As someone who loves to travel, I love a good city break. Rather than wait all year for a two-week long Summer holiday, I prefer a little and often approach. Short trips as often as I possibly can! For me, city breaks are the ideal way to visit new places.
To be honest, I really didn’t know a whole lot about Bruges apart from what I saw in the movie “In Bruges”. But I did remember it providing an awfully pretty backdrop for the movie and it’s famous for beer and chocolate so sounded right up my alley!
A little bit about Bruges
Bruges, the capital of West Flanders in Belgium, is a UNESCO World Heritage site and it’s not difficult to see why. Filled with picture perfect canals, cobbled streets and medieval buildings straight out of a fairytale, Bruges (or Brugge in Dutch) is small but packs a punch in terms of sights and attractions. The houses look like they’re made from gingerbread and the main delicacies are chocolate and beer so what’s not to love!
There are many ways of getting to Bruges depending on where you are coming from. We flew Ryanair from Dublin to Brussels Zaventem airport but if you are coming from other European countries you can grab a train! From Brussels airport we took a train direct to Bruges; the journey time is about 1hr 20 mins and costs approx. €40 return.
Where to stay
Bruges is a relatively small town so regardless of where you stay, you will never be more than walking distance from the centre. Many of the hotels are housed in beautiful converted medieval buildings and are the perfect places to experience the history and charm of the city. As we were travelling with another couple we decided to rent an apartment. We found the property through booking.com but you can book directly through the properties own website here. Less than a 10 minute walk from the centre, the apartment, set over 3 floors, was beautifully decorated with a stunning 18th century staircase and views over the city. The perfect base for our trip!
What to do
As an avid photographer, for me the highlight of Bruges was just wandering through the winding cobblestone streets, stumbling upon dreamy canals and fairytale buildings. Of course, there is a lot more to do than that!
Museums – Bruges is full of museums where you can learn all about the history and culture of Belgium. Whether you are in to art (Groeningemuseum), beer (Bruges Beer Experience), Belgian chocolate (Choco-Story) or Belgian frites (Friet Museum) Bruges has a museum for you!
Rozenhoedkaii – The most iconic image of Bruges is taken from this view point. It’s one of the best photo ops in the city and boy does everyone know it. Be sure to plan your visit to avoid the masses. Early in the morning or later in the evening is best!
De Halve Maan Brewery Tour – Bruges is beer heaven so it would be rude not to do a brewery tour right? De Halve Maan brewery is a family run brewery where you can learn all about the beer making process as well as tasting a couple of their creations, naturally. The tour, which lasts 45 minutes, costs €10 and includes a free drink afterwards.
Belfry Tower – Standing at 83 metres tall, the Belfry is Bruges’ most iconic tower. Climb the 366 steps to the top for panoramic views of the city. The climb is so worth it for the views but be warned, the higher you go the steeper and narrower the steps become! Admission costs €12.
Grote Markt – The market square is the heart of the city and is also home to the Belfry. It is surrounded by the prettiest coloured guild houses which make a great photo backdrop. There are also lots of restaurants and cafes dotted around the square where you can take in the view over a beer. But be warned, you’ll pay above average in these places.
Bonificious Bridge – The prettiest of all of Bruges many bridges, Bonaficious Bridge is a must-see. Legend has it that the first person you see when you cross the bridge is the person you will marry! It gets extremely busy here so early in the day is best for a visit and the all important Instagram shot!
Where to eat
Eating out in Bruges is relatively expensive and we found it difficult to find good quality places for dinner that were reasonably priced. A lot of the places also felt quite touristy so we probably just needed to do more research before we went. Aswell as that, with it being January many of the restaurants we wanted to try were on winter break. The cuisine is also very heavily meat based so any veggies/ vegans out there will definitely need to do some research before going!
However, all that aside we had some lovely food while we were there including more than one helping of the local speciality, frites! That’s Toast is a French toast restaurant which is great for breakfast and brunch, the triple French is a must! The Gulliver Tree and Li O Lait are both lovely cafes serving delicious coffee, breakfast and lunch options. Waffles are another must when visiting Belgium and luckily enough there are LOADS of places to get them in Bruges. Moules Frites and Flemish stew are two of the most popular dinner dishes and again pretty much every restaurant has their own offering. Finally, The Old Chocolate House is a must visit for the most amazing hot chocolates and sweet treats in their traditional tea rooms.
Where to drink
So let me preface by saying that the pace of life is quite slow in Bruges and as such it isn’t a party town. It is a beer lovers paradise though and the city is filled with bars, including some cool underground cellar bars, all stocking hundreds of beers. Some of my favourites were: ‘t brugs beertje, Bauhaus, Cafe Rose Red, Comptoir des Arts and t’Poatersgat (the last two are great underground cellar bars). I would recommend doing a beer tasting paddle at least once as it’s a great way to try some new beers from the vast selection on offer.
Have you been to Bruges? Let me know what your favourite part was in the comments!