They chucked out the chintz long ago at The Dylan, hang-out of Amsterdam's beautiful people. Minimalism with a touch of Asia is the order of the day. But it's still the canal views that will really take your breath away

The most chic hotel in Amsterdam is tucked away inside a gorgeous 17th-century merchant's house, in a private courtyard overlooking the Keizersgracht, one of the city's grandest Grand Canals - and also one of its most sought-after addresses. Formerly known as Blakes, the hotel was taken over and renamed earlier this year. The Dylan's pared-down black-and-white decor - originally the creation of the style guru Anouska Hempel, guiding light behind Blakes - still makes this the last word in urban sophistication. It's the ideal base for exploring the smarter side of city life.

The comfort factor

Extremely high, as you might imagine, though everything is done in a trademark minimalist way. Here, the chintz has been well and truly chucked out. Instead, think "stealth wealth" - the super-tasteful, Oriental-inspired bedrooms are equipped with all the mod cons you'd expect - plus, in some cases, unbeatable canal views. With the lights twinkling in the water at night, there can be few prettier sights.

The bathroom

Separate bath and shower, of course. White towelling robes and free toiletries, as you'd expect. Lots of cool marble, naturally. One quibble: oddly, neither bathroom nor bedroom contained a full-length mirror - the only place we felt style had triumphed over comfort.

The food and drink

The restaurant, which continues the East meets West theme, is one of the most renowned in the city, and often gets fully booked. If you want to see what the beautiful people of Amsterdam look like en masse, then book for dinner on a Saturday night. The fusion food is quite amazing, too. Dinner costs around €80 (£54) per head, including drinks.

The people

They're a bit like the hotel, as is usually the case. Well-heeled couples dressed largely in black and white, tended by staff who are entirely clad in black. Sounds like an architects' convention, doesn't it? In fact, everyone was extremely pleasant and welcoming towards us. This is Amsterdam, Europe's friendliest big city, after all.

The area

Handy for Anne Frank's house, the Jordaan district and the main shopping areas - and with most of the sights no more than a stroll away.

The access

Due to the nature and age of the building, disabled access to some areas requires assistance. However, there are lifts.

The damage

Doubles from €278 (£187) at weekends in November. Otherwise doubles start at €425 (£287). Breakfast costs €24 (£16).

The address

The Dylan, Amsterdam, Keizersgracht 384, 1016 GB, Amsterdam, The Netherlands (00 31 20 530 2010;

The author travelled to Amsterdam with bmi (0870 60 70 555; which flies from London Heathrow to Amsterdam up to eight times a day. Fares start from £64 return, including taxes