I wasn’t sure what to expect from Bruges.
My only exposure has been through the movie “In Bruges” and the occasional Christmas market photo on Pinterest.
I’m happy to report back that it was a delight!
I’m starting to reach the end of my Europe “to go” list. Bruges was on the list, though, and I had a weekend open for the trip, so I went.
I wasn’t expecting anything super glam, like my trips to Paris or recent trip to Prague. And that’s probably good, because the city isn’t glitzy, but all the same I was pleasantly surprised by how lovely it is.
There is something to be said for small town charm, and that’s what Bruges really provides. It is provincial and thus feels more manageable for a short weekend trip than its larger European city counterparts.
Yet just like other European cities, its chock a block full of old buildings, stunning architecture and beautiful sights.
One can easily walk around the city in a day, if you’re inclined to make a day trip from Antwerp or Brussels, which I’d really, really recommend. If you have a little more time, stay the night in a bed and breakfast for a really relaxed experience.
We stayed for two days and two nights, right in the center of town, as Maison Le Dragon. More about the b&b later…
Where to Eat in Bruges
There are a few “must try” places that I discovered in Bruges. One is Books and Brunch, about a 10-minute walk from the main square.
The walls are packed with books in most European languages.
They offer a variety of Belgian, French and English specialties, perfect if you’re wanting a filling breakfast before touristing all day.
For dinner, try Park Restaurant. I picked it because it was the top rated restaurant in Bruges.
It isn’t Michelin star or anything, and isn’t gastro-style cooking. If you like simple, well-cooked food, this is the place for you. Its right on Astridpark, too, so you can take a nice stroll before or after your meal.
For desert make sure you have the tarte pomme. They come and cook the calvados sauce right in front of you!
Must Do’s In Bruges
I was surprised by how much there is to do in such a small city.
Take a canal tour
My favorite activity was the canal tour. There are tons of places to take canal tours, so if you come across one booth with a long line, just go and find another booth sans queue! The view from the water is superb. Even if you walked the city and saw the same sights, these are worth seeing again from the water.
The guides also offer lots of interesting facts about Bruges– in English, French and Flemish!
Just walk around Bruges!
After the tour, we also walked around the city, which is a fun activity in and of itself.
Make sure you see the windmills!
We walked through the old town to the windmills, which are a bit outside of town along the river. It was a very typical sight for the low countries, but as a tourist, I was obviously thrilled.
See a Michaelangelo at Church of Our Lady
Back in the town center, you’ll find the Church of Our Lady, one of the many cathedrals in town. This one is hard to miss, with its huge spire. You’ll want to pop in to see a real life sculpture by Michaelangelo, the Mother and Child. I sat and looked for about half an hour, then toured the rest of the building, lit a candle for my grandparents and left. It was a nice, quiet respite from the touristy streets of the city.
There are also some gorgeous old frescos on the walls.
Try a Belgian Waffle
After looking at the photos, need I say more? Try Chez Albert for your fix!
Take a walk around the Convent
In Bruges there is an operational convent that houses nuns unaffiliated to particular religious orders. They sing in the church on site and live their days in homes around the convent.
During the day, the gardens are open to visitors. I really just loved the place, the peaceful quiet, the feeling that I was in a tiny walled compound somewhere instead of in the middle of the busiest area of Bruges.
Finally, walk Bruges by night. I think a lot of tourists come in from other places for day trips, because the city is virtually deserted (with the exception of the area of bars and clubs behind the main square) after dark. I kind of liked it, but it was also a little surreal.
Where to Drink in Bruges
There are so many pubs boasting Belgian beer in Bruges, its hard to know where to start.
The owner of our hotel was kind enough to recommend de Garre to us. Its off the beaten track a little bit, but the beer was the best of our trip. Its a bit strong, though, so be aware that you may only be able to handle one before agreeing to buying rounds with your mates.
The pub is in one of the oldest buildings I’ve ever been in, cramped and very quaint.
Also make sure to try the Trappist, which is very close to clubs if you’re in the mood for going out after a few rounds. There are more beers to choose from here, and its open much later.
Where to Stay in Bruges
This is the view of the city from our room at Maison Le Dragon. Its an award-winning bed and breakfast that I could not recommend enough. The two owners run the entire place themselves, which gives it a warmer feel than larger hotel chains. And its not an Airbnb, where you feel like you’re roughing it. We stayed in a queen size bed with a jacuzzi in the bathroom and Hermes bath products. #Winning
Although I didn’t snap a photo of it, the room also boasts a restored 18th century sitting room, complete with amazing panels of art from the period and a beautiful chandelier.
The standout thing about this place, however, was the breakfast. Since I’m a big breakfast person, this was hugely important and impressive to me in equal measure.
Both mornings we went down to this beautiful dining room to enjoy a home cooked breakfast.
It started with homemade OJ and a fruit salad, which was enough in and of itself…
…but a tray of cheese, bread and chocolates followed…
…and then home cooked eggs with veggies and an option of ham.
Heaven! Slash fuel for a day spent walking around.
Take a Stop in Brussels
Since we took the Eurostar, we got up early on Sunday morning and went to Brussels for a few hours before our train back to London. We mostly spent our time at a local cafe enjoying a lazy brunch and a few roses, but we managed to see the main square as well.
Bruges was perfect for a short weekend away, and would make an ideal romantic getaway location, or a cool and unusual place for stag or hen do!