Our next stop in Belgium was in the Flemish city of Ghent. As noted earlier, there weren’t really any Starwood properties in the areas we were visiting, so we felt free explore other lodging options. When we are in this situation we love to branch out and explore new and unique hotels, lodging in unexpected or re-purposed spaces is always high on our list too. The hotel we chose in Ghent was the former Post Office and was centrally located and is flanked on one side by the Leie River and Korenmarkt on the other. Ghent is a very pedestrian and bike friendly city, which I love, but what I don’t love is the sheer number of pedestrian zones near our hotel, making driving to the hotel and dropping off our bags difficult. The hotel doesn’t offer parking of any sort.
The original building was built in 1898 (hence the name) and operated as the Ghent main post office until 2001. The building was sold and re-purposed in 2014 into its current state housing 37 hotel rooms. The rooms continue with the postage theme, the appropriately named Stamp room is just 19 m² (204 ft²). We stayed in the Postcard, a two level loft room with 25 m² (270 ft²). This room was interesting as the king sized bed and the separate water closet were on the main floor, while the beautifully designed bathroom was upstairs in the loft. The double height room made the tight quarters much more comfortable, I didn’t feel cramped at all, but let’s be honest, the room was tight and there wasn’t much space to lounge, unless you were sitting on the bed (or maybe the stool in the bathroom). The largest room is the Loft, coming in at 65 m² (700 ft²), so there are plenty of options to fit your needs in this property.
The rooms are adorned with dark, rich colors. There were lots of deep greens and dark woods. It was a very masculine design aesthetic, which we really enjoyed. I wouldn’t incorporate it into my home (well, maybe a guest room), but it did feel quite welcoming, despite the color choices. I think if it were a cold dreary winter day, this style would be cozy and comforting – with a nice strong cocktail, no less.
When we arrived there was a bartending competition taking place in the main bar, which was closed to the public. I didn’t want a drink before I heard about the competition, but then I was immediately interested and utterly parched – and frustrated that I couldn’t get a drink. That frustration passed quickly as we chatted up the gentleman working the front desk. He was excited to talk about the property and he obviously took pride in his job and his city. After getting the basic info on the hotel, he offered several suggestions for dinner and drinks. He offered some pretty standard touristy places, but when we pushed and said “would you drink/dine there?” he immediately said he wouldn’t and it was mostly for tourists. So he gave us different options that we took him up on. More on that later.
We were offered an escort to our room, which we politely declined and headed down the perfectly curated halls to our room. The ornamental selection of books and other historic treasures can be found on bookcases and tables in the halls and throughout the rooms themselves. It doesn’t feel like a hotel, it feels like a perfectly planned guest room in a friend’s home. I found myself looking at every item on the shelves and quickly realizing that 1) the design team put a lot of thought into each item and 2) I could spend my entire visit just looking at the bric-a-brac.
The view from our room was on Korenmarkt and St. Nicholas’ Church, which was truly stunning during the day and utterly breathtaking all lit up at night.
The bathroom upstairs was fitted with white octagonal tiles and oil rubbed bronze fixtures. The shower was large and luxurious with great water pressure and loads of hot water. The biggest problem with the bathroom area was it was just so hot up there. It was 31C (88F) during our stay, but the loft area trapped the heat and the shower itself just pumped out more heat. It was actually uncomfortable when you were getting ready, post-shower. We needed some additional circulation up there – it’s awful when you have a long hot day exploring a city, come home to take a refreshing shower before dinner, but are just as hot and sweaty after the shower as you were before.
The hotel has an honor bar on the second floor as well, for hotel guests. This unmanned bar has several different types of liquor and wines. You are allowed, or should I say, encouraged to make yourself a drink – just be sure you write down what you had, how much and your room number. They’ll be happy to add it to your bill. I love the trust this shows in guests and perhaps I’m just a cynical traveler, but I wonder how many deadbeats make a drink, but don’t pay for it. The honor bar was also expertly appointed and really called you to sit down, read a design book and enjoy a rich cocktail.
Speaking of cocktails, we did stop by the bar, called the Cobbler (not after a shoe mender, but a cocktail shaker) and had a nightcap. I have an irrational love of mezcal, so I had to ask the bartenders to make me a cocktail of their choosing, with mezcal – but also with the bounty of the season – it’s a little over the top, but the herbs, fruits and berries made not only a beautifully styled and balanced cocktail, but it was a great little midnight snack.
One more note on the booze selection, I think the minibar was the most wonderful incarnation of an in-room minibar I have ever seen. Like everything else in this property, much care was taken not only in selecting the items to include, but the presentation of those items. While we did not partake in the minibar, we were quite tempted and I think if the Cobbler had been closed, we would have made our own specialty drinks.
Our room, all in including taxes and fees was 206€ per night. While not on the cheap side, we found such great value in this hotel and loved the idea of supporting a property in a repurposed space. All the staff interactions were that of a five-diamond property. I would definitely stay here again – and I really loved the city of Ghent, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we do return at some point in the not-to-distant future.
Do you dig unique hotels like this, or does it feel too gimmicky and contrived? Do you appreciate the time and effort that go into all these details at a hotel, or would you prefer to stay in a place that spends more time and energy on the important things (comfort, safety, service) vs. an expertly curated bookshelf in a hallway?