Review of Hotel Belgica, Ponce PR, 1/8/2013
This hotel has gotten mixed reviews from others and it’s easy to see why. It’s smack-dab in the middle of old Ponce, just yards away from the town square. If you’re looking for bucolic quiet and tranquility, the middle of downtown of any city is not the place to find it. And Belgica is no exception.
But if you’re looking for a place where you can put your finger on the heartbeat of a city, downtown is the place to find it. And Belgica is no exception.
We arrived on the last day of the Feast of the Three Kings, Sunday Jan. 6, 2013. The hotel street, Calle Villa, was blocked off by the police. The whole area was a riot of activity, and the very large town square and surrounding area was packed with people and activity. The Ponce police could not have been more helpful to us almost-lost tourists. They cleared the one-way street we found ourselves on, allowed us to back down it the wrong way, removed the barricades from the street that the Hotel Belgica is on, and found us a parking spot half a block from the hotel. Then barricaded the street up again once we were parked! And…they promised that we would not get a parking ticket once the festival was over. And we never did.
The hotel itself is old, hard to tell how old. The carved stonework and tile floors have been there awhile, that’s for sure. There are no elevators, no access for handicapped patrons. It’s only two stories high, with the second floor reached by 28 well-worn stone steps, two sets of them, one on each side of the narrow lobby and reception area.
Check-in was a little garbled, and there was a short-lived mix-up with our credit card billing by the not-quite bilingual desk clerk, quickly fixed the next day by a nice young lady who was bilingual.
Our second-floor room was a moderate size and had a queen sized bed and a single bed. It faced busy Calle Villa Street – the front of the hotel – and featured a narrow balcony that overlooked the street…a great place to enjoy a couple of cold cervezas from the small refrigerator in the room. It was very clean – just like the rest of the hotel – comfortable and perfectly usable.
Given the activity outside – the last day of the Festival and the nearness to the plaza – it was reasonably quiet. But this is the heart of Ponce, and like all cities it has its share of city accoutrements. Crazy unwashed street people, stray dogs, panhandlers, loud (sometimes VERY loud) traffic noises and so forth.
It also has proximity to a very, very nice town plaza, complete with a bunch of decorated lion sculptures, fountains, a beautiful Catholic cathedral, the original Ponce fire station – now the tourist center – a bunch of funky shops and cops about every ten yards. Ponce, at least this part of it, is very tourist oriented and seems quite safe. And the hotel is within walking distance to the world-famous Ponce Art Museum, the Music Museum, the Architecture Museum and several other points of interest. The Art Museum in particular is well-worth the 15 minute walk. Take the shuttle tour sponsored by the city. It’s only $2, runs about 40 minutes and covers much of the area surrounding downtown.
We were very happy with the Belgica. It was pretty much what we expected from a very old city-center hotel. It was very clean, the room was comfortable and well-equipped, continental breakfast included toast, yogurt, juices, coffee and muffins, the staff was very friendly and helpful. It was reasonably priced and centrally located.
If you are looking for absolute predictability and plastic perfection, don’t pick a place like the Belgica. It’s old, has a personality honed over decades, and seems like a comforting old grandma or favorite aunt: a few quirks here and there but someone you can trust, perhaps even love. If you can’t tolerate a big, loving personality, there’s a Ramada right down the street. And probably something much like it out by the airport.
But we’re glad we picked the Belgica. And would stay there again in a heartbeat.
the ones facing Calle Villa have a balcony
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.