Picture this… cobbled streets intertwining, calm canal water sparkling under the winter sun, muted sounds of horses’ clip clopping – sounds good right? Well, not only does Bruges offer postcard-like scenery straight out of the movies, it has some of finest foodie delicacies known to woman. Your daily diet could (and should) consist of silky-smooth chocolates, traditionally brewed beer (gin in my case) and fresh fluffy waffles. A winning combination for a European getaway, I think you’d agree.
As first timers to Bruges and with a short amount of time to take in as much of it as possible, we planned on making the most of our three days. We arrived shortly after midday and after a quick stop at the hotel, we headed out in full tourist mode. As we began to explore, taking in the gothic architecture as we went, it was clear to see Bruges was both beautiful and lively in equal measure, a mix of culture and pure indulgence. We passed chocolate shop after chocolate shop, waffle house after waffle house, bookmarking each along the way for later.
If Bruges is on your bucket list and you’re wondering where to go, what to do, or simply after some food and drink inspiration, I’ve compiled a list below of some of my top recommendations. Thank me later.
When in Bruges…
• Feeling fishy? – With almost every restaurant serving up traditional foods like ‘Stoverij’ (a Flemish beef stew) and ‘Stoemp’ (a superior version of mashed potatoes), you’ll be spoilt for choice. Fresh seafood is everywhere; mussels, shrimp, oysters and prawns; you name it, they had it. On our first night I picked a Teriyaki salmon dish, cooked with a flavoursome kick and served with a bowl of piping hot chips, it made for an easy win. The perfect end to a long day.
• Go hell for leather on chocolate (you’re in Belgium after all) – Belgians take their chocolates seriously, and rightly so. With an overwhelming number of chocolatiers, each offering their own heavenly handmade chocolates, you’ll discover a newfound love for the stuff. From rich dark pralines, to creamy melt-in-your-mouth truffles, you owe it to yourself to take full advantage.
• Visit ‘Otomat Pizza Heaven’, AKA ‘Heavenly Pizza’ – Yes, I know, pizza in Bruges? But TRUST ME, when the comfort food cravings hit, you’ll leave this place wanting more. In the small, bustling square of ‘Simon Stevinplein’, Otomat serves nothing but pizza’s (made by the gods might I add) and there’ll be something for everyone on their mini menu. Pre pizza, we sat outside for a quick drink – what is it about being on holiday and feeling the need to sit outside come what may? After defrosting inside we decided on a ‘Pulet Chasseue’ – a tomatoey pizza base covered in mushrooms, tender chicken strips, bacon, chilli pepper, smoked ricotta, Mozzarella and finished off with dusting of fresh tarragon. With a few more drinks thrown into the mix we left feeling blissfully full and so will you.
• Go waffle mad (seriously, go hard or go home) – Ahhh, the Belgium waffle. When hunger strikes after a morning of walking, go claim that waffle you so rightly deserve! But, before making a mad dash towards the first one you see, make sure you look around. With lots of waffle houses on offer and a huge variety of toppings to choose from, you’ve got to make it count. After the hunt for Bruges’ best waffle we ended up stopping at ‘Chez Albert Waffles’ and’ ‘House of Waffles’, both dishing up sweet, crisp, waffles worthy of any connoisseur. Fun Fact: Belgian waffles have deeper grooves than American waffles so that they can hold more toppings.
• Get boozy with a Belgian beer – Well-known all over the world for beer brewing, Belgium currently has 224 active breweries and 54 of those are in Bruges city centre. Beer fans will genuinely be delighted to know they have a range of over 1,000 different types to choose from. All beers are served in special types of glasses to enhance their taste. Belgian beer is ever present; its strongest being a ‘Bush Beer’ ranging from 7.5% – 12%.
• Visit the Beer Wall – A permanent beer exhibition located in the 2be bar & shop; this work of wall art features an impressive collection of all different types of beer, even if just for a photo/Insta post, it’s worth checking out. It’s also another perfect opportunity to enjoy a drink on the terrace.
• Do what all the tourist do and take a canal ride – Everyone loves a boat trip, so why not discover Bruges by canal. Hop abord at any one of the 5 landing strips for an educational 30-minute boat ride. A great way to see the city and places which are otherwise unreachable.
• Have (another) drink on a Canalside terrace – With the combination of wide canals and soaring buildings Bruges isn’t short of beautiful bar or two. On our fist evening we found ‘Rozenhoedkaai View’, a cosy bar for a relaxing drink. Hidden away from the hustle and bustle of the main city and positioned up high, it was a perfect spot for a bit of people watching. With fairy lights adding to its cosy charm, we sat outside for a few drinks under the warm glow of the heaters.
• Get loved up by the ‘Lake of Love’ – Tucked away in the south quarter of the city you’ll find the Minnewater Lake; ‘The Lake of Love’. Grab yourself a famous Belgian hot chocolate (with a splash of Baileys) and take up a post at the large focal point. Marvel at the impressive panoramic views and you’ll be hard pressed to find a location more picturesque.
• Explore the side streets – There are hundreds of restaurants playing hide and seek to the 5 million visitors who visit Bruges each year, meaning it’s easy to walk past some of the best. Take the back streets, get lost, and find the hidden gems.
• Try ‘Flemish Frites’ (which is essentially chips and mayo) – Chips, fries, frites, call them what you will, a trip to Bruges is simply not complete without them. Salty and twice fried, with a dollop of traditional Belgian Mayonnaise, they’re transformed into a popular Belgium snack. An ever-present staple in the Flemish diet, don’t be fooled into thinking these are anything like your average French fries.
• Go for a horse and carriage ride – Embrace the hype and take a tour of the city by night. Grab some Belgian chocs to enjoy along the way and relax to the sound of your tour guide as you’re whisked away on a magical carriage ride. We found this another great way to spot places we hadn’t yet seen. On our second night we wandered back after spotting a snug little restaurant. We sat by the fire and watched our food being cooked on the open flame, a homey and friendly find for our final night.
Sadly, our Bruges adventure had come to an end, but what a stunning city to explore with so many delicious offerings to choose from. If you didn’t have a sweet tooth before, then you will when you leave and regardless when you visit, you’ll find yourself wandering aimlessly for hours. The good news is you’ll leave with a camera full of memories and a bag full of chocolates. The bad news is, on the train home (after peering into an empty chocolate bag) you’ll realise you should have brought more.