The news that The Hoxton has opened a new hotel in Amsterdam was a good enough excuse for me. I was looking for a place to celebrate a scarily big wedding anniversary so the combination of The Hoxton, a stunning city and a sunny spell in May sealed the deal.
And yes, The Hoxton’s new outpost in Amsterdam is every bit as brilliant as its two London siblings. It opened a year ago and it’s got all the familiar Hoxton details that regulars know and love – chic décor, friendly staff and characterful rooms with books, Roberts Radios, comfy beds and stylish bathrooms. There’s even a fleet of bikes for guests to use (everyone cycles in Amsterdam).
Even better, the Amsterdam Hoxton (pictured) is situated in five elegant town houses in Herengracht, overlooking the canal. One of the houses was home to the city’s mayor in the 17th century. Lucky him, is all I can say.
This was my first visit to Amsterdam and I had no idea beforehand how pretty it is – and how much there is to do. There were scores of chic coffee shops and boutiques on the doorstep and all the places that we wanted to visit – from the Anne Frank House to the Rijksmuseum – were within walking distance.
To get our bearings we took a barge along the canal on the first afternoon, absorbing a little of the city’s history and culture and clocking the places we wanted to visit the next day. A German woman we got talking to was so enamoured of the barge that she was on her fourth voyage that day.
There are loads of great places to eat in Amsterdam and we discovered two of them. The first, called – slightly unoriginally – Amsterdam, is set in the city’s former pumping station. The second, where we had our anniversary lunch, was Restaurant de Kas. This former greenhouse, located on the edge of Frankendael Park, serves some of the best food I’ve ever eaten. The restaurant grows its own herbs, fruit and vegetables and serves a set menu each day. Lunch was so delicious that I didn’t stop to take any notes but suffice it to say it included a delicious lettuce soup with poached oysters, hake on a bed of mushroom puree and a pudding that included rhubarb and verbena and was utterly divine.
The most moving part of our two days was a visit to Anne Frank House. My sister had told me to book online in advance and I’m glad I took her advice. From May 1 admission between 9am and 3.30pm has been restricted to visitors with online tickets for a particular time and after that long queues build up.
Like many people, I first read Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl as a teenager and it had a profound effect on me. The story of how the 13-year-old Jewish girl and her family went into hiding in the annexe of an Amsterdam warehouse in 1942 and lived there for two years, until they were all betrayed, has always stayed in my head, and to see the place for real was something I’ll never forget. The thought that only one of the eight – Anne’s father Otto – survived was shocking beyond belief. As we walked through the house no one uttered a word. We didn’t have to. The shock on our faces said it all.