Prins Hendrikkade 33, Amsterdam. 107 rooms from €250 ($367). artotels.com
The new Art'otel Amsterdam fits right in with the city's art renaissance. While guests can admire revamps in the major museums (the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh museum and the contemporary-art Stedelijk museum have reopened in the past two years), they'll also take in the work of local artists throughout the hotel, such as the Dutch collective Atelier Van Lieshout. Their contemporary work is often cheeky (check out the phallic table lamp in the lounge and the hanging spermatozoa sculpture in the courtyard) but never boring. One level down from the lobby, an art gallery hosts rotating exhibitions and is open to the public.
The immediate neighbourhood is lacking in Old World charm, but for convenience, Art'otel Amsterdam is hard to beat – it's right across from the central train station. Several tram lines that criss-cross the city also stop nearby, so it's easy to get just about anywhere.
Instead of a front desk, hotel staff hover behind three podiums that can best be described as shiny geometric versions of Easter Island heads. You'll be whisked off to the contemporary library to be checked in via iPad, where you can sip a drink and watch shapes dance across the interactive video curtain that lines one wall. Oversized, industrial-style reading lamps are a focal point of the space – something that would resonate with me later. Rooms are muted and contemporary, with Sixties-inspired pendant lamps, TVs in sliding mirrored walls and industrial-themed wall art. Instead of a fussy pattern, the carpet spells out aphorisms such as "Getting lost will help you find yourself" and "If you don't have enough time, stop watching TV." Call it plush pop psychology.
EAT IN OR EAT OUT
See "Location" for why you'd rather eat in – especially since the bar, library and lounge all ooze urbane sophistication. Flop down in a leather chair, order a Heineken and you'll start to feel groovy by osmosis. I found it hard to drag myself off the low-slung couch to the dark and moody dining room for dinner, but luckily I didn't have to. The bar and dining room both serve the same tapas-style menu, perfect for sharing (try the oxtail tortellini). Breakfast is included and worth getting up for, with an excellent buffet and eggs cooked to order.
Instead of a chocolate on your pillow, the turn-down crew leaves behind soothing eye gel and lavender pillow mist. The in-room Illy espresso maker would have been great if it worked, but a call to the front desk promptly brought a staff member with apologies and two cups of coffee on a tray.
IF I COULD CHANGE ONE THING
I'm all for great design, except when it trumps function. The super-bright, ceiling-mounted reading lights above my bed would have been great for performing open-heart surgery, but weren't so good for trying to read without disturbing my sleeping roommate. I was tempted to call the front desk to see if they could send up one of those oversized reading lamps in the library, but I sensed that interfering with someone else's artistic vision would have been a no-no.
WHOM YOU'LL MEET
Casual-chic travellers who don't ask, "What's it supposed to be?" when they look at the hotel's contemporary art.
The writer was a guest of the hotel.