Heads on Beds: Hotel Amigo

Adrian Mourby investigates a luxury hotel that makes much of its Tin Tin connection and discovers a felonious past
Click to follow
The Independent Travel

Not many luxury hotels can claim to have had Karl Marx as a guest but back in the revolutionary days of 1848 the Amigo was a prison and Marx was persona non grata in the new Kingdom of Belgium.

Built in 1522, The Amigo only became a hotel as recently as 1957. But it was in 2000 that its reputation really took off when it was bought by Sir Rocco Forte to become one of his 14 projected signature hotels, The Rocco Forte Collection. The result is a stylish place to lay your head in one of the best locations in Brussels.

The design, as with all the Collection hotels, is by Olga Polizzi, Forte's sister and an accomplished hotelier in her own right. She's added some humour to the usual calm and fresh Forte style by displaying the work of local artists Hergé, creator of Tin Tin, and René Magritte.

But what most visitors don't realise is that they're actually staying in a cartoon too. The Amigo is such a well-known local landmark that it's appeared in two Belgian graphic novels: Racing Show, featuring heroic driver Michel Vaillant, and The Testimonies of Satan, featuring ace detective Ric Hochet.

However, what you'll love above everything else is the comfort and the easy access to the business district in one direction and the historic entertainment district in the other. The restaurant comes highly recommended, too.

Track it down

The Amigo is just off the magnificent historic Gran' Place and within easy access to the city's pubs and jazz clubs. The airport is 14km away. The taxi fare is about €35-€40 and the journey takes about 20 minutes. The Eurostar terminal (Brussels Midi) is 1.5km away and a taxi should cost no more than €7. Journey time depends on traffic but allow 10 minutes.

Check-in check

Brussels is a multi-lingual, service-orientated city, so you'll have no problem checking-in in any language at any time of day. Stylish prints, an Art Nouveau chandelier and some antique bits of furniture ensure that the £12.5m refit doesn't look too spankingly brand new. The paving stones below your feet are ancient. They were dug up from the surrounding streets!

Room to manoeuvre

There are 174 rooms, some with views of the gothic town hall, others taking in the jumbled rooftops and terraces of the old city. The Blaton Suite has its own roof terrace with dining table and sunloungers.

All the rooms are decorated with prints by the Belgian surrealists Marcel Broodthaers and René Magritte. The style is calm but eclectic - beds have leather brass-nailed headboards, chairs are Flemish-patterned and the desks modern.

Bathrooms are decorated with mosaic tiles, marble vanity tops and Hergé characters. Imagine having Tintin and Snowy watching you in the bath. Toiletries have been created especially for the hotel group, and it has its own signature scent (floral notes and a touch of citrus if you're asking).

Get connected

All rooms are fitted with two-line phones with voice messaging, fax and data port. The interactive flat-screen satellite television offers 51 channels, not all of them Eurotrash. The workstation desk comes with a fax machine, telephone and broadband internet plug-in connection. Internet is charged at €20 for 24 hours usage. Wi-fi is available in the public areas (not in rooms) and the best value-rate is 24 hours at €25.

There are six fully equipped meeting rooms with video conferencing and webcasting facilities. They're on the ground floor, as is the ballroom which can accommodate up to 150 people. The hotel's business centre is located on the first floor.

Fitness regime

Hotel Amigo has a fully equipped fitness centre on the first floor, complete with Technogym equipment (two rowing machines, two treadmills, two exercise bikes and five different weights machines).

Raid the minibar

All bedrooms have minibars stocking Belgian and American beers, spirits, wines, soft drinks and snacks. Beers start from €8. Downstairs the Amigo Bar, off reception, serves a wide range of drinks and cocktails, including the PX Martini (Grey Goose Vodka, cherry and a flambee lemon slice) and the Genever Martini (Noilly Prat, angostura and lemon peel), both costing €12. Cocktails lead irresistibly to the Bocconi restaurant which features Italian and Mediterranean cuisine under the direction of Executive Chef Giuseppe Colella.

Breakfast news

A buffet breakfast is served in the Bocconi restaurant and costs €30 per person for the usual cereals, fresh fruit, yoghurts, Viennese tarts, pastries, breads and cheeses. An á la carte breakfast menu is also available, with dishes including authentic Belgian waffles (€9), smoked salmon (€15) and eggs however you want them (€10). Breakfast can also be taken in your room. If you have the Blaton Suite this is a must.

Rack rates

Rooms start at €230 per night excluding breakfast.

The address

Hotel Amigo, Rue de L'Amigo 1-3, Brussels 1000, Belgium (00 32 2 547 4747; hotelamigo.com)

Comments