(Editor’s note: Dispatches receives no remuneration from Moxy or from parent Marriott International for this post. We just like passing on tips to other expat travel lovers and road warriors in Europe.)
Every once in awhile as a traveler you stumble into something interesting on the road. Way back in 2015 when we were working on the beta of Dispatches, we stayed at a Motel One in Vienna and posted about it, because we found it a premium experience at an affordable rate considering Vienna is a big city. Now, we just got back from Amsterdam (post to follow) and we’re happy to report we discovered another fun hotel for a great price – the Moxy.
We stayed at the Schiphol Airport location for a number of reasons, including access to the airport as we were alternately welcoming (finally!) guests from the United States and sending some off. And that airport access business strategy defines how this hotel works.
The concept is, you’ll drop in for one night, then fly out the next day, according to the staffers we talked with. Someone really spent a lot of time thinking about that hangout part because the #Moxy very much is designed to be a hangout for Instagram Generation travelers.
We could see this as the place where Nina Kraviz and Calvin Harris come at six in the morning after a big Amsterdam show to catch a few hours sleep before flying off to their next EDM gig in Ibiza.
Moxy is all about the mood, from the signature scent – jasmine, crystal musk, and “blonde wood,” whatever that is – when you enter the lobby to the funky lighting to the graffiti-style entry wall and mellow music playing non-stop, the soundtrack to your personal movie. Because that’s kind of what Moxy is like … you’re on a movie set. The lobby and all the little workspace niches are designed to be, well, props and background scenes.
But there is definitely method to the madness. At the Schiphol unit, heavy tables and sturdy soft seating is all custom made, according to staffers, built to last at least five years with heavy hotel use and abuse. And there are lots of architect-designed pieces, including café tables made out of bicycle frames, an homage to the most bicycle-dependent city in Europe.
Everywhere you look there are game tables. Six-level shelving is loaded down with kitsch, including old record players, a new (working) digital video camera, old typewriters, toy bikes and lots and lots of books and magazines. Some pretty good photo books, actually, including boho art books and coffee table books on extraordinary Scandinavian homes and naked people. Stuff like that.
And, of course, there’s a 30-foot-tall climbing wall in the lobby.
Each Moxy is different, which blows my mind because of the sheer expense of differentiation for a budget hotel compared to the soulless interchangeability of, say, Motel 6 in the U.S.
Part of the interior approach could be to take your mind off the exterior. The 4-floor, 200-room Schiphol Moxy is in a former ING Bank building from the ’70s and is ugly outside as only an old office building can be. That’s okay, because you’re inside and don’t have to look at it. Anyway, it appears the Amsterdam Schiphol Moxy is the ugly stepchild of parent company Marriott, with other locations far more attractive, at least from the outside.
Inside, if we had to choose one word, we’d say “stimulating.”
I really, really like hotels, the more expensive and chi-chi the better. But Moxy impressed me with the sophistication and completeness of the vision and Marriott executive’s interpretation of what the Instagram Generation really wants in a hotel.
Our room – 454 – was spacious and pretty unremarkable. There was none of the plush details of our stay at the B-Aparthotel suite in Den Haag … the Barcelona chairs, slate stone bathroom enclosure, fancy shower heads or the Rituals soaps and shampoos. But we got a room for 51 euros per night in summer because we used our friend Karen’s Marriott discount. Room size is good but, weirdly, there’s no closet or place to unpack your clothes. Only hangers. So, the intent is you’ll just keep your clothes in your baggage. Okaaaaaay. The action is definitely in the common spaces in the lobby.
Another kind of weird thing is that because this used to be an office building, the hallways are so wide two Mack trucks could pass each other without touching.
About that location next to the fourth busiest airport in Europe … yes, it’s a little noisy right on the end of a runway. But the windows make the rooms tolerably quiet. Schiphol – one of the largest airports in the world – tries to limit late-night flights by charging airlines and freight companies more for late runway slots. But, they start flying cargo planes, which are even noisier than the passenger versions.
The Moxy is a millennial play by the global Marriott chain, based in Bethesda, Maryland outside Washington, D.C. Our friends at the desk told us Marriott has opened 60 Moxy units so far, but the actual number turned out to be 70 as of 1 August. That’s just in eight years! Marriott is so serious about this brand they just opened one in Kathmandu.
Hotel labor costs and real estate in Europe are so high the goal with Moxy is to retrofit buildings in hot travel destinations such as Amsterdam, LA, Miami and New York City with hotels that are run and managed by two-person teams. Weirdly, Marriott hires big-name architects and interior design firms to do the fit-and-finish. And they’re doing new Moxies with franchisee/developers. Amsterdam-based investment firm Vastint has the franchisee development agreement to develop most of the Europe locations and has done – or is doing – dozens of locations from Utrecht to Genoa.
The hotel business is, by and large, the real estate business, and no place is that more true than in the Netherlands. My new friends at Moxy told me developers have a very difficult time getting a permit in Amsterdam to build a new hotel … the focus is on reuse/repurposing. As the demand for office space falls, hotels are going into the relatively affordable spaces. Especially around Schiphol. So, a lot of buildings that are heinous ’70s architecture on the outside are becoming nice hotels on the inside.
• You get a welcome drink, and the ones they handed us were strong! So, we had a 2 p.m. buzz goin’ on. It’s a good bar, but this was weird … they had a bottle of Michter’s rye from our home state of Kentucky. So, we decided that’s what we’d have. But who in Europe has even heard of Michters, which is a very niche-y brand? Shockingly, the bottle was unopened. And when the bartender tried to find a price for a glass, she couldn’t. We’re guessing the bar brands are connected to some long-negotiated Marriott contract, so if you’re not from the U.S., good luck getting anything you’ve heard of.
• We paid 12.50 euros for the continental breakfast in the lobby, and it was pretty good … yogurt, fruit, cereal, pancakes, bacon, eggs and pastries. Oh, and really good coffee.
• The wifi is fast, as you’d expect at a chain catering to younger travelers.
• For a budget hotel, there are lots of amenities, including an communal ironing room and a nice workout space with literally tons of barbells.
• The NH Hotel across the street runs the (too small) free shuttle to Schiphol, where you can take the train to Amsterdam Centraal. BUT, at peak times, it’s full and I got bumped twice. Go early or late and get the kids at the front desk to book you early to make sure you get in. Or, you can Uber … a five-minute ride to the airport entrance near where the trains leave.
Co-CEO of Dispatches Europe. A former military reporter, I'm a serial expat who has lived in France, Turkey, Germany and the Netherlands.