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Okura Hotel Amsterdam

by Lady Charlotte Lynham

Plush rooms with marble baths, an indoor pool, four on-site restaurants and a spa with a Japanese garden all serve to make the Hotel Okura Amsterdam a large luxurious retreat. This hotel successfully blends five-star hotel luxury with functionality. Located away from the busy town centre in Amsterdam Zuid, along the Amstel Canal in the De Pijp neighborhood, it is a 10-minute walk to the RAI Conference Center and a 10-minute bus ride to the World Trade Center. The hotel is less than one mile from the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum and only two miles from Dam Square, the Royal Palace and the Red Light District. There is a tram stop outside the hotel, which makes it easy to get around the city and provides access to Amsterdam Centraal train station, two miles away. The Okura is one of the highest buildings in town and, on the bank of a quiet canal with its own quay for canal boats, guarantees any visitor comfort and serenity.

From the moment you enter the hotel you are amazed by its modern style, expanse of lobby space and the highest possible level of service. The Okura has 315 rooms, most of them offering a unique panoramic view of old Amsterdam, making this hotel the largest in The Netherlands.

After a short tram ride from Hotel 717, Rachel and I made our way to Hotel Okura Amsterdam. The first thing that hits you is the size of the building, like a large looming office block rising out of the otherwise flat surroundings. The large in/out driveway leads to a revolving glass door and into the airport lounge size lobby. Shiny, polished floors, modern, straight edges, linear-lined rugs and architectural lighting add a very functional Japanese edge to the space. Luckily the doorman showed us which direction to the front desk or we could have been wandering around for a while with so much located off the main lobby area. At front desk, we were checked in – somewhat clinically but it was efficient and they knew who we were so it took no time at all before we were in the lift and on our way to our room.

Our room was located half way up the hotel, a room in which, upon entering, you are greeted by a office area, a reminder that this hotel is one of the top business hotels in Amsterdam if not The Netherlands. Following this, there were twin beds and a large floor to ceiling window over looking the canal below. Off the main room were the dressing room and bathroom, which was the best feature of the room. A grand marble clad room with bath, wet room shower, his and hers sinks and W/C all overlooked by a entire wall of mirror making the space look even larger. After unpacking, we tucked into the welcome gift of macarons and then headed out to the spa.

Nagomi Spa and Health, which opened in February 2013, offers an opportunity to slip out of the daily routine and to take some moments just for you. Meaning ‘calm down’ in Japanese, ‘nagomi’ captures the essence of the spa. The 300m2 of the spa offers a retreat away from the bustling city of Amsterdam. Rachel and I were booked in for different therapies but were invited to share a treatment room – which proved to be fun, as our treatments could not have been more different. I was to experience the Hanakasumi, a unique body treatment inspired by Japan that starts with a gommage, scented with cherry blossoms and lotus. While the gommage soothes your body, your feet are massaged using special techniques based on the art of shiatsu massage. The gommage is then removed using a gentle exfoliating glove and the treatment is completed with a relaxing body massage – relaxing, soothing, blissful. Rachel, however, had a very different treatment, the Namikoshi shiatsu therapy. Shiatsu uses hand and finger pressure on the skin and certain parts of the body to prevent disease and encourage healing by stimulating the body’s natural healing abilities, reducing factors that cause fatigue and encouraging general good health. Shiatsu is a combination of diagnostics and therapy. Every application of shiatsu pressure is a diagnosis that allows the therapist to adapt the treatment to your physical needs. The therapist’s hands and fingers can trace every deviation in your skin, muscles and body temperature. This allows them to find irregularities and determine immediately which treatment will benefit you the most.In the changing room, I changed out of my clothes in to little disposable panties while Rachel had to wear a cotton tracksuit type combo. It was evident already that what we about to experience was to be very different. In the treatment room, I lay down face first while my therapist laved the gommage on my skin, the smell of blossoms and lotus filled the air and within minutes I was drifting off to a semi-conscious state of nirvana. Rachel, however, on the treatment bed next to me, was being bent, pummelled and stretched in ways that seem physically impossible.  After an hour of bliss for me and a thorough beating for Rachel, we made our way to the relaxation room for a spot of green tea and a snooze. Knowing neither of us are good at sitting still for very long, we decided to test out the indoor pool, located just beyond the spa. After a dip and a float in the Jacuzzi, we retired back to the room and prepared ourselves for dinner at the one Michelin star hotel restaurant Yamazato.

The next day we decided to explore Amsterdam and what better way than on a bike? Amsterdam is one of the most cycle friendly cities in Europe, with cycle lanes and special crossings because the bike is the most efficient mode of transport. Okura offers a cycle hire service for guests, so we took advance of this and borrowed two bikes to tour Amsterdam for the day. After a quick test ride round the Okura car park, we were off. Amsterdam is quite easy to navigate as the roads are like grids that follow the canals so getting lost is almost impossible.After a trip to the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum, we headed to De Wallen, the Red Light District of Amsterdam. Now this area of the city is the busiest and I suspect you can hazard a guess why, but we parked up our bikes and went for a wander, making sure we remembered that our bikes were adjacent to the famous Sex Museum! After some further sightseeing, we retrieved our bikes (which, had we not made a note of their location, might have been a little like looking for a needle in a pile of needles!) and made our way back to Okura before the fading light forced us to contend with night riding. Dropping off our bikes and our chariots for the day at reception, we made our way back to the room. Slumping on the comfy beds we were glad to have made it in one piece back rom the hectic city centre to the safety of The Okura Amsterdam.

This hotel has a lot to offer – so much so it could be overwhelming. From the Spa and Rooftop Bar to four restaurants and numerous conference facilities, it is like a mini village in itself. Some people may welcome the fact that there is so much under one roof that there is no need to venture out, but it is good to see that a Japanese company has embraced the city of Amsterdam in offering such services as the bike hire and its own quay for canal boats. The Hotel Okura is at its essence functional but with a hint of fun.

Okura Amsterdam
Ferdinand Bolstraat
1072 LH Amsterdam
The Netherlands

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