Though fast becoming the haunt of Europe's cool cognoscenti and the preferred dining location of any Amsterdammer worth their salt, Blakes, like its sister hotel in London, extends a warm welcome to all guests.

Relics from the building's colourful history merge well with designer Anouska Hempel's oriental vision. Stand in the central courtyard and look up at the hooks which were formerly used for hoisting furniture into the upper floors.In the gallery, the old stone floor hints at the building's 18th-century incarnation as a poor house. Before that, the location once served as a theatre, frequented by the likes of William of Orange, the Tsar of Russia and even Antonio Vivaldi, who conducted the theatre orchestra here on its 100th anniversary in 1772.

Location, location, location

Keizersgracht 384, 1016 Amsterdam, The Netherlands (tel: 00 31 20 530 2010, fax 00 31 20 530 2030, email: hotel@blakes.nl).

Just two bridges away from the hub of old Amsterdam, Blakes occupies an enviable location on the venerable Kaizersgracht canal and is set back from the cobbled street, behind wrought iron gates and dripping foliage. The hotel is a 20-minute train ride (around pounds 2 each way) or a 30-minute taxi drive (around pounds 15) from Schipol airport.

Transport

Amsterdam is comparatively small and easy to get around. Explore it on foot or by hired bicycle. To get further afield, buy a travel pass and hop on the metro, tram or bus. Or take a boat trip around the canals.

Are you lying comfortably?

The signature sensuality of Anouska Hempel's style is evident in each of Blakes' 26 rooms. All are unique - in terms of arrangement, space, colour and concept. Not for Blakes the heated towel rail or trouser press. The usual hotel cliches are swapped for an astounding Zen-like eclecticism. So forget the city's "coffee shops" - this is the place to really mellow out.

Which room to book

Theatrical types, or footy fans, will warm to Room 3. Due to its red-and-cream striped silk decor, it's affectionately dubbed the "Ajax Room" by staff, after Amsterdam's football team. The "Honeymoon Suite", Room 16, is the perfect place for newly-weds, with its white-and- beige decor, bare-wood beams, colossal mirrors and suspended spiral staircase.

We chose the crisp navy and white Room 17, the "Kimono Room", and found it a dream hideaway.

Freebies

The usual covetable lotions and potions are just the thing for unwinding in a gloriously deep bath but extra indulgences come at a hefty price. The fridge contains a riot of luxury goodies including O-Pure Oxygen for Dfl65 (£45), Blakes beluga caviar for Dfl150 (£41) and a half-bottle of house champagne for Dfl60 (£44).

Keeping in touch

Blakes is a sensory haven, not an extension of your office. You won't find modems and fax machines in your room, nor a handy gym for sloughing off post-work aggression.

Are you being served?

Staff are charming, gorgeous and quietly efficient. When I decided to venture out, a courteous chap patiently marked up a map with suggested sights a short walk from the hotel.

The bottom line

Doubles from Dfl725 (£200), suites from Dfl1,300 (£360) a night.

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