Amsterdam boutique hotels: 10 best places for an unique stay

Jill Starley-Grainger, Adam Edwards
Shambles street in York: Getty

A medieval walled city, packed with genuinely unique sights within a compact area – it’s no wonder York is one of the UK’s most popular city breaks. My own love affair with it began on my first visit two decades ago. Since then, I’ve been back many times for short breaks and as a base for longer jaunts into the dales or moors. I’ve stayed everywhere from self-catered flats to romantic historic hotels. What have I learned? That most places skew towards dusty chintz or business-hotel blandness. Here are 10 of the more stylish places to stay.

Best for opulence: Grays Court York

This Grade I listed building is one of the oldest houses in England (Grays Court)

The oldest continuously inhabited house in England, dating back to 1091, this tranquil boutique hotel is a few steps from York Minster, right in the heart of the city. Grays Court somehow manages to combine opulent, expensive decor with a homely atmosphere. Silk wallpapers, reproduction Louis XIV furnishings and crystal chandeliers wouldn’t naturally make you think “child and dog-friendly”, yet both are welcome. As you flop on your four-poster or pad along the medieval hallways, you’re unlikely to encounter staff – this isn’t a five-star hotel, even if it looks like one – which leaves you free to poke around the various nooks, crannies and lounge areas of this Grade I listed building. Add to this the peerless views of the minster, a beautifully manicured garden, and the only private access to York’s city walls, and you may not want to leave. JSG

Doubles from £140, B&B
grayscourtyork.com​

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Best location: The Judge’s Lodging

The 18th-century exterior hides an equally graceful and elegant interior (H Webster)

The huge beer garden and the cellar bar with vaulted ceilings and Roman foundations lures you in for a drink, while the rooms upstairs in this Georgian townhouse-turned-inn invite you to stay over. Matching the grace of its 18th-century exterior, rooms are smartly elegant, dressed in greige with statement wallpapers. Original fireplaces and svelte restored plasterwork hark back to the time when travelling judges would stay here as they stopped off for a few days to preside over criminal courts. Here for more frivolous pursuits? It’s midway between York Minster and The Shambles medieval shopping street, each five minutes away. JSG

Doubles from £100, B&B
judgeslodgingyork.co.uk

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Best for long weekends: The Parisi

Simple decor in the lively Fossgate area of York (The Parisi)

Not far from the end of buzzy Fossgate – a street filled with vintage shops and cafes selling craft beer and coffee – this small pretty hotel is a charmer. A revamped 19th-century rectory overlooking the medieval church it once belonged to, past the stern red-brick exterior is a tiled Victorian hallway with vases of flowers, freshly cut from the small garden. To the right is a book-filled blue-grey living room with plush lime green sofas; to the left, a small breakfast room with glazed white brick walls. Bedrooms are simply furnished, though with high quality bedding and splashes of colour to give them a lift. Rates are competitive all the time, but it’s an absolute steal if you’re staying three nights or more. JSG

Doubles from £99, or £79 a night for three-night stays, B&B
theparisi.com

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Best for a flutter: Hotel du Vin

The bistro serves up French fare (Hotel du Vin)

Chain hotels don’t have to be horrid; the York outpost of the lush Hotel du Vin chain sits outside the city walls between Micklegate Bar and York Racecourse. The cheapest rooms are business functional, with oak wardrobes and rose-hued wallpapers. But from just £10 more a night for a Mezzanine – or more for suites – the bedrooms take on a decidedly romantic vibe, with roll-top freestanding bathtubs, wallpapers with bold floral prints, sleigh beds and black-tiled showers. Downstairs, the cocktail bar is one of the sexiest in the city – with, as you’d expect given the hotel name, an excellent wine list – while the bistro bustles at all hours, serving up French fare to a mix of racing fans, families and business people. JSG

Doubles from £94, room only
hotelduvin.com

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Best for charm: The Bloomsbury Guesthouse

Each room is themed for a particular flower (The Bloomsbury)

In Clifton, about 20 minutes’ walk from the minster, this floral-themed guesthouse feels cosy and homely, but with a dash of flair. Antiques, crystal chandeliers and a grey marble fireplace in the dining room nod to this terraced house’s Victorian past. Bedrooms are each named and styled after a flower, from wisteria to petunia; while they’re not huge, they’re warmly inviting, with lustrous burr walnut wardrobes, cast iron bedframes and floral motifs on walls and curtains. JSG

Doubles from £85, B&B
thebloomsburyguesthouse.com

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Best to impress: The Principal York

The elegantly furnished Garden Room (The Principal)

Steps from the platform at York railway station and around the corner from the National Railway Museum, this hotel gleams with grand Victorian splendour. Given a major facelift in 2016, it has won a raft of design awards. The soaring, light-filled central atrium leads to a long colonnaded drawing room with leather sofas, ornate cornicing and pale wood floors. With its red leather chairs and green velvet curtains, the Chapter House bar recalls an old gin palace, while the pale grey rooms are subtly sumptuous, with tactile suede, velvet and linen soft furnishings. Bonus: many rooms have views up to York Minster. JSG

Doubles from £96, room only
phcompany.com​

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Best for beer lovers: House of the Trembling Madness

The Haunted Chamber apartment boasts a four-poster bed (House of the Trembling Madness)

After a few pints at the House of the Trembling Madness pub, you won’t feel like walking far, and with the two psychedelic apartments which sit above it, you won’t have to. Set in a 650-year-old Tudor house, these two self-catering flats each have a very different feel. The one-bedroomed Haunted Chamber claims a ghost and uses dark woods and rich hues to evoke the feeling of an old Tudor home, while the two-bedroomed Old Gallery wows with psychedelic decor and a 1970s time warp look. JSG

Flats from £110, room only, minimum two-night stay
tremblingmadness.co.uk

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Best for design: The Churchill Hotel

Hot pink bed sheets and a mural of you-know-who (The Churchill Hotel)

A stately Georgian mansion built in 1827, this house was owned by the War Department for a century – hence the Churchill reference. The impressively designed rooms are among the most beautiful in the city, with even the smallest winning on the style stakes with murals of a relaxed Churchill and black-tiled bathrooms. Refreshingly bold splashes of hot pink and turquoise give a fresh, modern feel throughout, from rooms to the wood-floored restaurant and bar. JSG

Doubles from £74, room only
churchillhotel.com

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Best B&B: The Tower House

Each room has its own unique look (Tower House)

Named best B&B in 2017 by Visit York, it’s easy to see why when you’ve checked into one of the Tower House’s eight spacious bedrooms. Each has an entirely different look – one all white rococo frilliness, another four-poster romance, while my favourite has a Japanese aesthetic with sliding paper doors and black lacquer furnishings. And the hearty, well-made breakfasts – eggs benedict, full English or scrambled with mozzarella and basil – set you up for the 10-minute stroll to the minster. JSG

Doubles from £112, B&B
towerhouseyork.co.uk

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Best for old-world glamour: Middlethorpe Hall & Spa

The National Trust property was built in the style of Hampton Court (Middlethorpe Hall)

It’s a walkable two miles to the city centre from here, but this feels like a tranquil country retreat, located on a huge swatch of parkland near the far end of York Racecourse. A National Trust property, it exudes stately home glamour, from the huge four-poster bedrooms to the immaculate landscaped gardens. Built in the style of Hampton Court – but on a much smaller scale – the three-storey red brick mansion and adjacent courtyard wing contain 29 rooms, a comfortable drawing room and one of the city’s best fine dining restaurants. Walk across the front lawn to an annexe, and you’ll find a small spa with swimming pool, sauna, whirlpool and steam room. JSG

Doubles from £205, B&B
middlethorpe.com​

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Best for city buzz: The Fort York Boutique Hostel

The Fort York Boutique Hostel rooms have UV lighting (The Fort York)

You’ll need breadcrumbs (and Google Maps) when searching for this funky sleep, hidden amid the cocktail lounges and tapas bars of the warren-like ‘Quarter’ district. As its name suggests, it’s not so much a hotel as a hostel. But while you may not want to bunk up with the backpackers in a shared dorm, you’ll have no reservations about its four private en-suite rooms, each of which have their own unique design features, such as UV lighting, monochrome murals, and Banksy-esque street art. Attraction wise, you couldn’t be closer to all the big hitters here, as the dreamy rooftop views of York Minster attest. But unless you consider the city’s nightlife as much of a draw as the nearby cathedral, Shambles and Bettys tea rooms, you might want to stick to a midweek visit; the downstairs bar is the place to be on a Friday and Saturday night. AE

Doubles from £85, room only
thefortyork.co.uk

Best for Instagram: Judges Court Hotel

Judges Court is perfectly positioned for exploring York

Not to be confused with the more-famous Judge’s Lodgings (reviewed above), this 15-room boutique hotel is where visiting 18th-century magistrates stayed when trying York’s murderers and highwayman. Full of original features – Georgian panelled walls, grand balustrade staircase – the Grade II-listed building, tucked in a courtyard off the main high street, has been given a Punch Magazine-style makeover, with satirical frescoes on the walls, and the sort of rolltop baths, retro four-posters and medallion chairs that wouldn’t have felt out of place when the JP who convicted Dick Turpin stayed here. Slightly less in-keeping, the Nespresso machines and iPod docking stations are, nonetheless, suitably indulgent additions to the rooms. Even the soap-dodging Georgians wouldn’t have been able to resist a splash in the all-white bathroom, with its drench showers and Cowshed toiletries. AE

Doubles from £80, room only
judgescourt.co.uk

Best for yoga-lovers: Hedley House

Hedley House has stylish bedrooms and a hot yoga studio (Hedley House)

Don’t let the garish carpet that greets you in the downstairs lobby-bar put you off this family-run hotel, a few minutes from the Minster. Head upstairs and you’ll discover rooms are surprisingly stylish, combining a palette of greys, greens and browns with plaid soft furnishings and velvety throws. Unusually for a 26-room hotel, there’s not only a hot-yoga studio, with hour-long classes for £5, but also an on-site spa – where a spot of pampering will set you back from as little as £30. AE

Doubles from £79, room only
hedleyhouse.com

Best for local grub: Hotel Indigo York

Hotel Indigo York shakes off the chain vibe (Hotel Indigo York)

It might be part of a chain, but this new-build, 90 seconds’ walk from the city walls in one direction and the pavement cafes on Fossgate in the other, is no soulless clone. Its restaurant, No.88 Walmgate, pairs Shoreditch-y tiling and bleached oak, with a menu chocked full of regional ingredients like Yorkshire rhubarb, Wensleydale cheese and locally sourced chocolate, beers, breads and meat. The rooms themselves feature graffiti-style murals of the Minster, and a hotchpotch of historic etchings and streetscapes above their king-size beds. The fact the hotel has a gym, as well as mini-fridges stocked with complimentary snacks and water, is also a pretty big positive. AE

Doubles from £85, room only
hotelindigoyork.co.uk

Best for a stroll in the park: Jorvik House

Jorvik House has cool, Nordic style (Jorvik House)

It’s just a few minutes’ amble through a river-side park from this mid-18th-century townhouse to the Minster, although it might take you a hell of a lot longer, given the number of attractions you’ll pass en route; the park is home to a ruined abbey, a Roman fortress, and a gorgeous 13th-century manor house that once acted as the parliament of the north. As the name, Jorvik, implies, it’s York’s time as the capital of Viking Britain rather than northern England that the hotel channels, with funky Nordic touches, including chandeliers made from wooden “antlers” in reception, and Moomins socks on sale at the front desk. Rooms are pure Scandi-chic, featuring brushed leather headboards, faux-fur runners and the sort of roughly-hewn wood and touches of taupe you’d find in a Swedish design magazine. The view from the Loft Suite – of the Minster rising above the abbey ruins – on the other hand, couldn’t get more quintessentially English. AE

Doubles from £70, room only
jorvikhouse.com

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This article was first published in February 2018