Holland (or The Netherlands to be politically correct) has fascinated me since my childhood. Long sandy beaches, impressive dunes, and those lovely little houses. Today, I am also raving about the ultramodern architecture and all the innovations to gain more land from the sea. And the liberal lifestyle of the Dutch is another asset, of course. I heard about one of the first European energy-neutral hotels located in Amsterdam. It was clear to me that I have to explore the Four Elements Hotel. So, off I go by train to Amsterdam Central Station and from there by streetcar (15 minutes) to Ijburg, always wearing a mouth and nose protection in times of corona.
Photo: Amsterdam Centraal - off to IJburg
On my way to IJburg, I cannot get enough of all the modern buildings close to the water. From the final destination, it's only a short walk to the brand new Four Elements Hotel. A friendly receptionist explains a few particular characteristics of this hotel. There is no minibar in the rooms since that consumes too much energy. The hotel key is a piece of wood that you should kindly return to the reception when departing. It looks like they have thought about many details.
Photo: Hotel information on paper? No way!
Room with a View
My suite is on the 10th floor. The view of the beach and the marina from the vast windows is breathtaking. I enjoy the pleasant temperature and puristic furnish in my room. A little wooden card explains about the hotel – again, no paper. A real eye-catcher: a tree decoration on the wall, reminding the guest to respect nature. Although everything is sustainable in the Four Elements Hotel, you do not have to do without comfort. There is a flat-screen with streaming services, a coffee and tea machine, and WiFi without charge.
Photo: I loved the tree on the wall - ©Four Elements Hotel
During the colder seasons, a convector heater warms up each of the 195 rooms; the warm water serves for the shower. And needless to say – the cosmetic care products in the bathroom are all organic.
Photo: That´s what I call a view
IJburg - a brand new Neighborhood
I quickly unpack and can't wait to explore the neighborhood. IJburg consists of four artificial islands, each of them connected by bridges. Over the past years, architects have developed a chic residential area for well-off families. Next to the Four Elements Hotel, there is a lovely marina with many yachts and a few restaurants. You can learn wakeboarding and surfing in a water sports school. The little sandy beach with separate areas for swimmers and surfers is only a short walk away from the Four Elements Hotel and pretty busy on this warm summer day. Not bad, but frankly, I would prefer the large beach in Zandvoort. However, it is lovely for a stroll and a coffee in the beach bar Lolaland.
Photo: Surfers in action
I love all the modern buildings in this neighborhood with all those little canals like in Amsterdam, but more advanced. Kids are jumping into the water from the gardens of the houses. After all, in Holland, you are never far away from water. And it looks like every Dutch has a boat or a surfboard, what a relaxed lifestyle.
Photo: Cool residential area in IJburg
Dinner "al fresco"
A hot summer day is coming to an end, with a breathtaking sunset. After all the walking, I spoil myself with dinner on the Four Elements Hotel's terrace. A delightful breeze caresses my skin. I enjoy the view of the marina and a glass of organic Merlot, fantastic. The menu is small but beautiful. I go for gnocchi with red beet, a mouthwatering cress sauce, sour cream, walnuts, and horseradish. Did anyone say that vegetarian cuisine is boring?
Photo: No better place for a drink or meal - ©Four Elements Hotel
Herb van Drongelen, Head of the restaurant with an open kitchen, assures me that all ingredients are local. "Our meat is always organic. In the evening, we offer one meat and one fish dish and three vegetarian options. Our creations are elegant but not exaggerated". I could not agree more. "We offer every plate as half and full portion; that way, we avoid garbage." I love the fact that the hotel only offers fairtrade coffee. "It is 40% more expensive than regular coffee and not traded at the New York Stock Exchange. We know exactly from which plantation our coffee derives", says Herb.
Photo: Simply mouthwatering! - ©Four Elements Hotel
Breakfast at the Four Elements Hotel is served at the table in Herbs Garden Restaurant, a unique place with lots of plants and a cute little greenhouse in the middle. Let's start with the essential thing - the espresso is fantastic! Tasty multigrain bread with cheese (sure, after all, we are in Holland) and granola yogurt. I save the pancake for the next morning.
Photo: Plants all over the place at Herb´s Garden Restaurant
Photo: Herb van Drongelen at work in the open kitchen - ©Four Elements Hotel
It's all about Sustainability
Time for a meeting with Robin Boer, the young, charming hotel manager. We meet in the cozy lobby lounge. After a few minutes, it is obvious how proud Robin is of the concept of the Four Elements Hotel. The energy-neutral hotel was opened in June 2019 and uses natural elements such as the wind – Holland has plenty of that. Professor Benjamin Bronsema, a Dutch physician, got inspired by the termite hills in Kenya. These insects manage to keep an average temperature of 20 to 22 degrees in their home by opening and closing their channels. Bronsema engaged in this system for a couple of years, looking for investors until he realized his groundbreaking concept. The Four Elements Hotel has a natural air-condition regulated by hatches located on all walls in the facades of the building.
Photo: Hotel Manager Robin Boer - ©Four Elements Hotel
And this is only one aspect of sustainability in the Four Elements Hotel. "Almost everything here has a second life," says Robin. "Our glasses are made of old wine bottles. All products are regional. As an example, we do not offer orange juice since oranges do not grow in Holland. We are aiming at zero waste. That's why we do not have a breakfast buffet; there is simply too much leftover." Well said, Robin. I often think about that when I see hotel guests with full plates and leaving a lot of food behind them. "Our employees have to explain our message to our guests; we educate them that way. When hiring staff, we care a lot about their engagement for sustainability. Wow, I love that! We all know that a lot on our planet needs to change, including in hotels. "If every hotel guest changes a small thing in his or her life after a stay here, this can change a lot.", says Robin. "The Four Elements Hotel is a pioneer in sustainability. We aim for this to become the norm in 10 to 15 years." Sounds very promising, but wouldn't it be wonderful if all that went faster?
Photo: Even the art at the Four Elements Hotel is green
Are there any other ecohotels in Amsterdam? "Two, but not to the extent as the Four Elements Hotel. For example, in one of them, you get alcoholic drinks from all over the world. That would be impossible in our place." And what do the hotel guests say about the concept? "Most of them are well informed and accept it. And some guests tell me that our air is much fresher." They accept that we change linens and towels only on request. Makes sense – or do you daily change your bedding and towels at home?
What a cool Energy System
Robin continues to tell me about all those impressive details. Showers stop automatically after ten minutes (you can, of course, continue to use it after). The Four Elements Hotel produces its eco electricity. There are solar collectors on the roof and the facades. All rooms and areas of the Four Elements Hotel are climatized through a subtle system year-round.
These graphics illustrate the system in summer and winter:
©Four Elements Hotel
The wood of the floors derives from mature timber. The water bottles in the rooms are washed and re-used ten times before going into the recycling process. The wall paints are free from chemicals. Yes, it's possible if you only make an effort!
Sundowner in the Sky
One of the Four Elements Hotel highlights is the chic Wind Sky Bar on the 10th floor, probably the trendiest meeting point in IJburg. From the little balcony, you enjoy a breathtaking view of the IJmeer and the beach. You can guess how much will be developed here over the next few years. In short – a perfect place for a sundowner and "very instagrammable". Next to the Wind Sky Bar, there is a little conference room ("Plastic Whale Boardroom") with a table made of recycled plastic fished from the canals in Amsterdam. You just need to have the right ideas.
Photo: How about a sundowner at the Wind Sky Bar? - ©Four Elements Hotel
There are more meeting opportunities in the "Water View Space" with its glass walls and spectacular views. Creative meetings guaranteed!
And I almost forgot the little hotel gym. No time for a workout but next time for sure!
Enjoying City Life and Nature
And what to do and to see over and above the area next to the hotel? I ask the hotel manager Robin. "Rent a bike and explore IJburg. Or take a boat to Pampus Island. In Amsterdam, you should not miss a boat ride on the canals. And I recommend three museums, the Rijksmuseum, the van Gogh exhibition and the house of Anne Frank."
Soon I will tell you what I did in Amsterdam and IJburg, a lovely mix of city and nature. Stay tuned!
Four Elements Hotel Amsterdam
Bert Haanstrakade 1074
NL - Amsterdam
+31 20 714 20 40