Double rooms from 55 euros (about $65).
A onetime art school that opened as a hotel in June 2016, JAM offers lessons in industrial design (in its rooms), foreign cultures (in its Italian restaurant), Brussels geography (from its panoramic top-floor bar) and economics (in its inexpensive prices). In addition to 78 rooms, there is a hostel-style dormitory with 18 beds.
Tattoo parlors, cafes, vintage boutiques and the excellent Zaabar chocolate shop mix with more workaday businesses like hair salons and copy shops in the multiethnic St.-Gilles district. The neighborhood also offers a primer in Art Nouveau, thanks to a museum devoted to the architect Victor Horta (a pioneer of the movement) and several exquisite townhouses nearby. For more distant field trips, the hotel lends bikes and skateboards and also sells guidebooks to Brussels (14.90 euros). Easier still, some useful tram lines ply the hotel’s street, linking it with the Midi train station, the city’s museum district and more.
Anyone looking for colors, curves, plushness and whimsy should stay elsewhere. With its coarse gray walls, ceiling and polished floor — all in concrete — and shelves made from unfinished wooden boards and factory-style metal furnishings, my small double room was a study in industrial décor. A comfortable bed, covered with a gray Moroccan blanket, offered coziness — and a nod to multiculturalism.
The room packed in a flat-screen TV, electric kettle, teas, chocolates, bottled water, hair dryer, safe box, local magazines, a guide to local cool spots called “Magic Brussels,” and a decent amount of storage space. A list of “goods on demand” assured that the hotel could also provide a fan, ironing board, yoga mat, bathrobes, umbrella, Monopoly game and other useful freebies, if needed.
Small but impeccably clean, the bathroom was another nook of retro industrial style, thanks to exposed ceiling ducts hovering over a floor of black tiles and walls of white tiles. A tile in the stand-up shower was embossed with this tutorial on ecology: “Save Water. Shower Together.”
Aching for physical education? The wood-paneled sun deck sports a slim swimming pool, and the hotel can provide guest passes to the gym next door. Ready for recess? A basement game room serves up foosball, table tennis, video games and pinball machines. But the hotel’s marquee attraction is the top-floor bar. A fireplace, candlelight, deep couches and fur-draped chairs create the building’s most inviting space, while knockout views reveal the Belgian capital at large.
From “aperitivo” to “prosecco” to “Montepulciano d’Abruzzo,” a crash course in the most important Italian words (drinks, of course) awaits in the ground-floor bar. The foreign-language immersion continues in the hotel’s adjacent Italian restaurant, where yet more Italian-speaking staff serve up prosciutto, smoked mozzarella, numerous pizzas and a pasta list featuring a solid take on cortecce, a slim, pointy pasta with diced pancetta and funghi.