For travelers hoping to connect with a city’s rich cultural heritage, there is no more expedient (or lavish) way to do it than by staying in a hotel with some history of its own. Amsterdam’s new Conservatorium Hotel, which opened this past winter, is just that. The castle-like building was designed at the turn of the 20th century by famed Dutch architect Daniel Knuttel, and its construction in Museumplein neighborhood marked a turning point for the enclave, initiating its transformation from a seedy area into the glamorous shopping and museum district it is today. (Brunello Cucinelli and the Van Gogh Museum are more or less equidistant from the hotel’s wrought-iron gates.)
The architectural landmark has had past lives as the headquarters of the Rijkspostspaarbank and, most recently, the home of the Conservatorium of Amsterdam, the country’s largest classical music conservatory. A meticulous, three-and-a-half-year restoration, spearheaded by Milanese designer Piero Lissoni, has rendered the hotel a playful (and beautiful) mix of antique glamour and ultramodern influences. Original stained glasswork remains in the stone staircases, the brick wall in the dining room was recovered from the old bank vault and the sounds of string quartets float through the dark-paneled hallways. But the 129 guest rooms themselves are furnished with sleek Italian designs by the likes of Kartell and Cassina, and a striking glass-and-steel atrium now encloses the building’s old courtyard. The state-of-the-art Akasha Wellbeing Center, a 10,000-square-foot spa with decidedly modern amenities, features a Watsu pool, sound therapy and an exhaustive list of spa treatments.
The hotel’s clash of aesthetics might feel schizophrenic elsewhere, but the end result here feels both historic and hip—Old World happily meeting new luxury head-on. Van Baerlestraat 27; 31-20-570-0000; conservatoriumhotel.com.