Legendary Knokke hotel reopens its doors
Once among the most famous and luxurious hotels in Flanders, Knokke’s legendary La Réserve reopened its doors to the public on 6 October. During a four-year closure, the old wooden hotel in classic Normandy style was torn down and replaced by a monolithic ultra-modern building of glass and metal. "We are very happy with the result,” says Martine Van Thillo, who has been running the hotel since 1997. “The guests’ reactions, as well as those of the inhabitants of Knokke, have been unanimously positive”.
The new hotel was designed by experimental Kortrijk architect Luc Declercq and boasts an immense entrance hall, 110 rooms and a giant ballroom on the ground floor. The sky-high entrance hall is filled with giant black sofas sporting golden pillows; black mediaeval gates lead to the rooms; green and yellow lights shine brightly out of large paper bowls in the dining room.
The interior was done by TV host turned interior designer Ilse De Meulemeester. “But we’ve chosen these colours ourselves”, says Van Thillo. “My husband and I chose for the colours of the sea: bright green and blue on a sunny day, but also the greys and blacks of a rainy day.”
The only place with some nostalgia left is the bar: pictures of stars like Gilbert Bécaud, Marlene Dietrich, Edith Piaf and Frank Sinatra show what a glamorous and popular place this used to be among the rich and famous. Van Thillo has no regrets about losing the original hotel: “The old building had to go; it was impossible to restore and not fit for contemporary times. Some areas couldn’t even be heated,” she explains.
She notes that it’s the only hotel on the Flemish coast that can offer this much luxury to tourists, as well as host business congresses. “And we’re proud of it,” she continues “We’ve even heard a number of people compare our new place with buildings you only see in New York, Vegas or Dubai. Nobody expects to see this in Belgium.”