Hotel Julien

Antwerp, Belgium Book from

Reviewed by Laura Dixon
A 21-roomed pale-but-interesting hotel in central Antwerp with spa and bar; perfect for a stylish weekend
Hotel Julien was one of the original boutique hotels that started the designer hotel revolution over a decade ago, and it still stands strong as one of Antwerp’s very best. Its 21 pale-but-pleasurable rooms are in the centre of the city and the hotel has everything you could wish for: the best of the best REN products in the bathrooms, huge comfortable beds, Eames chairs, luxury sofas with interior design books (and Grazia!) on their side tables, and homemade cake behind the well-stocked bar. It’s hard not to strut around the hotel like a supermodel - it just has that kind of ambiance that makes you feel special. Once you’ve stayed here, you’ll never call Belgium boring again.

Spend a long weekend here and slip into the super-stylish life of Antwerp, where just a few streets away, fashion students play with looks in second-hand shops, ladies who lunch shop in world-class boutiques, and visitors flock to Rubens House for a glimpse into the city’s glittering art-filled past. Antwerp has delights at all levels, from the best chocolates in the world to groundbreaking modern art galleries, street food, fine dining and architecture to bowl you over.

Highs

  • A soothing palette of cream, pine and purple, and lots of designer touches throughout
  • Great location by the cathedral, and within walking distance of everything in the city, including fantastic restaurants
  • The photographic art gallery spread throughout the hotel; it's all for sale
  • A fab roof terrace with wonderful views of the Old Town - ask to eat your lovely breakfast up here if it's sunny
  • It’s a hotel to namedrop

Lows

  • Some feel it is too expensive for what it is
  • No restaurant, a limited room service/bar menu, and breakfast seems a tad pricey
  • My room was a little dark, and some rooms experience noise from the street and tram tracks
  • The spa is small, overpriced and underwhelming, though well equipped; guests have to pay entrance
  • The service receives mixed feedback

Best time to go

Antwerp is a year-round city; it’s busy and welcoming at all times. January is a little dreary but the shops all have sales; spring is bright and sunny with flowers in the local parks, summer ditto, and autumn can also be wonderfully mellow. There are regular arts festivals running throughout the year. Winter is particularly romantic - great for Christmas shopping, with markets, lights in the trees, and sometimes a sprinkling of snow.

The city has events year-round: the best include the Antwerp 10-mile race in April, the summer beach on the Scheldt from June to November, and the Summerfest - a festival of music, outdoor cinema, circus and art - in July and August.

Our top tips

  • Take the lift to the roof terrace for a welcome breath of fresh air in the summer and a private view of the cathedral all year round
  • Book spa treatments 3-4 days in advance, especially if you’re visiting for the weekend, as the spa is small and can get overbooked
  • Great for...

    City Style
    Family
    Spa
    • = Recommended
    • = Best in region
    • = World favourite
    • Boutique Hotel
    • 21
    • Breakfast (+ light meals on request)
    • All ages welcome
    • Open all year
    • Pool
    • Spa
    • WiFi
    • Pet Friendly
    • Disabled Access
    • Beach Nearby
    • Off-street Parking
    • Restaurants Nearby
    • Air Conditioning
    • Guest Lounge
    • Terrace
    • Garden
    • Gym
    • Concierge Service
    • Bicycles Available
    Room: Julien Experience Room

    Rooms

    The hotel has 21 rooms, split into 3 categories. The cheapest rooms are called Mood Rooms and are large with a bath or shower and a minimalist look. Some are at the front of the hotel, overlooking a street with tram tracks; windows are double-glazed but you may still experience noise.

    The next size up are the Dreamer Rooms, where I stayed; huge spaces with kingsize beds, concealed cupboards, plasma TVs and enormous bathrooms with a shower and bath. Largest of all are the Julien Experience Rooms, which again have a bath and shower; an hour’s use of the spa is included for guests staying in this room type.

    All rooms are pale and pared back, with Bose sound systems, Jacob Jensen phones, Krups coffee machines and a small and pricey minibar with Neuhaus chocolates among its delights. Bathrooms are stocked with REN products and are again calming and pale. The furnishings are just on the right side of minimalism - there are no rugs and just 1 or 2 pictures on the wall (all part of the hotel’s art gallery and for sale).

    Features include:

    • Air conditioning
    • Bathrobes
    • Central heating
    • Coffee maker
    • Cots Available
    • DVD player (on request)
    • Extra beds
    • Fan
    • Hairdryer
    • Ipod dock
    • Minibar/fridge
    • Phone
    • Radio
    • Safe box
    • Terrace
    • Toiletries
    • Tv
    • WiFi

    Eating

    The Breakfast Lounge serves a typical continental spread, with a small but well-chosen selection of specialist cheeses. You can also have breakfast in your room or on the roof terrace.

    You can order tea, coffee and stronger drinks at the bar from 10am, as well as homemade cake and a limited selection of bland light bites such as Caesar salad, tomato soup and beef carpaccio.

    Hotel Julien no longer has a restaurant, but as eating out is one of the great pleasures of being in Antwerp, this is no bad thing. At the end of the street, turn right on to Melkweg to find a selection of cafés and bars. I had the most divine apple cake in Café XO and would thoroughly recommend it.

    Other addresses to look out for include Dôme, the city’s famed Michelin-starred joint, which also has offshoots Dôme sur Mer (a fish restaurant) and Dômestic (a bakery/deli). Vertigo on Draakplaats is an Antwerp institution, a bar with live music, cocktails, world food and whisky. For an intimate experience, try Puur Personal Cooking, where the owner is also the chef and waiter and cooks for you in his own kitchen. It’s one of many home restaurants and pop-ups around the city.

    Features include:

    • Bar
    • Breakfast
    • Coffee maker
    • Minibar/fridge
    • Restaurants nearby
    • Room service
    Eating:
    Activity:

    Activities

    • Visit the MAS Museum, the Museum an der Stroom, which is both an astounding building and an impressive collection of predominantly modern art, mixed with the story of the city and its port. There's a lovely café, too

    • Ask the hotel to book you a sightseeing tour or private guide. A personal tour of Antwerp's architecture is a great way to understand the city

    • Visit the cathedral, where you’ll find a selection of Rubens paintings and stunning Gothic architecture

    • Take in Rubens House. The painter’s former residence has been turned into a museum of his life, not just his paintings, and there’s a pretty garden

    • Stroll around the Fashion District, drop into the Fashion Museum, and enjoy gawking at the fashion students and what they wear. Nationalstraat is the mecca for clothes in the city, with the flagship Dries Van Noten store at its centre

    • Take a mini gastro tour: buy frites with mayo at Groenplaats, then wander on for waffles, beautiful boxes of chocolates and more towards Rubens House. Pierre Marcolini’s tea room and bakery on Kelderstraat is the number one destination for a modern reworking of priceless chocolates in the city

    • Marvel at the gold-tipped merchant houses and the town hall at the Grote Markt

    • MUKHA, in the Zuid district, is a former warehouse turned modern art mecca and contains works from the 1970s and beyond by Belgian and international artists

    • Take a Velo bike for a spin. Antwerp, like Paris and London, has a simple bike hire scheme and a cycle along the canal with a picnic is a joy on a sunny day

    Activities on site or nearby include:

    • Cycling
    • Historical sites
    • Museums / galleries
    • Nightlife
    • Private guided tours
    • Shopping / markets

    Kids

    The hotel accepts children of all ages. It’s within walking distance of the city’s major sights, which is a major plus point. The hotel can provide baby cots (free) or extra beds (additional cost) but there are no child-friendly facilities.

    Best for:

    Children (4-12 years)

    Family friendly accommodation:

    Mood Rooms have space for a baby cot; Dreamer Rooms can fit a rollaway bed. Julien Experience Rooms can fit a baby cot and a rollaway bed.

    Kid Friendly:

    Our guests' ratings...

    8/
    Rooms
    9/
    Food
    7/
    Service
    7/
    Value
    8/
    Overall

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    Rates for Hotel Julien