A brand new, upmarket hotel promises to breathe new life into Place des Martyrs, one of the most significant public squares in Brussels.
After Belgium’s revolution of September 1830, it was decided to bury the victims of the fighting of September 23 to 26, in the heart of the Square. The square was renamed Martyrs’ Square in their honour. Three monuments related to the combat for independence are still installed there: The Patria statue, a sculpture evoking Liberty, with the Lion Belgium at its feet, signed Guillaume Geefs in 1836; A stele to Frédéric de Mérode, who died for the Fatherland in 1830; A stele to Jenneval, author of the words of the Brabançonne, who died for the Fatherland in 1830. The Square was partially restored in 2005 but, over the years, fell into serious decline, with squatters occupying some of the buildings and the piazza even being used as a car park. Now, however, the cobblestones of the Place des Martyrs can bear witness to another important event: the upcoming opening of the city’s latest five star hotel.
For a city of the importance of Brussels there are relatively few 5 star hotels so the opening of a new addition to that exclusive club is reason for some celebration, particularly at a time of an ongoing health crisis that has, sadly, seen several hotels in the city close for good. With just over forty rooms, The Juliana Hotel Brussels is set to open its doors on September 6. Place des Martyrs is a central symbol of national heritage identity and the privately owned hotel honours its heritage with elegance and listed façade, fully renovated over a three year period that has embraced the still unfolding health pandemic.
Ahead of the opening, Travel Tomorrow was given a sneak preview to see the immense transformation that has gone into this once derelict building.
This listed ‘demeure’, which once housed apartments and some private residences, has been totally redesigned to offer large common areas in the basement and ground floor, and spacious and personalised rooms across three floors. It is characterised through its tasteful decoration, designed by the top Italian interior designer, Eugenio Manzoni.
Between all the neo-classical art, contemporary colours, exclusive wallpapers, and mosaic works, the hotel is adorned with one-of-a-kind sculptures, paintings or ornaments from the private collection of the owner, Eric Cléton. The classical trend of the last century is revealed by fine inspirations of Hermès, Michelangelo, Versace, Le Corbusier and Starck.
Spacious or cosy, each apartment has its own dimensions and is accessed through hushed corridors, adorned with Hermès inspired motifs wallpapers. Bedrooms are divided into five categories from 20 to 150m2, between charm and prestige, high ceiling or mansarded rooms. Each room is personalized by its cut, colour, dimmed lights, artworks, fine mattresses and duvets of high quality. They also feature large screens, ‘digital concierge’ and a view of the Martyrs’ Square or of the vertical courtyard of the Juliana.
It has Superior, Premium and Prestige rooms plus Junior Suites, a Signature suite and the Juliana Suite. The restaurant can welcome 80 guests indoors and on its terrace, set on the Martyrs’ Square. A gastronomic concept with refined brasserie cuisine, whose chef is Rosa Caldarola. The Franco-Belgian menu will highlight a curated selection of exclusive or seasonal products. The restaurant is adorned with a giant mechanical wall clock, a work of art made to measure for the hotel. The lounges, bar and terraces will offer light cuisine, ‘afternoon tea’ or aperitif.
The bar houses a sculpture of Theseus and the Minotaur, from Emanuele Luzzati, wasoriginally created for the cruise liner Stella Océanis. This famous artwork is brought to light by the orientalist walls and ceiling, dressed in orange-gold and copper bronze, produced in Florence, Italy. Leaving the lobby, the staircase up to the floors deserves a glance, to admire magnificent Belgian blue stone, accompanied by a rare and refined mosaic, themed on Michelangelo and Cleopatra, and a wrought iron railing inspired by ‘30s’ of Tony Duquette.
For well-being, the swimming pool and its complementary sports facilities are located in a beautiful basement and reserved for residents. There is a cardio fitness room, a sauna and steam room. The decoration of the wellness lounge is iconic for its semiprecious Brazilian blue marble in the landing area or the ‘oversize’ Medusa around the pool. A decor of Murano glass mosaic murals inspired by Le Corbusier surround the relaxation area around the pool.
Many attentive hotel services will be offered to residents. Valet parking, a concierge menu, including many discovery activities and visits, reservations for happenings, shows, dinners or unusual meeting locations. Juliana Hotel Brussels is the third hotel of a private family group to open in Europe, after Paris and Cannes, France.
Place des Martyrs itself, just a stone’s throw from Brussels’ main shopping street, first entered history at the end of the sixteenth century when it was a glorious meadow where the linen was dried for a fee. In 1770, the plans for the development of the square were entrusted to Claude Fisco, controller general of the works of Brussels. The construction site was completed around 1775, in a symmetrical and closed square like the Place Royale. It first took the name of Place Verte (1775) and then, three years later, place Saint-Michel (name due to the odonym of the street that gives access to it). In 1795, under French rule, it took the name of Place de la Blanchisserie, a reminder of its drying ramps. Attempts were made in vain to set up one market or another. It acquired its current name after the revolution of September 1830.
The name of the hotel represents a love letter to the owners’ teenage children, Julien and Anna. The name – Juliana – is an amalgamation of their names. For the hotel owner Eric Cléton, the upcoming opening also marks a double cause of celebration – he is also set to celebrate his 60th birthday!