Stay at Hotel Julien

With a tram line rumbling by outside in the narrow bustling streets of the old city of Antwerp, Hotel Julien may not initially seem particularly enticing. However, on opening the huge, wooden doors of this charming pair of sixteenth-century merchants’ houses joined by a tranquil courtyard, any concerns soon melt away.

Check in at a limed-oak reception desk with a glass wall that allows you to see into the light-flooded outdoor courtyard and exquisite dining room and lounge. Ornate doors and heavy paneling provide the perfect backdrop for an eclectic mix of contemporary and antique furniture. Flop down on one of the gorgeous cowhide Eames chairs close by or slip into the gilt-ceilinged library and enjoy, by the fire, the freshly brewed coffee and Belgian chocolates that are available around the clock, before climbing the blond-wood staircase to one of eleven stylish bedrooms.

Upstairs, the color palette is soft and neutral, with restrained shades of crisp whites, soft grays, creams, and blues. Choose a room with cathedra! views and exposed timber A-frames in the attics, or a loftier-ceilinged room with a terrace and an altogether grander and more elegant feel. For breakfast, sit in the sun-dappled dining room at the communal antique Flemish table and feast on homemade breads, jam, cheese, salmon, eggs, yogurt, and fresh fruit salad.