Heaven knows what the 15th-century Dominican friars would make of this ornate modern pleasure palace, which now occupies the site of their long-ago city monastery. The hotel, opened in 2007 by Dutch design duo FG Stijl, has hardly anything in common with its predecessor apart from its name. Behind its discreet Neoclassical façade, the soaring, arched ceilings and rich, dark textiles of the cloisterlike salon are a visual feast. The air is gently scented with cedar and ginseng; if you order coffee, it arrives accompanied by sublime handmade chocolates. Some of the 150 rooms are compact, but clever design means they never feel cramped; all come with Nespresso machines, walk-in showers, and free Wi-Fi. The windows overlook either the hotel’s courtyard garden or the Opera House across the street (if you turn down your in-room stereo, you may hear sopranos rehearsing their arias there). The cool street-side bar was once the atelier of Napoleon’s favorite painter, Jacques-Louis David.
Insider Tip: David’s sensual Mars Disarmed by Venus, which was painted on the premises in 1824, can be seen in Brussels’ Royal Museums of Fine Arts, along with his iconic Death of Marat (www.fine-arts-museum.be).
Room to Book: The courtyard suite, No. 217, has a glass-sided terrace offering views over the garden with its 300-year-old fig tree.
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.