Hotel Julien

I don’t know very much about Antwerp except that it is far, far, cooler than me. Usually, I just go to the zoo with my children to admire the BABY HIPPO (he had PINK TOES. I die), admire the station, eat something unspeakable at dreadful fast food chain Quick and go home. Once I went and had a DELIGHTFUL, funny lunch with this lady. I know I need to go back and go in all the amazing shops and museums and I feel quite ashamed at my ignorance.

Last spring, however, I got to go and “test” (ie. stay for free, this is so the best bit of my job) the Hotel Julien and MY GOD IT WAS SO NICE.

It’s two town houses – the oldest 16th century – knocked together in a tiny back street near the cathedral and a two minute walk from Momu and all the good shops on Nationalestraat. The hotel has kept a lot of really astonishing features – huge, heavy chinoiserie doors, wood panelling, a fabulous gilt ceiling in the bar, the beautiful curved staircase, the vaulted cellar (which is now a spa)- and added really thoughful, well chosen modernist bits and pieces to make it livable in. Mainly the building just took my breath away though, bloody hell it was gorgeous.

There are 21 rooms – mine was in the lower category but it was bloody VAST, ceiling about 5 metres high, bathroom bigger than most flats I’ve lived in. It’s all white and peaceful with stripped oak floors and a big window seat. They give you a packet of Antwerp hand biscuits (because of this legend) and things to charge your phone and good toiletries (REN now, it was Malin & Gortz when I stayed) and a bed like a cloud that has mated with a marshmallow. Mmmmm. It was very, very, quiet (the street it’s in is tiny).

They don’t really do food (I had a so-so – but very sweetly presented – snack in the bar in the evening because I was on my own and didn’t fancy wandering the streets in search of somewhere saddo-friendly) but breakfast was excellent, with proper good leaf teas in pretty pots and local cheese and charcuterie and giant cakes and delicious sourdough with local jam and plentiful people watching. There were some “strong” outfits for a weekday morning. The hotel uses – and sells – beautiful, fine white crockery from local ceramicist Anja Meeusen that I was desperate to hide in my handbag, but didn’t. Sigh.

I took three shit photographs during my stay. One of the view from the pretty roof terrace where you can have cocktails in the summer:

One of the amazing, amazing ceiling (I was obviously drunk by this point but seriously, check that baby out):

And one of the stairs. I am sorry. I do not deserve to be a lifestyle blogger.

It was beautiful. It made me wish I was a tenth as stylish as whoever designed it. If you are cool enough to be visiting in Antwerp, you probably don’t need my advice about where to stay but (if you can afford it, which obviously I couldn’t) GO TO THE JULIEN. IT IS HEAVEN.

Hotel Julien, 24 Kortenieuwstraat,  (0) 32 3229 0600, doubles from €195.

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