How about celebrating your birthday at the five-star Okura hotel in Amsterdam? We were fortunate to stay here for the birthday of our eldest daughter. The Okura is an impressive 78 meters tall building, rising high in this part of borough Amsterdam-Zuid (Old South) and flat surroundings. Nice detail is, that when completed in 1971, it was the second-tallest building in the city of Amsterdam.

Amsterdam is the second most populous city in the Netherlands. Amsterdam’s name derives from Amster dam, indicative of the city’s origin around a dam in the Amstel river. Once in the late 12th century it was a small fishing village, but during the Dutch Golden Age it became one of the most important ports in the world. The city is also well known for its nightlife, festival activity and several of its nightclubs. Besides it is one of the world's most multicultural cities, with at least 177 nationalities represented. And, a great destination with all kind of activities for children.

 Okura in spring

Okura in spring

You will find the Okura Hotel at the Ferdinand Bolstraat and it is one of the main buildings in this street. It’s located directly south of Amsterdam's city center. Lobby, reception and our rooms are all very pleasing. In fact, everything is pleasing to the eye. The interior decoration is executed with minimalist simplicity and extreme high quality. There’s a "Zen" Japanese feel to the place. This makes the stay so very peaceful. The hotel offers Superior Rooms and Executive Rooms, all are comfortable and clean.

 The glass wall creates a feeling of space and lots of natural light

The glass wall creates a feeling of space and lots of natural light

The best part of our connecting Superior rooms are the amazing views all over Amsterdam. When waking up quite early, we are impressed by the spectacular sunrise view over the city and could have watched it for hours. The beds are very comfy, rooms well laid out and spacious with all conveniences in design that one would expect from a first-class hotel. All of the rooms have luxury bathrooms, again providing you with all the amenities you might need. And can also chose for even a bit more luxury with the Junior Suites and Suites. Some come with a nice understated Japanese style.

 Amsterdam is waking up

Amsterdam is waking up

Breakfast, served in the restaurant downstairs is great. The Okura is really trying to please everyone, and they do this - there's a range of European, Asian, and American cuisine for breakfast! Make sure you’ll include breakfast in your rate, since separate prices are quite high.

The Ciel Bleu is a fine dining restaurant that was awarded one Michelin star in the period 2005-2007 and two Michelin stars from 2008 to present. The name "Ciel Bleu" (Blue Sky) refers to the location on the 23rd floor; the blue sky is seen everywhere. Another one-star restaurant, Yamazato, is also located in the hotel and offers the traditional Japanese cuisine. Sazanka is the first and so far, only teppanyaki restaurant in Europe to be awarded a Michelin star.

Want to challenge the cooks? Join one of the cooking workshops. The themes are mostly seasonal, such as lobster, mushrooms, or asparagus, but some recurring workshops can be booked all year round. You can sign up as an individual as well. And don’t forget to have a drink in the sky bar in the evening. Twenty Third Bar also owes its name to its location: from the 23rd floor this bar offers magnificent views of Amsterdam.

Furthermore, we should mention the Nagomi Spa & Health club, promising high-quality treatments and activities. But with the children in tow, we prefer the Health Club Pool, which is free as we sign up to their membership service. The surprisingly large swimming pool is just great, including a Jacuzzi, a Turkish steam room, a kinesis wall and lounge area. Adults will like the sauna and what to think of a special jet lag program? Furthermore, the hotel has a small shopping mall in the basement (for guests only).

Especially with light sleepers be aware where to book a room. You might prefer not being too close to the kitchen of the roof top ‘Ciel Bleu Restaurant’ –since the staff is busy in the night. Or next to the music of the Champagne and Cocktail Lounge Bar Twenty Third. And if you need to sleep longer than 7.00 hrs in the morning: don’t book a room too close to the Okura Executive Lounge, since it opens at 7.00 hrs and you might very well get awakened by that. The Lounge does have its advantages though: when staying in an executive suite, you’ll have access to this lounge all day which has got free light food and all-day coffee.

 At the lobby

At the lobby

Stepping outside the lobby you will also find the original Heineken brewery at the northern end of the street. The street has traditionally been, and continues to be, primarily a shopping street. It is a major artery of the neighborhood ‘De Pijp’. Most streets here are named after Dutch painters, like Jan Steen, Frans Hals, Ruysdael and Vincent van Gogh. The most famous and busiest street market of the Netherlands, the Albert Cuyp Market is also in De Pijp. It is open six days per week, attracts many tourists but it’s surely nice just to experience the atmosphere.

There is a good tram service to and from the city center. You might opt for a day travel pass which costs around €7,50 pp and explore Amsterdam. Trams to the city center come every 10 minutes and it's a 10 minutes journey. Depending on the interests of your family there’s an overwhelming range of activities in and around the city. Please take in mind that the favorite places in Amsterdam tend to be overcrowded. The science museum Nemo is just awesome, just as the Artis Zoo and the famous museums such as ‘Madame Tussauds’. Daredevils and thrill seekers should check out the A’dam Lookout: a 100 meters high swing above the ground, back and forth over the edge of the tower with Amsterdam below their feet. You’ll experience the same views as from within the Okura Hotel, but here the adrenaline really flows through your body. Less exciting but just as stunning, is “This is Holland”, a unique flying 5D experience, soaring over the Dutch must‐see locations.

Or consider doing something totally different. In summer for example it’s nice to take a water bicycle to pebble the canals, play at the huge letters of Amsterdam or in the playground in front of the ‘Museumplein’. You might encounter some rain in the Netherlands though; museums such as the ‘Tropenmuseum’ can be an excellent alternative in that case. The Maritime Museum is a truly worthwhile destination with children as well. Or visit the ‘Paleis op de Dam’ which has free entrance for children. Nature lovers will surely enjoy the trees autumn colors in the renowned Vondelpark city park. Whatever you will do, you will have a blast in Amsterdam!

 Hide and seek in autumn

Hide and seek in autumn

. WOW

# Okura can best be described as a business hotel, but we can certainly recommend it for families also. The Zen vibe makes us relaxed from the start. But our highlight is the special birthday cake that was in our room at arrival! Quite a chocolate bomb, so we got enough energy for the whole weekend. Thanks to all the staff!

# Our kids love the immense pool: 18 x 6 m2, with a jet stream getting you into action.

# Still we spend most of the time outside, for there’s so much to do in the vibrant Amsterdam. Or rent some bikes and find the quietness of the surrounding countryside within 20 minutes.