TAKE the number 15 tram from Amsterdam’s Central station, and get off at Westerkerk.
This is the church where Rembrandt was buried in an unmarked pauper’s grave, whose bells Anne Frank heard from her annex less than 100 yards away. Walk for two minutes alongside the Keizergracht canal, and you’re there.
Canal House is an ideal place to stay while visiting Amsterdam. A 23-bedroom boutique hotel comprising three 17th-century merchant’s houses, it fronts on to a quiet, tree-lined cobbled canal-side street that is just a seven-minute walk from the Dam, the city’s historic centre, and has one of the inner-city’s largest private gardens at the back.
Inside, it is every bit as comfortable, discreetly impressive and romantically atmospheric as you would wish: black leather sofas, candles and low lamplight in the bar, a superb main lounge brilliantly mixing modern styling and period detailing, and a garden – complete with summer house – with plenty of room to sit outside for cocktails on warm evenings.
WINING AND DINING?
A well-stocked bar and surprisingly reasonable prices, but this is easily the Canal House‘s weakest category – although it did have a highly regarded restaurant until a year ago. But this is a city with 1,150 restaurants, with many excellent ones close at hand – we had an excellent meal at In De Waag, across the red light district. And while my wife was happy enough with the standard of continental breakfast provided, I would have been cheered by the sight of a sausage, a kipper or a bit of kedgeree. Cultural imperialism, but I can’t help it.
Friendly, efficient staff, all with perfect English. Even if they hadn’t been, I’d have forgiven them anything for putting in an extra bed at no extra cost when our student son made a last-minute decision to join us. The room we stayed in was classified as exceptional – the next level down from best, which meant it was larger than most, styled with ebony-stained wood furniture, heavy black velvet curtains and a purple bedspread (on a king-sized bed, made up with fine Egyptian cotton sheets, that was one of the most comfortable I have ever slept on). As well as a sittingroom area on the other side of an island, containing a large LCD screen, we had a separate bathroom (although some bedrooms have open-plan baths) with a deep bathtub and an enclosed shower area.
WORTH GETTING OUT OF BED FOR?
This is Amsterdam, with more sights per square kilometre than practically anywhere on the planet – 8,863 old buildings; 165 canals, 51 museums, 206 Van Gogh paintings, 1,281 bridges, 141 art galleries, 21 markets and 40 concerts and plays a day. Make sure to get an I Amsterdam City Card (€50 for 48 hours, www.iamsterdam.com) to give you the best chance of seeing as much as you can, with free public transport thrown in.
BUDGET OR BOUTIQUE?
Boutique par excellence – and at €390 to €520 per night, not even remotely budget.
Not just your usual little squirts of shampoo etc, but huge 100cl bottles of Green & Spring products. At these rates, you would expect the full range of high-end international magazines and complimentary Wi-Fi, plus use of Bose iPod docking systems, and you get them. No bedtime choccies though.
Expensive, but worth it for location and atmosphere. The nearest equivalent would be those Edinburgh New Town hotels that are so discreet you hardly know they are there.
• Rates from €195 a night, Canal House, Keizergracht 148-152, 1015 CX, Amsterdam (00 31 20 622 5182, www.canalhouse.nl)