Contributor/ Alexander Larman
Best Known For
De Witte Lelie is the most stylish hotel in Antwerp, seamlessly matching 18th century architecture with entirely contemporary design. The question is, does it make the trip to Antwerp worth it?
The Good Stuff
The Belgians don’t have the best reputation imaginable for chic, but De Witte Lelie manages to dispel this. Walking into the elegantly furnished reception area, which feels more like the set of some glamorous 1970s film – you half expect a younger Charlotte Rampling to come purring to the desk to ask you how she can put you at ease – the feel is one of unforced, unstuffy comfort. The public rooms are spacious and comfortable, decorated with a range of modernist and Pop art that’s juxtaposed with some of the antique tables and chairs that lie around the place. The breakfast room’s particularly impressive, boasting an enormous open cooker and floor-to-ceiling dressers groaning with goodies.
Our bedroom, while comfortable, did have a couple of oddities. For starters, it was decorated almost entirely in pink, complete with hearts and flowers. This doesn’t especially matter, but we were more disconcerted by the fact that the bathroom is entirely open. If one is travelling with one’s inamorata, the fact remains that you might not especially want to see every intimate detail of their toilette. If you’re visiting with a friend or family member, this goes trebly so. It did gain points for a beautiful view onto the courtyard outside, although we were woken on the first morning by a very persistent cockerel.
Inside the hotel – 8/10
The public spaces are some of the most stylish we’ve ever seen, with a near-limitless supply of Taschen books dotted around. Perhaps there’s the faintest air of contrivance to some of it, but in a city that seems somewhat low on genuinely chic spaces, this doesn’t matter. The breakfast room is, as mentioned, truly fabulous (and vaguely reminiscent of The Pig hotels), but at 30 euros apiece for a slightly underwhelming breakfast, it might be an experience to enjoy once before patronising a nearby café on subsequent mornings. And the bedroom is somewhat eccentric. Staff alternated between friendly and faintly suspicious-seeming.
Outside the hotel – 5/10
Antwerp is an odd place. Superficially, it’s rather beautiful, with some superb Gothic architecture, a mighty cathedral and lots of winding streets. However the realisation soon dawns that beyond the (excellent) beer bars, a few not-bad restaurants and Rubens’ house, there isn’t a huge amount to do, meaning that one feels rather bored after a day or so. Also the hotel’s location is a far from obvious one, meaning that our taxi driver got lost and ended up more or less running around the streets in an attempt to find it. I doubt he was the first to have the same problem.
Image courtesy of De Witte Lelie