In the heart of the vibrant city of Brussels, we find a new friend In the beautifully styled and intimate 5-star hotel called, the Hotel Amigo. The hotel is one of the Rocco Forte Hotels in Europe; all of them offer the Forte’s innate Anglo-Italian style, sophistication and warmth. Hotel Amigo is everything you could hope for while spending a few days with children in a city. Navigating the medieval cobblestone-lined alleys of Brussel’s city centre, we almost miss the entrance to our weekend home away from home. It is only the frantically waving doorman that enables us to see the tiny driveway. Although we are now parked a little awkwardly, it doesn’t faze the staff who rush forward to welcome us to the hotel and whisk away our luggage. This being a luxury hotel, the staff are all very polite, helpful and attentive throughout our stay and they really seem to enjoy interacting with children.
Our youngest daughter invited her best school chum Puck to join her and when checking in, they are both asked to choose what they want for afternoon ‘snacks’ during their stay. After some deliberation they settle on cookies and orange juice which is delivered to the room later in the day. But this is just the start of the goodies they get during our stay. As soon as we walk through the door of “our” deluxe connecting rooms, the girls spot two enormous platters full of all kinds of sweets, cakes and their names written in chocolate. They are over the moon as are we, with our own platter. And let’s not forget about the stuffed baby squirrel named René, who, as legend has it, steals the best hazelnuts from the kitchens in the hotel and likes tasting all the chocolate pralines in the local shops. On top of this all, the girls are constantly supplied all kinds of colouring books when they are at breakfast or having hot chocolate in the bar.
Talking about breakfast, don’t miss it. Whether from the menu or the buffet, everything is top quality. You can choose from a range of juices, pastries, yoghurt, fruit, cereals and other hot options. By the way, this Italian restaurant, Brocconi, can also provide you with creative delicious Mediterranean dishes served in a charming atmosphere.
Brussels is the hometown of cartoonist Georges Remi, better known by his pen name Herge, creator of Tintin. The series was one of the most popular European comic books of the 20th century. By 2007, a century after Remi’s birth in 1907, Tintin had been published in more than 70 languages, selling more than 200 million copies worldwide. It has also been adapted for radio, television, theatre and films. So it is really no wonder that we find reference to his work throughout the hotel. Large pictures adorn the walls of the rooms, and objects from the comic strip are sprinkled everywhere.
The rooms at the Amigo are very smart, exactly as you would expect from a boutique hotel. The bathroom is luxurious and clean, the beds are comfortable with nice linens and there is enough space to put all our luggage. The hotel prides itself on its interiors and it is completely justified in this. Superb replicas of famous art-pieces are displayed in the corridors and the staircase looking down to the lobby is a masterpiece. Although it is all so comfortable, we are not here to just lounge in our hotel all weekend.
The Hotel Amigo is in a prime location, right on the edge of the UNESCO protected Grand Place, which is arguably one of the prettiest squares in all of Europe, despite the fierce competition. Of course, we are perhaps a little biased. The overall setting is surprisingly beautiful. The square is surrounded by opulent guildhalls and two larger edifices; the city's Town Hall, and the King's House or Breadhouse building containing the City of Brussels Museum. All this beauty is largely lost on the girls as they casually chase the pigeons that call the square their home. Running through the throngs of tourists, they try to catch them. Fortunately, all manage to escape safely.
So, if your children are like ours, somewhat lacking in appreciation of old buildings, do not despair. Brussels has a lot more to offer. For example, the Train Museum: this museum gives a very good overview of the history of trains in Belgium, starting from the first passenger train on the European continent that ran between Brussels and Malines (Mechelen) in May 1835. And the story continues until today with the high speed trains like the Eurostar. Another interesting option is the Natural History Museum, which narrates a very interesting story about dinosaurs, animals and prehistoric humans. It is a great place to follow the history of life from the beginning to the present day. Just opposite the hotel you will find the Chocolate Factory, a completely new museum in a lovely old house where you will happily have the opportunity to sample the best Belgian chocolates.
We opt for a lesser known attraction: the Experience Brussels. This exhibition allows you to experience Brussels in an entirely new and different way. We discover the city’s most famous places, the little-known gems and the secret spots through the eyes of the city’s greatest asset: the people who live, work, come together and shine in the heart of Europe. The museum is very interactive and an interesting place to spend an hour or so. It isn’t very busy when we are there, so the girls have plenty of time to work with the different displays and are asked to answer different questions. When finished, they end up with this crazy video which includes some of the cartoon figures Brussels has to offer.
These are but a few of the many family friendly activities you can undertake during a stay in Brussels. You are spoilt for choice for where to go next. Fortunately, the hotel concierge is a walking encyclopaedia when it comes to everything that makes this city tick. When we ask for tips on where to visit or where to go for a child friendly restaurant, he is eager to help us. Reservations were readily made and afterwards we are even asked for our feedback. And you can find even more information on things to do in the rooms. We especially love the small booklet that shows and provides detailed insights into all the street art on walls in Brussels; most of which are taken straight from Belgians most famous comic books.
Back to the comics again: if you, or your kids or grandkids, are into these, the Hotel Amigo is an even better choice for your stay. Not only are the family rooms decorated with Tintin memorabilia as we already mentioned, the concierge is also a real connoisseur of his nation’s comics.
If you really want to top your children’s expectations, book the exclusive Smurfs package. After a short introduction to these small blue friends, you will receive tickets to visit the famous Brussels’ Atomium. This structure, designed by the engineer André Waterkeyn and architects André and Jean Polak, stands 102 m tall. Its nine 18 m diameter stainless steel-clad spheres are connected to form the single shape of a unit cell of iron crystal magnified 165 billion times. If they feel like it, the children can explore the Atomium wearing their very own Smurf costumes which they receive as part of the package. Oh, and incredibly, you and your family will be driven to the Atomium by your very own driver — also dressed for the occasion as Smurf villain, Gargamel.
The Smurf experience is part of the children's programme, Families R Forte. The staff are only too happy to help fans of the most famous comics have a memorable visit. Not for just Tintin, but also Asterix, Spike & Suzy and Lucky Luck. And if you have had enough of comics: different packages are always available. So make sure you talk to the hotel staff who have the experience to help you plan and enjoy an amazing, tailor made excursion during your stay.
Before we go, we really must mention Bar A with its fine cocktails and live jazz music evenings. We enjoyed having a nice cappuccino there while we were designing some treasure hunts for the girls throughout the hotel; an inspiring place to investigate. We got them to copy different kinds of art pieces and as always, the staff were there to assist them and answer any difficult questions. Thank you so much for making us feel truly welcome.
# The staff is very friendly, courteous and knew us by name throughout our stay and the concierge is exceedingly helpful. And if it’s up to us: the reason Hotel Amigo is a top hotel in Brussel.
# The location is unbeatable being a stone's throw from the Grand Place.
# We are surprised by the art of comic strip in the hotel as well as in Brussel; the rooms radiate creativity with the comic art around us. Various museums, galleries, markets, festivals, stores are dedicated to comic trips as well and complete our wonderful stay.