Tel: 32 486 67 5838
At first glance, it appears there's nothing modern about the three lavishly appointed guest rooms and two apartments in this romantic Jewish Quarter brownstonevelvet chesterfield sofas, claw-foot bathtubs, beveled picture windows, and giant marble mantels capture a fin de siècle glory. But a closer inspection reveals high-tech gas fireplaces, flat-screen TVs with DVD players, and hidden espresso machines. Restored lovingly by owners Bert Verschueren, a former chef for Neuze Neuze, and designer Vincent Defontaines, the Leopold exudes an imperial history of privilege and comfort that's not so easily re-created in the modern age.
5 Rue du Peuplier
Tel: 32 2 219 9546
The blandest of names gives entirely the wrong impression of this 17-room gem in the Lower City's cute, cobblestoned Sainte-Catherine district. The labor of love of owner-proprietors Michel and Sophie Smeesters, the pristine three-story corner house is a little fantasy world—and "world" is the right word, because each room whimsically interprets a different destination: Bali, China, Tibet, the Congo, Morocco, Kenya, India, Japan, Thailand… And those Smeesters have style! This is no cheesy conceit. Instead, it's the kind of place you need to book half a year ahead because of its returning fans—many of whom still mourn the adjacent restaurant, La Truite d'Argent, which the Smeesters closed in 2003 to concentrate on the hotel. Or maybe they're too busy ferrying guests to and from the airport—their transfer service is a good deal.
11 Karel Rogierstraat
Tel: 32 4752 99989
There's more going on behind the doors of this modest 19th-century town house than you could ever imagine. This exclusive three-suite B&B in the happening Het Zuid neighborhood is sumptuously decorated, with ornate furnishings in richly toned woods, beds piled high with pillows, lavender fainting couches, heavy drapes, claw-foot tubs, leopard-print stair runners, and black granite-block sinks. To some that may read like a running list of garishness, but honestly, it's all perfectly stylish. The Lady Bertinelli suite comes with a four-poster king bed, paisley wallpaper, and a remote-controlled gas fireplace; the Scottish-themed Charles suite is done in tartan motif; and the red-and-white French-themed Vendôme suite is perfect for lovers who don't mind climbing three flights of stairs. All rooms come with free chocolates, a small bottle of red wine, and minibars stocked for free during your stay (once only, so don't get greedy). New owner Katrin S'Jongers does an elaborate all-organic breakfast served on a French antique table in Le Petit Salon, which is all very civilized.
Tel: 32 3226 1966
Service is attentive but noninvasive at Antwerp's graceful De Witte Lelie ("the white lily"). This elegantly renovated, but still creaky, 17th-century town house is cloistered away in the student district across a narrow street from the Latvian consulate. Not all the ten rooms and suites have Wi-Fi access, but fresh flower bouquets, crimson Persian rugs, grandfather clocks, delft-tile fireplaces, and exposed oak beams help to create a tranquil atmosphere that might encourage you to stash your laptop away during your stay. A complimentary minibar, stereo, and flat-screen TV keep the place feeling modern.
9 Rue Léopold/Leopoldstraat
Tel: 32 2 203 08 08
With a terrific location on a quiet street near the Grand Place, the 150-room Dominican takes its design cues from the fifteenth-century abbey that originally occupied the site. The award-winning Dutch firm FG stijl used jewel-tone colors to evoke medieval stained glass, a motif repeated in the carpeting of the guest rooms. Ecclesiastical references aside, this is a new property that was built behind the nineteenth-century stone facade of a building which was once the home of the French neoclassical painter Jacques-Louis David. Soaring ceilings distinguish the handsome bar, restaurant, and lobby that surround the central atrium. Though standard rooms are compact, they're well designed and flush with useful amenities, such as a Nespresso machine, free Internet access, and a plasma-screen television on an adjustable arm that enables viewing from anywhere in the room. Down pillows and a two-inch-thick mattress pad ensure sweet dreams, and striking bathrooms have black granite sinks and spacious walk-in showers with ceiling-mounted showerheads.
Tel: 32 3232 9390
This friendly and centrally located neo-Rococo property was refurbished in 1993 and again in 2006, when all of its rooms were converted to suites. Named after the sand that blows in from the river Schelde, some of the historic hotel's light-drenched suites (30 in all) offer inspiring views of Antwerp's UNESCO-listed Cathedral of Our Lady, and all come adorned with armoires and whirlpool tubs, while some have private terraces. The penthouse suite has architectural remnants such as giant wooden cogs left over from the structure's former life as a soap factory. Breakfast includes a generous spread of Flemish meats, cheeses, and breads served in a private garden on warm days.
Rue de l'Amigo 1-3
Tel: 32 2 547 4747
Without a doubt, this refurbished 174-room hotel off the Grand'Place is the most glamorous in town. It's part of the small, silky Rocco Forte Hotels group and features the classical references, modern colors, luxe finishes, and witty details that characterize all 11 hotels. Here are leathers, linens, and velvets in mole gray, wine red, taupe, and chartreuse; angular dark-wood furniture; pure linen sheeting; and red- or green-marble bathrooms with art by the Belgian comics creator Hergé—i.e., prints of Tintin, Snowy, and Captain Haddock. The restaurant, Bocconi, is one of Brussels's rare modern Italians and a destination in itself (a typical dish would be Monkfish with asparagus and pesto).
24 Korte Nieuwstraat
Tel: 32 3229 0600
Style-meisters love this place for the Eames chairs covered in black and white cowhide, pale oak floors, whitewashed furnishings, and beamed ceilings. It's just so…perfect. Everything's picked with precision—right down to the white orchids—to look good alongside the 17th-century period features (check out the library's gilded ceiling). What with the minimalism and the soothing sounds of trickling water coming from a lovely inner courtyard fountain, it's better suited to chilled-out arty types than party animals in search of upmarket flash. The three-story hotel was originally a home and stamp shop and sits in the old center close to the Grote Markt and cathedral, which can feel a little tourist-heavy at times. There are only 11 rooms, and it has the kind of friendly, informal service that small hotels can do so well. It's difficult to play favorites, but No. 7 has a private terrace and No. 11 is a cozy attic retreat with peaked ceiling, wooden beams, and large skylights; both have cathedral views. Don't miss the big breakfasts served by candlelight at a long communal table in a high-ceilinged room.
Tel: 32 3 201 88 00
Occupying a renovated sixteenth-century brick house on a tiny lane steps from the medieval Grote Markt, the intimate Matelote is a refreshing take on the traditional Flemish talent for cozy interiors. Each of the nine individually designed rooms has high ceilings with exposed wood beams, a built-in music system with four sound tracks, and quality bedding that runs to feather pillows and duvets. Interesting Belgian contemporary art and Artemide lamps define these rooms, which have spacious bathrooms and earthy color schemes. It's a laid-back place where you feel like a houseguesta fire burns in the lobby, you get an electronic front-door card so that you can come and go as you please, and the front desk is eager with suggestions when it comes to this fashion-mad town's latest boutiques, restaurants, and clubs. (Not surprisingly, the Matelote is where the global fashion crowd pitch camp when in Antwerp.) There's no on-site dining, but the staff can help get a reservation at Gin-Fish, two doors down and the best restaurant in town, with contemporary seafood served at a counter where you can watch the chef at work.
31 Place de Brouckère
Tel: 32 2 217 2300
A robust and blowsy dowager duchess of a hotel, this 298-room Victorian has seen continuous service since 1895—amazingly, it's the only 19th-century survivor in the city. The higher-grade rooms are worth the extra splurge (which is not too huge, especially if booked through the Web site), since the "medium" rooms have faded a little too far beyond the charming level. A Louis XIV–style "privilege" room facing the Place de Brouckère is a good bet. The vast scale and fusty decor are anachronistic pleasures, if you're tuned to that pitch. It's very central, next to the Place de la Monnaie.
29 Oude Beurs
Tel: 32 3222 4848
This business travelers' secret is centrally located in the pleasant Oude Stad neighborhood on a crooked street lined with furniture boutiques, quiet restaurants, and Flemish bookshops. Guests can sit in the lush garden patio (ideal for summer breakfasts) or lounge in the cozy nautical-themed lobby for a complimentary glass of port or sherry on arrival. There's no restaurant attached, but room service is available from a choice of neighborhood eateries. The 36 spacious rooms and suites are furnished with a mix of modern and antique pieces, including comfy Treca de Paris beds, and marble baths. Rooms overlook the garden; request one with a view of the belfry at St. Paul's Cathedral.
Tel: 800 426 3135 (toll-free)
Tel: 32 50 44 78 88
Full-barrel international style arrives in medieval Bruges, a place better known for its cozy, idiosyncratic lodgings. At the 93-room Kempinski, in a fifteenth-century castle in a cul-de-sac, the best rooms have fireplaces and original oil paintings. The building has been beautifully restored to evoke its rich history (it was originally built by Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, to celebrate his marriage to Isabelle of Portugal), while its delightful gardens are ornamented with striking contemporary sculpture by artists including Quirin Mayer and Stephanie le Roux. Otherwise, aside from its own chapel complete with stained-glass windows, the hotel's game-changing amenity is a stunning indoor pool and spa, both of which are unique in Bruges. Tapestry-inspired color schemesburgundy, bronze, moss greencreate a rich look in all room categories, and polished black stone bathrooms come with under-floor heating. The high prices in the hotel's Manuscript restaurant will probably encourage you to eat elsewherehardly a problem in a town with so many excellent choicesand the service is somewhat wiltingly stiff, but otherwise, the Kempinski is a winner.
Tel: 32 3297 6066
Fashionistas and shopping fiends will find a stylish crash pad in these three über-mod, ideally located suites, perched above the trendy Canadian leather retailer m0851. This place is a quick jump across the bustling, boutique-lined Nationalestraat from Antwerp's HQ of all things fashion, the ModeNatie complex. The airy, light-filled rooms are soundproofed and feature comfy queen beds with goose-down comforters, black hardwood floors, flat-screen TVs, small refrigerators, coffeemakers, and bathrooms stocked with Body Shop products.
20 Karel Rogierstraat
Tel: 32 3 216 27 85
With a constellation of some of Europe's boldest fashion designers and a thriving indie music scene, Antwerp just keeps getting hipper and hotter, and the hood that's really happening now is the once-genteel Zuid neighborhood around the KMSKA (Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten), the city's superb art museum. The district's edgy denizens would feel right at home at the eleven-room Maison DeLaneau, a starkly minimalist urban inn where the spacious rooms are all black matte-finished stone floors, white-painted walls, and wall-mounted white-framed televisions (the only decorative touches are a flowering crab apple branch and an original photograph or two by a young Antwerp artist). This Zen-is-more look continues in bathrooms outfitted with shallow white Corian sinks, black stone shower stalls, and REN toiletries. For people who prefer modern to gemütlich, the DeLaneau is a welcome alternative to De Witte Lelie, Antwerp's other up-market boutique hotel and has a lot more personality than the plain-vanilla chains that dominate the cities hotel offerings.
101 Boulevard Brand Whitlock
Tel: 32 2 734 5636
Fax: 32 2 734 5636
This 18-room hotel aims to furnish traditional spaces in contemporary styles. Aficionados can have fun identifying big-name pieces: Ron Arad, Charles Eames, Ingo Maurer, Philippe Starck et al. are represented in furniture and fittings—and very handsome it all looks against the blue-gray walls and cranberry woodwork. Aside from said furniture and fittings, facilities are modest, though there's a comprehensive buffet breakfast (which you can take in the garden on fine days) and limited room service. The location could be either a drawback or a plus: It's in the southeast EU lands, nestled between the Quartier Léopold, and Parc du Cinquantenaire, en route to Tervuren—but if you're not here on Eurobusiness, there's a Métro on the doorstep to effect your escape.
Place Jourdan 1
Tel: 32 2 235 5100
The location of this sleek 149-room property—one block from Berlaymont, the headquarters of the European Commission—contributes to its cosmopolitan feel, with Eurocrats descending there for lunch at Spud's, the haute restaurant run by Parisian chef Alain Senderens. Just off the spare atrium lobby, a library with velvet armchairs and print sofas makes for an intimate nook; the basement workout room uses the cantilevered windows of the atrium as a fountain, with water spilling over the glass outside; and hammams have direct elevator access from rooms upstairs. Rooms, decked out with gliding panel curtains, also come with an espresso machine and TV channels from every EU country.
131-133 Rue Washington
Tel: 32 2888 90 90
Created from two brick-and-granite-fronted nineteenth-century houses in the silk-stocking Ixelles district, far from the madding crowds around the Grand Place, the exquisitely designed seven-room Tenbosch instantly became the capital's trendiest small hotel. In the soaring all-white lobby, the walls are covered with art and photography from several of the city's leading galleries. The bar, the lounge, and the breakfast room serve up an offbeat but fabulous grand slam of sixties Scandinavian furniture and fittings, a mixture of original pieces and contemporary editions. Every room is individually decorated, and all of them are large and light with high ceilings and the same retro-groovy style, plus huge bathrooms. There's a large garden with a terrace out back, as well as an indoor pool and sauna. Tenbosch House is run by Nadia Ashdjian, a friendly local arts enthusiast, and all told, it offers a much more intimate experience than staying at a traditional hotel, no matter how luxurious.