That's just three hours and 41 minutes
As much as I love to travel, I’m not one for an overseas mini break, mainly because I hate all the faff and expense of getting to, through and from airports (a week long trip is the minimum for me to get into all of that), plus there’s the carbon foot print to consider. As for a ferry to get to the continent – just the thought of all those hours chugging across the choppy North Sea has me heaving. How happy was I then when Eurostar launched its direct service to Amsterdam earlier this year, with twice daily trains taking three hours and 41 minutes to get to one of Europe’s most exciting cities. (There is one hitch: on the return you have to change trains in Brussels due to border control issues). Long weekend here I come…
When you only have a few days to explore a city, you want to be in the middle of all the action. The Ink Hotel is an easy 10-minute walk from the Central Station, right in the heart of the city, and just a short stroll from Dam Square and the 17th-Century canal district. The former home of The Times newspaper, it’s now a super cool boutique hotel, part of Sofitel’s M Gallery collection. Small and compact it may be, but the clever design has created light and surprisingly spacious communal areas and the ‘printing press’ motif, inspired by the history of the building, has been quirkily interpreted. Who knew typewriters, letter blocks and rolls of paper could look so stylish?
Doubles are small, but again a clever use of space and uber modern design give instant wow factor as you walk through the door. The décor is varying shades of grey, whites and inky blues and the open plan room features a shower and toilet cubicle with a stylish sink and storage unit demarcating the bathroom area, (complete with lovely Co Bigelow toiletries). Jars of blue ink pens and notepads to encourage guests to ‘Start writing your story’ are another nod to the hotel’s design theme. And the real stand out is the entire wall opposite the bed decorated with a map of Amsterdam, drawn by artist Jan Rothuizen, with little comments about things that he saw or that have happened to him when hanging out in Amsterdam locations. Cute and compelling I found myself transfixed and spent a good hour browsing through the copy of his book left in the room, The Soft Atlas of Amsterdam, with more drawings of places he spent time in across the city, from a houseboat to the Red Light District. It gives a real insider’s view of this fantastic city and it’s diverse and cosmopolitan population.
Yum, yum and yet more yum. The Pressroom restaurant has something to suit everyone, all made with top quality, interesting produce. Starters range from ‘Asparagus salad, parmesan, shimeji, pine nut, coppa and hazelnut’ (€12) to ‘Steak Tartar, egg, purple onion, turnip and crouton’ (€12). For mains, we had ‘Pan seared seabass, black rice risotto, samphire and hollandaise sauce’ (€12) and dessert was a delicious ‘Vanilla and raspberry crème brulee’ (€9). Meanwhile, in the cocktail bar the house cocktail, the Ink Redible, is a zesty mix of Tanqueray gin, grapefruit, lime and elderflower tonic or try one made with the Dutch national spirit Genever (also a type of gin) – there are plenty of interesting and cocktail combos to choose from so forget about Sea Breezes.
Staff are super friendly and helpful and look like a gang of hipsters in their uniforms, which could have been designed by APC. You’ll want to hang out in the Pressroom bar with it’s a cool, low key buzz, great music, cocktails and mix of locals and hotel guests.
Get your trainers on and explore the canal district, just minutes from the hotel. Wander across the bridges, or along the waterways and whichever way you head, you’ll come across great little bars and restaurants to stop off at, such as the old, wood panelled ‘brown’ bar, Café de II Prinsen, which is great spot for a Dutch beer or glass of wine. The Nine Streets shopping area between the Singel and Prinsengracht canals is filled with great little shops, boutiques and art galleries and has become a city hot spot. (Warning: be prepared to dodge bikes hurtling in every direction, everyone cycles here). Catch a tram to the Museumplein, which is a nice area to explore, even if you can’t face the queues at the Van Gogh or Rijks Museums. And for more great ideas of where to go, plus tips from locals, check out helloams.com.
Ink Hotel, Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 67, Amsterdam. Room prices start at €159. For more information visit INK Hotel Amsterdam – MGallery by Sofitel
Direct trains from London to Amsterdam cost from £35 one way. Visit Eurostar.com