Where to stay in Amsterdam

An interior designer's dream and a grand neo-gothic pile in the Dutch capital.


"Welcome to wonderland," says Caroline Shearing in The Daily Telegraph. "Dutch designer Marcel Wanders has taken the adventures of Lewis Carroll's Alice as the inspiration for the hotel's fun and theatrical interiors. "Imaginative touches include chandeliers suspended from over-sized bells in reception, high-backed chairs reminiscent of tulip heads and an entrance way lined with miniature doors." The bedrooms are thankfully calmer, with Delft blue colours and "wonderfully comfy" king-sized beds, along with television, iPod dock and, "in a nod to the hotel's former guise as a library", a selection of books.

The Bluespoon restaurant serves predominately seafood, including king crab, octopus terrine and monkfish.

Doubles from €315, room only. Call 00 31 020 523 1234, or visit www.amsterdam.prinsengracht.andaz.hyatt.com.

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Amsterdam has its share of design hotels, but the Conservatorium upped the ante last year. The 19th-century building was a bank, then a music academy, the Sweelinck Conservatory. Now it's an architectural gem with a soaring atrium, which mixes the old a grand historic entrance porch with a lively new shopping precinct.

"Amid a cluster of cultural attractions in the city's Museumplein district, the five-star Neo-Gothic pile could quite easily be mistaken for a museum itself," says Sebastian Lander in The Independent. Of the 129 rooms, "almost half have two floors, a concession to the building's lofty dimensions".

Lander stayed in room 528, "a Grand Duplex Suite whose outer wall is entirely double-glazed glass with a view of the Stedelijk Museum". The first floor houses a bathroom and "up the glass-sided staircase, a mezzanine plays host to a generously sized bed". The design is "sleek and restrained... down to the Lissoni televisions that resemble slabs of black marble".

The Tunes Restaurant "offers imaginative dishes Waldorf salad with sweetbreads or duck with beetroot, cherries and dauphinoise potatoes from an open kitchen".

Doubles from €310, room only (00 31 20 570 0000, www.conservatoriumhotel.com).

The best autumn escapes


"The Scottish glens are at their most beautiful in autumn," says Annabelle Thorpe in The Times. "Wooded slopes carpeted in reds [and] golds, backed by mountain peaks." It's a great time to explore and Wilderness Scotland is offering a short walking break in Applecross and Torridon in the North-West Highlands. "There's a chance to see otters, sea-eagles and herons." A four-night break costs from £725 a head, including most meals and the services of a walking guide (Wildernessscotland.com; 01479-420020).

Or enjoy the harvest with a "guided walk to look for fungi and wild herbs"on the Cornish coast. After foraging you can return to the "cosy" Gurnard Head's Inn in Zennor to learn about your haul's "culinary and medicinal uses". For the rest of the weekend, "explore the spectacular coastal walks or simply laze and enjoy the beautiful autumnal light". The next foraging day is on 11 October. A two-night break, including dinner, B&B and foraging, costs from £375 for two (Gurnardshead.co.uk; 01736-796928).

The Longshaw Estate in the northeast Peak District "has one of the best displays of autumn colour in England, with ancient woodland, moorland and walks" leading up to spectacular peaks. It's an ideal family holiday, offering a "new natural play trail, rock-climbing and bouldering courses and wildlife spotting". Dunscar Farm is a "rural B&B" close to Longshaw with doubles from £70 (Dunscarfarm.co.uk; 01433-620483).