Pembury Partners Travel Diaries: Belgium
Beer and chocolate. Both wonderful things, for sure, but there’s a good deal more to Belgium than these. It richly deserves a visit and has a flavour very much its own. We’re currently assisting a client with a role in Marche-en-Famenne (in the southern Belgian province of Luxembourg (near, but not the same place as, as you might assume, the nation of Luxembourg)), so we thought we’d delve a little deeper into this fine European country.
The Capital, Brussels, could be considered as being quintessentially European as the home of the European Union and NATO’s headquarters. It is a highly cultured city with the usual museums, opera, etc., but might surprise you in that it has more Michelin starred restaurants than Paris. If on a short trip one could happily stay in Brussels and explore much of the nation from there, given its relatively compact size, but such is the wealth Belgium has to offer it’s well worth a longer visit.
Bruges is a medieval city, the centre of which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Ghent is only half an hour or so further than Bruges, another ancient settlement with a working port dating back to the fifth century. Antwerp is a must-visit for the luxury traveller – it’s probably most famous for its diamonds.
The wonderfully named Steigenberger Wiltcher’s is remarkably grand, even by Brussels standards. It retains much of its regal bearing, having first opened in1913, but with up-to-date amenities such as a fully-equipped spa with infinity pool. For the grandest experience of them all, the Royal Suite is the largest of the 42 on offer at 320 square metres (over 3400 square feet for our American friends).
Av. Louise 71, 1050 Brussels, Belgium https://steigenberger.com
In Antwerp, Hotel FRANQ is deserving of the ostentatious capital letters of its moniker. Set in a Neoclassical building, the site of a former bank, it takes its name from the pre-Euro Belgian currency. The hotel is home to a notable Michelin-starred restaurant of the same name.
Kipdorp 10/12, 2000 Antwerp, Belgium https://hotelfranq.com
Hotel Heritage in Bruges is another luxury hotel with an appropriate name. It’s in the UNESCO World Heritage area, conveniently located in the centre of town, in a (relatively recent, by Bruges standards) nineteenth century building. The wine cellar is a little older, dating back to the fourteenth century, and the gym is set in twelfth century steadings.
Niklaas Desparsstraat 11, 8000 Bruges, Belgium https://hotel-heritage.com
In Ghent’s city centre you’ll find Pillows Grand Boutique, an impressive mansion hotel. Every room has its own balcony or terrace, and Louis XIV-era interiors combine with modern sophistication. The hotel’s Spa Reylof is situated in what was once Baron Reylof’s carriage house.
Hoogstraat 36, 9000 Ghent, Belgium https://pillowshotels.com
Belgium has more than 120 Michelin starred restaurants, distributed liberally throughout the country rather than just in city centres. It’s a wonderful destination for food-based travel.
Hof van Cleve is one such example, in the countryside near the small town of Kruishoutem, outside Ghent. With three Michelin stars its multi-course tasting menus highlight the skills of chef Peter Goossens.
Riemegemstraat 1, 9770 Kruishoutem, Belgium https://hofvancleve.com
Hertog Jan is another three starred restaurant, this one located in Antwerp. If you’re lucky enough to get a table, chefs Gert De Mangeleer and Joachim Boudens will take you on a seasonal journey from garden to plate.
Leopoldstraat 26, 2000 Antwerp, Belgium https://hertog-jan.com
L’Air du Temps is a restaurant with rooms located in a farmhouse surrounded by its own kitchen gardens, about an hour’s drive into the countryside outside Brussels. It has two Michelin stars and features the unique cuisine of chef Sang-Hoon Degeimbre, born in Korea and raised in Belgium.
Rue de la Croix Monet 2, 5310 Éghezée, Belgium https://airdutemps.be