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Choosing a Boutique Hotel in Amsterdam with a Story to Tell

“There are cat cities and dog cities. In dog cities, you throw a stick and it comes back with its tail wagging. Cat cities are reticent and harder to judge. Amsterdam seems to be a dog city at first, until you discover that it’s really a cat city pretending to be a dog.”

As I sat on my hotel bed in Amsterdam reading these words in artist Jan Rothuizen’s ‘The Soft Atlas of Amsterdam’ I found myself nodding and laughing.

It had been almost 20 years since I first visited Amsterdam and every time I came back I appreciated it in new ways. Of course I’d changed a lot of the years myself but as I returned on different visits I could feel that appreciation for this one of a kind city merging from the dog to the cat.

Amsterdam canals, image courtesy Veronica Lopez

While it was far from my first visit, my most recent one had me doing something I’d never done in Amsterdam before – staying in a hotel.

I’d always stayed with friends before but when the friends who had been planning to share the weekend with me had to go away I found myself looking for new digs. And boy were there some options to choose from.

I signed up for Hotels.com’s rewards programme which offers one night free for people who collect ten nights, with the free night based on average spend, and also gave me access to Secret Prices on some hotels.

As I dipped between searching on my desktop computer and on the Hotels.com app on my phone (perfect for when you’re half watching a show on TV that doesn’t deserve your full attention) I looked at everything from big name luxury hotels to charming little family run numbers.

There were lots of tempting options but I was looking for something in particular. I wanted a boutique hotel in Amsterdam. Something nice and central so I could walk out the door and explore, and something with character and a story to tell. I found it, and it turned out it had some great writing on the wall too.

The Story Behind the Ink Hotel, Amsterdam

Once upon a time the Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal was like Amsterdam’s Fleet Street. The street that runs more or less north to south through the centre of Amsterdam was where the city’s newspaper offices and printing houses could be found and it was all very busy, bustling away with the news of the day.

Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 67 was home to the Roman Catholic newspaper De Tijd (The Times) offices and printing house right up until 1974, and today it is home to the INK hotel.

The INK hotel is a boutique hotel in Amsterdam and part of Sofitel's MGallery collection

Part of Sofitel’s MGallery hotels family, a collection of boutique hotels with individual personalities and tales to tell, the INK Hotel embraces its story telling history in more ways than one.

It starts with the large letterpress style letters that greet you as you walk into the hotel, and continues through little touches including an invitation to write your own story on the hotel’s stationery, a Where Stories Are Yet To Be Written tote bag, and Out of Ink signs in place of the usual clean up my room options for your door.

There’s a library where you can find 1904 issues of De Tijd on the walls, and while this freelance writer only made it to the Pressroom restaurant for breakfast, I’m told it is a popular spot for Amsterdam’s freelancers to both work and hang out in throughout the day. Good to know for the next time I’m in Amsterdam and need to catch up on a little work.

Do Not Disturb INK Hotel style, this boutique hotel in Amsterdam is part of Sofitel's MGallery collection

One of my favourite touches in the INK Hotel comes from the artist Jan Rothuizen. This graphic designer designed the wallpaper for the hotel, and the hotel rooms also come with copies of Rothuizen’s book, The Soft Atlas of Amsterdam, which guests can purchase after falling in love with it.

Rothuizen describes his drawings as ‘written maps or graphic reportages’ and I loved having such an interesting snapshot of what was happening outside the hotel right there on the wall.

Hotel Rooms in the INK Hotel Amsterdam feature wallpaper by local artist Jan Rothuizen
Jan Rothuizen's Soft Atlas of Amsterdam is found in the boutique INK Hotel rooms
Hotel Rooms in the INK Hotel Amsterdam feature wallpaper by local artist Jan Rothuizen

Beating the Queue at Anne Frank House and Exploring Amsterdam’s Canals

One of the great things about staying nice and central in Amsterdam is you can just put on a pair of comfy shoes and head out for a day of exploring. And that I did.

After stepping out onto Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal I turned left and in just a couple of minutes I’d reached the beautiful post office that turned into a shopping mall, the Magna Plaza. The Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) and Royal Palace were right there as well, as was Dam Square.

If I’d been in the mood the red light district was just a short walk away, but I was much more interested in pottering around the 17th Century Canal district.

Amsterdam canals, image Veronica Lopez

The Negen Straatjes, or nine little streets are filled with vintage and designer boutiques, cute cafes, and generally lots of places I want to lose lots of time in.

And in all the years I’d been to Amsterdam I’m a little embarrassed to admit I’d never actually made it to the Anne Frank House before.

I did want to go, really I did. But the idea of spending hours in the queue when there was so much to see and do meant I never quite got there.

But if you plan ahead these days you don’t have to queue up. Instead you pre-book a ticket for a particular time and then just turn up and walk right in.

It was only 9 euro plus a 50 cent surcharge to buy online, and while the sooner you can book before you go the better, I was pleasantly surprised to find I could get tickets just a couple of weeks before I went and for a Sunday visit too.

The museum really is incredibly well done and is well worth a visit, so if you haven’t been either don’t go to Amsterdam again without making it happen. Just head here to book your Anne Frank House tickets and if you do miss out on a ticketed spot you can still line up on the day and go after the ticketed people have finished. But you may want to bring a very good book for that queue.

Or better yet, take your own diary.

And write your own story.

Amanda Woods would like to thank Hotels.com for their support and for helping to arrange her stay at Ink Hotel Amsterdam.

Amanda would also like to thank Veronica Lopez for sharing some of her photos of Amsterdam. Amanda and Veronica met in Antarctica (as you do!) and have kept in touch since. You can see more of her beautiful photos on Veronica Lopez’s Instagram

Amsterdam canals at night, image Veronica Lopez

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