Brussels' newest hotel is housed in one of its oldest buildings. The ultra-chic Galerie de la Reine, off Grand' Place, was one of the first shopping malls in the world. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels frequented the Galerie's Café du Vaudeville when it opened in 1847. Later, Victor Hugo and Auguste Rodin were regulars at both the café and 260-seat theatre.
Now hotelier Pierre Piwonski has converted some of the rooms above Café du Vaudeville into an aparthotel. What Piwonski wanted was to create something different from the normal big city, big hotel experience. In this, the Vaudeville succeeds admirably.
Guests are given keys to the apartments above the expensive 19th-century boutiques and restaurants. There is an entryphone in each room for buzzing in visitors and a breakfast service. It's all very much how these apartments were lived in when the royal galleries opened 160 years ago – except the entryphone would have been a concierge in those days.
Best of all, you have the beautiful galleries to yourself at night. Like many neo-classical structures, they look best when empty of people. And, given that Grand' Place and the Christmas markets are just around the corner, this is not just the most stylish address in Brussels, it's also the most convenient.
Each room has a distinctive style – "colonial", "minimalist" and "operatic" to name but three. Furnishings are minimal – a red leather armchair, a desk, an antique wardrobe – but the beds are comfortable, with huge fluffy duvets, and the free-standing baths are theatrical. A plasma-screen TV comes with the usual cable channels and free Wi-Fi is being installed. The lack of a reception desk downstairs may seem strange at first, but what these rooms offer is all the privacy of home with the convenience of a hotel.
The food and drink
Nothing as commercial as a minibar here. Breakfast is served between 8am and 11am in your room; you hand in a form to the café the night before, stipulating when you want. Other meals are taken in the café, recently redecorated in terracotta and red leather. Signature dishes include the Vaudeville salad with beef carpaccio at €16.50 (£13.75).
B&B from €115 (£95) per night.
The ground-floor entrance is wide and there is a modern lift to the apartments. Guide dogs allowed, but otherwise no pets. Children are welcome.
Café du Vaudeville, Galerie de la Reine 11, 1000 Brussels, Belgium (00 32 2 511 23 45; cafeduvaudeville.be ).