Travel 48 Hours: 24-Hour Room Service: Die Swaene, Bruges

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POPULAR WITH honeymoon couples from all over the world, and especially from Japan, the family-run Die Swaene is the most romantic hotel in dreamy Bruges, a city not short on charming accommodation. For unashamed romantics and amorous gourmets, the "Romeo and Juliette" package offers one night in a de luxe room, a six-course candlelit dinner with wine, a private tour of the town and a four-course lunch of regional dishes, again with wine and a bottle of champagne.

The bar, which is lavished with 18th-century panelling, was once the library of a private house, thought to have belonged to a lawyer or judge because of the scales carved into the fireplace. A musty attic with beamed ceiling is being converted into a meeting-room, while the cream and gold drawing-room is crammed with 18th-century antiques and gilt mirrors.

The personal touch is everywhere, from the individually decorated rooms to the restaurant, a 15th-century vaulted room that used to house the city's Butchers' Guild. The ultra-fresh produce on the menu includes home- reared meat, and the next additions to the larder will be organic cheese and honey.


Die Swaene (The Swan) is at Steenhouwersdijk, 8000 Brugge, Belgium (0032 50 34 27 98, fax 0032 50 33 66 74, e-mail Surrounded by medieval buildings and with canal views from several rooms, Bruges's centre is in easy walking distance - perfect for moonlit strolls or trips to the fine arts museums.

Time to international airport: The train ride from Zaventem airport, Brussels, including the change at Brussels' Gare Centrale (trains to Bruges leave twice hourly), takes around 90 minutes. By car, Bruges is 100 km from Brussels or Calais and 17 km from Ostend. The journey on Eurostar takes about four hours, including a change in Brussels.


Rooms in this intimate, labyrinthine hotel are more cosy than spacious, and the decor ranges from refined elegance to barely disguised kitsch. 47 has a blue ceiling dotted with skylights and a huge golden cherub beaming down from above the bed. 43 was once a kitchen and has original Delft tiles and an 18th-century four-poster bed; pretty, if unsuitable for leggy guests, but apparently a favourite with the French.

Beds: Despite the emphasis on romance, only two rooms (one suite and number 43) have double beds: the others are twins, made up as one. Most have decorative, tent-like tops that give the illusion of being four-posters.

Freebies: Shoe-cleaning tissue, shower cap, bath oil and shampoo, plus carillon music from the nearby 13th-century Cathedral of Our Lady. All guests have access to a sauna and the small swimming-pool where, on the rare dry summer days, the roof is removed.

Bathroom: In granite and, like everything else, small. All have bathrobes, hairdriers and make-up mirrors. Keeping the cherub company in 47 is a glow-in-the-dark female figure on the wall.


Every room has terrestrial radio and cable television. Belgian, French and German newspapers are available in the lobby, as are The Times and The International Herald Tribune. All rooms have a phone, but fax and Internet are available only at reception (24-hour access).


A double room, including VAT, service, and buffet breakfast costs between 5950 BF (pounds 100) for a standard and 8950 BF (pounds 150) for a superior de luxe. A suite is 11,500 BF (pounds 192). The Romeo & Juliette deal costs 11,800 BF (pounds 198). Each.

I'm not paying that: Tough. It's peak season all year round: no special deals or weekend rates. Couples who choose the Romeo & Juliette package can stay an extra night for a miserly reduction of 100 BF (pounds 1.70) each.

Clare Thomson