My significant other recently booked us a surprise trip to Bruges. Of course before we went, we watched the eponymous film as I didn’t really know a lot about the city, other than it is one of the few beautiful cities in Belgium left untainted by bombings in WWII.
To quote the film though, it really is a like a Fucking Fairy Tale.
Bruges has to be one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. Every little side street is like a chocolate box shot. And not in a cheesy way. There are canals, swans, churches, beautiful squares, architecture to make you swoon, and to top it all, amazing beer and chocolate.
Museums, art and tourism
From the obvious chocolate and beer museums to the more… shall we say “niche” museums of lighting and fries (yes they really do exist), the likelihood is that you might want to take in a few museums during your trip. Most of them are pretty small, and you’d easily be able to stroll gently to see three or four in a day. If culture and seeing art is your bag, it’s well worth picking up a “Love Bruges” tourist card at the information office inside the “Historium” museum on the main square. They are available for either 48 or 72 hours, and cost 43 or 48 euros respectively. As a bonus they come with a free Bruges guide book, which is available in a variety of languages.
There are loads of organised tours of the city which are free on the card, and there is one to suit everyone. You can do the horse and carriage thing, the canal tour, the walking tour, the bike tour or even the running around Bruges tour to burn off a few frites or beers.
Talking of beer…
Belgium is of course famous for beer and chocolate. We’ll get to the chocolate later (trust me), but for now, beer. I have to admit I’m not a big beer drinker, so I didn’t expect to be won over by the Belgian beers as much as I was. There is now one brewery left in Bruges which can claim to produce exclusively Brugian beer called The Half Moon or “De Halve Maan”, which runs organised tours of the brewery, and afterwards you get a lovely glass of Brugge Zot Blonde.
Other beery highlights of our trip included a pub called De Garre which is down a tiny side street off the main square, and has some amazing beers including a sour cherry one, and their own beer which is 10% strength – they only let you have three per person. There are loads of other little gems of pubs hidden around the city too – I’m looking forward to discovering them next time!
Ok, now for the good stuff. There are loads of little chocolatiers tucked away. We spoke to the locals who recommended a few to us, and we came home with loads of amazing chocolates.
“Neuhaus” is one of the best known chocolatiers, and is available worldwide now. Inventer of the praline, and has some seriously luxury boxes of chocolates, with price tags to match. Well worth it though.
“The Chocolate Line “, my personal favourite, because they make seriously fun chocolates, with weird and whacky ingredients like wasabi and cola which still somehow work really well. This is the place to go if you want to try something different, but which doesn’t take itself too seriously – the store itself has a real fun feel, and the staff are really friendly.
“Dumon” Chocolatier have a really good reputation with the residents of bruges, and their shop has a real luxe feel. In a way though, it’s almost a bit intimidating. There are plenty of bags of chocolate and bars which are really well labelled, but the individual chocolates behind the counter, which they will make up into a lovely big box for you aren’t, so what you get is a somewhat of a surprise. They do a good sugar free “stevia” based line, if that’s your bag, and they also seem keen on marzipan too.
It can’t be denied that Bruges has a lot of churches. Now whether this is up your street or not, you can still appreciate their beauty. My agnostic self (I’m one of those irritating people who describes herself as “spiritual but not religious”), and my atheist other half were even impressed. One place I’d recommend to go is the Basilica of the Holy Blood, where you will find a vial containing dried blood believed to be from Jesus’ body. Whatever your beliefs or thoughts on the church or religion, this is a beautiful and calm building.
Where to stay, where to eat
Trip Advisor is your friend, especially when it comes to eating out in Bruges. There are plenty of restaurants with not particularly inspiring menus lining the squares and main streets of Bruges. Unfortunately the food in these places is not particularly inspiring either, and the prices are very much “aimed at tourists”. Do a bit of research before you go and you’ll find much better places to eat slightly off the beaten track with much better food. We were really impressed with a restaurant called Reliva which has excellent organic food, as well as a good selection of veggie and vegan food – which is hard to come by in a lot of places in Bruges.
We stayed in a small B&B called Hotel Ter Duinen, and the staff were really helpful, and gave us lots of advice about great places to go. Good sized bed and a really good continental breakfast too. Asa bonus you can leave luggage there after checkout on your last day which means you can get in an extra days sightseeing without pulling cases around with you.
Bruges is an absolutely beautiful city, and our time there has left me and my partner with some fabulous memories we’ll treasure forever. For romance I’d take Bruges over Paris any day!
Do you have any tips for things to do in Bruges?
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