Don’t be fooled by Amsterdam’s leisurely exterior. By the stretches of still canals lined with quaint spindly houses and lime-leafed elm trees. By the gentle kerplunk of bicycles stopping and starting. Or hedonistic tourists wandering around the cobbled streets of the Red Light District, hoping to exchange their euros for debauchery.
Amsterdam means serious business, and it always has. The city’s first stock exchange was established in 1602, and today, away from the tourist traps of the Old Town, its financial district, known as Zuidas, is home to 50 international banks. The banking and financial services sector in Amsterdam and its surrounding area generates 20% of the region’s GDP, and KPMG has also placed its global headquarters here. What’s more, Amsterdam has been touted as one of the frontrunners to attract some financial firms considering relocating from London in the wake of Brexit – its proximity to the Big Smoke and strong infrastructure are among the draws.
Entrepreneurial spirit is rife in the city and, this year, it was crowned the European Capital of Innovation, thanks to its “smart growth, liveability, digital social innovation and its start-ups.”
From 3D printing and cloud computing, to apps that allow you to boost your productivity or borrow other people’s belongings, the diversity of Amsterdam’s start-up scene is incredible. One of the Netherlands’ greatest success stories is Booking.com, which set up in Amsterdam back in 1996 and keeps its global headquarters here – despite operating in 155 offices in 63 countries.
Aside from its scent of success, what else makes Amsterdam an attractive place to do business? “One of the major things is accessibility from the UK,” says Sandra Ishmael, Director of the Netherlands Board of Tourism and Conventions for UK and Ireland. “There are so many flights in and out of Schiphol airport and it’s very easy to reach the city and the suburbs”.
“Another thing is the ease of moving around the city – the tram system is used frequently by visitors. Also, I think that Amsterdam just has a large pull due to its reputation for being welcoming and friendly.”
Top Event Spaces
Covering 87,000 sq.mt. and boasting 11 exhibition halls, the Rai hosts the lion’s share of Amsterdam’s international conferences and trade shows. “In 2018, the NH Hotel Group will open the largest hotel in the region at the RAI,” says Ishmael. “It will be 25 storeys high and have a spa and a TV studio. There are also talks of there being 3D holographic technology for meetings.”
Beurs van Berlage
This characterful clock-tower building was the third stock exchange building to be built in Amsterdam, designed to have the feel of a “public palace”. It can host gala events for up to 3,000 guests in the original trading hall.
Eye Film Museum
Amsterdam Noord’s futuristic film museum has four cinema rooms available for hire, plus a glass-fronted space with views across the water towards IJ Harbour, with enough room to hold 900 people for drinks.
The Playing Circle
For boardroom meetings, these industrial-chic loft-style spaces, with contemporary furniture and distinctly Dutch design features are bound to inspire creative thinking.
The new wing of the largest modern art museum in the Netherlands looks like a giant spaceship has landed upon Museumplein. The beautiful plasterwork of the 19th-century old wing has been given an ultramodern whitewash, with the light installation around the grand staircase by American artist Dan Flavin creating an evocative ambience for an event.
Happy 100th Birthday To Amsterdam Schiphol
On September 19th, Amsterdam Schiphol Airport will become 100 years old – and it’s planning a rather special party. “The CEOs of major airlines and the stakeholders will all come together to celebrate, and the airport has also invited 10,000 residents living in the surrounding area to come and explore behind the scenes,” says Ishmael.
Schiphol has certainly come a long way since its humble beginnings in 1916, when it was little more than a few wooden buildings. It served 58 million passengers last year and is now the second-largest hub airport in Europe (after Frankfurt International). It’s also ranks second in Europe for its number of direct flights – 4,633 per week – with London Heathrow pipping it to the post.
As air travel goes, transiting through Schiphol is rather pleasant. Despite being a century old, its departure areas have been refreshed continually, so it feels open and relatively chic. Developments are underway, including the revamped Lounge 2 departure area, with seven different themed “worlds”, and the introduction of centralised security – a slight qualm for many of its passengers is Schiphol’s current at-gate security, so your hand-luggage gets searched just as you arrive at your gate to board the plane, which is rather inefficient, and a bit of a faff.
What else does the future hold for the hub? “In 2019, a new pier will open at Schiphol to accommodate different-sized jets, further increasing capacity” says Ishmael. “And, in 2023, a new terminal is due to opening, which is anticipated to serve 14 million more passengers annually.”
The world’s first “1-to-5-star” hotel is set in a towering brick building northeast of the city centre, which used to be a juvenile detention centre. Lloyd Hotel’s 117 unconventional rooms welcome both budget and luxury travellers, and feature off -the-wall touches such as seven-person beds and swings hanging from the ceiling. There’s also a cosy library, eclectic meeting space for up to 100 people, a casual restaurant and a “cultural embassy” – a programme of hosted events and speakers that is staged throughout the hotel.
The Hoxton Amsterdam
Set across five wooden-floored canal houses – formerly home to the Mayor of Amsterdam – this five-star boutique hotel houses 111 rooms with polished retro decor. Its plush all-in-one meeting venue, The Apartment, features a study, a library, a study, a games room, an outdoor courtyard and a kitchen – the latter is large enough to host 40 people for an event with a home-from-home feel.
This contemporary independent property classes itself as “a new type of hotel category” and a “home-office hybrid”. The furnishings of each of the 133 “lofts” are customisable depending on whether you’re here to work, relax or something in between. The word zoku translates from Japanese as “tribe, clan or family”, reflecting how the hotel attracts and unites a curious, worldly and entrepreneurial community of guests. Its inviting social spaces are set up for co-working andchatting over the free wine and cheese each evening.
Everything On a Stick
Inspired by street food, this restaurant does exactly what it says on the tin. Each of its 40 dishes is served on skewers – from sashimi to caesar salad – and you can mix and match them however you choose.
Guts and Glory
The changing tasting menu of this excellent Michelin-starred eatery is divided into “chapters”. Guts and Glory’s current and sixth “chapter” is named “La Vita E Bella”, with everything from its seven-course menu to the art hanging on its walls temporarily themed around Italy.
De Culinaire Werkplaats
Here, you’re invited to pull up a high chair in what feels like a family kitchen-slash-laboratory, and pay whatever you think your meal was worth at the end. The team are currently working on creating the next generation of edible fabrics.
When In Amsterdam
We ask the experts the best way to experience the Dutch capital, away from the reams of tourists:
Sandra Ishmael, Director of the Netherlands Board of Tourism and Conventions for UK and Ireland:
“Definitely go for a pancake house. There’s a nice one on Prinsengracht by one of the canals, it’s called the Pancake Bakery. The sweet and savoury pancakes there are huge!
“There’s also Royal Concertgebouw concert hall, where they sometimes stage lunchtime shows, and the acoustics are out of this world, thanks to the way the building’s clever design.
“And there’s nothing like seeing Amsterdam from the water, so book a canal cruise. You can interact with the locals sitting on their boats socialising with beers after work. It really takes you to the heart of the city, and you can see the canal houses up close.”
Amber Selby Brown, Events and PR Manager for The Hoxton Amsterdam:
“I’d suggest working your way through the restaurants and bars. Check out Breda, Café Panache, Cannibale Royale, Foodhallen, and keep an eye out for pop-up restaurants.”