24-hour room service: Hotel Matelote, Antwerp

In a city as self-consciously chic and sleek as Antwerp, the term "boutique hotel" holds even more of a fervent grip on the popular imagination. Where other tourist destinations might be able to offer a certain level of boutiquerie simply with the introduction of a shearling rug or some chrome taps, a hostelry set in the heartland of fashionable minimalism has a bit more to live up to.

The Hotel Matelote, situated in the cobbled Old Town of the Belgian port, ticks all the boxes deserving of the description, from its quirky but ascetic décor to its cosy, apartment feel.

In the medieval city centre, it's common for 16th and 17th-century merchants' houses to be divided into a few bedrooms and suites. The Matelote is no exception with 12 rooms ranging from small and functional bases to more luxurious suites and duplexes. All, however, share a pleasant feeling of not being crammed in together; the Matelote is the perfect size for a weekend break in a city that is, after all, not that big either.

The Hotel Matelote is clearly inspired by the minimal and utilitarian aspects of Antwerp's slightly puritanical sense of style. Yet it feels at home in its surroundings – there's nothing worse than a misplaced sense of modernism and edginess for the sake of it.

A concrete, urban-looking entrance hall leads into a small and cosy bar area, made welcoming with a fire and sofas; routes to rooms are discreet spiral staircases – nothing too strenuous or vertiginous, but the building's listed status means there are no lifts.

If the contemporary aesthetic seems a little at odds with the late gothic surroundings, it's a dichotomy that is true of the entire city. Built on and made rich by freight and port trade, the city has acquired a reputation for sophistication and a cosmopolitan way of life. Thanks to a historical link with the fine arts, luxury items and fashion, Antwerp is surely Paris's chic little sibling.


On a quiet side street in the city's historic centre, a five-minute taxi ride from Centraal station or 10 minutes on the Metro. It's also a short walk from the Grote Markt, the dazzling square bordered by 16th-century Guild houses and dominated by the Brabo fountain, depicting the mythical young giant-slayer who founded the city. Drinks around the square feel suitably grand and continental, while dinner in the district's wood-panelled hideyholes are intimate and hearty. A stroll beyond the old town takes you to more modern cuisine; as befits Antwerp's cool, young demographic, there are plenty of brutalist bars and restaurants with steel-topped tables and no visible accoutrements. Dress only in black should these take your fancy.

With Antwerp known for its design history, the nearby Fashion District is also a notable zone on any visitor's map. The Antwerp Six – a group of Belgian designers who graduated from the city's Royal Academy of Fine Arts and took the fashion industry by stormed in the late Eighties – all have stores around the city; look out for Dries van Noten on Nationalestraat, which is more of a gallery than a shop. The fashion museum is also easily accessible, with its internationally acclaimed exhibitions, currently of, naturally, the history of black.


You'd be forgiven for thinking modern minimal hotels often sacrifice comfort for creativity. The Matelote's rooms were individually conceptualised by local artist Peter Deelen under an umbrella of clean, contemporary design, and they are a triumph of both style and substance. Comfort is above the usual standard for a small, mid-range hotel, though with a couple of exceptions. An architectural sink that didn't drain, and a baffling double shower (two, side by side in a long cubicle) were perhaps utilitarian extensions too far.

Simple and basic are not necessarily interchangeable and the Matelote is mainly the former and just enough of the latter.

All other mod cons are present and correct, with cable TV, music systems and free broadband. And when you're done with your beauty sleep, the rustically styled breakfast bar is across a small but prettily sun-dappled courtyard.

Hotel Matelote, Haarstraat 1(12A), Antwerp, Flanders, Belgium (00 32 3201 8800; hotelmatelote.be)

Rooms 3 stars
Value 4 stars
Service 4 stars

Doubles start at €90, room only.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
On set of the Secret Cinema's Back to the Future event
filmBut why were Back to the Future screenings cancelled?
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Lewis Hamilton walks back to the pit lane with his Mercedes burning in the background
Formula 1
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con
comic-con 2014
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Day In a Page

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
    Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

    Edinburgh Fringe 2014

    The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
    Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

    The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

    What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
    Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

    Finding the names for America’s shame

    The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
    Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

    Inside a church for Born Again Christians

    As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
    Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
    Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

    Incredible survival story of David Tovey

    Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride