You may see Dannii Minogue if you stay there. Or perhaps the famous Dutch film director, Jan de Bont of Twister renown. Welcome to Seven One Seven, the first and only boutique hotel in the Netherlands when it opened two decades ago. And still, arguably, the best.
It’s in an elegant 1810 building on Prinsengracht, (architecturally one of Amsterdam’s lovelier streets, and beside a canal) and is an 8-minute walk to the Rijksmusuem and a 5-minute bike ride (often under an umbrella and always without a helmet) to the Anne Frank House. Nothing noteworthy is further than a 20-minute walk from this terrace of tall and sometimes lopsided canal houses.
The horizontal tricolor flag of the Netherlands waves in the wind above its front door as we climb the steps and ring the brass bell. A member of staff wearing a shin-length cream apron (it turns out they all do) opens the door. It’s like visiting friends. Like the Queen, we need never carry a door key.
‘May I offer you a glass of wine? A cup of tea? To sit in front of the fire?’ asks Vincent, (the man in the apron).
We’ve already checked in online, so simply have to hand him my credit card, and then set about the business of pretending it’s our home. A cheerful Dutchman always lets us in. We sit down for a cup of tea. There are fresh roses, orchids and daffodils everywhere.
The smoking room (yes, there is one; it calls itself a library, or bibliotheek) and the drawing room (the achtersalon) are either side of the hall. Both have soaring ceilings, are exquisitely decorated – in blues, browns and ochre – and comfortable with antique leather armchairs, sink-into-me sofas, burning candles and roaring log fires. Above all, each boasts a serious and eclectic private collection of art – including bronze statues, classical busts and antique ceramics.
Its interior decorator – the late Kees van der Valk – was once a fashion stylist and put his signature on the curtains, sofas, chairs, lampshades and cushion covers…they’re all made from men’s clothing material. One suite (the Von Goethe) even has a sofa upholstered in blue striped suit fabric.
We mountaineer to our bedroom – one of only nine – up stairs so steep and high that an oxygen canister might be helpful. (All the stairs in Amsterdam leave us out of breath. The merchants were allowed to build towards the sky, but were only afforded limited canal frontage.) All the Seven One Seven suites are named after cultural figures – from Picasso (grey-ish walls) to Tolkien (red). Ours is Mahler (Chinese blue). Every room is decorated differently, each with antiques, modern and African art.
Inside Mahler is a brass bed, antique wood furnishings, a blue sofa large enough to seat an orchestra and African art so alluring that I’m tempted to put it in my suitcase. There are quaint touches too: three empty caviar jars and an empty bottle of Krug Grand Cuvée champagne to tempt guests. (135 euros for half a bottle and the caviar trilogy. Full, that is.)
In our bathroom, instead of a killer power shower and boring, standard white fluffy towels, there’s a gentle rain shower and seventies-style orange, white and brown towels – plus a blue plastic duck. Whoever posts the most entertaining picture of Mr. Duck on social media (ideally over 717 kilometers from the hotel) wins a free weekend in the hotel. Naturally I have sent aforementioned plastic bird to Australia to do a photo shoot.
After a peaceful night’s sleep, we walk downstairs past etchings pasted eccentrically on the wall with too-big and lopsided antique frames surrounding some and no frames on others. We take breakfast in a souterain dining room overlooking a courtyard. Seven One Seven is in an erstwhile merchant’s house and the dining room was once the sugar storage room.
We are served fresh orange juice and smoothies, then fruit salad and meats and cheeses off Delft Blue china (you know, that pretty blue and white pottery) – all midst a grand piano and silver candelabra with candles that are flickering and lit even during the day.
Aside from its beautiful décor and art, the biggest strength of Seven One Seven is the personal touch and attention they offer, because it’s so small. Additionally, there’s a free concierge service. The staff arranges everything from car pickup to massage in the room, bicycles, museum cards (to save queuing), dinner reservations and private boat tour, walking guides to private drivers. All organised on arrival or in advance.
It’s an eccentric and wonderful hotel. Guests slow down in the library with a cognac and cigar: there’s no yoga here. For lunch (a club sandwich or soup) or dinner (by arrangement) they’ll bring a picnic basket of chicken curry and rice or boeuf bourguignon upstairs. And then there’s that blue plastic duck…Seven One Seven is 20 this year. Happy Birthday. May we come to your 21st?
Hotel Seven One Seven, Prinsengracht 717, 1017 JW Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Tel: +31 20 4270 717
The hotel is a 30-minute taxi ride from the airport and is centrally located within easy walking distance of everything.
Type of Hotel: 5-Star Boutique Hotel
Number of Rooms and Suites: 9
Insider Tip: A good place to stay if you don’t feel like doing a ton of sightseeing. There are few places you’ll feel more at home. Good for weddings, honeymooners, leisure, special celebrations, business. Everything. Little wonder it’s also a 2017 Travellers’ Choice Trip Advisor winner and 2017 Gault & Millau one too.
Price Band: High, with rates from 300 to 650 euros per night. Wi-Fi included. Breakfast extra.
Reviewer’s Rating: 9/10
Caroline Phillips is an award-winning freelance journalist based in London.
Photographs courtesy of Seven One Seven
Need to know:
KLM Economy fares to Amsterdam start from £71 return and are inclusive of taxes. To book or for additional information check KLM’s website or call the reservation line on +44 (0)20 7660 0293.