Back in April, The Northerner turned 30 and one of his presents was an extended weekend in Bruges. He loves chocolate and beer and I love exploring quaint little towns and cities that are rich in the culture so Bruges seemed like the perfect place to go. So during the second bank holiday weekend in May we hopped on the Eurostar and headed to Bruges which is located North of Brussels and Ghent.
We picked up the Eurostar from St. Pancras which took us directly to Brussels Midi station in round two and a half hours. From there, we used the local train to get to Bruges. Train Stations in Belgium are very easy to navigate (I’d argue easier than the UK) and we just went downstairs onto the concourse at Brussels and picked up the train we needed. It’s only about an hour on the train from Brussels to Bruges and the trains are clean and punctual. Once we touched down in Bruges, our hotel was only a short walk from the station. Historic Bruges is small and easy to navigate and the station brings you in right on the edge of the city walls. From here it took us about 20 minutes to walk to our hotel. Beware, the streets are cobbled so if you do have a large and heavy suitcase you may wish to consider a taxi.
With little knowledge about Bruges beforehand, I opted our hotel purely based on the fact that the hotel room had a giant bathtub. Dreamhouse B&B is located right in the heart of historic Bruges, only about a seven-minute walk from the main square but in a quiet enough location that you don’t get disturbed at night. The B&B has a very come and go attitude; there’s no reception desk and guests are given a code to the door to let themselves in and out as they please. Our room was spacious and clean with the only downside being that it was a little warm – there is no aircon but the owner has provided a fan to keep us cool at night. Breakfast was served each morning and as there are only four rooms, it was a quiet affair by nonetheless, delicious!
Things To Do in Bruges
Where do I even start in this section? I guess it really depends on what you like to do on holiday but here are a few of our favourite activities that you can do around Bruges:
See the Sights
With so many historical sights to see in Bruges, you could do this activity for days. The main square is full of them, including the Belfort Tower which stands at 83 meters high and is a whopping 366 steps to the top. Once you get to the top, the views are pretty spectacular and on a clear day, you can see for miles – way past the historic city walls. It’s also pretty fun to go to the back of the Markt and see if the tower really is leaning to one side.
Another building to admire is Bruges Town Hall or Stadhuis van Brugge, which is the most impressive town hall I’ve ever seen in my life. You got down one of the side streets from The Markt and emerge into another large square with the town hall on the far side. I was in absolute awe when we first saw it. The detailing is beautiful and the square is much quieter so you can admire the buildings for as long as you like.
I’m so glad we decided to take a boat tour of Historic Bruges. While the boat is jam packed with people, the Captain’s are entertaining and the sights are something to behold. It’s a great way to learn more about the history of Bruges and its many beautiful buildings – the good and the bad – and see other parts of the city that you may not think about going. The tour lasts about half an hour and gives a real feel for Bruges – from visiting the famous Bruges swans to wondering if that next bridge coming up is big enough for the boat to make it through (spoiler – it absolutely is!) I’d highly recommend.
Brewery Tour & The Beer Wall
Two ‘must do’s’ on Adam’s list were a Brewery Tour and a visit to the beer wall.
We visited De Halve Maan brewery, located in the centre of Bruges. This family owned brewery has been brewing beer in Bruges in 1856 (I think they know how to make good beer!) It was actually really interesting and for the 9€ ticket entrance you also got a beer included from the bar at the end of the tour. Be warned that this is a physical tour with lots of stairs to climb and descend. You are rewarded at the midway point with stunning views of Bruges from the rooftops and when you reach that beer at the bottom, you know you’ve earned it. We got chatting to an American couple who were touring France and Belgium in the bar afterwards and they said they’d enjoyed this brewery tour the most.
Ahhh the beer wall; over 500 Belgium beers for you to get stuck in to. We visited late one afternoon, grabbed a menu from the ceiling and got to work. We ordered some bread and cheese and made our way out onto the outdoor terrace that overlooked the water to watch the world go by. I’m no beer fan, but even I can’t deny that some of the beers were delicious – Adam ordered a particularly tasty one which came served in a coconut which even I was impressed with. With so many different beers to try, you could easily spend an afternoon here – just be warned, some of the Belgian beers are pretty strong!
On our final day, we decided to hire bikes are cycle the outskirts of the city. I was desperate to see the Windmills and they did not disappoint. Bruges is made for cycling and there are cycle paths everywhere so as a cyclist, it was very easy to get around. We spent the morning cycling down by the river touring the numerous city gates of Bruges including The Kruispoort; a gate that dates back to the 15th century. There are four windmills and four city gates to discover. It made for thirsty work so we stopped off at a few locations for a quick refreshment. Bike hire was very reasonable at under €20 for the two of us for the duration of the day. My best piece of advice is to ask your B&B or hotel where they recommend. We saw a lot of bike hire places and it was difficult to know which one was best but our landlady gave us a lot of really helpful advice.
Places to Eat
I’m going to be straight with you. This section is mainly about chocolate and waffles. We ate A LOT of waffles during our four days in Bruges and the best ones we found were over at Oyya which is a couple of minutes walk from the main square on Noordzandstraat. Not only were they tasty, they were inexpensive compared to some of the waffle sellers on or just off the square. You could have your waffles draped in a vast array of toppings; milk chocolate, white chocolate, Nutella, strawberries, whipped cream, marshmallows to name but a few. I think we went back about three times during our visit. They also have a large selection of Ice Cream available and I highly recommend trying both.
I guess I also have to mention Belgian Fries which when smothered with mayo, are the greatest fries know to man. There are so many street vendors you can get them from plus a whole museum (the Frit Museum) dedicated to fries which is worth a visit for the cafe alone! Don’t forget to drop by the Chocolate museum where your entrance fee includes a lot of chocolate. I dare you to try and get round the whole museum without eating it.
We ate at a few different restaurants while in Bruges; some good, some bad. Our favourite meal was at a small place tucked away by our B&B called De Twijfelaar which offers a substantial menu. Speaking of the menus, they came in old record covers which were a great touch. The food was good – hearty and cooked well. Both Adam and I had the fish and chips and there was more fish on our plates than you could shake a stick at. Another favourite of ours was Ribs n’ Beer – unlimited ribs and beer – what more could you want – oh except Nachos – GET THE NACHOS!
So there you have it, a mini guide to some of the wonderful things to do in Bruges. Chocolate, beer and history galore – Bruges is the perfect weekend getaway. Have you been to Bruges? Have I missed anything key off the list?