“This is the last picture I want to paint, but I want to surpass myself in it.” These were the words of Jacques-Louis David, who lived and created in a former Dominican abbey in the heart of Brussels. The neo-classical painter’s final work may be hanging in a city museum now, but traces of his style – as well as the property’s religious beginnings – can still be seen in design-led hotel, The Dominican.
The elegant, pet-friendly property is a short walk from both the Grand Palace and Gallery Noe, and dominated by a leafy central courtyard used as the breakfast area in the morning. Indeed, there are few more pleasant things than sitting in a sun-kissed courtyard enjoying a morning coffee, while one of Europe’s great cities waits outside the door.
At night, the courtyard turns into a bar, one which attracts a significant number of locals – always a good sign. There’s a small but comprehensive wellness centre on the fifth floor, featuring a sauna and steam room, but the star of the show is the boxing room – with vintage boxing gloves and a full size punching bag to let off steam. The service throughout the hotel is attentive without being intrusive, and the overall feeling is of a casual elegance.
The hotel is in the midst of many of the city’s attractions, and the area around St. Nicolas Church is filled with bars and restaurants. Should you wish to hop on a train to Paris – Jacques-Louis David’s birthplace – Bruxelles-Nord train station is but a five-minute walk away.
From the concierge
One of the great old squares of Europe, the Grand Place is lined with forty intricate guild houses as well as the Museum of the City of Brussels and the Town Hall. The buildings are spectacular – get there early in the morning before the hordes of tourists descend.
Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert
Less than a minute’s walk from the hotel is one of Europe’s first covered shopping arcades. Built in 1846, this market – comprised of three covered halls – is a throwback to the days when Belgium was a major European power. These days you can pick up everything from Belgian chocolate (of course) to vintage globes.
Step inside an old brewery to find the Millennium Iconoclast Museum of Art, which focuses on everything from graffiti and digital art to cutting-edge photography and illustration. Its business model is innovative too, relying on crowdfunding – MIMA has been a needed shot in the arm for the city’s cultural scene since its 2016 opening.
From US$185 per night / carlton.nl/the-dominican