Over the past decade, Amsterdam hotels have kept pace with the city's reemergence as a European style capital, and a wave of intimate, fashionable hotels, such as Miauw Suites, have elbowed their way in among the grande dames and generic chains. The quintessential Amsterdam hotel experience, however, is still found in the 17th- and 18th-century canal houses that cluster in the Western Canal Ring. Traditional examples, such as the Ambassade, are often subdued in style (stately canal views compensate), while newerusually priciercanal house hotels (such as the Dylan) update the historical ambiance with high-tech toys, the stamp of name-brand designers, and neo-baroque flourishes like cut-crystal chandeliers.
There has also been a rush to convert Amsterdam's architectural landmarks into avant-garde, civic-minded hotels. In true Dutch democratic spirit, the Lloyd Hotel mixes one-star and five-star rooms and includes a library and performance space. The Grand Hotel Amrath functions as a full entertainment complex (restaurant, lounge, and spa) while the College Hotel serves as a training center for students in hotel management.
If all that busy multitasking sounds a little too conceptual, the safer bets are the larger, more familiar hotels, like the NH Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky (9 Dam; 31-20-554-9111; www.nh-hotels.com), that cluster around Dam Square, Centraal Station, and Leidseplein. These touristy areas are also where you're most likely to find a deal (if things are slow, you may find a summer weekend hotel rate around $200). For the deepest discounts, head to the less central (yet tram-accessible) bargain hotels in De Pijp, Amsterdam South, and the residential, east-side Plantage neighborhood. They offer another kind of singular Amsterdam vibe: a flashback to the days when the city was backpacker central and one big hippie squat (even neo-hippies have to plan ahead now). In high seasonwhich runs from April, when the tulips sprout, through summerthe more affordable rooms and midprice canal house hotels book up fast; try to reserve at least a month in advance.