Can you imagine a city that once controlled around half of the entire world’s trade? This was Antwerp, the city that is now home to the Boulevard Leopold Antwerp. Belgium’s position at the start of the 16th century made it port of choice for goods like silver, cloth and later, diamonds, for much of Europe. Its huge financial markets even meant that the city was a major lender to the British government.
The legacy of this power and wealth is a artistic, cultural and cosmopolitan city packed with beautiful buildings. Naturally, CELLOPHANELAND* selected a place to stay that reflects some of this remarkable history.
The best choice is undoubtedly the Boulevard Leopold Antwerp. This classy B & B with just five rooms and suites, is set in a neo-classical ‘gentlemans’ mansion in the heart of the diamond district, a short and easy tram ride from the heart of the city.
With only three previous owners, including a diamond merchant, the interior remains almost untouched since late 19th century. From the tall, ornate facade we enter through a grand door in to a hall of Carrara marble. The two high-ceilinged reception rooms with parquet flooring lead back in to an airy breakfast room that looks out onto a tall greenery-filled courtyard.
The owner, Martin, who efficiently runs the property virtually single-handedly, professes no knowledge of interior design yet has crafted an interior of great individual style and beauty; it is special enough for the building to be regularly taken over by film or fashion shoots and exclusive product launches.
Gathering together finds from the many local antique and vintage stores, the Boulevard Leopold Antwerp is a true cabinet of curiosities and an antique collectors dream. The candle-lit sitting room features beautiful sofas, antique rugs and crystal chandeliers.
A dark wood welsh dresser is packed with old books, religious iconography, vintage photography and stuffed birds and insects. Dozens of glass domes enclose all sorts of small treasures.
The bedrooms are similarly eclectic and each is unique. We stayed in the wonderful ‘Gold’ room. Walls and ceilings were of dark, antiqued gold. Individual touches were everywhere.
Beside the bed, old chairs were decorated with victorian side lamps, a Georgian table with trifold mirror had a row of art deco perfume bottles, and a plaster Jesus rested on a pile of leather books adjacent to a old oil landscape.
All the comforts were there, too. The bathroom featured a deep vintage bath and luxurious toiletries. There was free wifi, a big TV, Nespresso and minibar. There was plenty of space to relax, whilst the large suites have big living areas of their own.
Breakfast is served at your table, with a few self-serve extras and a hot choice on request. It is accompanied by a cultured and laid-back soundtrack featuring the likes of Nick Drake and Thom Yorke – in fact Martin has had so many requests for details he has now made it available on Spotify!
Expect occasional creaky floorboards and historic atmosphere in spades.You will find the whole property is a haven of peace, and if it all sounds rather expensive, you are in for a surprise – for such a special stay the rates are very reasonable indeed.
For more information and booking visit Boulevard Leopold Antwerp
CELLOPHANELAND* were guests of Boulevard Leopold Antwerp