Checking In

Amsterdam à deux

For the Scene Maker

It takes a lot to stir up the placid, old-money streets of Oud Zuid, a neighborhood near the Museumplein, but the arrival of the College Hotel has done just that. And Amsterdam's smart set is welcoming the change. "Finally, a chic bar!" says local interior designer San Ming. "Very Hôtel Costes, but not as claustrophobic." In fact, the entire first floor of the old brick building, a former schoolhouse, is given over to public space, most notably to a sleek black-floored lounge with velvet chairs and couches set against lavender and tangerine walls. In the gym turned restaurant—with high ceilings, white walls, and suede banquettes—chef Schilo van Coevorden (who also cooks at the College's sister hotel, The Drake) emphasizes the golden age of Dutch cuisine. Wait. Golden age? When was that exactly? Never mind: The smoked eel and radish, poached free-range chicken, and stroopwafel soufflé are first-rate. The comforters on the beds are even fluffier than the soufflé. And every one of the 40 rooms and suites has been given its own unique design and comes equipped with a flat-screen TV and sheets manufactured by a company that makes shirts for Gucci and Prada. The staff, many of whom are students at the ROC hotel school, are thankfully not wearing Gucci—they're modestly dressed and eager to please. Rates, $255-$830. At 1 Roelof Hartstraat; 31-20/571-1511;

For the Cool Recluse

The Lute Suites, one of Amsterdam's most stylish new places to stay, is not in Amsterdam at all—which is precisely why it's such a smart choice for the pampered, solace-seeking traveler. Fifteen minutes from the city by car, in the village of Ouderkerk aan de Amstel, chef Peter Lute and interior designer Marcel Wanders (the latter recently did some of New York's Hotel on Rivington) have transformed a row of seven 18th-century workers' houses into separate riverfront hideaways. Each has been given its own decor, incorporating a mixture of sleek Italian furniture and lamps, accessories by the contemporary Dutch design collective Moooi, teak-and-mosaic trim in the bathrooms, and an assortment of Wanders's stunning swirling wallpaper. Nearby, in a former 18th-century gunpowder factory, Lute presides over his namesake restaurant (which delivers a full breakfast to every house). Weekenders looking for an escape may see no reason to leave—even though private boats stand ready to deposit them in town every afternoon and return them at midnight. City dwellers, on the other hand, now journey in the other direction just for dinner: Lute prepares a terrific four-course dinner for $130, including the cost of the Amstel cruise from Amsterdam's city center to Ouderkerk. Rates, $350-$730. At 54-58 Amsteldijk Zuid; 31-20/472-2462;