So here’s the deal – normally when we have a bad experience while traveling, I just don’t write about it. I’m not trying to pretend that every moment of our trip goes according to plan or that we never have to deal with rudeness or disappointments, I just don’t draw any pleasure out of writing about something I didn’t enjoy and so it never gets published here. But in this case, since I always share about the places we stay when we’re out of the country, I feel like my Belgium series would be incomplete if I left this experience out, even though it was a negative one.
Let me just start off by explaining a little bit about how we travel. I don’t consider us “budget travelers” – we don’t stay in hostels and only eat street food and refuse to do things that aren’t free, but we’re far from luxury travelers. If you’ve been reading here for long enough, you’ll know we stay in pretty basic hotels. I always try to find something within a budget of £50-80 a night for our family of three, which if you’ve ever tried to do that in Europe, you’ll know it’s not an exceptionally easy task. Now that Lexie’s twelve and counted as an adult at most hotels, it’s even harder. All that to say, considering our budget and our desire to be as close to the sights as possible, we know not to expect Hilton-quality out of the places we stay, but normally we’re pleasantly surprised by what we find. That, unfortunately, was not the case in Belgium.
We chose the Ibis Hotel off Grand Place in downtown Brussels mainly for its prime location within walking distance of all the major sights and the train station. No taxis or public transportation necessary – that’s a huge plus for me. Second, the price was right – only £70 a night for a triple room, no need to shell out for a family suite just because we’re traveling with an extra “adult”. I felt pretty confident we’d chosen a good place.
On the day we arrived in Brussels, we walked to the Ibis Hotel and arrived two and a half hours after the available check-in time. We were informed at the front desk that, unfortunately, our room was not quite ready yet, so we’d need to take a seat in the lobby and wait – half an hour, tops. Normally this wouldn’t have been an issue, but we had plans to meet friends and start sight-seeing almost immediately after our arrival, so I was hoping the hotel would make quick work of readying our room.
Thirty minutes go by. We check at the front desk. No, they’re sorry. It’s still not ready yet. Just thirty more minutes. Hmmm, okay. At this point, my friend has arrived and we’re just sitting in the lobby, anxious to get out and do something.
Another thirty minutes pass. We check again. STILL not ready. Now we’re peeved. I mean, what are we waiting for – the bathroom to be cleaned? Sheets put on the bed? I’d have done it myself if I’d known it was going to take so long. We’re now an hour late on our schedule, with no idea when this room will supposedly be ready. We ask to leave our luggage with them and check in later, but they tell us we’ll have to PAY to do that. Really? Most hotels allow that for free, certainly if the fault is on them for the delay. We choose to sit and wait.
An hour and a half after our arrival, our room is finally ready. The polite thing to do would have been to find a small way of compensating us for the inconvenience – maybe just vouchers to use for breakfast in the morning, but the Ibis Hotel offered us nothing. Irritated, we made our way up to the top floor where our room was located.
We were in room 603 – to get to it, we took the lift to the floor below and walked up the stairs with our bags the rest of the way since, rather confusingly, the lift doesn’t go all the way to the top. First observations were good – the room was a very good size and the beds looked comfortable. The view from our window was lovely. (Especially the sunset on our last night!)
Because we were in such a hurry, we didn’t do our usual look-over of the room, checking for cleanliness and making sure everything was in working order. We just dumped our bags and rushed out, and barely made it to our first destination, Waterloo Battlefield, before it closed.
When we returned around midnight that evening, we had a couple of surprises in store for us. First, the AC wasn’t working in our room. Or, if it was working, it wasn’t working very well. Top floor room in July with no AC and windows that won’t open – it was more than a little humid in there. The other downside was that although our beds were very comfortable, the only thing we had to cover ourselves with was a thick duvet, nothing lighter. We had to choose to sweat it out under the duvet, or use nothing at all. One night, Cory had to move onto the floor just to get cool.
But that wasn’t the worst of it, when we opened the door to our bathroom – sweet holy mother, it almost made our eyes water! It smelled worse than a Texas gas station bathroom in the dead of summer. We left the door shut to keep the smell out of the room, but getting ready in the morning was not a pleasant occasion. It is really hard to apply makeup when the bottom half of your face is wrapped in a towel.
Had we known all this before we dropped our bags and ran, we would have requested a room change, but by the time we knew of the issues, we were exhausted and already settled in, so we chose not to ask for a new room that night. I had planned to request it the next morning, but the one saving grace of our room was that because it was at the very top, it was considerably less noisy than the rest of the hotel. I didn’t want to risk being moved to somewhere too loud for me to sleep. In a perfect world, there exists both a room that doesn’t smell like a sewer and is quiet, but I didn’t have high hopes for it here. Luckily, our days were busy with sight-seeing and day trips to other cities, so the only time we ever spent in our room was when sleeping.
The one thing I can’t complain about in regards to the Ibis Hotel was its location. Not only were we close to the main sights, like the Grand Place, but we were also situated in a very popular square with lots of cafe and restaurant choices and a lively atmosphere. The first two days, the square was filled with a fantastic little flea market. The other days and evenings, there were spontaneous live performances. My favorite was the Absolut Orchestra, pictured above. Being situated in such a convenient place certainly made up for some of the more uncomfortable aspects of our stay at the Ibis Hotel in Brussels.
So, the million dollar question – would we stay at an Ibis Hotel again? I’d have to say I’m afraid not. And it’s not because of the issues with our room. That can and does happen everywhere. If we’d really wanted to, we could have requested to move. The part that upset me was the service we received, or I guess, didn’t receive. Every other place we’ve stayed, if complications arose on their end, the hotel handled it quickly and efficiently and made sure we were compensated in some way for the inconvenience. That’s just how it works in the hospitality industry if you want to keep your customers coming back. Also, whoever prepared our room must have known about the smell in the bathroom, and yet they still chose to place us in there? Bad form on all counts. I wouldn’t risk staying at an Ibis Hotel again when we’ve had much better experiences staying at other budget chain hotels, like Holiday Inn Express. I wish I could have written a glowing recommendation for this place, but instead this serves as more of a warning – book at your own risk!
Ibis Hotel Off Grand Place: Check Rates & Availability
Address: Grasmarkt 100, Rue du Marché Aux Herbes 100, 1000 Brussels