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 22 | Issue 66 | June 2019
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 eye-catchers 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 ‘ensuite’ 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