If you can manage to see past the horrific hordes of tour groups and sightseers in Bruges, you’ve already won. This town is positively overrun, and for good reason. It is the most Disneyland-esque enchanting fairy-tale town I’ve ever been. An ancient bell tower, the city hall, cathedral, and basilica are perfectly preserved and lead to gasps of amazement from onlookers. Winding cobblestone streets reveal smaller more quaint houses, every turn more beautiful than the last. Bruges is just. . . very pretty. We arrived on a rather gloomy day, however the weather behaved and allowed us to at least wander around town without getting soaked. The main town square, as mentioned, is astonishing, and stirred up images of Knights in shining armour and princesses. Try to ignore the selfie sticks and IPad photographers, as it somewhat diminishes the romantic ambiance.
We stayed at a fantastic apartment rental – Holiday Home Vulder, with a fully equipped kitchen, spacious living room, loft bedroom, all very modern within an ancient building. Fantastic.
If you like chocolate, well. . . you find it here, about 1 million times over. As an avid chocolate fan and connoisseur, I vowed to go into every shop during our two days, however admitted defeat quite quickly when I realized just how many shops there actually were. In some cases, three in a row across the street from another three in a row. A word of advice – avoid the ones directly near the main square – clearly lower quality and meant to feed the masses. I dug a bit deeper down side streets and found a few wonderful places – Van Oost, Cho-co-Holic, and Mary were favorites. The Mary chocolaterie supplies the Begium royal family – so it must be good!
In Bruges, I recommend visiting the Basilica of the Holy Blood – a beautiful small basilica which is said to be in possession of a vial of the Holy Blood of Christ. Of course, wander around the old town and the main town square, and you can also climb up the Belfry tower. There were a few museums which we passed on, as they seemed completely geared towards making money of hapless tourists. As in, the Frites Museum and Chocolate Museum. Thank you, but I don’t need to pay to hear about the history of fries or chocolate. I’ll just buy the product.
Where to Eat
The Flemish Pot:
If you can manage to ignore the horrendously snooty service, the food is (said to be) traditional Flemish, over-the-top rich, and delicious. My mother and I both tried a Waterzool, a traditional Flemish stew, which in fact is a whole roasted chicken in a rich leek/garlic cream broth, served with some exceptionally good fries. If the fries and chicken weren’t so good, I would have left. Seriously, worst service ever. If you check out Trip Advisor reviews I was not alone in my opinion. So anyways, maybe go here but put earplugs in and just point at what you want. It’s roughly what you get in return from the waiters anyway.
In contrast, we had the MOST wonderful service here and experience. Having read very good reviews, we booked a table the day before (necessary, you won’t get in otherwise) and came on my birthday for the most delicious meal. We shared a beautiful fresh salad and pate to start, followed by (for me) an incredibly delicious fish entrée, served with caramelized fennel, roasted potatoes, all in a rich cream sauce. The combination of fennel with the delicate fish was so perfect. We topped it off with crème brulee and an ice cream sundae with Belgium chocolate (naturally). As far as I can tell Flemish food is very rich but very worth it.
It, for some reason, seems to be a “thing” to have tea and sweets in the afternoon in Bruges. Not quite sure where this came from, but you will notice an abundance of tea salons around the town. It’s nice. Try it out.
Beer lovers rejoice! I LOVE Belgium beer and we found the most fantastic Belgium Beer cellar – Le Trappiste, down a flight of stone stairs into an appropriately medieval looking bar. We tried the “Tasting boards” – 5 small tasters of a extensive list for 10 euros. I can’t say enough good things about the wonderful service and products here.
Overall, Bruges is a little fantasy fairytale town that should not be missed- as many tourists have discovered already judging by the crowds!