Sometimes a hotel strikes just the right mood at just the right moment. When I lugged my suitcase into Amsterdam’s Hotel Estherea on a chilly spring morning, I was tired and bedraggled from an overnight flight, in need of a big cup of coffee and a cushy spot to nestle down. How delightful, then, to walk into the bright, cheerful lobby and be welcomed with genuine warmth, from the reception staff to the porter to the breakfast attendant. Not only was it the perfect perk-up, it set the tone for a flawless stay from start to finish.
I wasn’t a bit surprised to learn that the Estherea has been run by the same family since it opened in the 1940s — the pride in its history is palpable. The hotel has a sweetness about it that’s rare in such an upscale property, and the personal attention given to guests of all ages has kept generations of families coming back.
Tucked on a peaceful side street in the heart of Amsterdam, facing the Singel Canal, Hotel Estherea is perfectly positioned for sightseeing and strolling. From here, it’s a 10-minute walk to the Anne Frank House and an easy bike or tram ride to other kid-friendly sights, such as Science Center NEMO, Vondelpark and the Artis Royal Zoo. The hotel sits on the fringes of the appealing Nine Streets district, a warren of independent boutiques and restaurants.
The Estherea began life as a residential guesthouse, and its 93 rooms and two suites still evoke the sense of a private home. Although every room is uniquely decorated, they share common themes: elaborately patterned wallpaper, rich woodwork and antiques, layers of pillows and lavish window treatments. Many have canal views, while some overlook a pretty internal courtyard and others look out to the street.
The hotel has a number of connecting rooms and family rooms that work perfectly for parents and kids. Cribs are available on request, and one child up to age 2 can sleep free of charge in the Classic and Canal room categories. In Deluxe rooms, one child is free up to age 12. Each room also includes a mini-fridge, handy for storing snacks or milk for little ones.
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To feel truly pampered, opt for one of the suites. I stayed in Suite Van Oranje, an enormous two-level expanse of mahogany paneling and lushly patterned textiles, crowned with what must be the most massive gilt chandelier this side of Versailles. The bathroom, at the top of a small flight of stairs, has a luxurious whirlpool tub and separate shower.
Suite Van Oranje’s pièce de résistance, though, is the in-room library, stocked with both adult and kids’ books (many in English). A rainy Amsterdam day is the perfect excuse to while away hours on the comfortable sofa with a volume or two at hand.
TIP: Both of the Estherea’s suites are on the ground floor, and Suite Van Oranje overlooks the street. Noise is no problem, but bear in mind that curtains need to stay drawn for total privacy.
At breakfast time, the crystal Champagne flutes at one end of the counter are an instant tipoff that this is no run-of-the-mill buffet. Guests are spoiled for choice: traditional Dutch cakes and pastries, loaves of savory bread, all sorts of cheeses, hot and cold meats, fresh fruits and vegetables, just-squeezed juices, and, yes, a bottle of bubbly or two. The breakfast area, with overscale banquettes clad in plush reds and pinks, is as cheery and cozy a setting as you could want to start the morning.
Room service is available from early morning through late night, and guests have round-the-clock access to complimentary coffee, tea, hot chocolate and sweet treats in the lobby. Maria’s Bar, a low-lit enclave named for the founder and family matriarch, is open 24 hours as well.
The Estherea has an impressive range of amenities for its size. A communal library off the lobby is stocked with reading material of all kinds (for those who prefer screens to newsprint, iPads are available on request). Best of all, it includes a cabinet filled with toys and games for the 5-and-under set.
The library adjoins an elegant lounge that overlooks the canal, as well as a business station with computer terminals for guest use. Because they all flow into one another, the public spaces create a convivial atmosphere that encourages guests to mingle and chat.
Other facilities include a full fitness center, an open-air courtyard, an underground parking garage and bike rentals, a must in this city. Pedaling to dinner in the neighborhood or to a local park makes guests feel just a little more at home, like true Amsterdammers — the same effect that Hotel Estherea inspires as well.
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Editor’s Note: Hotel Estherea provided a media package for Ciao Bambino to review the property. As always, our opinions are our own. Photos by Lisa Frederick except where noted.
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