A perfect destination for celebrating the New Year’s Eve, Christmas, or this holiday spirit in general, Bruges (or Brugge in Dutch) is a small town in Belgium where time has stopped for good. Cascading colorful houses, peaceful canals, greenery in abundance, and of course, ample beer, chocolate and famous Belgian waffles, among other things will make you weak in the knees as soon as you catch a glimpse of this vivid city and its diverse tastes.
Bruges seems to be a town made to tease your palate, pamper you with a lush stay in a boutique hotel that gives you an even more profound feeling of time coming to a full stop, and treat you to a voyage into the past with its numerous museums, galleries, horse-drawn carriages and streets cobbled to perfection. But don’t be fooled – this little town is well-versed in all things modern and advanced, as well!
Wherever you look, you’ll easily find something to marvel at due to their incredible ability to preserve old houses, buildings and other culturally and historically relevant structures. But even the smallest of details are mesmerizing, so pay attention to their doors and windows – they come in such beautiful designs and versatile shapes and colors that you’ll truly feel as if walking through a Disney fairytale.
Some architectural highlights you can visit during your stay should be the Baroque-inspired Provost’s House in Burg Square dating back to 1666, and then you can continue down the Bargebrug (their famous bridge) which connects the square with the Minnewaterpark. And of course, don’t miss out on the world-renowned the Church of Our Lady, towering above the entire city like a captivating guardian of their history.
No less alluring is their stunning selection of boutique hotels, among which Van Cleef stands out with its timeless elegance and perfect location, situated in the Historic Centre neighborhood in the East of the city, and with a serene view of the canal. However, its mansion-like appearance lacks no charm or hospitality, on the contrary! Its aristocratic origins are enriched by contemporary art pieces that decorate the walls, and the modern choice of fabrics and palette give it an eclectic vibe.
From the charismatic big gold metal palm tree in the lounge and vast flower-shaped lights hang from the high ceiling in the dining room the interior is best described as offbeat, fun luxury. Be sure to take a look at the ceramic green parrot in the library and the two wooden lions’ heads in the hall whose jaws hold back the long, heavy curtains. The hotel is in a 700-year-old grand Italianate mansion, which once belonged to various dukes in the Van Cleef dynasty. The fact that it is family owned and operated only adds to its charisma, and the hotel epitomizes warm and welcoming opulence.
Modern rooms have warm, designer decor, and provide free Wi-Fi, minibars, and flat-screen TVs, as well as marble bathrooms with whirlpool tubs. Upgraded rooms add canal views, and suites offer sitting areas and rustic wood-beam ceilings. Their 15 rooms are designed in an intimate spirit, but maintaining the lush elegance of the entire building – they used fabrics by Missoni as well as Hermès! The only curious detail is that their bathroom and toilets are separate, but perfectly structured, marbled and with all the amenities needed.
If it’s your first visit to Brugge, then I’d highly recommend the hotel’s complementary sightseeing tours organized during weekdays. The continental breakfast is beyond delicious – you’ll want to drown in their rich morning pastry, but you can also ask for the English breakfast in case you’re feeling a bit nostalgic. They may not serve dinner, but rest assured they will give you their expert recommendations for the best restaurants available. But perhaps the most wonderful aspect of this hotel is that it’s in a quiet part of Bruges, without the touristy crowds, and still only five minutes away from the heart of the city.
Take the water routes
Another unique way to experience Bruges is to embark on one of those famous European waterways that can take you through numerous cities and give you an authentic point of view – you’ll cruise along rivers and canals while enjoying the picturesque scenery of Belgium’s most charming cities.
With guided tours on land, gourmet meals on board and plenty of sightseeing in between, this is a perfect blend of rest and adventure all packed into one neat experience. And since Bruges is known as “the Venice of North”, a lavish boat ride in their canals is a must!
Get into the culture buzz
For such a small town, Bruges is packed with museums and art galleries that will please every culture vulture. The most well-known is the Groeningemuseum, where artists such as Jan van Eyck and Gerard David make for the focal point of their permanent exhibition, as representatives of the Flemish Primitives.
On the other hand, the Absolute Art Gallery has a wider, international scope of artists in their collections, although they predominantly focus on less known, new artists from Belgium, in order to promote and support their art.
No matter if you’d rather spend your entire stay at their annual beer festival, tasting rich Belgian chocolate until you explode, or just basking in the city’s impeccable historic allure, Bruges will become one of those timeless cities you’ll always want to go back to and revel in its tranquil heartbeat.
By Amy Mia Goldsmith