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“No one would be in hospitality unless they really care about people.”
We spied this sign in Brussels yesterday, in the doorway of The Dominican, an abbey-themed (yes) hotel in the city center, and couldn’t think of a better snapshot for this, our last week. The Dominican (a Design Hotel) is part of the Carlton Hotel Collection, a Dutch company with seven hotels in Holland, this one in Belgium and two in the UK.
“Indulge and be comfortable”: The best kind of hotel manifesto.
Make it so.
[Photo: Julia Buckley/HotelChatter]
#Thatawkwardmomentwhen you’re in Brussels staying in your favorite hotel and realise you totally promised to share it with your HotelChatter family a while back but then time passed and life zoomed by and you forgot.
Sorry about that. Way back in February, we showed you the beer bar at the Zoom Hotel, a new opening in Ixelles, the trendiest part of the Belgian capital. We promised to take you inside the photography-themed rooms, too. And now, just in time, we’ve remembered.
This stay marks our third time at the Zoom. Why do we stay so loyal? Firstly, because it’s always fairly priced (rates are an obscenely low €65, or $72, right now for the low summer season, while the highest we’ve paid in high season winter is about €100).
For a capital city, Brussels doesn't have many grande dame hotels. One exception is the Beaux Arts style Wiltcher’s, which was built in 1911 on the posh Avenue Louise, was later used as an office building, then became a Conrad and was taken over by German chain Steigenberger in January 2013. Steigenberger announced a gradual two-year renovation when it took over - and now, nearly $8m later, the changes are now pretty much finished. So what’s changed?
Hotel gyms. One is normally enough - in fact, sometimes we don’t even get one. But two? Two is definitely out of the ordinary.
The photo above (cropped to avoid showing sweaty guests) is the normal hotel gym at the Wiltcher’s, a Steigenberger Hotel and one of Brussels’ grande dame properties. On the second floor, it’s a decent place with Technogym equipment and a good selection of machines.
But it’s not a patch on this one:
Greece’s new finance minister Euclid Tsakalotos may officially have made a(n intentional?) boo-boo yesterday when he rocked up to negotiations about the bailout situation with his prep notes in full view of the paps, but it was a moment that endeared him to us as we noticed from the notepad that he’s staying at one of our favorite hotels in Europe: The Hotel.
The Hotel is, indeed, the hotel of choice for diplomats and politicians visiting Brussels – even Barack Obama has stayed there. And you know who else has stayed there? HotelChatter. We spent a night there last year and loved it so much that we extended it for three more (as hotel addicts rarely do we go further than a one nighter). And yet it’s predominantly a business hotel, which is definitively not the style that this HC member goes for. So why did we fall so desperately in love with it? Because it’s not your typical business hotel. And here are 10 reasons why.
Hotel Amenities / Hotel Chocolate / Hotel Stores / Hotel Rebrandings / Hotel News / NH Hotels / Best Western Hotels / Brussels Hotels / → All Tags
Chocolates at turndown are all well and good, but here’s a hotel that’s going a step further – a chocolate store and workshop. This could only be in Belgium, of course – and it’s at the new NH Brussels Carrefour de l’Europe.
The hotel was previously a Best Western, but was taken over by NH this month. It’s in the Grasmarkt – a pretty square of medievalish buildings in the old town (though it’s very touristed, quite noisy, and even a little bit drunky – and most of those old buildings are now hotels). You’re right at the foot of the hill that leads to the Royal Palace, and a quick walk across from the Grand Place.
Hotel Bars / Hotel Beers / Brussels Hotels / Boutique Hotels / Affordable Hotels / Hotel Amenities / Hotel Shops / → All Tags
Last time we checked in on Brussels, we were all about the beer bar at the new Zoom Hotel in Ixelles (up the hill from the medieval bit, but where all
we the cool kids go). 50 Belgian beers, selected by a top Belgian sommelier? Oui, s’il vous plait.
So obviously, when we were in Brussels last week, there was only one place we were going to stay. More on the hotel another time, but for now, here is the beer bar.
Yeah, it’s not what we were expecting either. Discreet. Grown up. Who knew boozing could be like this?
Who’d have thought it? Boring* old** Brussels is fast becoming a new hotspot for boutique hotels. What’s Flemish for “schweet”?
The latest to open is the Hotel des Galeries, which is pretty special, as it’s actually in the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert – the shopping arcade behind the medieval Grand Place, and once of Brussels’ must see spots. To enter, you take the side door to the Galeries, on the Rue des Bouchers (the pedestrianized cobbled street with all the tourist restaurants that you should definitely stay away from).
Owned by French hotelier Nadine Flammarion, whose husband (from a famous French publishing family) owns the bookshop downstairs, there are just 20 rooms (simple but modern), with views of the inside of the Galerie du Roi (the main mall), the cathedral, and the rooftops of central Brussels. Rates start from €160 ($201) per night.
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Ibis Styles Liverpool
As hotel group after hotel group rushes to create new brands that will appeal to millennials, with what feels like new launches bragging about social media-friendly spaces every week, one brand has been quietly reinventing itself. There’s been no real fanfare around it – no extravagant boasts, no flagrant appeals to the self-obsessed generation – just a focus on stylish, unchainlike rooms, low prices and free WiFi. The name of that chain? Ibis Styles.
Not too long ago, Ibis was a byword for budget – in a bad way. Ibis rooms were dark, boring, fusty. They weren’t hotels you planned to stay in, they were hotels you ended up in when you couldn’t find or afford better. (I say this with the hindsight of adulthood – when I was a child, going on holiday to France and staying in an Ibis – or Eebis, as they called it – seemed like the most exciting thing in the world.)
But Ibis Styles are different from proper Ibises (Ibes?) – they have style and verve. Even better, they’re different from each other, too, and relate to the cities they're located in. There’s nothing in the design that screams Ibis, and, speaking (just) as a millennial, that is what we like.
Ibis Styles Brussels
My Ibis Styles revelation came this summer, when I was walking down Avenue Louise in Brussels and noticed two giant smiley faces staring out at me from a nearby window – it was the lobby of the Ibis Styles Brussels Louise, whose chic, startling white rooms start at just €71. Then I read about Ibis Styles Liverpool (from just £71) and was sold.
Now this is how you encourage repeat visitors.
When we checked into the Vintage Hotel in Brussels a few weeks ago, we found this confection on the bed. Two Jules Destrooper waffle cookies – yes please! And this “keep calm and let’s make a deal” card which, when you turned it over, offered 10% off future stays.
Now, of course, 10% isn’t much, not for a hotel where rooms hover around the €100 mark. It’s not the kind of deal to see you hopping on the next Eurostar. But that’s not the point – the point is that it makes you think they value your patronage, and that’s the kind of thing that makes you want to book again.
2014 is proving to be a busy year for Motel One (not to be confused with Motel 6). Its first English property opens in London at the end of the year (an Edinburgh hotel opened in 2012), and the last couple of months have seen two other openings: a major one in Brussels and a slightly more minor one in Leipzig (sorry Leipzig).
Motel One Brussels opened in June on the spectacular Rue Royal, which straddles the old and new parts of town. At 490 rooms it’s pretty enormous but has kept a sense of location with (subtle) Belgian lace trim on the sofas and Arne Jacobsen chairs, artwork of the Belgian royals and even a chocolate display.
Snapshot / Brussels Hotels / Novotel Hotels / Hotel Architecture / Accor Hotels / Belgium Hotels / → All Tags
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: