I’m usually a Starwood guy and you can often find some beautiful Starwood Properties in Europe like the Prince de Galles Hotel in Paris, Hotel Bristol in Vienna, Hotel Alfonso XIII in Seville. Unfortunately, Belgium didn’t have ANY aspiration Starwood properties, so we decided to stay local. Using TripAdvisor, Booking.com and blogs, we found each of our hotels for this quick trip.
After landing in Brussels, we immediately grabbed the rental car and headed out of the de facto capital of Europe. We arrived at the “Venice of the North” shortly after 11h00 and after a little GPS-induced confusion, we parked our car and schlepped our luggage to our hotel – there is no onsite parking at Nuit Blanche.
The Nuit Blanche is a two room guesthouse, located right on the Gruuthuse canal and adjacent to the Church of Our Lady immediately connected to the Lover’s Bridge. Like our confusing experience at Abbaye de Maizieres in Beaune, we couldn’t figure out how to get in the front door. Luckily another guest came by and let us in the hotel. Evidently you need an access code that isn’t given to you until you check in, but you can’t check in until you enter the hotel. A little chicken or the egg scenario, don’t you think?
The Nuit Blanche is housed in a building from the 1450s and it was also the place where the current King and Queen of Belgium spent part of their honeymoon. We were given the room on the top floor, which was pretty large with a king bed. There wasn’t really any area to relax, but there was a small dining table where you could take your breakfast each day, if you’d like. We dined in the common breakfast area both days of our visit.
The room didn’t have air conditioning, which wasn’t too much of a problem as the two windows, when opened, provided the most wonderful cross breeze cooling the room to a perfect temperature.
Much like our Memorial Day trip to Paris in 2017, Belgium was unseasonably warm (31C every day), but the room wasn’t too warm at all. We slept with the windows open each night and since the back of the hotel backs up onto the museum and cathedral squares, which are closed to the public each night, it was very quiet.
Breakfast was included in our room rate and consisted of fresh fruit, a yogurt or rice pudding, a small sandwich and eggs “prepared on the whim of the chef”, which basically meant the eggs were cook however the chef wanted, and your only choices were to eat the eggs or not. I’m not a big egg guy in general. The first day we had eggs sunny side up – I just picked out the tomatoes and made Mike eat one of the eggs. The second day we had scrambled eggs, again, I ate the eggs with bacon and tomatoes, but left most of the eggs.
Our host, Micheal, is an artist. He displays his art throughout the hotel and opens up his studio to the public during the days. The art we saw was mostly oils on canvas, with most of the subject being babies or fetuses. The dining room had babies in military attire and the color palate was grey and depressing. To me, it was the artists take on the horrors of war and more specifically the impacts WWI had on the entire generation of young men and women. I didn’t talk to the artist about his canvases so I could be completely missing the point – I was really focused on WWI history during this part of the trip too.
The owner is quite the eccentric but was such a warm and welcoming host. He spent 20 minutes with us and a tourist map of the city, outlining his favorite bars and restaurants. Showing us where the hotels will send you, where other Americans will be (no thank you!), where he goes, where he doesn’t and why. It was really a nice and informative session. He did this with every guest who was interested too.
I mention the owner as an eccentric because, interestingly enough, when we’d mention to a server or our bike tour guide, where we were staying they all hesitated for a moment, gave us a half smile and asked how the stay was. Then immediately mentioned his eccentricities and how some people just didn’t like it. I have no clue as to what they were talking about – this guy was so personable and welcoming. Perhaps he’s a bit of a pain for the locals, he mentioned his constant vigilance in keeping Bruges tourist friendly, but sustainable and keeping others who are against those characteristics at bay. I can imagine he would be a passionate pain in the neck at a City Council Meeting. That passion made him a wonderful host and in my opinion a true asset for the city.
I have no hesitation in recommending this place to future travelers and if, by chance, I end up in Bruges again, I would immediately look to book this property. It is centrally located, clean, safe, reasonably priced and and the proprietor is a generous host.
Have you visited Bruges? Did you spend the night (it seems like most people come in for the day and are gone by evening)? What were your experiences like? Do you have any accommodation recommendations?