Travel Stories

Amsterdam & A Stylish Stay at The Conservatorium


The rowdy boys on the low cost flight were excited about coffee shops and brothels. After 45 minutes in the air one of them declared loudly that he needed a fag so badly he’d have to have two when they landed. They all agreed. One of them said he was so desperate for a fag he was going to Henry Hoover it up.

The Amsterdam they were looking for is not the Amsterdam I know.

For me it’s about culture, people, canals, house boats, beautiful architecture, heritage, bicycles, poffertjies, stroopwaffles and croquettes, so many wonderful things, and of course, the cat boat.

The main reason I was visiting this time was to give a talk at Foam Photography Museum. I could have easily flown in and out again, but the lure of the beautiful city was too much, and three nights were really not enough!

If you are going to travel the world then you should take the time to see the world. I don’t want to tick places off a bucket list, or tell you how I’ve ‘done’ a country or a continent, I could visit the same place time and time again and still find something new to experience, and I am more than happy with that.


And so we were back in Amsterdam. Arriving in no time at all at Schipol airport and heading off by bus and then tram to the first hotel of our stay, the stunning Conservatorium in the heart of the museum district.

‘The Conservatorium Hotel is Amsterdam’s leading luxury lifestyle palace, evoking glamour and elegance for sophisticated, design-literate travellers.’



Built in 1897, originally designed by the Dutch architect Daniel Knuttel as the Dutch Savings Bank, in 1978, when the bank merged and moved, the building was abandoned. Lying empty for five years it then became the home of the Sweelinck Conservatory of Music who moved out in 2008. The building was bought by The Set who worked with architect Piero Lissoni and opened the Conservatorium hotel at the end of 2011.

The hotel is a pairing of neo-gothic and modern buildings – a large glass and steel structure ties the wings together over the original courtyard, connecting the communal spaces; a mixture of arts and crafts tile-clad hallways, stained glass windows and stone and iron railed staircases, with airy, structured steel and glass, and open areas full of angles and interest. Pay attention to the original details too – the tiles depict bees and hives, the gathering of honey and storing it a reflection of the buildings original purpose as a bank.


The long corridors, dressed for winter with fir and lights, look like they should take you to a magical Narnian world, but instead they lead you in one direction to the most stunning restaurant, a gin bar and a cigar  lounge, or in the other, to the shopping gallery where you can buy Bentley cars and beautiful Bonebakker jewellery, with Boucheron gold rings shaped like hedgehog knuckledusters.






The rooms are subtle and calm with small flashes of colour, taking influence from Japanese styling and designed in full by Piero Lissoni – the screen like walls and simple lines, the hidden wardrobes, safe, and well stocked mini bar behind the glossy doors.



The bathrooms are very spacious, the doors concealed as huge mirrors –  a beautiful and clever design, but also a trap for strange creatures with short memories like me.

Everything is in calm and considered, even down to the Luigi Bormioli fine glasses and Villeroy and Boch china.

In the evening the blinds were closed, slippers and mats were set at the side of the bed, and pillow spray laid out with a note to tell us what tomorrows weather would be.



And, in the morning we ate a peaceful breakfast in the bright atrium, admiring all the beautiful touches, the Christmas tree and seasonal decorations, and the over-sized Miffy, before heading off to explore the beautiful city.

Conservatorium Van Baerlestraat 27, Amsterdam, 1071 AN NL

With the greatest thanks to the wonderful people of iamsterdam for hosting me in their beautiful city, and the Conservatorium for hosting me and my guest for two nights in their stunning hotel.