Even though it’s one of the world’s top diamond destinations, I’d never been to Antwerp, so I decided to take the opportunity recently to visit jeweller and titanium wizard Francis Mertens in his home town. This was bliss: Antwerp, easily reachable by Eurostar, is a little old city with great style and character, low-key and comfortable in its own skin.
And completely unexpectedly I discovered a true gem, not a diamond, but one of the most exquisite hotels I’ve stayed in. Hidden behind a white front door – you have to ring the bell to get in – De Witte Lelie is converted from three 17th-century stepped-gable townhouses, balancing its great age with stunning modernist interiors and classic designer furniture. Warm, rich and inviting, it has no trace of dehumanising minimalism that I loathe: in the original black and white tiled entrance there’s a huge blue Edra sofa and an Andrée Putman black desk, while the breakfast room, furnished completely with Saarinen designs, looks into an open-plan traditional kitchen where your breakfast is lovingly prepared.
There are 11 rooms in all, duplex rooms with loft conversions and spiral staircases, as well as suites. This is discreet luxury, offering impeccable service, quiet and personal, a home from home… if only.
Rooms from €195-€345.