What’s it like?
The entrance is impressive, with a cobbled courtyard, fountain and bikes for hire. The lobby is small but elegant, although when arriving at 12.30pm at a reasonably quiet time, I had to wait several minutes behind the one guest in front of me, despite the presence of many staff milling around in the lobby. By the time I was seen to, several others were waiting behind me, though staff seemed oblivious to their irritation. I was so relieved to be checked in I gave up my bag to a bellboy to be delivered to the room. After waiting 30 minutes for it I called reception, then after another 15 minutes and with an appointment looming, I walked back down, retrieved the bag myself and brought it up to the room so I could change. Not a good start.
Where is it?
On Oudezijds Voorburgwal, set between two canals, yet only a few minutes’ walk from all the major sights. The nearest subway station is Nieuwmarkt. From Central station, take trams four, nine, 16, 24 or 25 to Dam Square.
The 177 rooms are in many shapes and sizes, as the hotel comprises six different buildings. My own was unusual, a suite with a door leading out to steps straight down to the canalside, which was wonderful, though the TV over the bathtub showed only one channel, and after phoning up to report the fault, I returned to the room to find the main TV on with an error message on it. I didn’t manage to get it to work after that. The hotel’s central position means it can get a little noisy late at night, so light sleepers should choose one of the rooms with either a courtyard or garden view. All rooms have Sofitel’s “My Bed”, a pillow menu, Hermès amenities, Nespresso coffee and tea facilities, free Wi-Fi, Bose DVD player and Philips LCD flatscreen TV. The design is elegant and understated, with beige, cream and other muted colours. Unfortunately, the lift to most of the rooms is woefully slow.
Restaurants & Bars
Bridges seafood restaurant incorporates a raw bar (the first in the Netherlands) for oysters, lobster sandwiches, fish tartare and sushi, a cocktail bar and the Vinothèque, with two wine lists – Concise and Grand. There is also a private dining room. The design is inspired by the colours and shapes of a mural by Dutch artist Karel Appel that is displayed in the entrance. The courtyard is used for outdoor dining in summer and has rows of trees, a pond and sofas. There is also a library bar.
Business & Meeting Facilities
There are 17 meeting rooms and banqueting halls, five of which are listed as historical monuments and were taken into use when the Grand served as the Town Hall – these include the Council Chamber, the Aldermens Chamber, the St Cecilia and the beautiful Marriage Chamber. The Princenhof dates from the 16th century and has 12 conference rooms, including a boardroom and a special catering space.
The hotel has a “So Spa” that occupies two floors with a heated indoor pool, treatment rooms, spa bath, sauna and hammam steam bath. The fitness zone, So Fit, has Technogym equipment.
The Sofitel is a fine hotel, but by calling itself ‘Legend’, elevating it to the brand’s top tier, it should be outstanding, and at the time of my visit – admittedly a hectic period since it was for the official unveiling – it fell a little short of that. Nevertheless, it is beautiful, and the restaurant is superb.
Address: Oudezijds Voorburgwal 197, 1012 EX, Amsterdam, +31 20 5553111/222, sofitel.com