From the terrace of the Prinsenhof Suite in the Kempinski Hotel Dukes’ Palace, all of Bruges is at your feet. Towering church spires and the 13th-century belfry rise above the city’s canals, guarded by regal white swans. Like an open-air museum, the entire medieval center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This was the fairytale backdrop for Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson’s escapades as hit men in the black comedy, In Bruges, which showcased the “Venice of the North” in all its glory. For those keen to experience Bruges for themselves, consider a mid-week jaunt in the springtime, when tourists are scarcer, the flowers are blooming in the beautiful beguinage (nunnery), and the famous chocolate shops compete for the best window displays for Easter.
|The Terrace of the hotel provides many places to relax and take in the scenery.|
The magnificent Kempinski Hotel Dukes’ Palace is the place to stay in Bruges. Occupying the Prinsenhof Palace built by the Duke of Burgundy in the 15th century, the hotel is just a stone’s throw from the main market square. Behind the turreted edifice, Philip the Good welcomed his new bride from Lisbon, Isabella of Portugal, in 1429. Centuries later, Kempinski embarked on a restoration project, carefully preserving original architectural features. The luxury hotel debuted in May 2008. Today, classical music concerts take place in the centuries-old chapel, adorned with frescoes and stained-glass windows.
|The Groenhuys Suite (living room shown here), overlooks the garden in one of the quieter areas of the hotel.|
This rich heritage can also be found in the décor. Of the hotel’s 22 palatial suites, six are historic-listed, and the Maria of Burgundy Suite is decorated with 15th-century paintings. The best room in the house is the Prinsenhof Suite, a triplex with a swoon-worthy terrace overlooking the rooftops of Bruges. The Isabella van Portugal Suite and the Graaf van Vlaanderen Suite vie for a close second place. All of the hotel’s 93 rooms come with contemporary creature comforts: spa-like marble bathrooms, 300-thread count sheets, flat-screen TVs, and spacious work desks with Wi-Fi and multiple phone lines. Suites also have espresso machines and Molton Brown bath products. We loved our Superior Garden View room because it faces the hotel’s contemporary sculpture collection—including a giant red poodle by Belgian artist William Sweetlove—displayed in the garden. For VIP bookings, contact Director of Sales and Marketing Carine Suenens ([email protected]; 011-325-044-7885).
The elegant public rooms channel a contemporary aesthetic. In the middle of the Atelier bar, named after an artist’s studio, a giant sculpture of paintbrushes sparkles with blinking green lights. A chic spot for a cocktail, the bar also serves as a gallery for revolving art installations. The Manuscript restaurant is a favorite of locals and visitors alike for its traditional Belgian cuisine prepared with local products (including herbs from the hotel’s garden). And businesses from Brussels as well as delegations from the European Commission appreciate the light-filled meeting rooms and the ballroom with its private outdoor terrace.
As the only five-star hotel in town, the Kempinski Hotel Dukes’ Palace has unmatched facilities. After navigating the canals by boat or cruising the city streets by bike, guests retire to the spa for lava stone massages, steam sessions in the hammam and swims in the only indoor pool in Bruges. To cap off a fantastic day, we recommend a cooking class at Restaurant Patrick Devos, which teaches guests how to prepare three innovative recipes with organic produce. Devos has a special interest in “forgotten” vegetables, like silver beet, purslane, and crosne, which local farmers cultivate specially for the chef. Sit down in Art Deco splendor to reap the rewards: a three-course meal preceded by an aperitif in the 800-year-old wine cellar stocked with 1,300 bottles.
|The Munthof Suite at Kempinski Hotel Dukes’ Palace overlooks the quiet courtyard.|