Newest Review: ... take a right and the hotel was about a 5 minute walk away. Our hotel Mercure Amsterdam aan de Amstel is part of the Accor chain and they ... more
Apathy on the Amstel
Mercure Amsterdam aan de Amstel (Netherlands)
Member Name: koshkha
Mercure Amsterdam aan de Amstel (Netherlands)
Date: 06/08/12, updated on 07/08/12 (49 review reads)
Advantages: It's a roof over your head
Disadvantages: It could be so much better
~Me and Mercure~
I've have been staying at the Mercure Amsterdam aan de Amstel for nearly 4 years now and every time I go I remind myself that I still haven't got round to reviewing it. Considering that it's not unusual for me to be writing the review whilst I'm still staying in a hotel, this tardiness should tell you that the adjective most appropriate to describe my feelings about the place is 'indifferent'. There's nothing about it that I truly hate or that I love or even that makes me feel excited enough to sit down and write.
Please note that there are something like 4 different Mercure hotels in the Amsterdam area so please check that this is the one relevant to you.
The company for which I work is based in a place called Diemen, to the south east of Amsterdam. The universal advice you'll receive about Diemen is "Don't stay there" as it's not a very nice area. For a long while the Mercure was the hotel of choice for visiting head office. The trouble is that it really is in the middle of just about nowhere. More recently the company has changed its allegiance slightly and more typically books us at the Novotel by the RAI exhibition centre which benefits from proximity to a railway station with plenty of restaurants within a five to ten minute walk. The Mercure by contrast has the square root of bugger all to do in the area. You can't take the train there from the airport so instead of paying a couple of euros to go to the Novotel, I have to pay 40 euros for a taxi. If you want to go into the city, a taxi will cost around 15 -20 euros and the same again to get to the office. I have always felt isolated at the Mercure because it seems to be in the middle of what looks like a large industrial estate. There is no sign of anywhere to eat or drink so you'll need to add on the cost of getting to the city or pay over the odds to eat in the hotel. To be fair there is apparently a metro stop within a ten minute walk but I am often there on my own and not likely to go walking around in the evening in the middle of nowhere.
~Room to Complain~
I've never loved the rooms at the Mercure - most have a rather odd nautical theme and look a bit old and tired. On my most recent two visits I had a so-called privilege room because all the regular rooms were fully booked and that was all that was left. For over 150 euros I was quite reluctant to stay there but Amsterdam was pretty much booked out that week.
Check in was polite and efficient and the receptionist took my details to check for my membership of their loyalty scheme, the A-club. I was given my pass card and sent to the lift to head up to the 8th floor of the larger tower which I want to call the Piet Hein tower but I'm fairly sure I'm spelling that wrong and since Hein was a Danish designer, I'm struggling to see a connection. The hotel has two towers and this was my first time in this one. The lifts are activated by the room card for security reasons.
My room looked like it had been 'designed' - most likely by two designers who didn't speak to each other and didn't actually think about whether a guest could really 'live' in the space they'd created. Nothing about it quite works or quite goes together. Considering that the hotel's website describes the Privilege rooms as spacious, the room was surprisingly small - or perhaps the bed was just too big because I could barely get round it without stubbing my toes or having to move furniture to get it out of the way. I was on the side of the building which overlooks a wide canal and what appears to be a freight yard. During the night the water birds out on the canal peep and chirp quite charmingly. Unfortunately at 7 am their peeps get replaced by the beeps of the fork lift trucks that start moving the shipping containers around the yard. Yes I did need to be awake by 7 am but I'd have preferred to be woken without the industrial input. If I were there for a holiday, I really would hate the noise.
The curtains are cream with dark circles and the carpet is a broad black self-stripe. Clearly the designer who chose that doesn't have cats and expects a maid service to run the vac over it every day. The walls were in two colours - a creamy grey and an unattractive sludge colour somewhere between grey and beige - let's call it greige.
Furniture wise the room manages to combine too much furniture and too little of what you actually want or need. There was a nice armchair and foot stool with a tiny side table which was very comfy for watching the television. The flat screen television stands on a narrow ledge which is the extension of the desk and is somehow designed to just 'know' what your nationality is and provide the right language programmes when you switch it on. Thus I turned it on and got the BBC whilst my German colleague told me her TV always delivered the German channels first. If she hadn't told me, I wouldn't have realized how clever it was.
The desk has a nasty sharp edge and - thanks to the size of the bed and the way everything is squeezed in, the desk is in the perfect position to catch your hip as you pass. The desk chair is a weird transparent crystal-like plastic and was the piece of furniture I moved most often in order to get round the bed. The bed side tables on either side of the bed are built into the wall and one of them has the tea and coffee tray.
The wardrobe is out in the vestibule between the main room and the door and contains the mini bar and a room safe. It wasn't until the second day that I realised that I hadn't spotted a full length mirror anywhere and tracked it down to inside the wardrobe. It wasn't the best of places. I was disappointed to find no suitcase stand until I realized that there wouldn't have been any space to put it in. There was absolutely nowhere designed to put my suitcase and luckily it was only a small cabin bag so I was able to squeeze it onto one of the bedside ledges though there was no way to leave the bag open and absolutely nowhere to put anything that I took out of it. True, I could have gone out into the vestibule and put my things in the wardrobe but most of the time that part of the room is cut off from the rest of the room because of the weird sliding bathroom door which opens directly into the room.
The bathroom set up is seriously odd. The door slides across so that when it's open the vestibule is cut off from the room and can only be accessed when the bathroom door is closed. This screen door was bizarrely decorated with a mural of Andy Warhol-style head of a man in a ruffle. Before my little bit of research though that's pure guess work. In a normal room set up the bathroom opens off the vestibule and the wardrobe is in the main room. There are good reasons why that's normal - most important of which is that it actually 'works' whereas this alternative design is just a bit bonkers. It certainly clashes with the beige-greige colour scheme of the rest of the room but not as badly as the deep pink wall inside the bathroom.
The bathroom itself is attractive with a grey slate tiled floor, a nice light wood vanity unit and a funky sink. The mirror behind the sink is large but if you want to get to the make up or shaving mirror you have to practically stand on top of the toilet. You certainly couldn't shave in front of it without making a massive mess. The talking point of the bathroom is the double-sized rainfall shower. I'll admit that when I opened the cubicle and could only see a waist height attachment with a shower head I was pretty confused. It took me a while to spot the ceiling mounted shower head. Since the shower cubicle stretches somehow into the vestibule behind the wardrobe, it feels a bit oppressive. Personally I like the option of a bath but appreciated the effort they'd made to try to make a nice bathroom.
The hotel is popular with tour groups - typically from the Far East - and the main restaurant which serves breakfast in the morning is reserved for the groups in the evenings so when my colleague and I wanted dinner we had to eat in the bar which was ridiculously busy. It took us ten minutes to even get the attention of a waiter and ask for beers and the menu. The prices are high but that's typical in Amsterdam and we offset the price against the saving on taxis to get into town. I had a large bowl of mussels served with fries and a couple of sauces. My colleague had a steak salad. With a beer each and a coffee for her and a peppermint tea for me, the total was 54 euros. The service was very slow but the food was OK. We were given a plate of nice bread with olive oil and some dips but this didn't come until the food arrived. We'd have preferred to have it earlier to nibble on whilst waiting for the food to eventually arrive.
Breakfast is ridiculously expensive - around 25 euros - so if it's not in your room rate, I'd say skip it and buy a snack elsewhere. The selection is enormous but the quality isn't as good as you'd expect. Some things are great - the orange juice is freshly squeezed for example - whilst others are disappointing. The coffee is from a machine, the breads are muddled and a couple of times I picked what I thought were standard brown rolls only to find they were sweet fruited breads. The hot food is disappointing for non meat eaters (scrambled egg, no mushrooms or tomatoes) but the cheese selection is quite good.
The hotel has a large secure car park which isn't something you can take for granted in Amsterdam. My colleagues who couldn't get in at the Mercure stayed at the Ibis in the centre of Amsterdam and had to pay a massive 55 euros to park overnight in a car park by the station. I'm not sure if they charge at the Mercure but would suggest to check ahead if you have a car. There's also a gym and a large number of meeting and conference rooms. The only time I've used a conference room was when the restaurant was closed for refurbishment and they set up a nightly buffet in a large room upstairs. I would imagine the proximity to the Amsterdam Ring (a bit like the M25) makes it a useful meeting venue.
I find the Mercure expensive. On this occasion I paid Euro156 per night, got stung for Euro40 for a taxi to get there and Euro15 to 20 every time I left the place. The Privileges of my Privilege room were a free newspaper and wi-fi - sadly no sign of the towelling robe shown in the website pictures. There's nothing actually 'wrong' with it - the rooms are comfortable enough, the staff polite enough, the breakfast varied enough. It's just that the combination of a pointless location and an overwhelmingly banal atmosphere means I find it hard to recommend. For similar money - often a lot less - you can stay at the Novotel with dull rooms but a more inspiring restaurant and better connectivity to the city.
Summary: Mercure in the south of Amsterdam