Welcome to the Inflight Magazine of Brussels Airlines
We scour the network for the most stylish places to sleep. This month: Florence, Brussels and London
19 Via Porta Rossa, tel. +39 055 271 0911, www.nh-hotels.com
There’s now yet another reason to visit fabulous Florence: travellers to the fabled city of art and culture can stay in this truly extraordinary hotel, a short stroll from the Uffizi Gallery, Duomo and Piazza dei Signori.
The building that houses the Porta Rossa was first mentioned in records in 1386 and today, after an extensive renovation, it’s a marvellous melange of Italian Renaissance craftsmanship and contemporary chic. The restoration work revealed dozens of original frescoes on the walls, cornices and ceilings, which depict botanical themes as well as historic and sacred Florentine personalities. They now form part of the decoration of many of the rooms and suites, and bring a touch of ‘living in a palace’ to the experience. The décor complementing these historic elements, however, is strikingly minimalist; pristine white side tables, desks and lamps contrast with vibrant red sofas and armchairs.
While the hotel offers many surprises, for an exceptional experience you can book into a unique suite housed in the adjoining Monalda Tower. Dating from the 12th century, this was once one of Florence’s defensive lookouts. After climbing the 63 ancient stone steps, the suite, which covers three floors, rewards guests with stunning 360° views across the city.
Back on ground level, you can sit in the lounge-cum-bar surrounded by stained-glass windows by the early 19th-century artist Ulisse De Matteis while sipping an iced Limoncello, Campari or one of the many excellent Italian wines served by the glass. Double room from €178.
43 Rue de Stassart, tel. +32 (0)2 213 0101, www.aqua-hotel-brussels.com
Brussels’ Aqua is a business hotel with a difference. Swirling up through the atrium is a deep-blue art installation that reappears in the three other courtyards of this lengthy hotel, which terraces downhill towards the luxury shopping district of Toison D’Or. The piece, comprising a series of lumber planks and battens apparently haphazardly screwed together, which twist up from the bright basement breakfast room through the lobby and continue beyond the sheltering glass roof, was created by Belgian conceptual artist Arne Quinze. The provocative work was commissioned by the hotel’s owners and gallery-ists, the Zandberg family, and the rest of the hotel features other, mainly two-dimensional, works from the Zandbergs’ collection.
Art also finds its way into each of the guestrooms, with the bold blue of Quinze’s installation reproduced in the suede upholstery of the furniture. These rooms might not live up to Quinze’s art, being rather simplistic in décor, but the Aqua Hotel certainly offers great value for money – and also includes free internet access. When booking, ask for one of the eight street-facing rooms, which offer double beds and bathtubs as opposed to showers only. Double room with breakfast from €65.
Strand, tel. +44 (0)20 7836 4343, www.the-savoy.com
There are few more fabulous places to be snowbound than the Savoy Hotel. From my river-view room, Big Ben and the London Eye thrust skyward amid the whiteout, while the pure blanket of snow covering the streets – with old-fashioned Narnia-esque street-lamps lining the Thames – brought to mind a Dickens novel. London is a city rich with history, and this grand hotel has played its part. Monet and Whistler once painted from their rooms here, while Charlie Chaplin and Fred Astaire practised their acts on the roof. Today, the Savoy comprises the 1889 Edwardian building that stands on the Strand (in London’s Theatreland, should you be partial to a show), and a newer art deco-style block built in 1911. Following a €260m restoration, this palace of luxury is back to glorious form. The art deco American Bar is still here, serving legendary bartender Harry Craddock’s classic cocktails, but the new Beaufort Bar – with €47000-worth of gold leaf in the niches – steals the show. And with Gordon Ramsay in charge of the sumptuous Savoy Grill (offering a pre-theatre service), you can expect to rub shoulders with a heady mix of A-listers in the various bars and restaurants; Nicholas Cage walked past on the night we stayed. Double room from €325.
If you’re looking for a special setting for a wedding or romantic Valentine’s Day break, the Soho House Group has venues across the globe that might suit, from quintessential country nuptials at tranquil Babington House to the perfect location for a lovers’ weekend away in Berlin. www.sohohouse.com