Kimpton De Witt: rediscover the cultural side of AmsterdamClick here to view original web page at www.theweek.co.uk
Popular for its relaxed attitude to sex and drugs, the Netherlands capital has long been attracting tourists for the wrong reasons. Overshadowed by the red light district and the weed-smoking coffee shops, the city's more refined entertainment venues are commonly overlooked.
Bespoke cocktail bars, independent theatres, small art galleries and vegan restaurants have recently sprung up around the capital, begging to be discovered. And Kimpton De Witt is the ideal place to start your adventure.
Kimpton Hotels, the boutique holiday chain, best known for a host of award-winning residential destinations around the US, unveiled its flagship European hotel earlier this year. Situated in the heart of Amsterdam, Kimpton De Witt has 274 rooms and is just five minutes from the city's main station. The hotel offers a sophisticated take on the Airbnb approach to travel. Each of its rooms is decorated differently to give that home-away-from-home feeling.
In the immediate vicinity of the hotel, the atmosphere in bars and cafes is instantly social. Couples, families and groups are spontaneously thrown together and although many travellers arrive alone, it's not long before you're connected with locals and fellow travellers.
To break the ice, Kimpton de Witt holds a social hour where wine flows freely (in both senses of the word) from 5pm. The brainchild of hotelier Bill Kimpton, who originally intended to create a space in which guests could feel a sense of community and enjoy good conversation, social hour has been running since 1981. The vibe is typical of Amsterdam – relaxed drinking coupled with friendly conversation.
A short bike ride from the hotel takes you to Hiding in Plain Sight, an award-winning live music and cocktail haunt in the Rapenburg area. From the moment it opens (around 6pm) the bar is always busy and its powerful margaritas, served with popcorn to soften the impact, are an undeniable favourite.
Two other bars nearby, Door 47 and Prem, take a more low-key approach. Both are located behind unmarked doors – you'll need a clear head (and prior knowledge) to find them. Inside the atmosphere is dimly-lit with a top-end selection of spirits that's a far cry from the jaeger drinking spots on adjacent streets.
Vegan and vegetarian restaurants are also growing in popularity in Amsterdam and, like the city's chicest cocktail bars, the good ones are often tricky to find. The Marits Eetkamer eatery could easily be mistaken for the front room of a house, but it's very much a restaurant. It has a vegetarian set menu with three, four of five courses, each course only revealed as it's served up.
The wines on offer are delicious and the ingredients used in Martis Eettamer's are updated constantly.
Further highlighting the social nature of Amsterdam's restaurant scene, Kimpton De Witt's own restaurant's floor plan seems designed to encourage diners, waiters and chefs alike to engage in conversation.
Signature dishes include the reuben sandwich, vitello tonnato and a kimchi 'bacon' hot dog. The inventive cuisine draws on seasonal produce sourced from local suppliers and farmers.
With its extensive list of unusual and hyper-local gins and genevers, The Kimpton House Bar is a perfect spot to enjoy a late-night drink in the most historic part of the hotel. Set in a 1645 former family home, the house bar is staffed by cocktail connoisseurs. Resident barman and Northerner Tom is a friendly addition to the relaxed ambiance and after closing time, drinkers convene around him to share stories, discuss local finds and exchange tipsy repartee, typically fuelled by shots and buffered by complimentary nibbles.
In addition to the busy bar and restaurant scene, the city's Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE) festival schedules a must-see programme of events suited to every music enthusiast's taste.
Those looking for a more contemporary edge should check out ADE, a leading electronic music platform and the biggest club festival in the world for the entire spectrum of electronic sub-genres. Its award-winning techno, trance and house nights are held regularly across the capital. Club venues Panama and Shelter are excellent places to see new and established international DJs and producers.
Attending an ADE event is a great way to meet like-minded electronic music lovers eager to share their knowledge of the city's lesser-known music spots.
Whether it's eating like a king, dancing the night away, engaging with the culture or just drinking coffee and watching the world pass go by, the choice is yours in Amsterdam. And Kimpton De Witt is the perfect gateway to experiencing the city's hidden charms.
Kimpton De Witt, Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 5, Amsterdam, kimptonhotels.com