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Bikes and canals and a sense of calm make for the best of Amsterdam.
CNN Insider Guides are thoroughly checked for accuracy. Given the fluid nature of the travel industry, however, some listings may fall out of date before guides can be updated. The best practice is to confirm current information on official websites before making plans to visit any business or attraction.
(CNN)The biggest city in the Netherlands (population 820,000) is a triumph of resourcefulness and lateral thinking.
Space is at premium in Amsterdam, where much of the land has been reclaimed from the sea.
The city's planners turned this to their advantage: Amsterdam's canals soothe rather than imprison the city.
They provide its order, its calm.
That calm is regularly disturbed by the trill of bicycle bells, but as long as you give the cyclists a wide berth, it's the perfect city for pedestrians.
No longer hostage to a tourist industry propped up, at least in part, by its now locals-only coffee/cannabis shops, travelers have no excuse for not discovering the best of Amsterdam.
Seven One Seven
In Amsterdam, hotel rooms sometimes look like paintings.
Guests are spoiled in this best of Amsterdam, 18th-century throwback, a grand building restored in the 1990s and well located on the Prinsengracht, a short walk to the Leidseplein.
There's a strong fine arts theme, with plenty of paintings to browse in the public parts of the hotel and other artistic curiosities in all the suites.
If the weather's fine there are two pleasant garden areas to have breakfast in.
Book well in advance to be sure of a room.
Hotel Seven one Seven, Prinsengracht 717, 1017 JW Amsterdam The Netherlands; +31 20 427 0717
Each of the hotel's 122 rooms features custom wallpaper.
Between entry and check-in, there's a nice, typically Dutch counterpoise.
The Andaz occupies a handsome, venerable former public library building, and retains its echoey stateliness.
But books? Nope, even at registration, which is all done by tablets.
The theme follows you; here ancient, there modern.
Rooms are neat minimalist, an elegant use of space, but lightly tattooed with discreetly-placed locators, like an XXX -- the symbol of Amsterdam -- embossed on the furniture, and frescoes pointing to the city's past and present.
The building itself started life as a theater, then the site was a refuge for the city's destitute.
There's little trace of that now, with the emphasis on finery, although an eclectic mix of it, with antique art objects among the furnishings and bold color combinations on many of the bedroom walls.
The Dylan, Keizersgracht 384, 1016 GB Amsterdam The Netherlands; +31 20 530 2010
Penthouse suite at the Conservatorium.
Half an hour by foot from the city center, the Conservatorium can claim to be a genuine centerpiece of the museum district, site of much recent investment.
Its neighbors are the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh.
The hotel's grand façade is no less imposing than they are.
Opened only two years ago, the Conservatorium emphasizes its access to the art and music experience.
Amsterdammers like its designer communal spaces as an early-evening hangout.
The best rooms are the duplexes.
Conservatorium Hotel, Van Baerlestraat 27, 1071 AN Amsterdam The Netherlands; +31 20 570 000
Sandton Hotel De Filosoof
If you have a favorite philosopher, chances are there'll be a room at De Filosoof in his name, and you can wonder if they've interpreted him as you might have done in their choice of colors and decoration.
Some of the rooms are on the small side of cozy, but it's a comfortable place close to the Vondelpark.
Sandton Hotel de Filosoof, Anna van den Vondelstraat 6, 1054 GZ Amsterdam The Netherlands; +31 20 683 3013
Decorated in an Art Deco style, but with an unpretentious, warm ambience, the Agora occupies an old canal house near the flower market.
There are no elevators, common to many of the cheaper hotels in the city, so be prepared for a climb if your room is on one of the upper floors.
Hotel Agora, Singel 462, 1017 AW Amsterdam The Netherlands; +31 20 627 2200
Chef Moshik Roth's Jardins de la Mer.
&samhoud places is a newcomer to Amsterdam's high-end dining scene.
Chef Moshik Roth, however, is not.
He previously made a table at 't Brouwerskolkje one of the city's real treats, and earned it its two Michelin stars.
His latest project enjoys the same status.
There's a tendency towards seafood, French styles lightly referenced, careful wine pairings and lots of surprising sweet-savory blends.
The tasting menu offers a representative ride through Roth's vivid imagination, the Jardins de la Mer being among his masterpieces.
&samhoud Places Restaurant, Oosterdokskade 5 Second Floor, 1011 AD Amsterdam The Netherlands; + 31 20 260 2094
Popular with theater-goers -- who, like many Amsterdam folk, dine early ahead of shows -- and with businesspeople, Breitner prepares interesting set menus, often up to six courses.
Chef Remco Tensen's orientation is towards classic French food, with subtle terrines and patés to begin with and a good range of fresh fish.
A journey through the life, the different influences, the setbacks and the troubled mind of the Netherland's standout modern master.
This best of Amsterdam collection is the most complete of Van Gogh's works anywhere.
The experience is thorough, with paintings and sketches complemented by audio-visual reference points.
The museum is airily designed across two main buildings and looks over the Museumplein, a far nicer place to stroll that it was before its redesign in the late 1990s.
Van Gogh Museum, Paulus Potterstraat 7, 1071 DJ Amsterdam The Netherlands; +31 20 570 5200
The People of the Labyrinths
Dutch art need not be confined to the masters.
This is a nation proud of its radical palette and its independent sensibility in art and fashion.
This clothing brand -- POTL for short -- has become an international success in the 28 years since Geert de Rooij and Hans Demoed set up their boutique for hand-crafted, rainbow-bright clothes.
Seeing the real stuff rather than the cyber-retailed versions is worthwhile, even with the high price tags.
The People of the Labyrinths; Van Baerlestraat 42-44, 1071 AZ Amsterdam, Netherlands; +31 20 664 0779
Museum of Bags and Purses
Ever thought designer handbags were a purely modern indulgence?
Here's the biggest concentrated proof they've been status symbols, fashion statements and, of course, useful for all sorts of reasons for the better part of a millennium.
Nowhere in the world is there a larger assembly of purses, bags and vanity sets, and nowhere explains a greater variety of purposes for them, from 17th-century flea catchers to look-at-me, label-conscious accessories.
The collection is now housed in a striking canal house, and makes for a fascinating browse.
Museum of Bags and Purses, Herengracht 573, 1017 CD Amsterdam The Netherlands; +31 20 524 6452
Best accessed from Singel, the flower market has almost every imaginable shade of tulip, from pure, plain hues to ones with marble-effect petals.
Bulbs and seeds prepared for long distance export are for sale.
It's best to check the regulations if you mean to take them a long distance.
Customs clearance stamps can be arranged with stallholders.
Flower Market, Singel Canal Between Koningsplein and Muntplein, 1071 Amsterdam The Netherlands; +31 20 625 8282
The Dutch have an image as a laid-back people, makers of liberal-minded cities.
Most Amsterdammers work hard, but also appreciate the slower pace that their hometown obliges.
This is not a city to speed around efficiently by car.
To experience the best of Amsterdam, it's often best to take things slowly.
Catch a Boat
There are several ways to travel the canals as they were designed to be traveled.
Visitors can join a cruise for a few hours or full day, guided around the sights, or hire their own row boat.
Traffic can be heavy, and slow, on the waterways, but an Amsterdam glimpsed from sea-level on a fine day is a calming way to take in the city.
Voyeurs can also get the odd insight into how the true water-dwellers live, through the windows of their narrow boats and barges.
Tulips are better than one, no?
The De Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam is one of the oldest organized botanical gardens in the world, and another legacy of the long history of Dutch exploration and acquisition.
There are sections here for sub-tropical species, for desert plants and for those that grow in steamier climates.
They include living, thriving examples of the site's longevity -- trees more than 300 years old -- and some eye-catching rarities among the 4,000 species.