    Johanna
    May 18, 2015 at 7:31 pm

    What an experience to set you in the time and mood of the place. I loved the view of the courtyard – so atmospheric. I also couldn’t help but drool over the food, the sea bass among others was so beautifully presented.

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      May 18, 2015 at 7:36 pm

      Yes, the vegetables beside the sea bass looked like a beautiful floral arrangement!

  • Reply
    The GypsyNesters
    May 18, 2015 at 7:37 pm

    Could be the most colorful food we’ve ever seen. We have spent a lot of time in Amsterdam lately and it is fast becoming one of our favorite cities.

  • Reply
    Donna Janke
    May 18, 2015 at 7:50 pm

    What a wonderful experience. The Dylan Amsterdam looks delightfully luxurious. I like the idea of High Wine.

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      May 18, 2015 at 11:39 pm

      High wine really was a novel twist. I hadn’t heard of it before.

  • Reply
    Suzanne Fluhr
    May 19, 2015 at 2:45 am

    Just this evening at dinner, I think I decided to make my first visit to the Netherlands this September and, of course, your post has only reinforced that decision. I enjoyed following along during your meal at Vinkeles via your photos and narrative, but I confess that it was a little heavy on organ meat for my taste—the beautiful presentations notwithstanding.

  • Reply
    Carol Colborn
    May 19, 2015 at 1:32 pm

    What a new perspective on accommodations there! I absolutely love your bedroom alcove. But the food seem so exotic although I was really struck by that edible pearl!!! A woman’s good friend, no doubt.

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      May 19, 2015 at 3:18 pm

      I was amazed how much detail went into designing the room interiors, each one different!

  • Reply
    Anita @ No Particular Place To Go
    May 20, 2015 at 2:24 am

    What a fabulous place to stay and I really enjoyed reading the history of The Dylan Amsterdam. Thanks especially for the photos so I could picture the rooms and surroundings. Your location was perfect and I love the thought of lying in bed looking at the stars. Hope to visit this city someday!

  • Reply
    Tom Bartel
    May 20, 2015 at 7:42 am

    Charming room, and the food looks spectacular. Going to have to save up and try this place on the next trip to Amsterdam.

  • Reply
    Anne Woodyard (@MusicandMarkets)
    May 20, 2015 at 1:17 pm

    What a glorious place to stay while in beautiful Amsterdam! And the food…!!!

  • Reply
    Carole Terwilliger Meyers
    May 21, 2015 at 12:16 pm

    What a spectacular hotel! I had the pleasure once of visiting it for a brief tour and had placed it at the top of my to-stay list for the next time I am in Amsterdam. Your images convince me to leave it there.

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      May 21, 2015 at 12:51 pm

      You might even want to move it up a peg on your list:-)

  • Reply
    A Cook Not Mad (Nat)
    May 22, 2015 at 4:01 am

    What a great experience, we stayed in a few places with stairs that were very steep, Dutch space saving design 🙂

  • Reply
    Marilyn Jones
    May 22, 2015 at 11:31 am

    What a fun adventure to be able to stay in one — well actually two — canal row houses along a canal. And your food looks awesome. Kudos to your wonderful descriptions and your husband’s great photography!!

  • Reply
    Denis Gagnon
    May 24, 2015 at 2:13 pm

    What a great rendering of a very interesting experience. And the meal looks just delicious, thanks in part to your awesome photos!

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      May 25, 2015 at 8:33 am

      Yes, definitely a memorable hotel to which you want to return!

  • Reply
    Jean | Holy Smithereens
    June 8, 2015 at 12:07 am

    I love the bedroom alcove and the sink that has a view! And the location is grand too, will consider this when I visit Amsterdam 🙂

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      June 8, 2015 at 8:21 am

      It’s always a treat to have a bathroom window, especially one with such a beautiful view.

Leave a Reply

Share
Tweet
Share
Pin
Flip