Brussels, the capital city of Belgium is located in the very heart of the country. With towering steel and glass buildings that house headquarters of many European organisations, Brussels is the quintessential modern European capital. At the same time, numerous insignia of its history continue to grace its skyline.
Brussels experiences all four seasons, and rain is a possibility at any time of the year. Pleasant temperatures and thinning crowds make the spring time from March to May and the autumn months of September and October the best time to visit the city.
Brussels is a melting pot of architectural styles with Gothic to Baroque to postmodern vying for space on its bustling streets. The city’s buzzing art scene is well preserved in its many museums. It is also the capital of the comic strip, which sometimes spills out of museums and into buildings and shops and stations and adds a charming touch to the capital.
THE ROYAL TREATMENT
In the year 1890, two brothers opened Le Café Metropole purely with the purpose of promoting the beer brewed there. In five years, the success of their little bar enabled them to buy the adjacent building and thus The Hotel Metropole emerged. No stone was left unturned to equip the Hotel with the grandest of interiors.
The French Renaissance entrance, the Italian Renaissance reception hall, an Indian lounge – even though multiple architectural styles mesh together a luxurious ambience and rich materials become a common thread. Polished teak, the best marble, gilded bronze, Corinthian columns and sparkling calendars are reminiscent of that era.
After the opulent welcome, the 300 guest rooms appear relatively minimalist. But, the simplistic elegance of the rooms provides the ideal ambience to unwind after a busy day taking in the many sites that Brussels has to offer. The furnishings are luxurious and the décor follows the royal theme of the rest of the hotel but the grand factor is toned down and comfort takes precedence.
But, the Hotel was not all gloss. Back in the day, it was the first in Brussels to have electricity and central heating and today it is the last of the 19th century hotels in the city, its glory and its level of service is however intact.
A BREATH OF FRESH AIR
White walls and cabinets and white and grey speckled floor sets the tone for the Mediterraneany style décor of Café Rutabaga. An assortment of chairs in pastels and earthy tones bring in a burst of colour. Planters hanging from the ceiling, a myriad of quirky light fittings, quirky mirrors and bird houses as wall accents create an energetic vibe.
But, they are all placed above eye level. There is a marked effort to keep everything at eye level and below minimalist and clutter-free to maximise the available space. Blue and white ceramic tiles set into the open kitchen and the butter yellow chimney overhanging above it complete the fresh vibe of the Cafe.
All Strings Attached
At first glance, the Maison de Toone appears to be one of the many local inns with its rose Spanish brick walls, tiled floor and blackened beams. But, it’s much more than that. Also known as Roual Theatre of Toone, it is an integral part of the history of the city. The Theatre was established in 1830s to counter the ban on theatre by the then king.
In the evening, the space comes alive as people fill into the attic lined with wooden benches and colourful cushions to enjoy the latest puppet shows. The Theatre also houses a collection of puppets that are retired from the stage but continue to narrate the almost two century old history of the Toones.
THE ADVENTURES OF HERGE
It is only fitting that a space created as a tribute to cartoonist Georges Remi aka Hergé, pays homage to his unique style. The clear cut layout of Museum Hergé is evocative of the ‘clear line’ style of drawing pioneered by the master.
Besides the exhibits, reminders of Hergé’s various works are peppered through the building in the form of the statue of Tintin and Milou at the entrance or the cutouts of characters of Tintin incorporated in the signage or the huge wall in the lobby painted the exact shade of pumpkin orange as Tintin. The layout, flow between the spaces, the use of colours and element of surprise that awaits around each corner make the Museum seem like a lifesize version of one of Hergé’s masterpieces.
Text By Himali Kothari