Barely a week goes by when a prospective visitor to Amsterdam doesn’t get in touch to ask me about where to find affordable accommodation in the city, bemoaning the fact that city centre options are outrageously priced throughout the year.
My stock answer to this is that Amsterdam is tiny so accommodation is at a premium (just look at those narrow canal houses and imagine squeezing in a large hotel). It’s also a city that attracts visitors year-round, there’s almost no such thing as a low season so don’t expect an incredible ‘off-peak deal’. Yet look just a little beyond the 9 Streets or the roads around the Anne Frank House and there are a range of fabulous options that are no more than a 10 minute cycle ride into town often in vibrant and fabulous neighbourhoods.
And the Conscious Hotels are a case in point. The group now have four hotels in Amsterdam – Conscious Hotel Museum Square, Conscious Vondelpark, The Tire Station and the latest branch – Conscious Hotel Westerpark.
We were lucky enough to be offered a stay and following a brilliant experience I can highly recommend it to anyone looking for that elusive combination – affordable luxury and what’s more it has massive eco credentials too. Let me tell you more:
Notwithstanding what I’ve said above, make no mistake, all four hotels are right in town, just not along the canal ring. Hop on a bike (or tram) and you’ll be there in 10 minutes, maybe even less, and perhaps you won’t even want to when you realise you’re surrounded by some of the most vibrant and green parts of the city.
We stayed in the brand new Westerpark branch. We adore the Westerpark and in particular the magnificent Westergasfabriek complex which lies at its heart. A series of historic 19th century brick buildings, formerly a gas-works but now packed with cafe’s breweries, ice cream parlours, the awesome Tony’s Chocolonely head office and shop, and restaurants as well as more festivals, cultural events and markets than you can shake a stick at including, on the first Sunday of every month, the amazing Sunday market. Find out more here.
It’s also a just couple of minutes walk to the Harlemmerstraat which has a selection of lovely boutiques, cafes and restaurants or, if you want to see Amsterdam from the water, why not rent a self-operated boat from Boats4Rent or Mokumboats who offer whisper boats for hire allowing you to potter around the canals on your own electric boat.
The hotel occupies one of the historic buildings which has been beautifully transformed into an “Eco Sexy” hotel (their words not mine). What does this mean? Well, they describe it better than I can:
Conscious Hotels strive to be as green, sustainable and eco-friendly as possible. But they’re more hip than hippy. And by hip we don’t mean our staff are too cool to answer the phone.
You might not even notice some of our ‘green’ sustainable decisions because we just quietly get on with being kind to the planet in the background. We think you’re okay about that.
Conscious Hotels in 10 sentences
- Eco-friendly but not Eco-fundamentalist.
- We are not a “wrestle you to the ground and force feed you lentils if you use an aerosol to spray mousse on your hair” kind of place.
- We don’t even have a single picture of a mystical dolphin or a sad-looking panda on our walls.
- But, yes, all our energy comes from renewable sources.
- Our Apple juice comes from apples without air miles and our beer is locally brewed (we can even show you the brewery if you can still see straight).
- We do have a Eco roof with a hive for wild bees (that’s wild as in ‘natural’ not ‘angry’).
- And yes that is a scent of strawberries you can smell and we do have tables made from recycled yoghurt pots.
- And those notices around the hotel are funny even if we do say so ourselves.
- And the beds will give you the best night’s sleep of your life.
- Because we say doing good can be done while looking good too.
This pretty much sums it up. Don’t expect the eco credentials rammed down your throat, however if it matters to you then Conscious Hotels are doing some incredibly good stuff (the whole hotel is powered by wind energy). For me, well I just love the historic buildings in the area and how sensitively this one has been restored.
Let’s face it, if you’re staying in a hotel, the rooms matter. A lot. Think of Conscious as the Easyjet (plus) of hotel rooms. Maybe that’s unfair as the rooms are more stylish and beds are a LOT more comfortable than Easyjet seats but what I mean is that there are no unnecessary extra frills.
Rooms are functional, not huge but stylish, beds super-comfortable and the shower is GREAT. If you’re coming for a week you may not find there’s enough room for all your clothes, but if you’re around for a long weekend and just want to hang a few items and place others in functional easy-to-reach storage you’ll be fine. Who needs a mini-bar when there is a lovely little welcome set, a carafe of water and a kettle?
We stayed in a room for three, with a single bed and huge double. So big in fact that the boys and I all ended up falling asleep in it together with more than enough room for us all!
The bathroom is small but as I say, not only is the shower powerful but the quality of bathroom amenities is fantastic (always a sign of quality for me) with gorgeous smelling soap and shampoo in large bottles instead of eco-unfriendly mini’s.
And then there’s the view. We had a glorious view of the Westerpark and, to the boys’ delight, a set of binoculars through which they insisted they could see all the rascals getting up no good in the park. The boys spent more time pretending to be spies than watching the flatscreen TV – a hotel-room first and massive win for us!
The ‘lobby’, shop, cafe and restaurant
Although there were some lovely staff on hand at the hotel, we were able to check-in ourselves and activate our own key. The lobby is in fact a lovely little store offering treats and snacks (something to take for your Westerpark picnic perhaps or onboard a boat) as well as other practical items.
Next door is the expansive and gorgeous Bar Kantoor which had live music playing on the afternoon of our Sunday arrival and people hanging out by the beautiful wall of plants and fish. Here they serve breakfast, lunch and dinner (and drinks!) both inside and on the sizeable terrace.
It feels like Conscious goes over and above for its guests and there are some lovely touches. All the communications in the hotel are sweetly quirky and tongue in cheek. As well as hiring out sexy Roetz bikes, they offer a great cycling tour on the weekends that heads off the beaten track, passing by breweries serving local organic beers as well as the fabulous Foodhallen food hall.
The hotel also offers a lovely service for guests manned by their “Amsterdam Experts” – tell them in advance what you’re after (things to do, places to eat – the more unusual or specific your request the better) and they’ll put together some ideas and suggestions for you. I tried this out and was delighted that some of their family-friendly recommendations were not the predictable tourist options but included a few local suggestions that I hadn’t considered before. They are also particularly clued up on the city’s Vegan and Vegetarian eateries which is not surprising given the clientele.
As you can tell, we hugely enjoyed our stay and would highly recommend it. Although the boys loved it, the hotel is not particularly aimed at kids and most of the rooms are compact doubles.
If you’re looking for something affordable, cool and somewhere that will even make you feel good about your impact on the planet, look no further – Conscious Hotels might very well be exactly what you’re looking for.