September 01, 2003
Meetings & Conventions: Newsline newsline.gif (8042 bytes)International Focus BRUSSELS

Shining example: The Grand Place, a stunning public square in Brussels
Shining example: The Grand Place, a stunning public square in Brussels

Brussels, at first blush, might seem like a complicated place, with its dense, winding streets punctuated by historic town squares. In fact, Belgium’s capital city is an extraordinarily easy place to navigate, both logistically and from a meetings perspective.

The city comfortably straddles Belgium’s two distinct cultures: Flemish Flanders to the north, and French-speaking Wallonia to the south. Most people also speak English, and the service is polished professional, yet warm. Grand architecture, breakthrough fashion design and a thriving restaurant scene, encompassing the trendy to the truly gourmet, help set the scene for a memorable meeting in this cultural and business powerhouse, seat of the European Union the headquarters of NATO.

In the Sablon neighborhood, home to the city’s best weekend antiques market, is the 193-room Jolly Hotel du Grand Sablon, with six meeting rooms hosting up to 100 for seminars. New at the Jolly is a refurbishment of all fabrics in the guest rooms and a business center offering free Internet access. Cafés line the intimate Place du Sablon, a perfect hideaway not far from some of the city’s most important architectural treasures, including the Palais Royal.

Hotels near the Grand Place, a gilded shrine to Baroque architecture, include the 174-room Amigo Hotel, a Rocco Forte property that recently completed a total refurbishment. The new decor reflects the sleek yet comforting tastes of the designer, Sir Rocco Forte’s sister, Olga Polizzi. The hotel has a ballroom that accommodates up to 130 banquet-style.

Le Méridien Brussels, just off the Grand Place, has 224 rooms and 6,400 square feet of meeting space, which will double in size by the end of 2004. In-room Internet access and Wi-Fi connections in public areas are in the works.

In March, the 218-room Brussels Marriott opened with 218-rooms and 6,780 square feet of meeting space.

Expected to open in late 2005 is the new 149-room Radisson SAS at the corner of the Rue des Sables near the Comic Strip Museum, a whimsical group venue.

The Musical Instruments Museum houses some 7,000 instruments and offers meeting space for up to 200, along with commanding but lovely views of the city from the upper floor of this Art Nouveau gem.

Autoworld, a museum for car lovers, hosts events of up to 2,000 and will unveil a renovation in November.

Flagey, a new culture center housed in a historic building, opened in October 2002. Several studios and the concert hall can be rented.

Château de la Solitude, near one of Brussels many beautiful parks, offers modern meeting facilities in a gorgeous 1912 building. The facility can accommodate groups of up to 200.

Side trips
There is no shortage of new developments in other areas of Belgium, all an easy drive from the capital city.

New venues are on tap in Flanders’ captivatingly quaint Bruges and in Antwerp, diamond and fashion capital of the country.

In Wallonia, a second Radisson SAS will open in 2004 in the center of Spa. The Radisson Palace Hotel Spa will have 122 guest rooms and will host up to 180 for receptions.

• By Lori Cioffi IMAGE
Lisbon’s 194-room Pestana Carlton Palace Hotel, formerly the Palácio Valle Flor, opened last year. The main building, a national monument, was restored to its grand 19th-century ambience, and two wings were added to house the guest rooms. The property has 15 meeting rooms, a fitness center, formal gardens and an outdoor pool. (011) 351-291-209100; Back to Newsline
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