Need a bed? Book well ahead. Amsterdam’s chocolate-box smallness creates an intimacy that makes for memorable public encounters and backstreet discoveries - and scores of small hotels that can be charming and cosy or crowded and claustrophobic. The big ones tend to be chain-run and full of hordes of package tourists. They might be more likely to have vacant rooms, air-conditioning and well-lit hallways, but they’re less likely to have anything memorable about them, for better or for worse.
The trick with lodging in Amsterdam is getting in (and we don’t just mean squeezing up those narrow stairs). Book well in advance, especially if you want something special. In 2003, continuing hard times for hoteliers meant there were more empty rooms than usual, and deals could be snapped up on all price levels; you could well beat the prices listed here. Many hotels also post offers on their websites.
Hotels in Amsterdam cluster around clearly demarcated consumer zones; each is lined with dozens of anonymous small places. The sleazy Red Light District and slightly more salubrious Centraal Station area, the neon-lit entertainment quarters around Rembrandtplein and Leidseplein, the elegant canal zone between the station and Leidseplein, and the stately museum district are the main hotel areas, in ascending order of poshness, peacefulness and price.
Wherever you stay, the typical room might feel a bit cramped. Try to see it as cosy, and leave the 24-piece luggage set at home - Amsterdam isn’t a dressing-up town anyway. If you need things like a lift or wide doorways, always ask: much of this wiggly city is not very disabled-friendly, and hotels are no exception. And when that promised king-size bed turns out to be two small ones pushed together, bear in mind that this is standard even in expensive hotels, what with windows being furniture’s usual way into the city’s old skinny buildings.
In lieu of bigness, Amsterdam’s hoteliers seem to have gone for the ‘small but perfectly formed’ approach. ‘Design hotels’ are catching on at all but the lowest price levels, and even there, themed rooms abound. Other places around town emphasise art or literature, in-hotel bike rental, or being on a boat. Whatever you find, enjoy. The local wish to be unique will make your stay that much funkier and perhaps add a bit of poetry to your life. We’d expect nothing less from this self-expressive city.