The film In Bruges has become a bit of a cult classic over the last few years and I have to be honest this was one of the reasons I decided upon a last minute road trip to Belgium.
Even though I had read a little bit from the travel blog community I had no expectations before I visited, I literally knew nothing about the city but thought it would make for a fun trip especially as I would be driving from the UK.
The journey door to door from my home in Dorset to the hotel car park was roughly 6 hours which is pretty good. If I drove to a London airport sat around waiting for my flight, boarding, flight duration, customs etc then it generally takes me 6-7 hours to get most places in Europe anyway.
This was the first time I had ever done the Dover – Calais ferry crossing so I was seriously impressed although quite shocked not to have my passport checked once?! What’s the deal there? I guess in Britain we don’t care if people are leaving but I thought the French might care about who’s arriving?
So after an easy journey I arrived in Bruges. As soon as I crossed the river onto a cobbled bumpy street towards the Novotel, which is where I was staying, I knew I would love this place.
The old city of Bruges is beautifully preserved.
I saw quite a bit of repair work happening whilst I was there and would imagine that the buildings have gone through some thorough restoration in order for the city to keep its Medieval look and heritage.
Bruges is extremely popular with tourists all year round there were plenty about during the weekend I visited in February. I can imagine in the peak summer months it could become very busy and be a little stressful getting tables at restaurants and bars.
Here are some top tips that I think will help you get the most out of a short break in Bruges
Walk or Cycle
Unless you want the experience of seeing the city from a horse and carriage, which I guess is quite romantic, or a city tour bus with an audio guide then without a doubt the best way to get around is hire a bike or just walk. I covered a huge amount of the city on foot with a basic tourist map. A lot of the walking I did was just aimlessly, which meant I got to see a lot more unexpected alleyways and streets I probably wouldn’t have paid attention to otherwise.
Just to be clear here I’m not saying go out drink lots and get drunk but you should definitely try beer whilst in Belgium. The country currently has 1130 different beer varieties. Each one pretty much has its own custom designed glass too. You can buy nearly all the different beers in a small size which is just 25cl and costs no more than roughly €2. A great place to seek out is the beer wall which displays all the beers and glasses. The bar at the end of the wall also serves a really good variety of beers to sample. I would also highly recommend a visit to Staminee de Garre the house beer here was incredible.
For cost reasons I almost booked a hotel on the outskirts of the city, but now I have visited I am so glad I didn’t. Staying within the heart of the old medieval city is not only convenient but also an experience. A lot of the hotels and small B&B’s are in historical buildings, rooms have original features and look out over squares, market places or canals. If you arrive by rail or public transport the bus and train station are around a 20 minute walk to the main market square in the city centre. If you have a car then I suggest staying at the Novotel or Ibis which are adjacent to each other and just a 10 minute walk from the market square. If you are arriving by car, as I was, then the benefit of staying here is the underground car park which cost a reasonable €8.70 for 24 hours.
As I said the city was quite busy even in February so if you want to visit a particular restaurant or perhaps walk past one you like the look of during the day, then make a reservation. I was really lucky to get a table in one of the places I wanted to eat but at least another 10 people or so tried to get in after us and were turned away.
Eat Chocolate and Eat Fries
Bruges + Chocolate = well Belgian Chocolate of course. I was astonished by the amount of chocolate shops in the city. I don’t know how they all stay open but chocolate is obviously big business in Belgium. Many of the shops do demonstrations and allow you to taste samples. It’s a bit of a given but you can’t come to Belgium and not have chocolate.
Whilst in Bruges I was surprised to learn French Fries actually originated in Belgium. Apparently they serve the best French Fries in the world here. Quite a bold statement! Click the links to read my views on the friet museum – french fries museum
Unfortunately during my time in Bruges the canals were frozen but I am sure had I been able to take a canal trip that would definitely be in my top tips too.
As I said I had no expectations and knew very little about the city but I had a great time in Bruges and I will definitely be visiting the city and Belgium again. For Brits or those in the UK it really is a cheap weekend away with the ferry crossing only costing me £49. It’s nice to have the car too as it allowed me to bring back plenty of beer and chocolate 🙂
P.S I cant believe it but I almost forgot to tell you about Belgian Waffles. I had mine with hot cherries and cream then washed it down with a lovely dark beer called Jacob a great end to a great weekend in Bruges.