Pillows Grand Hotel Place Rouppe
Place Rouppe 17
The hotel is centrally situated by Place Rouppe, an area replete with bars and eateries. Brussels’ Unesco-listed Grand Place and cheeky Manneken-Pis (‘little man peeing’) fountain are both a 10-minute walk away.
Brussels Airport is a 30-minute drive from the hotel; flights arrive here direct from major cities in Europe; from further afield, flights stop over in Scandinavia or the UAE. Contact the Smith24 team to arrange flights or transfers.
The hotel lies in between the Central and Midi stations (both a 15-minute walk away); the Eurostar arrives at the latter direct from London, Paris and Amsterdam (each around two hours’ journey time). Trains from the airport and main cities throughout Belgium arrive at Central Station. Contact the Smith24 team to arrange tickets. The hotel’s closest Metro stops is Anneessens, a 2-minute walk away; Midi Station and Lemonnier are both a 10-minute walk away.
Brussels is pedestrian-friendly; the city’s most charming attractions are within strolling distance of one another, and you’ll have more chance to ogle the grandeur when you explore on foot. The city’s tram system is another way of zipping from sight to sight – the Anneessens stop is the closest to the hotel (around a five-minute walk away); tickets for public transport can be bought for 24- to 72-hour periods. If you choose to hire a car, the hotel will help you find nearby public parking (and the Smith24 team can help hire some wheels for you).
Worth getting out of bed for
A 10-minute walk away from Pillows, the Grand Place is Brussels’ centrepiece; the rightfully Unesco-protected, cobble-lined square is presided over by the Gothic Town Hall, and the Broodhuis (‘breadhouse’), which is home to the city museum – both buildings as intricately crafted as Brussels’ lace. Close by is the revered symbol of the city – and of the Belgians’ curious sense of humour (locally known as zwanze) – Mannekin Pis, a statue of a tinkling boy that’s kept up a steady stream (of admirers) since the 17th century. His shame is occasionally covered with a weekly wardrobe of costumes, which adds to the fountain’s mischievous charm. Mannekin Pis’s trickle-down fame has seen the addition of counterpart statues, including a girl (Jeanneke-Pis) and dog (Zinneke-Pis). The elegant Sablon area has decorative churches and repurposed palaces, which mingle with beloved chocolatiers and cafés. Famed pâtisserie Wittamer & Co peddles some incredible confections: peony- or yuzu-flavoured macarons; marzipan-sculpted critters; and work-of-art cakes. Chocolatier Marcolini on Rue des Minimes has glossy hearts filled with praline or fruity creams, a tour of global cocoa producers in one box, and rich champagne truffles. A gentle wander through manicured Brussels Park will counteract any overindulgence; at its fringes lies the museum dedicated to Belgian surrealist René Magritte; the Centre for Fine Arts (colloquially known as Bozar); the Belvue history museum; and the Royal Palace. To the north west of the city, by Quai du Hainault, is Mima – an achingly hip gallery set in the former Bellevue brewery. They have a rotating programme of exhibitions, but super-cool artists Joan Cornellà and Faile have added some colour to its walls previously.
Chez Léon on Rue des Bouchers is an old-school eatery denoted by a luridly green neon sign and a bank of tables dressed in gingham cloths. It does draw a surfeit of tourists, but for the best reason: a fine menu of mussels every-way and excellent meat and fish dishes. Just steps from the hotel sits Comme Chez Soi, a gracious art nouveau restaurant with intricate stained glass and elegant wooden flourishes. The food, which is as ornamental as the decor, and homey ambience have drawn punters for nearly 100 years.
Try a traditional Belgian sandwich at Pistolet in the Sablon neighbourhood; the namesake humble bread roll has a rich inner life – it can be plumped up with numerous fillings: white sausage and onion, cordon bleu, gouda and chicory, beef tartare, shrimps… À la Mort Subite serves simple, filling fare (meats and cheeses, salads, sandwiches and omelettes), and has a range of beers you’ll merrily toast to.
The Delirium Café (purveyors of the pink-elephant-branded, knock-for-six-strength beer) has a drinks list requiring several kilometre-of-ale glasses. With more than 2,000 bottles and draughts on offer, we advise you to pace yourself. Head to the absinthe bar after if you want to add a green fairy to the pink elephants you’re seeing.