I fell in love with Bruges after watching the movie In Bruges. I was so captivated by the beautiful scenes that it was a must see on my itinerary in Europe. Bruges was exactly what I imagined and so much more. I probably loved it even more given that it was the stop after London and it felt like a much needed breath of fresh air after the craziness of London
Bruges is such a popular attraction and it is merited; with the canals flowing through the city, the beautiful buildings, delicious chocolates and the beers on offer.
There are not that many attractions in Bruges, which was such a welcome change. I relished the slower pace and I spent my time in Bruges walking down the streets and discovering what makes this city tick.
As most international visitors, we made our way to Bruges from Brussels via regional train. There is no need to book this train, we simply walked to the ticket office and bought some tickets. There seems to be trains running the Brussels to Bruges route every 20 mins or so, so don’t worry too much if you miss a train.
When we reached Bruges, we found out that Uber is actually illegal in Belgium and that left us with two options. Not wanting to lug our suitcases onto the bus, we took a cab to our hotel.
We stayed at Hotel Navarra which was the ideal hotel in so many ways. Not only was it superb and so very beautiful but it was also walking distance to the town centre while being away from the hustle and bustle.
Things we did in Bruges:
The main town square in Bruges is so very beautiful with stunning buildings, cobblestone grounds and the belfort standing guard.
As most town squares, it is busy with life, with the various tourists, vendors and locals passing through.
TIP: Avoid eating at the restaurants in the markt. Instead walk down the side streets for much nicer offerings.
This is one unlucky tower, having burned down thrice only to rise from the ashes and stand strong today. It is still a functional bell tower.
The climb to the top is definitely worth the effort and the 8 euros for the amazing views over the markt and the town.
Some of the best chocolates I have had in my life (and I am a chocoholic) has been in Belgium. Bruges has some really great chocolate shops. Scott and I would find ourselves buying chocolates (as gifts) only to scarf it all down given how tasty they were.
I can highly recommend Dumon chocolatier.
Bruges has been dubbed the “Venice of the North” for good reasons. It is a city filled with canals and a boat tour is the best way to see what the city has to offer. There are even some places and restaurants that are only accessible by boat.
Boat tours depart from Huidenvettersplein and cost approximately 8 euros for a half hour tour.
Belgium is a beer lover’s dream and Bruges doesn’t disappoint with over 600 different beers on offer and a beer museum. The cool thing about Bruges is that you can buy a drink from a bottle shop and drink it while walking around.
It’s Frites (Chips) Centrale in Bruges and you should take advantage. A local specialty is chips with mayo and it is truly delicious.
The town square (Grote markt) comes to life on market days with the locals mingling with tourists to create a beautiful medley. If you are in Bruges on a market day (we were there on a Wednesday), then you need to go check it out.
And if you go, make sure to grab the chicken and various grilled meat from the food trucks. It makes for the most wonderful and great, cheap lunch. Remember to buy some apple sauce as well.
This was one of my fondest memories of Bruges; buying some food from the market and sitting in the courtyard of our hotel, indulging and just simply enjoying life.
Wander around the streets
I love exploring and wandering aimlessly in cities always make me feel quite happy. But in a place like Bruges, where at every turn you cannot but feel transported onto the sets of a movie, it is even more magical.
Eat Moules Frites
Moules Frites otherwise known as fried mussels is a local specialty and is a must try if you are a seafood lover.
Fun Fact: Scott hates seafood and absolutely refuses to touch it. I on the other hand being an Island girl, love my seafood. So it is always a battle of the wills when I am carving some seafood. Guess who won on this occasion.
Eat some waffles
Waffles is another local specialty and a must try in Bruges. Don’t buy it from the main square though.
Buy Some Christmas Decorations
I love Christmas so much so that when I saw the year round Christmas shop, I simply had to go explore its content. I might have walked away with some decorations,
Restaurants that I would recommend:
The Olive Tree
I know, who travels to Belgium only to eat Greek food. Apparently me, and I do not regret it. This was a delightful place with some truly scrumptious food. The wait staff was attentive without being annoying, the ambiance soft and lovely and the food was truly good.
I would highly recommend this place.
Books & Brunch
I love books and brunch, so imagine my happiness when I found this place. It was a cute little café with some really good food frequented mainly by locals. The owner is so friendly and truly makes you feel welcome.
You can browse, read or buy the books available.
I might have mentioned this already, but I will say it again because that’s how good it was. If you are ever in Bruges on a market day, make sure to grab some grilled meat with apple sauce. It is truly the best especially given the price. That’s what all the locals do.
The waffles here are huge and delicious! Served with your choice of toppings, we opted for the classic chocolate and vanilla ice-cream. If you can finish one of these on your own, you are doing very well.
What surprised me in Bruges:
Imagine my surprise when I found out that I could not take a train to the city centre. After a few weeks in Europe, I had started relying on the excellent local train network. So a bus only public transport system was quite annoying, given all the luggage we had.
The good news is that most of the sights are within walking distance, so for the duration of our trip, we walked everywhere.
Taxis are rare
In a place with limited public transport, one would expect a deluge of cabs, but we had to wait over 20 mins to get a cab to the station. The concierge informed us that this is quite common, so make sure to pre-book your cabs especially if you have a train to catch
Fun Fact: After checking out and waiting for our taxi, a pair of American women checked out and also requested a cab. They were stunned when the hotel staff said it will take 20+ minutes. Their train was due to leave in 20 minutes! We offered them to join us and after probably the quickest drive to the train station, they gave us 10 euros and bolted for their train.
All The Lace shops
Lace seems to be the third biggest local produce after beer and chocolate. At every turn of the street there were lace shops with beautifully crafted products. Not being a lace fan, I didn’t purchase any. But If you like lace, then make sure to check them out.
The beautiful canals
Restaurants really do not like you asking for tap water
Imagine my surprise and shock when I found out that most restaurants in Europe and definitely in Bruges can and will refuse to serve you tap water. I mean isn’t that a given right? I am definitely annoyed with that little policy but there is nothing to do as it is within their rights to refuse tap water.
Just be aware of it, if you ever request for some.
Beer is actually cheaper than water
Scott was in heaven in Belgium, between the chocolate and the beer, he was set. He was even happier to discover the cost of beer, it is extremely affordable especially if you compare it to the cost of alcohol in Australia.
How good the chocolate is
I am a chocoholic. I would happily eat chocolate for every single meal but Belgian chocolates have forever ruined me.
They are so good that nothing else can compare to them. Yes that’s how good they are. You need to give it a crack.
All in all Bruges did not disappoint. I love it and will happily return. You will make the most of Bruges if you are happy and willing to slow down and wander around and just let the city charm you.
Bruges, you have been truly amazing, until next time.
Have you see the movie In Bruges? If so, are you keen to go to Bruges? If you have been to Bruges, what is your favorite memory?
Let me know in the comments below.