Reading hotel reviews of Radisson Blu Amsterdam surprised me in the fact that many reviews commented on the hotel’s close proximity to the Red Light District as a positive feature and many reviews say the hotel is centrally located within walking distance to everything. I scanned dozens of TripAdvisor hotel reviews and nobody mentioned there are three coffeeshops within 100 feet of the hotel entrance for a different kind of transactional behavior with the working locals of Amsterdam.
Kelley and I stayed at Radisson Blu Amsterdam four nights this month on two separate 2-night stays sandwiched around a stay at the InterContinental Amstel. This is one of the hotels I booked last May at 50,000 points as a Club Carlson Visa card holder using the award stay one free night benefit for each 2-night stay. On June 1, 2015 this and many other Club Carlson category 6 hotels increased 40% in reward night cost when it moved up to Category 7 at 70,000 points. In combination with the loss of the free night benefit for Visa card holders, the reward rate now is nearly 200% more than when I booked our four nights for 100,000 points in May 2015. Four reward nights at Radisson Blu Amsterdam cost 280,000 points now.
This was my first time staying at Radisson Blu Amsterdam, although I was familiar with its location near the Red Light District of Amsterdam. Proximity to the prostitution windows is a tourist activity we don’t care for in Amsterdam and probably the main reason why we had not stayed at this hotel before.
Amsterdam is about Location, Location, Location
As a tourist in Europe, there are few places where I can knowledgeably compare different parts of the city for hotel location. Since 2000 I probably have spent more than six months in Amsterdam, generally staying one to two weeks at a time.
There are four Club Carlson properties in central Amsterdam. Park Plaza Victoria and Art’otel Amsterdam are adjacent to each other and directly across the street from Centraal Station, the city train station. You will likely arrive in Amsterdam at Centraal Station if you take the train from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport (around 5 EUR one way; no discount for round trip tickets). Proximity to Centraal Station is a great location for some tourists. You can stumble your way from bar to prostitute to coffeeshop in a dense concentration of Amsterdam vice. But Centraal Station is also the main transportation hub for the city and thousands of people crowd the sidewalks as they pass through the area each day. That place can be crowded. And all city trams with their clanging bells from 6am to midnight terminate at Centraal Station.
I have never been inside either of the Club Carlson Centraal Station location hotels. Centraal Station is not a desirable city location for me. I don’t like crowds on the street when I first step outside the hotel.
Last year we stayed at Park Plaza Vondelpark, on the western side of Amsterdam, off the south side of Vondelpark, the main city park of Amsterdam. I like the west side location for quiet residential areas with far fewer tourists. The downside is more frequent use of city trams where the #2 tram takes you to Museumplein in about five minutes, where Van Gogh and Rijksmuseum are located. Ten minutes to Leidseplein, the entertainment and shopping area. 15 minutes to Dam Square (as much city center as any place in Amsterdam) and 20 to 25 minutes to reach Centraal Station for a train to the airport or somewhere else.
Park Plaza Vondelpark tends to be the lowest priced of Club Carlson’s four Amsterdam city center hotels, often with rates less than half the other three hotels. You can buy a lot of tram rides with the room rate savings.
Loyalty Traveler – Hotel Review: Park Plaza Vondelpark Amsterdam (Feb 19, 2015).
Radisson Blu Amsterdam in De Wallen
The location of Radisson Blu Amsterdam is the area called De Wallen and also within relatively close proximity to Centraal Station. From the train station the Radisson Blu Amsterdam is about 15 to 20 minutes walk or ride a tram one stop and the hotel is a five to ten minute walk. Nieuwemarkt Metro Station is one stop from Centraal Station and puts you within a couple hundred meters of the hotel.
De Wallen is the red light district of Amsterdam where there are a few hundred windows with prostitutes. Apparently, the city has a gentrification plan in place that has closed down around 25% of De Wallen windows in the past few years. This April 9, 2015 article in the International Business Times is about a prostitute protest and states 115 of 500 windows had been closed. Most sources I see now state there are about 300 windows in De Wallen.
The other thing about De Wallen is the trams do not go into the area. You can take the Metro from Centraal Station one stop to Nieuwemarkt. Radisson Blu Amsterdam is probably a ten minute walk to a tram line and five minutes to the Nieuwemarkt Metro, if you navigate the canal streets without getting lost.
That being said, walking to and from Radisson Blu Amsterdam without passing by prostitute windows is easy once you figure out the local canal streets and develop directional sense in Amsterdam.
My rough approximation of the main De Wallen prostitution windows area relative to Radisson Blu Amsterdam (hotel pin at bottom of map). I am just guessing since my main excursion into the red light area was a visit to Oude Kerk, Amsterdam’s oldest church and building, and gravestone site for Saskia Rembrandt. Avoiding the Red Light District was fairly easy once I had a rough approximation of where the windows are concentrated. I don’t think Kelley ever saw a prostitute window in our hours walking around the hotel area. I came across several windows on the back side of Oude Kerk.
Oude Kerk in De Wallen is the oldest building in Amsterdam. Church beams have been dated to 1390 from Estonia lumber. When I snapped this photo, I had my back to the prostitutes in windows across the street.
Photographer Warning: Be very careful when carrying a camera in De Wallen. I have seen people attacked on the street for taking photos of prostitutes.
The reason I am describing De Wallen and the Red Light District is I have avoided staying at hotels in this part of Amsterdam. Encounters with drunk Brits wanting to fight and people who become hostile when they see a camera generally keeps me away from Amsterdam sightseeing in De Wallen area. The four days and nights we spent at Radisson Blu Amsterdam revealed this oldest part of Amsterdam is a vibrant place with college students attending University of Amsterdam one block from Radisson Blu. The people on the streets seemed more touristy than low-life. The area seemed more upscale than I remember from more than a decade ago.
University of Amsterdam is on next block south from Radisson Blu hotel. View above is standing in front of university looking opposite way.
View of Zuiderkerk (1602-1614). Radisson Blu is left of bridge.
I found the most interesting part of this area in Amsterdam was in the Zuiderkerk direction which is close to Rembrandt House Museum and De Waag, the historic weigh station for old Amsterdam.
University of Amsterdam (1632) building tops. Clock tower is dated 1875.
There is something special about being in the historic canal district of old Amsterdam. The top hotels in the city tend to be around the 17th century canal rings of Singel, Herengracht, Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht. The construction of the canal ring in the 1600s was one of the largest and most advanced engineering infrastructure projects ever accomplished worldwide to that time. Perhaps even more remarkable is the fact that many of the houses and buildings along the oldest canals still stand as remodeled shells. The exterior of canal houses gives the appearance of a 17th century cityscape, while the interiors generally offer most modern conveniences. The Amsterdam 17th century canal ring is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Amsterdam has over 100 km of canals and 1,500 bridges. Kelley and I tend to spend hours and days walking canals each time we visit the city. Amsterdam is one of the prettiest cities I know.
Radisson Blu Amsterdam is located in the oldest part of Amsterdam, pre-dating the 17th century canal ring construction.
Typical Dutch style 17th century house is a narrow, multi story house. Radisson Blu Amsterdam is located behind this row of buildings.
Radisson Blu Amsterdam hotel also includes the entire building on the left side. Large canal view suites are located on upper floors of the six floor building. Most business class suites are in the building on the left. There is an underground walkway between the two buildings inside the Radisson Blu hotel.
The Waag is a 15th century weigh house on Nieuwmarkt Square (where the Metro stop is located). This was originally one of the Amsterdam city gates. This is the oldest non-religious building in Amsterdam. My photo is taken from the bridge over the canal by Radisson Blu Amsterdam.
The Waag, 15th century weigh house and former city gate of Amsterdam.
Oude Kerk, 14th century church and oldest building in Amsterdam.
Overall, I enjoyed the location of Radisson Blu Amsterdam since this is a part of the city I have rarely explored. Oude Kerk, The Waag and Rembrandt’s House kept me occupied for a couple of days with my annual museum card (60 EUR) giving me free access to Oude Kerk (10 EUR) and Rembrandt’s House (13 EUR). Albert Heijn supermarket for our daily grocery shopping was about a ten minute walk from the Radisson and near Rembrandt’s House.
The hotel’s location near the red light district held little interest for us. Kelley and I have each other to poke. The proximity to three coffeeshops beside the Radisson Blu is another interesting feature of the hotel location.
Coffeeshop Rusland is across Rusland street from Radisson Blu Amsterdam in the dark colored building with two windows at top. Rusland is one of the oldest coffeeshops in Amsterdam from 1975.
Radisson Blu is the building on left and the main part of the hotel is behind the canal houses seen on right side. The two canal houses on the left end have coffeeshops on their ground floor: Coffeehop Basjoe and Coffeeshop Bagheera.
Radisson Blu Amsterdam location is perfect for tourists who want to poke and toke. I found the area interesting for a section of Amsterdam I had not explored in depth before, however, considering average room rates are over $250 per night and the reward night rate is now 70,000 Club Carlson points per night, I doubt I will return to the hotel as a guest.
Kelley and I stayed in three different rooms at the hotel during our four nights. Radisson Blu Amsterdam Hotel review to come.
Amsterdam – Las Vegas trip report segments:
3. American Airlines LAS-PHL in First Class
5. American Airlines Philadelphia – Amsterdam Business Class and Economy Class Seats Comparison
6. Amsterdam Radisson Blu Hotel Location
7. Amsterdam Radisson Blu Hotel – Room 2 – The City
8. Amsterdam Radisson Blu Hotel – Room 3 – The Birds
9. InterContinental Amstel Hotel, Amsterdam – The Views
10. Hulp! Albert Heijn only accepts Maestro cards. How do I get one?
12. Dutch Resistance Museum, Amsterdam
13. Rembrandt House Museum, Amsterdam
15. American Airlines Flagship Lounge London Heathrow
16. American Airlines London LHR – Chicago ORD business class
17. The Venetian, InterContinental Alliance Resort
I only posted two small pieces from Amsterdam last week during my trip.
Second most famous dead woman of Amsterdam – Saskia Rembrandt’s gravestone in Oude Kerk Amsterdam.