I didn’t really know anything about Bruges until I watched Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson wander the cobbled streets in the well known dark comedy ‘In Bruges’. Ever since then, it has been on my list of must see places. Luckily for me, Andrew knew all about my desire to visit the fairytale-like city and surprised me with a trip to Bruges for Christmas.
Bruges is the capital of an area known as West Flanders, which is situated in the Flemish speaking area of Belgium. With its charming streets, beautiful stone bridges and peaceful canals it is easy to see why it has become a top tourist destination. I absolutely fell in love with it’s charm and I will happily admit that it is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever visited.
Flights from Dublin (and most European cities) to Belgium are regular and reasonably priced. We flew Ryanair direct to Brussels main airport (Zaventem). We chose to fly out on Saturday morning first thing and return home late on Monday evening. As there are multiple flights per day, it makes it really easy to pick one that suits you best.
From Brussels, we got a train direct to Bruges. One thing to note, is the price of the train varies between the weekend and during the week. I believe it cost us €40 to get to Bruges and about €20 to get back to the airport.
The journey takes about 1 hour 45 minutes in total. While the views on route to Bruges wouldn’t be the most picturesque, the seats were pretty comfy! Upon arrival in Bruges, it is a short walk into the main city centre.
One thing that we took advantage of in the train station in both Bruges and Brussels is the storage lockers. They come in a variety of sizes and cost between €4.50 and €5.50 to rent for 24 hours. The price depends on the size of the locker that you require. These were a game changer for us. It meant we didn’t have to lug our suitcases around, and could spend more time exploring!
When we were researching, hotels were working out far too expensive for one night, so we decided to use Airbnb instead.
We found this beautiful loft apartment. Although it was a twenty minute walk into the city, it didn’t really bother us too much. The apartment was clean, well equipped and comfortable – exactly what we needed. It also had the best hairdryer I have ever used. A little touch that did not go unnoticed!
If hotels are more your thing, I have found the following which look really nice, and have good reviews on TripAdvisor too:
Things To Do
There is literally so much to see and do in Bruges. While the city is small, there are so many hidden gems lying around every corner. Each day we set off without much of a plan, and stumbled upon so many beautiful little spots. That’s why I loved Bruges so much!
For stunning views overlooking the city of Bruges and Grote Markt, be sure to head up the Belfry clock tower. Be sure to arrive earlier in the morning to avoid the really long queues that gather after midday.
Waffles n Beer Workshop
We checked out this Airbnb experience, recommended to us by our host. It was so much fun and a great introduction to Bruges. Throughout the class you learn about different Belgian beer, and how to make waffles. I would highly recommend for something a little bit different!
Bruges Beer Festival
Little did we know that our trip to Bruges coincided with one of the most popular weekends of the year – Bruges Beer Festival. This free festival takes place every year and plays host to over 400 beers from 80 breweries. We had so much fun hopping from tent to tent trialing all of the different flavours!
If you’re walking around the city, you are bound to stumble upon Rozenhoedkaai. It is one of the most photographed spots in Bruges, and boasts a stunning view whether you witness it during the day or at night.
One of the prettiest, and most serene places we came across was Minnewater. Keep an eye out for the signs pointing here on your route from the train station to the city. It is definitely worth a visit, so don’t be tempted to walk passed!
We didn’t do a canal tour because it was absolutely freezing, and I didn’t fancy sitting in a boat and not moving! That being said, I can see how it would be a really beautiful way to experience the city. It costs just €10 per person and is available almost all year round (March to November) from 10am until 5.30pm.
Eating & Drinking
Like most city breaks we go on, we seemed to eat and drink our way around it. As Belgium is famous for its beer, waffles, frites and chocolate, there’s no doubt that we enjoyed ourselves! Here are some of the places we tried:
We visited Le Pain Quotidian for brunch when we arrived on Saturday morning and it did not disappoint. They are all about organic ingredients and have plenty of options for vegetarians and vegans alike.
What can I say. I’m a major fan of Belgian waffles. Two places that seemed to be the busiest were Chez Albert and House of Waffles, both of which can be found close to the central square.
As Belgium is the chocolate capital of the world, it really came as no surprise that chocolate could be found down every single street! While you will find many of the well known international brands, like Godiva, we really enjoyed checking out the local chocolatiers. Some that we stumbled upon were:
- The Chocolate Line
- The Chocolate Kiss
If you’re looking to experience a chocolate dining experience, get yourself to The Old Chocolate House and try their famous hot chocolate. You can choose the type of chocolate you want, and it comes in a gigantic mug – not made for sharing!
Without a doubt, the meal we shared in Réliva is one of the best I have had in a long time. This family run restaurant put their heart and soul into the culinary experience. Using only local, organic ingredients, the flavours are out of this world and the plating was just impeccable. Not only that, but the service was friendly, calm and warm – we were blown away! I would definitely recommend to anyone looking to treat themselves while in Bruges.
Beer & Drinks
Even if you’re not in Bruges for the beer festival, there are plenty of beautiful bars where you can try the local beers. Some that we were recommended included:
- Bacchas Cornerlius
- Herberg Vlissinghe (oldest pub in Bruges)
If you’re not usually a beer drinker (like me!), perhaps try a fruit infused one. Personally I liked the Lindemans Kriek (cherry) and Belle-Vue Framboise (raspberry) beers. These are much lighter and sweeter than most of the other Belgian beers, and in my opinion a lot more enjoyable to drink!
Our waiter in Réliva recommended that we visit the Brugse Gin Club. This is one of the only gin bars in Bruges, and it did not disappoint. The walls were covered head to toe in bottles from around the world. All of the flavours you could imagine, and more. It’s only open Friday – Sunday, and you must knock at the door to be let in – but don’t let that put you off!
I hope this helps answer any of your questions about visiting Bruges. As always, if there is anything that I didn’t cover here, please feel free to reach out. You can DM me on instagram @annmariejudge or by sending me an email.
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