Laid-back yet lively, Brussels still happily flies under the radar of many a city breaker. There’s much more to the de facto European capital than head-turning brews, art nouveau gems and medieval marvels – though those have enduring appeal, too. A little scratch behind the institutional façade reveals hip boutiques, restaurants doing exciting things with local produce and a thriving art and music scene. A crop of distinctive, stylish boutique hotels means there’s no excuse for plumping for a grey and soulless chain.
These are the best hotels in Brussels:
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A stone’s throw from the glitzy shops of Avenue Louise, bright and bold Vintage Hotel confidently embraces a 1970s aesthetic. Ranging from the tiny to the spacious, rooms are arranged around a quiet courtyard and decked out with retro wallpaper, mid-century furniture and fluffy throw pillows. Glamping fans can check into the Airstream, a polished caravan kitted out with a comfy bed, a shower and other high-tech bells and whistles like a plasma screen and air-con. Shopped-out guests can linger in the wine bar, stocked by an award-winning sommelier.
Read: Doubles from €52 (£44)
A study in understated elegance, this neoclassical hotel calms the senses with an earthy palette of creams and greys. Opt for a suite for long soaks in the bath, or nab one of the Grand Luxury Rooms overlooking the square for a spot of people watching. Beds are pleasingly minimalistic – crisp linens, perfectly plump pillows – and irresistibly inviting. Luckily, you needn’t stray far for other creature comforts. The Living Resto & Wine Bar downstairs rustles up pretty plates to nibble on at the marble counter, and there’s a crackling fire for cosy nights in, too.
Price: Doubles from €180 (£150)
Currently closed for a refurbishment for one month at the time of writing
Halfway between the medieval splendour of the Grand Place and the chi-chi Sablon, Happy Guesthouse is perfectly poised for Brussels first-timers. There are just four light and airy rooms, spread across four floors of an elegant townhouse, all attractively dressed with Scandinavian flair – white sheets, white walls and light wooden accents. A homemade breakfast is served on a thin sliver of a counter downstairs. Stroll to the Sablon to sample bites from the nation’s finest chocolatiers, then settle on the terrace of local institution Au Vieux Saint Martin and watch the world go by.
Price: Doubles from €127 (£107), including breakfast
Neighbourhood: Îlot Sacré
There’s plenty more going for Hôtel des Galeries, for one its well-loved restaurant and two its location in Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, a covered walkway dating back to the 19th century. Rooms are refreshingly pared down to make the most of eye-catching features: polished parquet flooring, hand-picked Belgian furniture and a scattering of antique pieces from the Sablon district. But it’s the bathrooms in the suites that are the real show-stopper, thanks to hashtag-worthy tiles and tubs just made for posing.
Price: Doubles from €121 (£101)
Low-lit and seductive, this urban bolthole is where well-heeled locals come out to play. Dressed in onyx black, plush greys and marble, rooms have a sultry masculine feel, with little details like retro telephones. Book a table at the intimate restaurant, which feels like a private member’s club, for fusion dishes, such as foie gras baos or lobster dumplings, or settle into one of the lounge bar’s leather sofas for classic cocktails and a whiff of neighbourhood scandal.
Price: Doubles from €241 (£202)
The designer/architect has had some serious fun with this reimagined former art school with lashings of exposed concrete, pale wood and abstract splashes of colour. The family rooms have Japanese-like capsule bunks and double rooms use clever space-saving cubist furniture, with exposed wardrobe rails and compact desks. The whole place is a hangout for sociable types: there’s a recording studio on-site that can be booked out and a cosy cocktail bar with a real fire. There’s even a slim rooftop swimming pool for sunny days.
Price: Doubles from €83 (£70)
A hop and a skip from the Royal Museums of Fine Arts, this grown-up stay keeps things understated with clean-lined decor, a terrace-toting natural wine bar and hearty buffet breakfasts (additional €22). Rooms are spacious and helpfully stocked with proper toiletries and Nespresso machines. The ace up its sleeve? A sleek covered swimming pool, Finnish sauna and hot tub – just the thing to ease tired muscles after a long day of pounding Brussels’ cobblestoned streets.
Price: Doubles from €117 (£98)
Watch Brussels’ strikingly cinematic clouds roll over the city from this high-rise on Boulevard de Waterloo. Rooms are quietly elegant, with strategically placed sofas to make the most of the sweeping views. Plump for a Deluxe Panorama room or a suite for access to the 24th-floor lounge, generously stocked with snacks, drinks and glossy magazines. On the 23rd floor, the sauna has incomparable views guaranteed to please Lost in Translation fans.
Price: Doubles from €163 (£137)
Neighbourhood: La Monnaie
Classicist painter Jacques-Louis David once wielded his brushes on the site of The Dominican, previously incarnated as a 15th-century abbey. Part of the Carlton chain it may be, but this luxe design hotel is understandably proud of its pedigree. Historical details happily sit alongside modern touches. Floor-to-ceiling windows frame a serene inner courtyard, flooding the public areas with welcome light. Take a seat in the buzzy Grand Lounge, or head out on foot to explore Brussels’ high-spirited nightlife.
Price: Doubles from €156 (£131)