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A touch of monastic life in Antwerp

September 16, 2017 Headline News, Reviews No Comments Email Email

Any disappointment about a visit to grubby Brussels in Belgium is quickly erased by the sparkle of the world’s capital of Diamonds, Antwerp, with its magnificent, wide, central mall. Rather than mothball or wrap up historic buildings in tissue paper, the locals here deserve praise for their ability to give them a new life. For instance the reception room at a palace facing the mall once owned by Napoleon is now a humble chocolate shop. The most remarkable conversion however is the careful transformation of a medieval hospital/monastery/chapel complex into a hotel and convention centre. It’s not often you get to sleep in a room once used by patients at

Music in the mall

along the creaky corridors at the Elzenveld Hotel, it’s not hard to imagine you are about to be checked by a sister from the ancient order of Saint Augustine. These days the courtyard garden, chapel, former hospital rooms, monastery and the presbytery provide a welcoming oasis of rest in the middle of Antwerp. The hospital was transferred to the Elzenveld grounds in 1238 owing to the shortage of space and the threat of infection it posed. These days the oldest existing structure is the chapel nave, built around 1400 followed by the wards now converted into guest rooms. Located in the heart of historic Antwerp, the Elzenveld hotel and convention centre is steps from Maagdenhuis Museum and Museum Mayer van den Bergh. ModeMuseum and Rubens House are also within 10 minutes. Check-in was quick and easy – your key unlocks the main doors after hours and operates the lift. The rooms are average size with two single beds joined together.
The hotel is surrounded by lovely grounds 
There is a small TV – safe on the floor of one of the wardrobes and a good sized bathroom with a walk-in shower. Adequate is the word that comes to mind. Breakfast follows in the same mould – a very basic offering of cereal, meat and cheese and the girls will cook eggs on request. The location is ideal – the Mall is a short walk away – or the tram goes right outside the gate. Be sure to wander about this magnificent complex and explore in particular the chapel. The architect has done a brilliant job of retaining all the glory of the original structure while adding all of the technical gear today’s convention centre demands. For instance gravestones peer out from the back wall of an alcove by the front door now converted into the cloak room. Turn left at the entrance and a really good hamburger restaurant is a short walk away. Outdoor dining is just across the street – along with a traditional bar.

Sacred areas have a new use today

Written by Ian McIntosh

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