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Sleep: Amsterdam

From retired ferries to converted cranes, Amsterdam’s latest crop of hotels includes some genuine oddities. We pick out the best beds in neighbourhoods new and old

Sleep: Amsterdam
Sir Albert Hotel, Amsterdam. Image: Sir Albert Hotel

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De Pijp

Located just south of the city centre, this former blue-collar neighbourhood has emerged as one of Amsterdam’s most vibrant districts. Jam-packed with buzzing bars and restaurants, De Pijp’s cosmopolitan population and bohemian vibe has earned it the moniker ‘the Latin Quarter’. It also lays claim to Albert Cuyp, the most famous market in Amsterdam, where you’ll find everything from locally grown vegetables to vintage clobber. Take some time to unwind in Sarphatipark, one of the prettiest green spaces in the city.

We recommend: The Bicycle Hotel
Guess what this place offers? Yup: bikes and beds. Budget accommodation in the heart of De Pijp, this cosy hotel is cheerful as well as cheap; its colourful decor, framed prints and jovial staff conjure a homely ambiance. As well as providing clean and comfortable rooms, free breakfasts and complimentary wi-fi, the hotel will rent guests a set of wheels for just €8 (£6) a day. And sticking with the green theme, much of the building’s electricity comes from rooftop solar panels.
■ Rooms: B&B doubles from €30 (£22). bicyclehotel.com  

Best for quirks: Sir Albert Hotel
Occupying a former diamond-cutting factory, this four-star, 90-room boutique property overlooks Boerenwetering canal and is a short saunter from Albert Cuyp market and downtown De Pijp. It’s all contemporary chic inside, with high ceilings, enormous windows and oddball design accents: guests are greeted by a motley collection of vintage furniture — and ceramic hippos in the lobby. The unusual styling is carried through to Izakaya, a fantastic Japanese restaurant located on the ground floor. This area doesn’t lack excellent places to eat, but Izakaya is certainly worth staying in for.
■ Rooms: Doubles from €179 (£129). siralberthotel.com

Best for bohemians: B&B Colours in De Pijp
Living up to its name, this vibrant guesthouse is located a few doors down from Sarphatipark, De Pijp’s leafy centrepiece. Owned by a friendly New Zealander called Tanja Janssen, this traditional townhouse has been converted into three apartments and two studios, and decorated to incorporate the styles that have caught Tanja’s eye during her travels. There are some fantastic places to eat nearby, but the rooms are kitted out with well-stocked kitchens for those looking to self-cater. Considering the space, location and quality of accommodation, it’s hard to beat this for value.
■ Rooms: Studios from €115 (£83). bbcoloursindepijp.nl

Hotel Teun, Amsterdam. Image: Hotel Teun

Hotel Teun, Amsterdam. Image: Hotel Teun

Jordaan

One of the most exclusive neighbourhoods in the Netherlands, the Jordaan is where Rembrandt spent his twilight years. Lying west of the city centre, it’s home to some of the prettiest canalside properties in Amsterdam and has an easy-going, bohemian vibe. Cafes dot street corners, bars spill onto cobbled pavements and independent retailers abound, most notably around the Nine Streets district. Bazaars are held at Noordermarkt every Saturday, where shoppers can pick up anything from antique furniture to classic vinyl. Jordaan is also well placed for Amsterdam’s top attractions, including the sobering but worthwhile Anne Frank House.

We recommend: The Dylan
There are many reasons why the Dylan endures as one of Amsterdam’s great luxury hotels. Enviably located on Keizersgracht canal, this former 17th-century theatre is still in the business of entertaining. Unpretentious yet lavish, it has 40 exquisite, individually decorated rooms, which come with all the usual five-star trimmings, including espresso machines and Bose sound systems. Hungry for more indulgence? The Dylan also boasts Vinkeles, a Michelin-starred restaurant serving modern French fare in a former bakery. Its original take on afternoon tea is ‘high wine’ — instead of scones and a brew, knowledgeable staff pair four light bites with four wines. And with its very own boat, The Muse, a 19th-century saloon vessel that can be hired for private dinner cruises, the luxury treatment doesn’t have to end when you step out the door.
■ Rooms: Doubles from €350 (£252). dylanamsterdam.com 

Best for bargain hunters: Hotel Teun
A stone’s throw from the bustling heart of Jordaan, this sophisticated three-star establishment is a relatively new addition to the local scene. Housed in an attractive 17th-century building, Teun’s 10 stylish rooms fuse boho chic with period charm and offer a level of comfort you’d pay much more for elsewhere in the city. There’s also a charming restaurant that spills out onto the street, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. Superb value.
■ Rooms: B&B doubles from €113 (£83). hotelteun.nl 

Best for sightseers: Hotel Pulitzer
Occupying 25 historic houses on the Prinsengracht and Keizersgracht canals, the venerable Pulitzer broke free from the Starwood group earlier this year to become an independent hotel. The refurbishment of this luxury 230-room property is scheduled for completion in autumn 2016, bringing a more intimate, boutique feel to the place. As well as decadent rooms and tranquil gardens, the Pulitzer has its own saloon boat offering private tours of the city for €38 (£27). The hotel also hosts the Prinsengracht Concert, an outdoor  jazz jamboree held every August.
■ Rooms: Doubles from €228 (£168). pulitzeramsterdam.com  

Amstel Botel, Amsterdam. Image: Botel

Amstel Botel, Amsterdam. Image: Botel

NDSM Wharf

Once the largest shipbuilding facility in Amsterdam, the NDSM Wharf went bust in 1984 and was left to wrack and ruin. Like the ghost of a bygone era, its rusting remains haunted the quay until the pioneers of regeneration — artists, musicians and squatters — moved in during the 1990s. They breathed new life into the abandoned buildings, made it trendy and paved the way for gentrification. Only a short ferry ride from the city centre, today, NDSM is considered one of Amsterdam’s most up-and-coming neighbourhoods. Some might say it has arrived…

We recommend: Faralda NDSM Hotel
Bringing a whole new meaning to ‘getting high’ in Amsterdam, this hotel is located up a crane. As in, an industrial machine. So what’s it like? Surprisingly plush, actually. The three luxury suites are built into the framework of the dockside crane and are all individually styled (stuffed peacocks anyone?). Admittedly, you should steer well clear if you have vertigo, but the pièce de résistance is the rooftop hot tub. Oh, and did I mention the bungee jump?
■ Rooms: Doubles from €435 (£313). faralda.com 

Best for salty seadogs: Amstel Botel
Though not quite in the same league of weirdness as the crane hotel, the Amstel Botel is moored at the NDSM pier. This former ferry has been put out to pasture as a floating hotel; it has 175 rooms with private bathrooms, satellite TV and free in-house movies (no, not that kind). Also aboard is a restaurant and bar offering pool tables and pinball machines. You couldn’t swing a cat in most of the cabins, but the prices are right.
■ Rooms: Doubles from €32 (£24). amstelbotel.com 

Best for families: Doubletree by Hilton
You can always rely on a multinational to come up with joyless business names, but that aside, this dockside property offers fantastic views and a boutique vibe. And the fact the Hilton brand has arrived in NDSM shows just how gentrified it now is. The hotel has all the comforts you’d expect from a four-star and the adjoining restaurant, Brooklyn, puts on an excellent breakfast.
■ Rooms: Doubles from €195 (£143). doubletree.com  

Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam. Image: Waldorf Astoria

Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam. Image: Waldorf Astoria

Centre

Central Amsterdam is a destination of unrivalled seediness and sublime beauty; a place where it’s possible to spot  ladies of the night, admire the work of Rembrandt and legally take psychedelic drugs — all before lunchtime, if that’s your bag. The city is world-famous for its red light district, hazy coffeeshops and UNESCO-listed canals, but until recently, it was far less renowned for its accommodation. Luckily, that’s changing with the addition of some exciting new hotels shaking things up in the city centre.

We recommend: Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam
The city’s no slouch when it comes to high-end hotels, but the opening of the Waldorf Astoria last year has pushed the needle at the luxury end of the market. Occupying six former townhouses (including two mayoral residences), this 93-bedroom hotel overlooks Herengracht canal and is close, but not too close, to the bustling city centre. Behind the magnificent 17th-century façade, the opulent décor manages to be classic yet contemporary, elegant but bold. The grand staircase built by Daniel Marot, Louis XIV’s architect, remains a glorious feature, as well as the rococo-style dining room. On-site dining comes courtesy of Librije’s Zusje, which has already been awarded two Michelin stars.
■ Rooms: Doubles from €624 (£458). waldorfastoria.com

Best for couples: The Hoxton
Also making a splash in Herengracht is the Hoxton, which opened earlier this summer. The first Hoxton to launch outside London, the group’s latest venture has transformed five canal houses (one of which lays claim to having mayoral connections) into 111 beautiful bedrooms. There are five different room categories, starting with the smallest, Shoebox, and moving up to Roomy, the most spacious. The renovation has been sympathetic to the property’s period features — wooden floorboards, ceiling beams and panelling have been celebrated rather than ditched — and the décor reflects Amsterdam’s mercantile heritage. There’s also an on-site restaurant, Lotti’s, serving Italian fare and cocktails.
■ Rooms: B&B doubles from €89 (£64). thehoxton.com 

Best for hedonists: Durty Nelly’s
If you’d rather be sucked into the vortex of hedonism than fight against it, this is probably the place for you. Set above an Irish pub of the same name, this hostel enjoys a prime location in the heart of the red light district, within staggering distance of central Amsterdam’s legendary bars and coffeeshops. Dorm rooms are cramped but clean, and they all have en suite bathrooms. Hostel staff are friendly and willing to impart their local knowledge. If you do plan on getting some sleep, bring a pair of earplugs. This place is party central. You’ve been warned.
■ Rooms: Dorm beds from €16 (£12) B&B. durtynellys.nl  

Essentials

Getting there
Numerous airlines, including KLM, CityJet, EasyJet, Flybe and British Airways, serve Holland from UK airports. 
Average flight time: 1h10m.
Eurostar rail services operate from London St Pancras, Ebbsfleet and Ashford International stations to Brussels, where there are regular connections to cities and towns all over Holland. The Thalys high-speed train travels from Brussels to Amsterdam in 1h53m. From the UK there are daily ferry crossings from Harwich to Hoek van Holland with Stena Line, Hull to Rotterdam with P&O Ferries, and Newcastle to Ijmuiden with DFDS Seaways. Alternatively, you can take a ferry to France or Belgium and drive to Holland in less than three hours.

 

Getting around
Holland boasts a modern and extensive railway network, with Intercity trains running regularly between the larger cities, while Express bus services and Interliner buses are comfortable alternatives to train travel. Cities and towns can be explored quite easily by bus, subway and tram and water taxis are also available in Amsterdam. There are more than 19,000 miles of cycle paths throughout the country and bikes can be rented in the centres of the big cities, from train stations and hotels.

 

When to go
Holland’s climate is influenced by the sea, with the relatively constant temperature of the water moderating any seasonal changes in temperature. February to May are the driest months, with May to August the sunniest. On average, the Netherlands experiences a mild winter and warm summer (18-22C).

 

Need to know
Visas: No visa is required by British passport holders. Your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay.
Currency: Euro (€). €1 = 100 cents.
Health: Visitors to the Netherlands should acquire a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before leaving the UK.
International dial code: 00 31.
Time difference: GMT +1.

 

More info
holland.com

Published in the September 2015 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)