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Four of the best design hotels in Antwerp, Belgium

Belgium’s capital of cool has a number of suitably stylish pads to choose from.

Published 21 Jan 2021, 08:00 GMT
Hotel Riga

Bang in the centre of Antwerp, Hotel Riga used to be a luggage shop, and its retro entrance proclaiming its wares still feels very unhotel-like.

Photograph by Joey Van Dongen

1. August

If you’ve always associated Antwerp with diamonds, then now’s the time to catch up. Instead of coming for the rocks, most visitors these days are here for the fashion, the design and the hipster lifestyle spilling around every block. Nowhere do these converge better than in August, which opened in summer 2019 (though, sadly, not in August). A stunning, slick conversion of a grand old military hospital and convent by Belgian architect Vincent Van Duysen, this is a masterclass in creating a modern grande dame. Just 44 rooms are spread over five buildings, updating monastic simplicity (clotted cream-hued drapes and throws, woven wooden chairs) for the 21st century (slick black light fixtures and slim marble tabletops). Beyond the bedrooms, the Bamford toiletries in the bathrooms also make an appearance in the spa, where the sauna and steam room lead onto the natural-looking outdoor swimming pond, bordered by reeds. Beyond it are the grounds, where chairs fan out around the greenery — the symmetrical planting is a sight to behold. Overhead loom the glass-walled apartment blocks of the leafy, modern Green Quarter, to which this Belgian bolthole is the latest addition. The icing on the cake? The restaurant in the old chapel, run by Nick Bril, whose neighbouring joint, The Jane, has two Michelin stars. It’s fish-heavy, with dishes such as charred mackerel with cockles, goat yoghurt and kumquat; and pollock with spicy sambal and tom kha kai. A sense of place meets a cosmopolitan city break. From €152 (£138).

2. Franq

Franq is another of Antwerp’s modern grande dames, this glam redevelopment of an old bank, a Relais & Chateaux property, combines neoclassical swagger with neat, minimalist rooms — all greige walls, wheaten rugs and exposed floorboards. The Michelin-starred restaurant amps up the flamboyance, too. From €129 (£115).

3. Hotel Riga

Bang in the city centre, Hotel Riga used to be a luggage shop, and its retro entrance proclaiming its wares still feels very unhotel- like. Inside, though, is a laid-back bar and upstairs are sleek retro rooms, some nautical-looking with porthole-style windows, others with high, cross-beamed ceilings. From €169 (£150). 

4. U Eat & Sleep

At least, that’s what Belgian media personality Hans Otten wants ‘u’ to do. U Eat & Sleep, a 2017 project with wife, pilot and frequent traveller Colette, unites a restaurant with rooms on Antwerp’s marina. Rooms start at ‘cosy’ and go up to ‘charming’ and ‘luxury’, but even the smaller ones are super-chic. The retro restaurant is especially glamorous. From €135 (£121).

Published in the Jan/Feb 2021 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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