Hotel Jan Brito - Bruges - Flandre-occidentale

cijferA special experience in historic Brugge.

Few cities in Europe can boast of a past as perfectly preserved as Bruges. Already one of the wealthiest cities in Europe by the 13th century, it has been spared the ravages of modernization precisely because it had gone into a long period of decay.

Forgotten and neglected for centuries, it is now the most visited city in Belgium after Brussels. Although many people have accused Bruges of being overrun by busloads of tourists, the truth is that, but for a couple of main squares, the Venice of the North remains utterly atmospheric and dreamy, with its meandering streets, ancient bridges, mysterious passageways and patrician houses.

It should come as no surprise that we chose Hotel Jan Brito tucked away on a quiet street, but still in the center of Bruges. The hotel has a long illustrious history, just like the city it calls home.

Built in the 1600s, this stately manor house has been home to numerous aristocratic families and indeed, its last resident was Baroness Suzanne de Giey, an eccentric Belgian-French writer who died in 1991 and is known for her journalistic passions and correspondence with famous writers such as Marguerite Yourcenar, who herself spent much time in Bruges.

After the death of the Baroness, current owners Tijl Waelput and Luc Verlinde bought the house and began a long, painstaking renovation that has turned out to be one of the best hotels we have ever stayed in.

From the moment we walked through the front door, we felt truly welcome. The friendliness of the staff and the enthusiasm with which Tijl Waelput related the history of the house, its inhabitants, and the history of Bruges itself, separates Jan Brito from so many hotels that offer luxury, but little warmth.

Our suite, which used to be the family’s private chapel, is simply not to be believed. High ceilings, painted murals, muted lighting and absolute silence made us feel as if we were still in the family chapel, except in place of an altar and pews, stood our bed.

Divided in two levels – the ground floor as a sitting room and the top floor (former chapel) as bedroom (with a spacious bathroom) – our suite is just one of the four in the newly renovated garden complex that also houses the former stable, tea house and coach house, all converted into suites. Just outside lies the formal Renaissance garden, one of the most beautiful we have been in Bruges.

We could have stayed in bed all day contemplating the divine, but the warm spring weather compelled us to explore the city. Bruges is indeed what the guidebooks say it is: utterly charming, filled with ancient churches and monasteries, blessed with canals and pretty little squares.

But if like us, you fancy a bit of the modern in your cuisine, Bruges does not disappoint at all. We lunched at a wonderful place called Passion for Food (Philipstockstraat 39) whose tagines, salads, organic juices and teas are a welcome change from the traditional Belgian cuisine. We were surprised and delighted to dine at Tanuki (Oude Gentweg 1), a fantastic Japanese restaurant whose simple yet elegant décor complements the terrific teppanyaki and sushi dishes. And some of the best Indian food we have ever had was at Bhavani (Simon Stevinplein 5).

For mid-week and weekend breaks, it is hard not to recommend Bruges. As we pulled out into the cobblestone streets and drove towards the old city walls thinking we had seen it all, we decided, so what, we would come back anyway.

  • Hotel Jan Brito
  • Rooms start at Euro 99,-
  • Freren Fonteinstraat 1
  • 8000 Bruges
  • 050 330601
decor Score_4
location Score_4
facilities Score_3
breakfast Score_3
service Score_3
price/quality Score_3

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