Arrival/Check-In: The Kempinski Hotel Dukes’ Palace in Bruges, Belgium, was once, as its name implies, the palace of the dukes. Duke Philip III built it in 1429, and in 2008 it became the first 5-star deluxe hotel in Bruges. Entering it today, one senses this is probably the closest a hotel can feel like entering a private home, albeit a particularly grand and spacious home. From a private courtyard, I came into a fine reception room where, unlike most hotels, there was no high counter, no crowd, no bustle, no piles of luggage. Instead, a friendly woman seated behind a desk greeted me and quickly checked me in.
Guest Quarters: The hotel has 93 guestrooms, including 22 suites. My room, while not large, was adequate, comfortable and finely decorated. From the window, I looked down to a beautifully manicured garden with modern art sculptures. The bathroom was excellent both in size and amenities. The closet was large. And what I very much appreciated — and rarely find in hotels — was good bedside lighting.
Services/Amenities: The Dukes’ Palace has an enviable position — quiet, removed from the bustle of the town yet only a few minutes’ walk to Market Square, the town’s center, and from there a short walk in any direction to Bruges’ other attractions.
Within the hotel, nearly every guest can look out the window to see part of the 300-square-yard garden of modern art. See a piece you don’t want to leave behind? Buy it; the hotel will ship it for you. Inside, the hotel displays older art, much of it from the palace’s past.
Art is very much part of the hotel’s experience. Even in its Bar Atelier, for instance, gigantic paint brushes form its centerpiece. Breakfast in the hotel’s restaurant, Manuscript, was plentiful and delicious. The hotel’s spa features three therapy rooms as well as a 60-foot indoor swimming pool, a well-equipped fitness studio and a sauna.
The main public room again feels more like a large, wellfurnished salon in a grand home, with comfortable chairs and sofas and a fireplace, rather than a sleek hotel lounge.
The Experience: Most inviting about the Kempinski Hotel Dukes’ Palace is that its history is simply and quietly part of the pleasure. It is understood and understated, and that, along with impeccable service, is what makes it the epitome of elegance.
Kempinski Hotel Dukes’ Palace
8000 Bruges, Belgium
tel 32 50 447 888
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