Overall we had a pretty positive experience in Bruges and I think that was largely a result of staying in a really great B&B.
A day before we went to Bruges, I emailed a whole bunch of different places checking to see if they had rooms available. I started with a few well reviewed places that I found on tripadvisor.com and Lonely Planet’s website. Unfortunately, every place I contacted was full (including the hostels). However, several of the independent B&Bs gave me email addresses of friends and family who also ran B&Bs. One of those people was Tine.
Tine rents out a couple of rooms in a building next to her home and office (where she and her husband restore paintings). Her guesthouse is a ten minute walk to the historic center of Bruges. The room was €70 per night and was the most inexpensive option of the very few available rooms we found. It included breakfast and wi-fi.
While all of that might sound pretty standard, Tine and her guesthouse are much more. When we arrived, for example, Tine actually picked us up from the train station. On the way to her place she gave us a quick orientation to the city and told us where important things were located (old city gates, grocery store, etc.) Once we arrived at her house, she showed us our room, which was quite opulent compared to what we’re used to (it had a bathtub, for example). The guest house also had a couple of excellent common areas, a kitchen, and tons of materials about the city. It even had snacks that Tine told us help ourselves to.
Breakfast was also fantastic. Tine made it herself and it included breads, yogurt, pastries, eggs, and more. Tine also gave us a bag and said that we should take the leftovers with us to eat later.
I don’t mention all of these things simply to advertise Tine’s guesthouse (though I you’re headed to Bruges you should stay there), but rather to point out how lodging can really set the tone for the rest of the experience in a city. A lot of the time I know that budget travelers feel like lodging is the least important thing as long as it provides a reasonably secure place to lie down at night (the logic being that you’re not going to spend much time in the hotel/hostel/etc anyway). That attitude was definitely the guiding philosophy behind our choice to stay in a couple of easyHotels on this trip.
On this trip, however, I’ve learned that great places to stay are important. While I enjoyed London and Berlin, I never really met anyone in those cities, and staying in the hotels we chose was vaguely alienating. In Bruges (much like in Rio), on the other hand, we had a friend as soon as we got off the train and that made a huge difference in how we navigated and approached the rest of the city.