The Dutch are on a roll this year with a newly crowned king, Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum reopening after a decade of restoration and even a long-lost Van Gogh painting unearthed this autumn. Local hoteliers have not been slacking and you will find a great range of charmingly individual places to stay, from luxurious heritage conversions to quaint lakeside campsites and (how Dutch can you get?) a converted brothel. Here are our favourites:
The ingenious Lloyd Hotel has almost single-handedly transformed Amsterdam's eastern docklands into a hip, artistic quarter. A listed building from 1921 built to accommodate migrants bound for South America has morphed, Grand Designs style, into a stunning, light-filled hotel and "cultural embassy". Creative types are made particularly welcome (there's often an artist in residence in the exhibition space). Rooms grow in size and personality from chic little one-star cells to palatial five-stars, one of which has a bed sleeping up to eight people.
Amsterdam's first "boutique" hostel, Cocomama has a dirty little secret - it was once a high-class brothel. The only hint at its former incarnation are the curiously small private rooms (with circular beds) and some racy wall art, though apparently the occasional "gentlemen caller" still rings the doorbell. Today it's a hugely popular hostel with spacious dorms, themed en suites (try the Queen Beatrix room on the top floor) and a great communal kitchen where you'll usually find Joop the cat (something of a star on the hostel's facebook page).
You might not expect one of Amsterdam's most romantic hotels to pop up in the middle of the Red Light District yet here it is - the curiously named misceatdrinksleep. Each of its half dozen rooms has a theme (from the canalside Rembrandt room to a Baroque vision that stays just the right side of kitsch) and come packed with thoughtful little features such as Nespresso machines, welcome bottles of fizz and luxury cosmetics. All this and a knockout yet surprisingly quiet location in the middle of Sin City.
If Amsterdam’s nightlife has left you a little frazzled (and if it hasn't, why not?), a stay at the idyllic Lucky Lake might well be in order. Located by the Vinkeveen lakes 15km southeast of the capital, it offers a mixture of brightly decorated caravans, cabins, four-bed dorms and a small campsite. Rent a bike, take to the water in kayak or chill out in a hammock. You’ll soon want to stay longer than you booked.
Lucky Lake, Amsterdam © Noemi Cavalleri/Shutterstock
Boutique in the best sense of the word - small, stylish and welcoming - Mary K is somewhere you'd like to wake up every day. This eighteenth-century Utrecht townhouse has lovely canal views and just nine tastefully decorated yet quirky rooms (you might find a frog sculpture in the rainforest shower or a spider design on your pillow case). Utrecht itself is a vastly underrated place – a kind of Dutch Cambridge with a world-class university, gothic architecture and plenty of students splashing about on the canals in summer.
A study in Moorish opulence, Hotel Bazar is the antidote to Holiday Inn or Travelodge, and something of a surprise find in downtown Rotterdam. Its 27 wildly decorated rooms offer a kind of "through the keyhole" travel experience. You can almost imagine Ernest Hemingway kicking back in the luxurious Africa room with its zebra-skin wallpaper and zulu shields. Next-door, the hotel's Middle Eastern restaurant is always packed with locals and expats drawn in by the aroma of saffron and tamarind-infused dishes and the best kebabs in town.
In a city renowned for its edgy modern architecture, Hotel New York stands out like a elegant Art Deco liner. Once the headquarters of the Holland-America line and known as the "Grand Old Lady", it has been beautifully converted into a hip "destination" hotel/restaurant with plenty of nautical features (vintage signal lamps, bedside tables fashioned from luggage trunks) and panoramic harbour-side views. The beds are ridiculously comfortable, too, so much so that guests regularly ask to buy the linen when checking out.
Shhhhh! don't tell anyone but this might just be the best deal in the country. Though it sounds like something from BBC comedy The League of Gentlemen, Haarlem hostel/guesthouse Hello I'm Local is not in the least bit "local". Instead you'll find wonderfully comfortable dorms (with proper sprung mattresses), cool communal areas and a range of private doubles, triples and quads themed around subjects such as The Dutch East India Company and Haarlem's own art superstar Frans Hals. Great website, too.
Tongue-twisting Dutch resort Scheveningen becomes a kind of mini Ibiza in summer thanks to its beachside bars and surfers tackling the chilly North Sea swells. To soak up the surfy vibe stay at FAST, a unique “surfer village” with beach-facing dorms fashioned out of recycled shipping containers. Perhaps not a honeymoon spot but it goes to show what a bit of can-do spirit will achieve. Another way to experience Scheveningen's dunes is to take the Fatbike tour offered by Lola Bikes in nearby Den Haag.
Often skipped by visitors, Den Haag (The Hague) offers the best Dutch art outside Amsterdam - you'll find Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring here as well as a museum devoted to the surrealist visions of MC Escher. The city has a wonderfully urbane continental feel, full of pretty squares lined with plane trees and one of the country's finest small hotels in Hotel Mozaic. A mixture of contemporary design and high-ceilinged 1880s architecture, it boasts 27 classy double rooms, a capacious loft, a grand suite, plus an amazingly good breakfast.
Binnenhof Palace - Dutch Parlament in the Hague © Tom Goossens/Shutterstock
Cool, contemporary yet with a heart, Maastricht's Townhouse Designhotel offers stylish rooms that will appeal to interiors junkies - an oversized anglepoise lamp here, a Banksy-esque scrawling there. The staff are exceptionally friendly and you often feel like simply hanging out in the restaurant/breakfast area (with its free, piping-hot soup available all day). With a youthful university feel and a pretty riverside setting Maastricht makes for a perfect weekend-break: get your bearings and get fit on one of these excellent running tours.