Art and soul

They say you can’t please all the people all the time, but tell that to Amsterdam. Kendall Hill explores the Venice of the North and discovers a cultural hotspot for fans of both trend and tradition.

By Kendall Hill
Hotel De L'Europe
This grand neo-Renaissance hotel, owned by the famed brewing family of Heineken, towers over the Amstel River like a queen surveying her domain. The 1896 building was closed three years ago for a total makeover that fused its 19th-century grandeur with 21st-century comfort and gadgets. Its 111 rooms include 23 suites in the new Dutch Masters wing, each adorned with a replica masterpiece produced in collaboration with the Rijksmuseum. Rooms are luxurious and smart - sensor lighting, heated bathroom floors, bay windows with captivating river views, and custom pillow-top beds that vie for the title of Best. Sleep. Ever. All major city museums are within walking distance. Nieuwe Doelenstraat 2-14. 
Van Gogh Museum
The newly renovated Van Gogh Museum displays more than 100 paintings and drawings from the artist's mercurial 10-year career. Besides self-portraits, sunflowers and starry nights, there are original sketchbooks, letters and comparative works by contemporaries such as Gauguin and Toulouse-Lautrec. It's open daily from 9am but, like all Amsterdam's major museums (especially the also just-overhauled Rijksmuseum), sees hellish crowds. Go early or on a Friday evening when doors stay open until 10pm. Paulus Potterstraat 7.
The Dutch design collective behind Hôtel Droog (it has only one bedroom) has converted a 17th-century house into a labyrinth of art, fashion and retail wonders. Its inventory includes a street-front gift shop with clever collectibles such as Tejo Remy's milk-bottle lamp. And the upstairs boutique, Het Kabinet, houses high fashion from the likes of Isabel Marant and Michelle Obama favourite Rick Owens. Staalstraat 7b.
't Smalle
Amsterdam's bars tend to be of the historic, wood-lined variety - so-called "brown cafés". Go traditional at this circa 1756 spot on the terrace beside Egelantiers Canal in the Jordaan for a snifter of genever or beers. Egelantiersgracht 12
Hiding in Plain Sight
For late-night cocktails seek out Hiding in Plain Sight, a snug, split-level speakeasy with great service and old-school cocktails such as the Boulevardier - 12yo Elijah Craig Bourbon spiked with Gran Clasico bitters and Vermouth del Professore. If you're lucky, you might catch one of the regular jazz shows. Rapenburg 18.
Hotel De L'Europe's riverfront restaurant is barely two years old and already Michelin-starred. It showcases chef Richard van Oostenbrugge's "French fare with Dutch flair", where a regional dish such as asparagus à la Flamande is reimagined in golden egg on a nest of straw. Nieuwe Doelenstraat 2-14. 
Envy's shimmering kitchen beckons like a beacon beside the hip Prinsengracht canal. In the long, theatrical dining room, diners graze on small plates or five-course tasting menus of local cheeses and charcuterie - the lavender-scented sausage is a revelation. Prinsengracht 381.
Hotel de Goudfazant
At the hip Hotel de Goudfazant, white-clothed tables sit among industrial girders, and a collection of old automobiles and pianos. Despite the isolated location, on a buzzing Saturday night Goudfazant feels like the only show in town. Aambeeldstraat 10. 
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