Review of Snuffel Hostel, Bruges, Belgium
Located in the heart of atmospheric Bruges, Snuffel Hostel is an ideal place to stay for travellers looking for quality accommodation that's also affordable.
With 32 rooms ranging from private doubles to 6-bed dorms, including female-only and disability-friendly rooms, there's an option for everyone. I stayed in a private double room, and I immediately loved the neutral, tasteful furnishings and splashes of colour from vintage-style prints hung gallery-style on the white walls. It felt more like a modern, minimalistic hotel than a youth hostel.
Even the corridors are attractive, with a frame of bright primary colour around each door, each with its personal corkboard displaying amusing messages.
I learnt that the hostel's distinctive square windows were designed to look like polaroid photos. When guests look out of them, they see a 'snapshot' of Bruges. And each window almost becomes its own art installation – words and phrases in numerous languages are cut into artfully rusted metal, letting extra light into the room. My own window displayed the phrase 'aime egare-toi' – meaning to 'love to get lost'.
Despite the hotel-like atmosphere, Snuffel Hostel still provides all the facilities you'd expect from a typical youth hostel. It's home to a fully equipped kitchen, a bar serving free breakfast in the morning, and a chill-out room full of books and board games to borrow. Free luggage storage is also available, and you can rent a towel for only $1.
But Snuffel goes above and beyond a traditional youth hostel. The hostel aims to "lower travel barriers for young wanderers", allowing people from across the world to meet and share their cultures, and hosting free cultural activities for locals and tourists alike. The cosy bar area, for example, is an ideal meeting point for young travellers and locals, and is often the place to go for live music events. While I was staying here, an acoustic guitar gig provided a lively atmosphere.
The award-winning hostel is also a wonderful example of social tourism, working with local non-profit organisations and investing most of its profit back into local social projects. These values are reflected in its A+ accessibility label.
In 2016, Snuffel was awarded the Green Key, an internationally recognised eco-label. The hostel's green ethos is clearly evident in everything from the recycling bins provided throughout the building, to bikes that visitors can rent as an environmentally friendly way to tour the city. Other initiatives are less obvious, such as the toilets, which are flushed using recycled rainwater, and the hostel's policy of fixing rather than replacing - if possible, broken items are repaired on site.
It was also wonderful to enjoy the delicious breakfast knowing that the hostel chooses Fairtrade and organic options wherever possible, and much of the food is sourced locally. This includes the range of jams on offer, which are made by a Belgian non-profit organisation working with disabled people.
Of course, many of the beers available in the bar were produced locally. Belgium is famous for its excellent beers, and some on offer at Snuffel were brewed as close as 15km away!
I also discovered that Snuffel Hostel is situated in an ideal location to explore the city – it's only a short walk away from the centre, but far away enough from the main tourist attractions to be a quiet and peaceful retreat from the crowds.
Markt is only a 10 minute's walk away – this historic square, with it's distinctive gingerbread-house buildings, was once used for medieval festivals, tournaments and executions. Nearby, there are plenty of independent shops, cafes and restaurants, including the Old Chocolate House. This is home to a chocolate shop and cosy tearoom where I tried what was quite possibly the best hot chocolate in the world!
Snuffel also helps visitors find hidden gems that are off the tourist trail, by providing a locally made map by USE-IT. This map was my go-to resource for planning my two-day stay, as it was full of fascinating ideas that I would never have discovered otherwise.
Some of these were within a stone's throw of the hostel, such as a few vintage clothing shops, particularly pretty spots next to the canals, and the Pottenmakergarde, an abandoned house on the nearby Pottenmakersstraat. Locals used this building as a garden, planting herbs and flowers inside. It was sealed to the public in 2018, but since then, countless pots of herbs and flowers have been placed in front of the building, creating an unusual but lovely feature in the small street.
The hostel is also conveniently close to Le Trappiste, an 800-year-old cellar that has been converted into a bar. I finished off my Bruges adventure with a Belgian fruit beer here. With its candlelit tables and arched stone ceilings, it was almost as if I'd stepped back into the Middle Ages – a memorable way to spend the last night of my trip.
Review by Izzy Bunting