Bruges: The perfect destination for a relaxing getaway
Leading travel writer Joceline Sharman travels to beautiful Bruges in Belgium for a long weekend break.
The charm of Bruges is undeniable. With its cobbled streets, shop fronts adorned with Belgium chocolate, and the majestic Groenerei flowing through the city, with friendly onlookers waving at tourists take in Bruges by boat; the atmosphere is one for anyone wanting to replenish and rejuvenate for a long weekend.
Just minutes from The Burg, Bruges’ central square dominated by a bell tower offering breathtaking views of the Gothic architecture, is a quaint and utterly charming 18th century carriage house turned luxury boutique hotel. The Pand Hotel resembles old England. Its aristocratic antique luxury creates a home away from home, with its light and exquisitely decorated breakfast room, pine paneled walls and wooden floored lounges. The hotel décor is exactly want I would want my home to look like, full of unique artwork, original antiques, a beautiful wooden chessboard, hundreds of old books, and a spattering of Louis Vuitton suitcases topped with gorgeous lamps and lighting by French architect and interior designer, Jacques Garcia.
The cosy homely feel continues to the bedrooms. All 26 rooms have been individually decorated and offer old-school charm with the modern amenities and comfort that the discerning traveller expects. The junior suites are decorated with stunning Ralph Lauren fabrics but, for me, the real treat was lay in the bathroom! His and her sinks sunk into grey-flecked marble worktops, accessorised with Hermès toiletries, made morning showers and evening bubble baths with Jacuzzi jets the perfect way to relax after sauntering around the uneven cobbles of Bruges.
The hotel offers discreet luxury. Guests would be forgiven for feeling that they were the only individuals in the hotel until morning, when all gather in the naturally lit breakfast room featuring plush cushions, white wicker chairs, white linen table cloths, silver teapots, and flutes filled with champagne. The food was equally as delightful as the sumptuous surroundings; fresh pastries and eggs cooked to any desired requirement, even the fussiest eater will be surprised by the accompaniments on offer, from chili flakes, to mushroom stuffed or sprinkled with salty bacon. It was absolutely divine, and the perfect way to begin your day.
The intimate grandeur of this hotel is the ideal place for a couple seeking a romantic weekend, or friends wanting a retreat from their busy non-stop city lifestyles. Its many awards and accolades are testament to this luxury hotel. This year alone The Pand Hotel has won Tripadvisor’s Travelers’ Choice Winner Certificate of Excellence and was a Conde Nast Johansson’s Award finalist, while also being nominated for World Luxury Hotel Awards, World Travel Awards and Haute Grandeur Global Hotel Awards. The hotel is so comfortable that you really question whether you should just stay in your room, hopping from the Jacuzzi jets to the four poster bed.
If you have managed to escape the pleasurable comfort of your hotel room, Bruges offers many fantastic tourist spots and gastronomy – here are my suggestions:
Bruges by Boat
Just steps from The Pand Hotel the boat tour operators wait, continuously adding tourist-by-tourist until they have crammed and filled every inch of the boat before setting off. Despite the claustrophobic atmosphere, this is soon forgotten when you jet along the serene waters taking in the stunning architecture. This is a great way to start off your holiday, and a great way to gain your bearings when on foot for the rest of your stay. Price per person, €7.
Bruges is synonymous with beer and chocolate, so much so that it has a dedicated museum for both. The Bruges Beer Museum is a must even for the non-beer drinkers. With all tickets an iPad is given to guide you around the well laid out and informative beer fest…and included in the ticket price is a choice of three beers to taste!
To soak up the beer, look no further than the chocolate museum. It is a crime to not go to Bruges without tasting a lot of chocolate, I mean every chocolate shop must be distinctly different ergo I must try every praline shell available. After trying all these chocolates in the shops, the chocolate museum Choco-Story demonstrates how to make the perfect praline. They also offer a chocolate making class, but be sure to book in advance as showing up will not guarantee you a place to make and decorate some delicious chocolate accompanied by some pink bubbles.
Eating & Drinking
If you weren’t full enough already, Bruges offers a huge plethora of food. For the perfect lunch stop, Brasserie Souffleur, serves up a nutritious salad to keep you fueled for your afternoon ambling.
For a richer, more refined supper Malpertuus was superb. Try the rabbit, and do not pass on the hand-made spring rolls with sweet chilli sauce.
Bruges is the perfect destination for any Londoner or New Yorker seeking serenity and solace away from cities that never stop.
⦁ The Pand Hotel: pandhotel.com, rooms start from €265 per night for a Charming Room. Address: Pandreitje 16, 8000 Bruges, Belgium.