Five Best: Belgian boutique hotels
Easy to reach, easy to love: try these stylish retreats
Hotel Harmony, Ghent
Until the Carbon Hotel opens in Genk next year, the Dominican – which opened just over two weeks ago – is the only Belgian hotel to boast membership of the sleek Design Hotels group. Designed by the Belgian architects Lens Ass and the Dutch designers FG Stijl, it is tucked away behind Brussels' splendid Grand' Place, overlooking the La Monnaie theatre. Though the hotel's 150 rooms are contemporary in style, this is a building with a history. Once the home of the exiled French artist Jacques Louis David, its high ceilings and cloisters are a nod to an even earlier incarnation: in the 15th century there was a Dominican abbey on the site, hence the hotel's name.
The Dominican, rue Léopold 9, Brussels, Belgium (00 32 2203 0808; www.dominican.be ). Doubles from € 150 (£107), room only
The Pand Hotel, Bruges
A family-owned boutique hotel in the centre of Bruges, The Pand is set in a restored 18th-century carriage house; antiques and art are everywhere. Open fires, panelled walls and wooden floors all add to the atmosphere. But the hotel is far from old-fashioned: its 26 individually styled rooms all have internet access, DVD players and modern bathrooms. The hotel also has two guest houses, one above the canal in a 16th-century gabled house, the other in a manor house of the same period.
The Pand Hotel, Pandreitje 16, Bruges, Belgium (00 32 5034 0666; www.pandhotel.com ). Doubles from €160 (£114), room only
Hotel Julien, Antwerp
Mixing old and new might be the current design trend, but rarely is it done as well as at Hotel Julien, in the heart of fashionable Antwerp. Starting with two 16th-century town houses, with an open courtyard in between them, the owner Mooche Van Hool has taken inspiration from the renowned Belgian designer and antiques dealer Axel Vervoodet to produce a sensual blend of period grandeur (high ceilings, wooden floorboards, lavish panelling) with unshowy contemporary design (Eames chairs and simple white ceramics, for example). The hotel's bedrooms are more simply decorated than the communal areas, with wooden furnishings and neutral paintwork, but all are comfortable and cosy. Some rooms even have fairy-tale views out across this historic city's rooftops and spires, so remember to ask when you book.
Hotel Julien, Korte Nieuwstraat 24, Antwerp, Belgium (00 32 3229 0600; www.hotel-julien.com ). Double rooms start at €165 (£118), including breakfast
Manoir Carpe Diem, De Haan
About halfway between Ostend and Zeebrugge, De Haan is a charming belle époque chocolate-box of a seaside resort, and this stylish four-star retreat is one of the town's prettiest places to stay. Like many of the upmarket hotels in the region, it has been decorated in English country-house-meets-New England style, with Ralph Lauren wallpaper, antique sailing prints, crackling log fires, and bathrooms that look as if they have been lifted straight out of a Fired Earth catalogue. Manicured gardens (with a decked area around the hotel's swimming pool) and elaborate Continental breakfasts are the Manoir's other great selling points.
Manoir Carpe Diem, Prins Karellaan 12, De Haan, Belgium (00 32 59 233 220; www.manoircarpediem.com ). Double rooms from €135 (£96), including breakfast
The Dominican, Brussels
Situated in the Patershol, the oldest district of Ghent, the Harmony is a combination of two buildings that date back to the 18th century but have been nipped, tucked and modernised over the years, and are linked by a patio garden. Though rooms are decorated in a contemporary style, they're not cold. Free-standing baths, designer textiles and beams all lend a sense of opulence and warmth, and the hotel's canalside location is superb: do ask for a room with a view.
Hotel Harmony, Kraanlei 37, Ghent, Belgium (00 32 9324 2680; www.hotel-harmony.be ). Doubles from €150 (£107), with breakfast