In recent years the concept of the small and luxurious establishment, coined “boutique”, has been a prevalent trend in the tourist industry, catering for the discerning customer who wants quality on a smaller scale than available in the “grand hotel”. We live in times of tags often having lost their meaning, so it was refreshingly surprising to arrive at The Verhaegen to learn what lay behind the modest label of a Bed & Breakfast. Such opulence and grace, such authenticity.

As a personal home, it is easy to miss on arrival; we took an extra round through the old town of Ghent before our hosts, Jan and Marc, welcomed us into a world of serenity and splendour, within the walls of this historic mansion, with its unique and compelling story. Nestled in the heart of bustling Ghent, this exclusive B&B slowly began to reveal its secrets. Everything is put together with the most exclusive charm and style, not only retaining the beauty and details of the mansion but also incorporating modern touches here and there in keeping with the romantic feel and joy of the house.

Until recently the home of the Verhaegen family, this striking 18th-century building is now the residence of a pair of interior designers who instantly fell for its authentic grandeur. They’ve cleverly restored the former manor house, lovingly transforming it into a characterful and exclusive B&B that they are only too delighted to share with guests; a sort of place where you can immerse yourself in myriad impressions and indulge your imagination during what promises to be a memorable stay. You might even say that The Verhaegen is a destination in its own right. With four guest rooms that each boast their distinctive style, an elegant dining room, a sumptuous sitting room and a nostalgic courtyard garden, there might not be a better base from which to explore the beautiful Ghent.

The Verhaegen boasts four guest rooms, each with its distinctive style and inviting ambience. High ceilings, intricate panel doors, a romantic four-poster bed, a hidden private parlour, character that you are unlikely to find anywhere else. Relax with a book or a well-earned glass of wine in the sumptuous drawing room that showcases a tasteful blend of antique and contemporary furniture, or lose all track of time in the charming courtyard garden, enveloped by ornamental boxwood hedges. Indeed, closing your eyes amidst the greenery might conjure images of horse-drawn carriages and a colourful bygone age. The name “Hotel Verhaegen”, by which the building was known until 2004, not only refers to its former occupant; but also its historical description: “private hotel” or city palace.

And palatial it is whichever of the four rooms you choose or are available. Fine furnishings, contemporary art, original furniture and authentic finishing touches lavish each of them. We had the privilege of staying in Suite des Années ’40, a spacious bedroom that additionally benefits from a separate drawing room, complete with contemporary red tapestries and sumptuous curtains. The palatial bathroom with a marble bathtub and retro taps completes the scene for a peaceful and, should you be so inclined, romantic stay.

But for all the comforts, it was maybe the personal attention of the hosts that made our stay truly memorable, feeling their desire to share this magnificent property with their guests. Jan put it this way: “The property is so beautiful and unique; we couldn’t keep it to ourselves. Nothing gives us greater pleasure than meeting new people who share our appreciation for architecture, culture, conviviality and the finer things in life. We both agreed upon purchasing the property that we wouldn’t split it into rental apartments, but would, instead, lovingly bring it back to life and share it with others”. And so they did. Breakfast in the living room, for example, was quite an affair with candelabras and beautiful objects, surrounded by imposing murals by the celebrated 18th Century Flemish painter Pierre Norbert van Reysschoot. Thank you, Jan and Marc. We know where to stay next time we visit Ghent.