I must admit, when an afternoon of free time in Antwerp presented itself, my mind wandered to the possibility of a spa experience. It was my second day in the city, fourth in Belgium; and I’d already spent a fair amount of time on walking tours, in museums and exploring (and indulging!) much of what Belgium offers. I couldn’t resist a bit of time unwinding in one of my favorite ways — at a spa.
As I started to research venues for my mid-afternoon relaxation outing, I noted a lack of luxury spa options in the city. But then I found the boutique Hotel Julien with its private spa, a unique venue and really a bit one-of-a-kind for Antwerp.
Hotel Julien feels like a private hideaway in the midst of the city; I walked past the entrance once before realizing it was my destination. Housed in two 16th-century properties, the hotel has been carefully restored to preserve authentic features while still offering a modern décor. It’s also conveniently located in the heart of Antwerp, within walking distance of the shopping hub’s main arteries and designer stores.
Despite its initial, somewhat nondescript appearance and entrance, inside feels like an über chic, exclusive club, with amenities to match. From chauffeured town cars to designer furniture, the property offers plenty to admire. Guestrooms feature custom Egyptian linens, REN shower and bath products, a well-stocked minibar and complimentary WiFi.
The living areas of Hotel Julien welcome guests to socialize and enjoy the homemade cuisine and tempting cocktails in the airy dining room and intimate bar, open to non-hotel guests as well. Inner courtyards offer seating and green spaces, while an open fire in the lounge is more suited to relaxing when there’s a chill in the air. The rooftop terrace offers views of Antwerp’s showpiece, the Cathedral of Our Lady.
Even though I was tempted to linger and browse the many interesting design touches on display, I was all too happy to be ushered downstairs to the building’s historic cellars which now house the spa. Talk about a hideaway: Dimly lit and spacious yet at the same time soothing and warm, The SPA at Hotel Julien really is a hidden gem, and on that drizzly July day in Antwerp, quite private, as I was the only patron. Continuing the attention to design noted in the lobby, feng shui was employed when designing the spa to ensure harmony and balance.
In addition to all the typical spa mainstays — facials, body treatments, massages — The SPA boasts a hammam, sauna, hot stone and ice scrub for complete relaxation.
The SPA uses products from REN Clean Skincare and Intelligent Nutrients. REN, launched in 2000, is now found in stores, pharmacies and spas in more than 50 countries around the world. The company uses groundbreaking product formulations with only 100 percent plant- and mineral-derived actives, free from skin-unfriendly synthetic ingredients, to deliver products that innovate skincare. Intelligent Nutrients’ line of non-toxic, certified organic products are beneficial not only to the spa-goer but also to the environment.
I was scheduled for the 50-minute Inner Balance massage. After being escorted to the spa, I quickly changed into my robe and slippers in the one-person changing room. My female therapist prepped the treatment room, lighting candles to give the cavernous space a calming aura. I snuggled under the covers on the treatment table, closed my eyes and let the masseuse take it from there, bringing me almost an hour of silent escape in the midst of a busy trip and an even busier summer of travel.
The Inner Balance massage focuses fully on de-stressing the body with a combination of Ayurvedic, acupressure and kneading massage techniques. The Destress Express blend by Intelligent Nutrients combines rosemary, cinnamon, black cardamom, mint, chamomile and vanilla to nourish the mind, body and soul.
And nourishing it was. All too soon my massage came to an end, and I was changing and preparing to head back out to the puddle-splashed streets, the emails awaiting on my laptop and a night full of activities. Only now, I was properly relaxed and restored.
As I slipped back out the nondescript entrance and around the corner onto the main street, I felt a little smug, knowing I had found a true respite in Antwerp, all too pleased to let linger the effects from my visit to what felt like my own personal, secret sanctuary.
Korte Nieuwstraat 24
tel 32 3 229 06 00
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