Okay, we’re used to the confused stares when we state that Antwerp is our favorite European city – even many of our fellow cognoscenti seem to have missed that train. But even if we made it just about the fashion…one should know that the Flemish capital has produced some of the most exalted design talent across the last couple of generations: Anne Demeulemeester, Martin Margiela, Dries Van Noten, Marina Yee, Raf Simons – the list goes on. Never mind that in the MoMu, it also boasts what is arguably the most intellectually engaging fashion museum in the Western Hemisphere.
It’s also a world class culture capital (the M HKA is one of Europe’s most challenging contemporary art museums), with decadent, over-the-top nightlife. And then there’s the citizenry, who are steadfastly aesthetically inclined – something which never fails to fill our hearts with joy.
And from those same aesthetic inclinations comes the breathtaking new August hotel (a member of Design Hotels), from chef Nick Bril of the equally spectacular and Michelin-starred Jane Antwerp restaurant nearby in the city’s Green Quarter.
Set in a former Augustinian cloister, the 44 rooms have retained the original convent dimensions – though we’re pretty sure the nuns weren’t pampered with a luxury spa and outdoor pool set amidst the private gardens. Similarly, the bar and lounge areas are fitted into what was once the sisters’ private chapel, so you can practically pray away your sins as you’re committing them.
It’s the first ever hotel project from exalted Belgian architect Vincent Van Duysen, who insists that, “When you restore a building, you have to do it with respect. We have to consider the past as being a beautiful gift.” And so the dramatic wooden ceilings, original arched windows and patterned floor tiles restored their original splendor are all retained to striking effect. But now they come with custom Flos lighting and Molteni&C furnishings.
With Bril’s involvement, the eponymous seasonal restaurant can be expected to maintain the highest quality. But let’s face it, you’re really booking into the August for the complete immersive experience in this once sacred and still awesomely beautiful space. Prayers optional.