Discover the Holland that inspired some of Vincent van Gogh’s most famous paintings as author Raphael Kadushin travels into the Dutch landscape and tells the story of a country steadily reclaiming the Dutch painter as its own in “Van Gogh’s Holland” in the July/August 2014 issue. —Editors
Where to Stay in Holland
Sitting directly across the street from Amsterdam’s Museumplain (framed by the city’s trifecta of art museums, the Stedelijk Museum, Rijksmuseum, and Van Gogh Museum), this hotel claims pride of place for art lovers who want to make the most of their gallery time in Amsterdam. Opened in 2011 after massive renovation of the 19th-century Renaissance Revival building—which functioned most recently as a music conservatory—the hotel hasn’t lost its original Neo-Gothic patina or handsome vaulted ceilings.
The 129 airy, contemporary guest rooms, designed by Italian architect Piero Lissoni and many reconfigured as duplexes complete with sleeping lofts, contend for the largest in Amsterdam. Plus: State-of-the-art holistic spa-cum-wellbeing center; your own personalized host; a glass-roof atrium lounge that has turned into Amsterdam’s buzziest meeting place; a casual brasserie; and the Tunes Restaurant, where Dutch master chef Schilo van Coevorden dishes up eight-course tasting menus.
Amsterdam’s pioneering canal-house hotel is still its best, and at relative bargain rates. Composed of 10 joined 17th- and 18th-century canal houses, the impeccably managed Golden Age landmark sits on an elegant stretch of the grand Herengracht canal. You can nab the most ethereal views in town if you book a top-floor room.
Bathrooms have recently been updated, but the hotel’s quirky boho appeal, epitomized by its mix of French reproduction furniture and modernist Dutch paintings, remains intact, along with a very serious library stocked with books left behind by its guests. Since the hotel is the premiere destination of most writers passing through Amsterdam on book tour, the collection includes signed editions by everyone from Donna Tartt and Isabel Allende to Paul Theroux, Salman Rushdie, and the late Doris Lessing.
A step up in price from the Ambassade, the Dylan is located in its own landmark canal house and features a recently renovated added wing and seriously designed rooms that veer between black-and-white minimalism and red-lacquered Zen flair. The hotel’s Michelin-starred Vinkeles restaurant ups the ante with chef Dennis Kuipers’ refined food and the lounge and bar regularly fill with the city’s most photogenic hipsters.
Within easy striking distance of Van Gogh’s Drenthe, this may be one of Holland’s most unexpected finds. Located in a monumental, renovated 18th-century women’s prison, in the middle of the hushed town of Zwolle, the hotel offers 19 themed rooms that go for baroque. Consider the Magnolia Suite, which features walls dripping with Swarovski crystals and its own steam sauna.
Where to Eat
This long-established insiders restaurant sitting on the Noordermarkt square draws locals for its mix of Mediterranean and lowland cuisine, and its market-fresh food. The kitchen sources directly from the Noordermarkt’s own weekly organic market.
A casual canal-side café that draws the young and arty, all fighting for the canal side tables and all downing hearty sandwiches like a beef carpaccio on dense Dutch farmer’s bread, and a silky smoked salmon.
The very definition of an Amsterdam brown café (the name comes from the caramel patina that has built up on the walls over centuries worth of smoke) this Dutch still life of a place serves some of the best shrimp croquettes and jenever (aka Dutch gin) in town.
The pioneering model of a serious locavore restaurant this organic fantasia comes housed in a circa 1926 greenhouse in the middle of epic Frankendael Park and dishes up the freshest Dutch harvest, some of it grown in the surrounding gardens.
The only thing topping the Librije hotel’s sense of excess is the Librije restaurant, a three Michelin star dining destination that lures serious gourmets to Zwolle. Served in the library of a 15th-century Dominican abbey, the multi-course tasting menu features chef Jonnie Boer’s flamboyant, relentlessly ambitious creations (expect lots of foie gras, langoustines, and North Sea crab).
For more information, visit the Netherlands Board of Tourism at holland.com.