With three big bedrooms and a shared living room and kitchen, the Concept Hotel should really be called the Concept Inn or B&B. But semantics aside, the place is perfect. Even its inconspicuous perch above a chocolate shop smack in the center of Grand Place–a location I would usually eschew for its touristy appeal–felt charming and not the least bit cheesy. It was really something special to come home at night, the square of Gothic, Baroque and Louis XIV 15th- and 17th-century buildings all lit up with glowing gilt, and quietly let ourselves in through a dark, closed chocolate shop. An ancient, rustic wooden spiral staircase let us up to our room like a secret passageway, where we could admire the spectacle high above foot traffic.
The owner, Arnaud Rasquinet, who rents the space from the government is not a designer; he laughed when I asked him. The space is so old and beautiful, he explained, that the interiors need very little–a few pieces of simple furniture, lamps and some well-chosen framed photographs and wooden antiquities that he picked up at local shops and flea markets. His first “hotel” fills up so regularly (Le Coup de Coeur) that, about a year ago, he decided to open a second one down the street. Every morning the guests sit around a table in the kitchen (one of the most beautiful rooms) for a simple, delicious breakfast–local jams, cheese, meat, croissants, bread and fresh-squeezed juice. There’s a window of four hours to get breakfast, but like clockwork, all the guests ended up showing up at the same time every morning, each of us equipped with a different language, our few common words forming an unlikely semblance of conversation. It seemed a fitting way to start the day: struggle outside your comfort zone; make effort despite feeling a little stupid; discover commonalities and great pleasure and satisfaction. I love when a place gives you something more than a place to rest your head.
Prices start around $165 (breakfast included). Reserve a room at concepthotel.be.