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It’s a Novotel, but not as you know it. Because this Novotel is wrapped around the ancient city walls.
It’s the Novotel Brussels Centre Tour Noire, and is built around the Tour Noire – or Black Tower – which was built in the 13th century behind the St Catherine church as part of the original city walls. We’re looking at it here from outside the old walls.
Here's the front entrance:
If there’s one main event in the Brussels social calendar, the Flower Carpet, which runs 14-17 August, would be it. And if you think, “Pshaw, the best they can do is a flower carpet, that just proves everything I thought about Brussels being boring,” you’re totally wrong. Not only is Brussels ace, but the flower carpet is extraordinary: a carpet of begonias in pretty patterns all across the cobbles of the Grand Place, one of the most impressive squares in Europe. It is, apparently, so overwhelmingly beautiful that they can only hold it every two years for three days (disclaimer: that may be hyperbole, and also an excuse).
Seeing the Flower Carpet properly is fiendishly tricky – you can’t walk over it, so you can only get a squiz from the sides. Those in the know book a guided tour of the squareside City Hall – you can get a bird’s eye view from the second floor. But this weekend, there are only two English tours – both on Sunday – and you can’t book ahead, so you’re going to wait in line forever, and probably be disappointed.
Which is where the Hotel Amigo comes in. The Rocco Forte hotel has created a brilliant Begonia Package that will get you perfect views without the need for queuing. It includes:
· Availability-dependent upgrade to a Deluxe room
· Specially created Rose Blossom welcome cocktail;
· In-room facial (ooh-err missus);
· Dinner for two including a sommelier-selected bottle of wine;
· 4pm late check out;
So far, so luxury hotel blah. But here’s the kicker: if you check in August 14, you’ll get an invite to the Flower Carpet’s inauguration cocktail party, in the courtyard of the City Hall; and you’ll also get two tickets to the City Hall to see the panorama: something that will be out of reach for all but the most dedicated wait-in-liners.
Hotel Bathrooms / Hotel Design / Peekaboo Bathrooms / Berlin Hotels / Brussels Hotels / 25Hours Hotels / Barack Obama / → All Tags
The public bathrooms at 25hrs Hotel Bikini Berlin
The 25hours Hotel Bikini Berlin hit the headlines last week, not for its funky rooms or its already heaving-with-locals bar, but for its public bathrooms, which are rather more public than intended (at least, we hope so – you know Germans and their toilet obsession). The hotel has floor-to-ceiling windows in the public area bathrooms, and it’s only 10 stories high, meaning that you’re as on display as the animals in the zoo next door while you get down to business. This is the very definition of 'horrendous'.
This is clearly (hopefully?) the nadir of the ghastly peekaboo bathroom trend, but it got us thinking – are they ever ok?
It’s what we wondered during a recent stay at The Hotel (yes, The Hotel) in Brussels. It’s the former Hilton and is a huge tower block perched on a hill overlooking the city center. The views are spectacular, and the renovations of the hotel (The Hotel?) have made the most of this, putting walls of windows center stage, and letting that light and those views flood each and every room.
Yes, the whole of each and every room. Including the bathroom.
Not your usual hotel doorpeople
What happens when you hold an upmarket music festival in a place with no accommodation just outside a major hotel town or city? Neon everywhere and flower headdresses in totally unthinkable hotels, that’s what.
Yes, if you thought Coachella was
bad enough unique for colonizing Palm Springs, you clearly haven’t heard of Tomorrowland, a gargantuan EDM festival that takes place in Boom, an appropriately named town 20 miles outside of Brussels, over two weekends: this and last.
Boom doesn’t really have any hotels, which is where Brussels comes in. For two weekends of the year, the supposedly staid (it’s not, but more on that another time) centre of the European Union is full of dayglo, and three of the city’s poshest hotels get done up as rave accommodation, having been bought up by the festival for the exclusive use of their guests.
Take The Hotel, the European Union's hotel of choice for businessmen, diplomats, and President Obama, where we’ve spent the last few days. Normally, it’s full of suits; this weekend, it’s awash with fairy wings, bro baseball caps and t-shirts that read “Fuck off reality, we’re going to Tomorrowland”. The lifts are paved with fake grass instead of the normal marble, and there are butterflies and flowers 'embroidered' all over the lobby.
If you’re anything like us, you will frown at this picture of the set up of the “tea and coffee-making facilities” in our room at the Atlas Hotel in Brussels. You will raise your eyebrows, sigh ‘this is exactly what I stooped to when I booked a three star hotel’ and wonder how on earth one is meant to raise one’s pinky when drinking from a plastic teacup.
But then you will realize the genius of the Atlas Hotel’s tea and coffee-making facilities set up. Because it is the set up of dreams for hotel germaphobes. If you have any level of OCD, or worry about housekeepers cleaning mugs with spit/mirror cleaner/nothing, it is for you. Because these cups are replaced – new – after every use.
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On January 1, the former Hotel Conrad in Brussels changed hands and reopened as the Steigenberger Grandhotel. We don’t hear much about the brand in North America, so here’s the scoop. They’re a Germany-based group that manages 81 hotels all over Germany and in Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Egypt and now Belgium. This includes their upper mid-range hotel brand, InterCity Hotels and the higher-end Steigenberger Hotels.
The hotel is located on the swishy Avenue Louise with its high-end boutiques and restaurants. We had the chance to get a look inside the hotel this past summer when it was still a Conrad and then, as now, the hotel falls into the deluxe category. It has an old-school glam feel to it with a great “gentlemen’s club” type bar and lounge. There’s even a smoking lounge if that’s your thing which, as you know, is quite scarce these days. Their restaurant, Cafe Wiltshire, has a lovely terrace overlooking the hotel’s courtyard.
We only bring this up because The Hotel Inspector was the name of the UK’s (first-out) version of Hotel Hell, and that show was hosted not by Gordon Ramsay, but by Alex Polizzi. Serious hotel geeks know that Alex's clan are owners of Rocco Forte Hotels. It’s all coming together!
Well, we had the chance to stay at Brussel's Hotel Amigo for our own hotel inspection and will say that it does pass inspection, so Polizzi (or Ramsay) needn't have worried.
The hotel has 173 rooms and feels cozy and intimate. The decor is very authentic with original Surrealist artwork and other Belgium touches scattered throughout, and leans more toward a contemporary, refined style in both the public areas and the rooms.
Glamping / Boutique Hotels / Brussels Hotels / Belgium Hotels / Design Hotels / Europe Hotels / → All Tags
When we think of Brussels, we think about the European Union, beer and chocolate. Never had we thought of the city, although scenic and somewhat quirky with its love of surrealism, as the headquarters of cool. And then in 2009 along came the 29-room Vintage Hotel (a former home for the elderly), that's in a great location close to swish shopping street, Avenue Louise. Suddenly the "it" factor went way up.
Now, in 2012, the hotel’s added a symbol of pure 1950s Americana: a refurbed vintage 1958 Airstream trailer that has all of the mod-cons one expects.Yes, Brussels has discovered "glamping" !
We got a peek at this eccentric hotel and the Airstream Room (known as "Hazel") parked in the hotel’s courtyard. Hazel is outfitted with a double bed, shower and WC, a separate seating area, WiFi, a flat-screen TV and air conditioning. (BTW, it’s the only room at the hotel that’s air conditioned.)
The future is slowly getting here.
It's been a while since we last heard of a hotel using keyless hotel cards (that would be the Clarion Hotel in Stockholm) but we've just learned that The Hotel Brussels will install the Mobile Key by OpenWays system which allows guests to open their hotel room door by using their smartphones.
Currently, the landmark hotel is undergoing a top-to-bottom renovation from its old life as a Hilton but once finished, guests will be able to bypass the front desk and open their hotel room using any mobile phone, any make with any mobile network. Sooo cool. (And on a side note, the hotel has free WiFi as well.)
Not heading to Brussels anytime soon? Word is the Mobile Key by OpenWays will be installed stateside shortly at the Delano in South Beach. We'll keep you dialed in as to when that happens!
The HNA Resort Sanya (obviously not Brussels)
Hotels and airlinestwo peas in a pod, or occasionally, the same pea. Airlines that have successfully spun off hotel chains are many; off the top of our head we can name Pan Am (Intercontinental Hotels), SAS (Rezidor/SAS) and Icelandair (IcelandAir Hotels). One that's lesser known, however is the Asian carrier Hainan Airlines and their chain of "business hotels" throughout China. They're 40-something in number, so it's not a boutique venture or anything; Hainan is serious and the good Tripadvisor reviews of their properties reflect this.
Naturally the next step is to make a big move towards a luxury development in a city outside of Asia. In Hainan's case, that city will be Brussels, Belgium.
What pops into your head when you think of a New York-inspired hotel room? Turquoise carpeting? A Nespresso coffee machine? Black walls? We only ask because those are the three main features that make up the newly-unveiled "New York Mansion" business class rooms at the Radisson Blu Brussels. Now, we know Brussels has the whole mood ring hotel concept down pat. But, New York? We're not so sure.
These rooms are supposedly going for "sophisticated," but we can't help feeling the design is a little all over the place. That armchair? The bedspread? The clashing headboard-wall combo? The only New York vibe we're getting from this room is its size (small).
The Times' T Magazine takes a deeper look inside the hotel, including its beanbag-outfitted roofdeck, mod lounge and appropriately vibrant breakfast buffet. There's not a review, per se, but they do state something we absolutely agree with, and that's the fact that Brussels suffers from a lack of cool hotels like this. The Pantone is filling a need there, and its rooms from $137 including free WiFi are hopefully a hit.