24-Hour Room Service: Hotel De Orangerie, Bruges, Belgium

Bruges is not to everyone's taste. Too manicured, too sedate, say its critics. But these are outnumbered by the tens of thousands who flock here in all seasons. Tourism keeps the city afloat, and there are a number of international-class boutique hotels from which to base your sightseeing. The Hotel de Orangerie is perhaps the finest of these. Originally a 15th-century Carthusian convent, it was rebuilt 300 years later and has recently had an internal makeover from one of the country's leading designers.

Bruges is not to everyone's taste. Too manicured, too sedate, say its critics. But these are outnumbered by the tens of thousands who flock here in all seasons. Tourism keeps the city afloat, and there are a number of international-class boutique hotels from which to base your sightseeing. The Hotel de Orangerie is perhaps the finest of these. Originally a 15th-century Carthusian convent, it was rebuilt 300 years later and has recently had an internal makeover from one of the country's leading designers.

You enter through a dramatic, light-filled atrium, stunningly dressed with statuary and luxuriant ferns. Apart from that, the public portions of the hotel are minimal - there's no restaurant.

The pièce de résistance is being able to wander across the canal bridge to use the facilities at the Orangerie's larger, sister hotel, De Tuilereen at Dijver 7 (00 32 50 34 36 91, www.hoteltuilerieen.com), which has a pool, sauna and steam room free of charge to Orangerie guests. One Saturday evening in May, we had it to ourselves.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

The Orangerie lies on the banks of Den Dijver, the most picturesque of Bruges's canals, at Kartuizerinnenstraat 10 (00 32 50 34 16 49; www.hotelorangerie.com). It looks across the water to a row of medieval step-gable houses, along with all the canal activity, from the hotel's magnificent ivy-clad breakfast terrace. Sightseeing boats leave from the wharf just a few steps away, every day from 10am.

Time from international airport: Ostend-Bruges International airport is rather nearer Ostend than Bruges, but there's a good airport bus service to Bruges (single fare €5/£3.50) that connects with flights from Stansted on Ryanair (0871 246 0000; www.ryanair.com) and drops you at the coach station in half an hour. There is a taxi rank nearby, but the 20-minute canal-side walk through parks and cobbled squares is a joy.

Time to international station: Brussels-Midi is between 60 and 90 minutes away, depending on whether you get an inter-city or stopping service, and there are frequent trains to bring those who arrived on Eurostar (08705 186 186; www.eurostar.com). No need to buy an extra ticket if you are connecting within 24 hours of a train from or to London. Bruges station is a half-hour walk, or a five-minute cab ride (€8/£5.50) from the hotel.

ARE YOU LYING COMFORTABLY?

Every room is individually decorated and a pleasing mix of traditional and modern. The furnishings are luxurious, including random objets d'art and some sumptuous paintings and murals, set alongside more modern high-life trappings: air conditioning, marbled bathroom, robes, and a shoe-shine service. All five suites overlook the canal, but not all the bedrooms do.

Freebies: Upmarket British toiletries, fresh fruit and a turn-down service topped off with a Belgian chocolate on your pillow.

Keeping in touch: Every room has satellite TV, direct-dial phone and laptop socket.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Double rooms start at €208 (£149), with an extra €24 (£17) per person for breakfast. There are deals available in December, especially over Christmas.

I'm not paying that: the welcoming Hotel Cavalier at Kuiperstraat 25 (00 32 50 33 02 07) is equally close to the city's beauty spots. Double rooms with breakfast, €55 (£39).

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