It’s not every day you get to stay in a former palace. In fact, it’s really so much rarer than it was in, say, the 15th century.
So it was with great excitement that the boy and I recently headed to the Kempinski Hotel Dukes’ Palace in Bruges. I was doing a review of it for the Arbuturian magazine and we were determined to soak in all the luxuriousness of the hotel’s surroundings during our stay.
Now, I’m not exaggerating. The hotel really is a former palace. It was built in the late 15th century by Philip the Good, a duke of Normandy, for his wife, Isabella of Portugal, and served as their family’s home until the 17th century.
More than 500 years on, after a six-year renovation, the hotel now acts as one of the top spots to stay in Bruges.
And it is a sight to see. With soaring turrets and a gold gated entrance, one feels regal just stepping onto the property grounds. Inside, a stretching, swirling staircase catches the eye, while a modern-art inspired bar and lounge await just off the entrance.
Up the stairs, one finds floor after floor featuring extensive stained glass windows that look out onto the hotel’s frontage. I managed to catch a glimpse at sunset and, pausing in silent wonderment, I breathed a quiet sigh as the white tower began turning gold and pink.
On a tour of the hotel, I found the stained glass and historical elements continue throughout – downstairs sits a chapel, in which classical concerts are sometimes held. Every surface still holds frescoes painted when the palace was first built, while a gargantuan stained glass window flicks green, gold, blue and red lighting around the room through its panels.
Our room – in the old part of the hotel – reminded me of my own internalised visions of how the Tudors lived: over-sized feather bed, gold and red striped walls and lounge chairs, heavy bronze hanging drapes. The only difference: the Tudors were unlikely to have such a grand bathroom with soaker tub, rain shower and heated floors. Pure and utter opulence.
A look outside of the petite windows revealed an Alice in Wonderland scene: large tables sat amongst the trimmed green grounds flecked with snow, while a giant pink poodle (a recent installment) watched over it all.
But one of the best parts came the next morning. Having never had room service in a 5* hotel before, I thought it would be a real treat to finish up our stay in Bruges. And so, as the boy and I sat in the plump chairs in our cushy bathrobes, drinking champagne and eating eggs, I realised this was about as pleasurable as it gets in a hotel. Or, I should say, as pleasurable as it gets in a palace.
The boy and I were guests of the Kempinski Hotel Dukes’ Palace. For more information about the hotel, rates and history, see: http://www.kempinski.com/en/bruges/