We travel to explore our world but sometimes we need a little help with language, logistics, or even ideas, to really dig in and experience our destination. When William E. Heinecke opened the first Anantara Hotel in 2001, he did so with that very purpose in mind: to help guests embrace the excitement of discovering a new place. But instead of leaving it to chance, the Anantara founder and CEO tasked that first property, and each of the company’s subsequent hotels and resorts, with creating a menu of exclusive, immersive experiences that would make it easy for guests to get a real sense of the character of their destination. At the time, it was a true innovation.

More than two decades and 58 hotels later, Anantara continues to raise the bar, not only in the sheer range of experiences available, but in luxurious and welcoming surroundings as well. Here’s how two of the company’s newest properties, Amsterdam’s Anantara Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky and Anantara The Marker Hotel Dublin, make it happen.

Anantara Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky, Amsterdam

white room at anantara grand hotel krasnapolsky, amsterdam
Courtesy, Anantara Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky

What is it about grand historic hotels that make you crave a celebratory cocktail to kick off the evening, sit up a little straighter at dinner, and stroll the hushed hallways in search of treasures from the past? I felt all of this and more at Amsterdam’s Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky, which reopened in 2022 under the Anantara flag after a full renovation.

The hotel is named for Adolph Wilhelm Krasnapolsky, a former tailor who opened a coffee house and, later, a hotel on the site in the 1860s. Today, the hotel’s 402 rooms are spread over an astounding, 55-centuries-old canal houses.

I would love to have seen Mr. Krasnapolsky’s tailoring, because the man definitely had an eye for drama. In 1880, for instance, he created a conservatory with a three-story, stained-glass ceiling supported by ornate iron work that looks like it could have been forged by Gustave Eiffel. Five years later he opened the White Room, a fine dining establishment where gilded accents highlight alabaster-hued walls, soaring columns, cornices and ceiling coffers. Like a dining room at Versailles, it is a beautiful space, and the perfect foil for Chef Jacob Jan Boema’s focused flavors, which meld color, texture, aroma, and flavor into every bite. It’s no wonder the restaurant has a Michelin star.

room with a view, anantara grand hotel krasnapolsky
Courtesy, Anantara Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky

The hotel’s newest establishment is a lively cocktail bar called Bar the Tailor, which pays homage to Mr. Krasnapolsky’s original profession with a witty, tailor-themed décor and a changing menu of seasonal cocktails. And, like any good tailor, the bartenders will mix up a bespoke creation if nothing off the rack strikes your fancy. The bar is also the last stop on Anantara’s Spirit of the Netherlands experience, which traces the heritage of Dutch liquors with tours and tastes at both new and old distilleries. At Wynand Fockink, which has been producing liqueurs and gin for nearly 350 years, we ordered shots and drank our first sip as instructed, bent over the bar, hands behind our backs. Only then could we raise our glass for a toast.

We started another day with a quintessential Amsterdam experience: a canal tour by boat. But this wasn’t just any boat ride. Our private craft was Anantara’s vintage cruiser and it had been set for a fancy Champagne breakfast, complete with cloth napkins, crystal flutes, and silver cutlery. As we motored through the canals and the Amstel River, Brian, our guide and captain, moved effortlessly between fun trivia and Amsterdam’s history.

I love a food tour — in my mind, the walking negates the calories — but Anantara’s foodie excursion added a dose of history to the stroll. I hadn’t realized, for instance, that without the Dutch East India Trading Company, a 17th-century trading behemoth that brought spices to Europe from Indonesia, there would be no cinnamon to scent the slabs of apple pie we consumed or the warm stroopwafels that topped our morning coffee. We also munched on peanut-sauced satays, which also have roots in Indonesia, as well as a variety of Dutch cheeses that went well beyond the red-waxed Goudas that populate my local grocery store.  Other cool excursions include a private Champagne lunch in a tulip field and an insider tour at one of Amsterdam’s oldest family-owned diamond dealers.

Anantara The Marker Dublin Hotel, Ireland

wild swimming, anantara the marker dublin hotel
Courtesy, Anantara The Marker Dublin Hotel

Even as I’m walking barefoot in a bathing suit on wet rocks toward the thick, grey-green Irish Sea, I’m wondering if I’m actually brave enough to step into the water, which I’m told is a “balmy” 59 degrees. “Aye, during the winter we swim through the ice,” laughs a regular when he sees me pause. “Here” is Forty Feet, a rocky bluff where local bathers, convinced of the health benefits of a daily cold plunge, have taken the cure for more than 250 years. (It’s also where the siblings on AppleTV’s hit Bad Sisters plan the demise of their abusive brother in law.)

I’m here as part of Anantara’s Wild Swimming excursion, which gives hardy guests the opportunity to participate in an activity that is such a part of Ireland’s coastal culture that James Joyce included it in a scene in Ulysses. I could have done it on my own, but I probably wouldn’t have, which is what makes these activities such a terrific benefit for guests. Not only did the hotel provide transport; a warm, dry robe and hot drinks, but I had a personal life guard as well, just to be sure I didn’t sink. Or freeze. Neither calamity occurred, though, and when I emerged from the water, I was glad I’d taken on the challenge.

spa time, anantara the marker dublin hotel
Courtesy, Anantara The Marker Dublin Hotel

Constructed in 2013, the 187-room Marker was fully renovated last year and celebrates Ireland’s food, landscape, and traditions. In the lobby, for instance, terrazzo floors were inspired by the colors of the rocky landscape around County Clare; the undulating front portico was fashioned to mimic ocean waves. Within the rooms, photographs of fishermen decorate the walls; soaps and shampoos are infused with botanicals from the Irish Sea.

At Forbes Street, the hotel’s restaurant, Gareth Mullins has turned utilization of Irish ingredients into a delicious art form. At breakfast, everything from traditional white pudding to smoked Irish salmon and locally-made yogurts and butter grace the buffet; the warm Irish soda bread is made using his grandmother’s recipe. Dinner is a feast of Irish meat and produce, all spectacularly paired with wine from French wineries — think Barton & Gustier, Palmer and Hennessey — that, thanks to the 17th-century Jacobites, were started by Irish immigrants to France.  

bar at anantara the marker dublin hotel
Courtesy, Anantara The Marker Dublin Hotel

Mullins says that during the early aughts he joined other Irish chefs on the molecular cuisine bandwagon, but hopped off when he realized that he was covering up, rather than enhancing, the natural deliciousness of Ireland’s bounty. He’s such a proponent of Ireland’s vast array of ingredients that he accompanies guest on a hotel excursion to the seaside village of Howeth for lunch, a tour of a salmon-smoking facility, a boat ride along the coast and, back at the hotel, a cooking lesson. “We’re changing the definition of luxury,” he says. “To me, it’s the opportunity to take a deep dive into our culture. I’ll gladly make the time in my schedule to share it.”

Cover image, courtesy of Anantara The Marker Dublin Hotel.