Good-quality but affordable places to stay are in short supply in Amsterdam – but a few quirky, characterful lodgings can be found for as little as €73 a night. Here are five of my personal favourites
In many ways, Amsterdam is a good choice for an inexpensive city break: low-cost flights, from about £50 return, are plentiful; the city is small enough to negotiate mainly on foot; the top sights (the canals, and a multitude of old gabled buildings) are free to admire; and eating out can be cheap (particularly if you head for the multi-ethnic cafés in the Pijp district). There is, however, a fly in the penny-pincher's ointment. Appealing budget accommodation is pretty hard to find, though there are grungy hostels aplenty.
With this shortcoming in mind, I have chosen five favourite hotels and b&bs that address the needs of the budget traveller. All are, frankly, amazing value, offering much more comfort, character and in some cases better facilities than you would have thought possible given their low rates. Prices given are per double night per room, and include the obligatory five per cent city tax.
CitizenM Amsterdam City
This purpose-built block with prefab bedrooms by the World Trade Center doesn't, on the face of it, sound remotely enticing – but trust me. I've stayed here and the hotel is thought-provoking and really rather cool. The rooms at CitizenM Amsterdam City have a shower and loo in retractable "pods" within the living space, extremely comfy beds and sophisticated lighting which, along with the room temperature, TV and blinds, can be controlled on a finger-touch "moodpad". Everything about the hotel is high-tech: you check in at a computer screen, for example. Other plus points are a well-stocked, help-yourself 24-hour café, plus good-looking lounges with funky modern furniture. The only caveat about staying here is that it's not central. From the tram stop just outside the hotel, however, you can reach the canals and main museums in 10 minutes. Rates vary according to how busy the hotel is, but they start from as little as €73, room-only.
Staying in a high-quality b&b in a private home can cost about the same as in a bog-standard budget hotel in Amsterdam. The Collector, in an early 20th-century townhouse just five minutes' walk from the Van Gogh Museum, is a good example of this. Its three bedrooms are a really good size, and have attractive mosaic-tiled bathrooms (if you're a light sleeper, ask for the Brown or Red rooms at the rear). Guests share, and can use whenever they want, a homely, fully-equipped kitchen. You make yourself breakfast: eggs from the owner's chickens are on offer. The b&b's name is borne out by the arrays of clocks, clogs, Delftware, honey pots, perfume bottles and antique ice skates on display. From €89 b&b.
Boogaard's Bed and Breakfast
Peter Boogaard is both an opera singer and faultlessly welcoming proprietor of one of Amsterdam's best b&bs – Boogaard's Bed and Breakfast. His heavily modernised 17th-century house is in a fantastic spot, on a tranquil, hidden street within the Canal Ring. The four bedrooms (of which two share their own sitting room, making this ideal for a family or sets of friends) are comfy and stylish, with Persian rugs on boarded floors, wrought-iron beds and smart black-and-white bathrooms. Rates include not only Peter's lavish breakfasts (eaten communally with other guests) but also home-made cakes at teatime, beer, soft drinks, tea and coffee, plus internet access. Not surprisingly, you normally need to book well ahead to get a room. €121, minimum stay usually two nights.
Though its rates have crept up over the past few years, the Hotel Brouwer is still the best bargain in town if you're looking for atmospheric canal-side lodgings. The Brouwer is a handsome sea captain's house dating from 1652. The reception, decorated with old Delft tiles and paintings of the city, doubles as a snug breakfast room. Steep stairs and a tiny lift lead to plain but attractive en-suite bedrooms, with bare wood floors, beamed ceilings and, in every case, canal views. Each room is named after a Dutch artist: Mondrian has an old wooden gutter (no longer used) running through it. Bear in mind that, while this is generally a salubrious part of Amsterdam, there are a few prostitutes' windows just along from the hotel. €100 b&b.
In its 90-year history, the building that houses the Lloyd Hotel has served as a boarding house for emigrants heading for the Americas – and as a prison. Don't let that put you off, however: this quirky and laid-back hotel has much to commend it. The cheapest "one-star" bedrooms – cosy, cabin-like spaces with twin beds (love birds take note) and shared bathrooms (bathrobes are provided for the journey down the corridor) – can be a steal. Rates vary according to how full the hotel is, but they can be as cheap as €79, room-only. Good, straightforward brasserie-style meals are served in a vast hall. While the buffet breakfast costs a pricy €17.50, you can have a coffee and a croissant for just a few euros. A Cultural Embassy lays on arty, in-house events such as exhibitions, concerts and readings. The location, out in the regenerated Eastern Docklands, forces guests to take a fresh look at Amsterdam: the best way to explore the area is on a bike, which you can rent from the hotel.