To so many people working in the events industry Amsterdam is a frequent destination, a known quantity and trusted entity for events of all shapes and sizes. After more than 20 years of overseas trips working in the travel sector it was met with some surprise that I had never stepped foot in Holland, and knew little about this iconic city. Last week I was able to put that right with a 3-day inspection of some of the major MICE event spaces, hotels and activities, courtesy of Daan Riemeijer and team at our partner DMC, Performance Travel.
I am surely not alone in being struck by the waterways which weave their merry way through the city, lined by tall, characterful canalside houses. A canal cruise ensures you reduce your frenetic pace of life as the warm, glass-covered boats meander slowly past such evocative sites as Anne Frank’s House and under bridge after bridge. Back on dry land Daan showed me a super dinner venue, a former ship chandler’s house seemingly untouched since its heyday in the Golden Age, complete with cigar humidor and painting of Winston Churchill in its antique-bedecked lounge. Other favourites included Restaurant d’Vijff Vlieghen, a warren of panelled rooms, cosy and charming with excellent cuisine. The much larger Harbour Club (below) is a great dining venue for several hundred.
We saw a range of boats, suitable for various numbers from 8 up to 500+, some elegant, others modern and great for a raucous party. On dry land there are stunning venues for large events; another which struck me was the glass covered interior of the Scheepvaartmuseum which can cater for 700, readied in super-quick time when the museum closes at the day’s end.
Amsterdam is a compact city so getting out beyond the centre is quick and you are soon into the flat, watery countryside beyond. Warmer months’ activity highlights involve windmills (lots of them!), a 2CV self-drive excursion for up to 50 cars, beach games, or Fort Boyard-style fun at the Forteiland Ijmuiden, a fabulous option for team-build though probably not what the tax-paying burghers of Amsterdam had in mind 130 years ago when building this defensive fortress!
Sleaze? Well yes, it’s there, but easily avoided. Performance Travel can touch upon it with innovative tours, some with ex-coppers who entertain with stories of their past. Personally, I preferred the beguiling museums, my whizz around the Van Gogh Museum enough to want to return soon to take it in properly. Amsterdam is that kind of city, great for a short visit but worth coming back for a longer a visit: scratch the surface and there is so much there.
As for Daan and his team at Performance Travel, they run a boutique DMC with attention to detail and a youthful eye, they have fabulous relations with their suppliers, are easy-going where required and above all are large dollops of fun. We are looking forward to getting them out there in the UK MICE market with their fresh approach to getting the best from this city and beyond.