1000 Travel Guide
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?
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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.
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.
Who would have thought that faux fur and babies would actually go together like peanut butter and jelly? Well, the folks Down Under at the swanky QT Sydney have come up with the perfect package for those looking for the trendiest Babymoon.
Appealing to more parents like Brangelina or Posh and Becks, the QT has introduced the perfect package for fashion-forward parents looking to get get away from it all with, of course, the children. The creative offer features daily breakfast for the grown-ups and freshly made baby-food for the little ones and a spa treatment for both mom and dad. If the sexy digs aren't enough to relax, the room comes with a bottle of sparkling wine to calm the nerves of new (or old) parents.
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.
Sydney is getting a fresh new design hotel and there's no time to waste if you want in on the deal at the new QT Sydney. The hotel is officially opening on the 17th, but they've been treating visitors to a sneak peak and discounted room rates since Tuesday.
Housed in the former Gowings Department Store and State Theatre, on the corner of George and Market Streets, the QT will be tickling the design senses for guests with 200 ultra-modern rooms, a lobby bar full of swank, a full-service restaurant and a namesake shop, QTique. Maintaining the vintage building's own design elements, the overall design is eclectic and full of funk.
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!
We were recently tipped off about a new hotel concept in Brussels, The MaxHotel which is a one-star hotel and supremely proud of it. But unlike most dodgy one-star hotels, which are really a small grotty step above a hostel, the MaxHotel promises guests "brand new, very shiny, non smoking, equipped with flat screen tv and WIFI connection, individual air-conditioning and private bathroom." That sounds promising.
MaxHotel also has done away with the front desk, allowing guests to check into the hotel via automated kiosks in the lobby. These kiosks will do everything a human used to do, even deliver your messages. (But just in case, MaxHotel will have humans on hand.)
There's also no restaurant or bar on-site but rather a vending machine room that serves snacks and drinks, both hot and alcoholic. And much like Tune Hotels, the MaxHotel you pay extra for amenities like shampoo, TV, the internet and cleaning service. (The WiFi is an affordable 5 Euros for 24 hours.)
It was meant to open by the end of October, but with confirmation now that it will be coming on the market just a few days late with its November 8 opening, we can't be too strict yet with The Dominican in Brussels. Do ignore the November 5 opening date given on the hotel's web page, though--staff assure us November 8 is the real date.
A member of the Design Hotels group (the first from Belgium, in fact), the Dominican has already received high praise as the Guardian's hotel pick of the week: they were impressed with its:
sweeping archways, lofty ceilings and an interior courtyard ... its historic look echoes the abbey that stood on the site in the 15th century, but the 150 bedrooms are all ultra-modern.
Room rates start from around $250 per night. If you check in before we do, make sure you let us know if The Dominican lives up to expectations.
· Pick of the Week [UK Guardian]
· Hotels in Brussels [HotelChatter]
· Travel Stories in Brussels [Jaunted]