Bruges’ oldest and newest hotel
TEXT: ARNE ADRIAENSSENS | PHOTOS © EKKOW PHOTOGRAPHY
In a historic town like Bruges, it is quite an achievement to be the oldest hotel in the city. Yet, Hotel Sablon is just that. Since the 16th century, travellers have been spending the night in the stately mansion during their visit to the low countries. Anno 2019, however, this historic icon received a surprising update. Behind the old brick walls, a visionary hotel concept with a self-willed, modern interior awaits you.
When staying in a boutique hotel in Bruges, you usually sleep amongst heavy oak beams and stained-glass windows. All moderate-sized hotels within the city centre tend to opt for this dark, medieval atmosphere which matches the look and feel of the town. “Of course, these hotels can be cosy. Yet, the sameness of them all leaves tourists with slim pickings,” explains Christophe Vanswieten, owner of Hotel Sablon. “To create an alternative for this medieval monopoly, we blew a fresh wind through the corridors of Hotel Sablon, one of the oldest hotels in Bruges.” While preserving the listed façade of the building and a few eyecatchers inside (like its impressive doors and staircases), they plastered the brick walls and filled the hotel with modern design and lush materials. The rooms and suites feel homey with their warm colours, spaciousness and sea of light. The glass rain shower or bath in the centre of the room lifts the term ‘en-suite’ to new, contemporary heights. “We wanted a modern interior, without getting caught up in your everyday minimalism. Even with bad weather, we want Hotel Sablon to be a cosy place to pass some time. Comfortable sofas, a crackling fireplace and a shiny touch of gold in all corners create that welcoming feeling.” In both the rooms and the public spaces, contemporary art adorns the walls. Guarding the staircase, for example, you find two seemingly-medieval busts of women-in-waiting blowing chewing gum bubbles. Just like Hotel Sablon, they harmoniously merge the dark ages with the 21st century.
Champagnes and quirky cocktails
Of course, the contemporary atmosphere of the hotel is not solely caused by its beautiful interior. Also, the staff contributes to the informal experience of the hotel. You won’t find a front desk here. The employees will, instead, check you in on a tablet in the salon, while you enjoy a delicious welcome drink. “We also try to limit the paperwork during your check-in to a bare minimum. Instead, our staff will take the time to welcome you and give you some advice on what to visit and do during your stay.” The team members of Hotel Sablon don’t have fixed job descriptions either. Everyone is in charge to do whatever it takes to optimise your stay. Checking you in, carrying your bags to your room, recommending the greatest restaurants in town or even shaking you a cocktail in hotel bar, The Living Room. “Although it is located inside our hotel, The Living Room is open to everyone. As a high-end design bar, it is an exclusive, ‘lounge-y’ place to enjoy a spectacular drink. Our menu mainly features a wide selection of champagnes and quirky cocktails. In collaboration with The Pharmacy, one of Flanders’ most popular cocktail bars, we gave this place its unique identity, both through design and through its surprising flavours.” During sunny days and sultry nights, the Living Room’s beautiful courtyard opens as well. It forms the perfect backdrop for a relaxing moment in the open air.
Diverse and healthy breakfast
To provide you with enough energy for your trip through Bruges, Hotel Sablon offers a diverse and healthy breakfast buffet. Finger-licking good hot dishes, freshly-cut fruit, smoothies, yoghurt with homemade coulis, fruit salad and many other vitamin boosts are added to the wide selection of bread, spreads and other breakfast classics. By using as many local ingredients and products as possible, the meal is as fresh and delicious as they come and allows you to immerse yourself in Belgian and Bruges culture. “After a decent breakfast like this, our guests are ready to explore the beautiful town. Since we are located merely 300 metres from the main square, it is the perfect starting point for your tour. All the hotspots are within walking distance and many exquisite restaurants are just metres away. From our attic suites, you even have a marvellous view of the Duke’s Palace and the belfry. Our modern oasis is, actually, the perfect hub for your trip back in time.”