A storied Amsterdam city centre hotel. The choice of Royalty, Nobility & Celebrities since 1867
InterContinental Amstel Amsterdam holds a special place in Dutch history and hearts. The hotel was the very first example of a Grand Hotel as we know them today. Before the Amstel Hotel opened in 1867, Amsterdam did not have any guest accommodation of international standing.
A palace on the Amstel – that is what Doctor Samuel Sarphati had in mind when he was thinking about a hotel with international allure. While other European cities had already helped launch the trend of the Grand Hotel, Amsterdam was only able to offer simple lodging houses. Sarphati, who ran a busy medical practice, was an idealist. He was very anxious to improve the city’s well-being. Sarphati was one of the driving forces behind the construction of the Paleis voor Volksvlijt; a huge exhibition building on the Frederiksplein, the place now occupied by the Nederlandse Bank. The name of this doctor lives on in the nearby Sarphatistraat, Sarphatikade and Sarphatipark.
In 1863 he unfolded plans for the design of a grand hotel on the Amstel river. His intent was to build a hotel that would be able to compete with the luxury hotels of the time. At a time when hotels were situated in the town centres, this was an unusual place for a hotel. But according to Sarphati a new kind of traveller was about to emerge. ”In the past, people wanted to get home after work as quickly as possible. Since they had to do so on foot, the vicinity of offices and the market was the best recommendation for lodgings to be built. People today want a hotel to offer the same kind of amenities that people are used to at home: space, air, light and also a good view, beautiful surroundings”.
At first, it was difficult to convince investors to invest their money in the project. They were put off by the luxury, which they regarded as extravagance. But Sarphati remained adamant. He bought the land himself from the council, had part of the Amstel and the Singelgracht filled in and started with the foundations. Originally, the hotel was to have four wings. Built around a glass-covered inner court which would be accessible from the Sarphatistraat for carriages. Eventually, only the western river wing of the design was built.
The Dutch architect Cornelis Outshoorn was commissioned to design the Amstel Hotel. The first stone was laid on 26 April 1866. The construction went without problems and one year later, on 27 April 1867, the hotel was completed. Unfortunately, Mr. Sarphati himself died on23 June 1866, without seeing his dream come true.
In his design of the exterior of the Amstel Hotel, Outshoorn was inspired by the French Renaissance style of the 16th and 17th centuries, which was also used in The Louvre and the castles on the Loire. He used red and yellow bricks, a material never used before in a representative building.
After the official opening of the hotel on 16 July 1867 people changed their tone. The hotel received universal praise. The entrance hall in particular was breathtaking. It had a size that no other hotel in the capital could match. Marble, crystal chandeliers, Persian carpets, exquisite furniture, gold leaf and the high ceilings all contributed to the hotel’s unique atmosphere. In 1899-1900, another floor was added. During the first year a room cost one and a half or two guilders, plus 25 cents for service and 25 cents for the wax candle. Breakfast was 75 cents, dinner two guilders and a bathroom one guilder. When the hotel opened, one hundred rooms had been completed but only 25 of them were available for guests. For financial reasons, the rooms were austerely furnished.
The early years of the Amstel Hotel were not altogether successful, though; there was even talk about closing the place down. Although 1870 was the year when the Franco-German War broke out, things started to pick up. The hotel started to attract a special kind of clientèle. The reason for their visit was Doctor Johann Georg Mezger, a young physician who ran his surgery from the hotel.
Dr. Mezger treated people from all classes of society but he was mainly known for the many royal and noble patients he treated at his surgery. These people often stayed at the Amstel Hotel. For eighteen years, Dr. Mezger received his patients at the hotel until he decided to move to Wiesbaden in 1888. Dr. Mezger is regarded as the founder of modern-day physiotherapy. Fortunately, the number of visitors to the hotel did not decline. Royalty continued to stay at the hotel, including the shah of Persia and the crown-princess of Austria.
Much of the original interior of the Amstel Hotel was lost over the years but the entrance hall has been retained in its authentic 19th century condition. The chandelier in the lobby is originated from 1896. Due to changing requirements in style and comfort, the hotel underwent many changes over the years but it managed to keep its own specific character. In November 1990, the Amstel Hotel closed for large-scale reconstruction work. Nearly two years later, in September 1992, the Amstel Hotel reopened to reveal a hotel which may rightly be called a hotel of incomparable splendour.
The original 111 rooms have been converted into 79 rooms and suites, ranging from Executive rooms, to Junior and Executive suites and the Royal Suite. The architect responsible for the renovation was the American Mr. John Irving. He was assisted by Mr. Pierre Yves Rochon, who was responsible for the interior, and Mrs. Anette de Koning, who took care of the garden design (now the terrace). The hotel also has a small fleet of boats for guests to use for round trips on the magnificent and world famous Amsterdam canals.
To offer the guests of the 79 rooms and suites the best possible service, the hotel employs 140 employees. This means that every single guest receives personal service. A concept which is unique to the Netherlands and which guarantees unparalleled service.
145 years later after the opening in 1867, the Amstel Hotel has become synonymous with the very finest in hospitality, making it a favourite destination for celebrities, dignitaries and royalty.