The Other Side of Amsterdam
If you’re thinking of Amsterdam you’re probably picturing canals, cute tall gabled houses, maybe a bit of sleeze and porn and a few dodgy coffee shops. That’s the Amsterdam of tourists. What I get more often than not is to stay in places by the airport which lack any character or pizzazz at all. In the past 10 years or so I’ve stayed in a lot of the hotels around Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport and can’t really say that any impressed me very much. There’s something undeniably debilitating about such ‘transit’ places and in a country that’s as well known for its laissez faire (that’s French for ‘couldn’t give a hoot’) attitude to service as Holland, you can get some really bad places.
My admiration for the Spanish-owned international hotel chains is almost as well established as my contempt for Dutch hotels. So when I learned that I had to go and stay at the nH Schipol Airport hotel, I was torn between the conflicting emotions of ‘Oh no, not another Dutch airport hotel’ and ‘Goody, a Spanish chain hotel’. The challenge would be to see whether the good vibes and training of nH could overcome the natural ‘couldn’t give a hoot-ness’ of the Dutch. I was actually pretty impressed – but knowing that one swallow doesn’t make a supper or a summer and that a couple of bad staff could spoil things, I held back from reviewing the hotel straight after my first visit because I learned I’d have to go back again two weeks later.
Like most of the airport hotels around Schiphol, it’s not exactly on the doorstep and certainly not in walking distance. With the exception of the Crowne Plaza and the Hilton, most of the airport hotels need you to take a shuttle bus to reach them. If you are tempted to throw caution to the wind and get a taxi instead, expect the driver to rip you off for a small fortune and sulk most of the way there. Some buses really do go all around the houses (I’m thinking particularly of the bus that serves the Accor family of hotels – Etap, Ibis, Novotel, Mercure……) and those take so long that you might as well have been at a hotel in Belgium for the time it takes to get there, but in the case of the nH, the bus serves only the one hotel and goes directly.
All the shuttle buses congregate on the road outside the airport at the arrivals level and the area is quite well sign-posted unless you get distracted by the giant poster of Cristiano Ronaldo in his undies which hangs nearby. On my first visit I hit lucky and walked out of the airport just at the moment that the bus appeared but on the second visit it took a bit longer and only a small minibus was supplied. If there had been just a couple more passengers waiting the minibus would have been full. The driver took off a few minutes early so I guess the timetable is more of a guideline than an actual commitment. Each time I have stayed there was no charge for the journey to the hotel. For returning to the airport, the hotel will try to sell you a ticket for the bus for €5 when you check out.