This year for Valentine’s Day, Andrew surprised me with a romantic getaway. It wasn’t to a spa. Nor was it to a cosy cottage in the countryside. For Valentine’s Day this year, we went to Mechelen and stayed overnight in a church.
You’re probably thinking, sleeping in a church doesn’t sound very romantic it all. That was my first thought when Andrew sprung his surprise on me. The church in question is, these days, known as the Martin’s Patershof Hotel. And I assure you, it was a very romantic getaway indeed.
From outside, Martin’s Patershof looks exactly as its intended purpose, as a 19th-century Franciscan church. In 1999, the Franciscans put their neo-gothic monastery buildings up for sale. The church was deconsecrated and in 2009 it re-opened its doors as the Martin’s Patershof Hotel.
When you step inside the arched front doorway, you no longer have any vestiges of monastic life. The four-star hotel is decorated with accents of the building’s past. The former church’s stained glass and supporting columns are contrasted with modern textiles and sleek lines. The colour scheme is primarily shades of brown, from light mocha to dark chocolate, but is accented with deep reds and metallic fabrics.
In our room, we had a beautiful stained glass window and columns from the original church in each corner. The custom headboard echoes the shape of the arched roof (which we, unfortunately, didn’t get to see from our 1st floor room).
The bathroom was also sleek and white and modern. The added bonus was the deep bathtub with Jacuzzi jets, perfect for a long relaxing soak.
Our Valentine’s Day stay at the Patershof included a 3-course dinner at a nearby restaurant. (The Martin’s Patershof does not have its own restaurant but there are many within walking distance.) A quick stroll brought us to the canal-side De Kraanbrug restaurant and tavern.
I didn’t have high expectations for our set menu package meal. Stepping into the De Kraanbrug didn’t do anything to change my preconceptions. The décor was rather dated and our free Valentine’s cocktail had a sparkly stir stick in it. It all seemed a bit 1982.
However, my illusions were soon shattered as our food began to arrive. There was a lovely prawn amuse bouche followed by scallops two ways (grilled and carpaccio). These were followed by a light pea soup, something I don’t usually like but really enjoyed at the De Kraanbrug. Our main course was a perfectly cooked and beautifully presented rack of lamb. It came with a twice baked potato and a little tower of vegetables and pastry. We also each had a glass of red and white wine paired with our meal.
The meal only suffered a bit at the dessert stage. The pana cotta and fruit was rather bland. As we had expected only 3 courses, however, overall we were thrilled with both the quantity and quality of food we were served. Our only additional charge was for coffee after desert.
I would definitely return to the De Kraanburg, hopefully, to enjoy their unique patio in the summer. The restaurant’s outdoor tables are on a barge in the canal. What a lovely way to enjoy a meal on a sunny day.
After our meal, we returned to the Patershof and slept incredibly well. Our room was literally as quiet as a church. So much so in fact, when we went for breakfast the next morning, we were surprised there were so many people staying in the hotel.
The included breakfast buffet was well done. There were meats, cheeses, pastries, fruit, cereals and smoked salmon. However, it was the setting that stole the show. The breakfast room is in the former choir space of the church and contains the original altar painting. It is contrasted but stunningly modern gold chandeliers overhead, hanging from the high arched ceiling.
We only had one small complaint about the entire stay at the Martin’s Patershof. Despite having a modern coffee/tea machine in the rooms, guests are charged 3 euros per use. For a four-star hotel, it seemed a bit nickel and dime-ish to charge for hot beverages.
Aside from that tiny nitpick, we thoroughly enjoyed our stay at the Martin’s Patershof hotel and would recommend it to anyone staying in Mechelen. It is a beautiful escape within easy reach of Brussels.
Martin’s Patershof Hotel
tel. +32 (0)15 46 46 46
fax +32 (0)15 46 46 36
Looking for more of our favourite hotels in Belgium and beyond? Visit our Hotel Reviews page to find out where we’ve been sleeping. For more great restaurants in Belgium and beyond, check out our Restaurant Review page.