Bruges is for beer lovers
...and frites lovers and medieval architecture lovers.
I'm not going to lie. I first learned about Bruges because of the movie In Bruges (beware of link: lots and lots of foul language). I didn't decide to make the trip here because of the movie, though. It just put Bruges on my radar.
Bruges (it's in Belgium) is one of the best-preserved medieval cities in Europe. This mean lots of picturesque cobblestone streets, swans, beautiful architecture and horse carriages. It's super small and very walkable, just be ready to get lost down the winding roads that make absolutely no sense. But that's okay, because at the end of every road is something incredible that you wouldn't have found otherwise.
The entire time we were in Bruges we were battling pouring rain, hellish winds (I'm talking 30+mph winds) and occasional hail storms. But when the weather was at its worst, we would just duck into a bar and wait out the storm while sipping on a local beer. Silver lining.
Here were my lasting impressions of Bruges:
One of the things we were looking forward to the most was getting acquainted with Belgian beers. We had a list of bars to go to which curated our evening activities.
- De Garre - a popular bar that is hard to find. It's down a small alley, so you really have to know where to look to find it. Unfortunately it closes early on Mondays and is closed on Tuesdays (of course those were the only days we were there), so we didn't get a chance to try the namesake brew. Next time!
- 't Poatersgat (photo) - aka "basement bar", or at least that's what we call it. I think it must be a right of passage to fool people when trying to find Bruges bars, because we were starting to notice a theme. We walked right past the doors a handful of times before realizing it was down the subtle cellar stairs. Once I walked down the stairs (watch your head!), I was shocked by how big the bar was. There's plenty of couches and tables, and the selection at the bar was great. We liked it so much we came here both nights we were in Bruges.
- De Halve Maan - this is the only brewery left in Bruges. We didn't end up taking a tour but we made sure to try all the beers from the tasting room. I instantly fell in love with the Brugse Zot blonde (very flavorful and drinkable), and the Bruges Zot Dubbel and Straffe Hendrik Tripel are amazing as well. When I came home to Baltimore I was beyond thrilled to find these beers at my local beer store.
Seriously, the entire city is a "must-see" sight. There are lots of museums and cathedrals that people tour, but we enjoyed just getting lost in the city and wandering around. Some of our favorite spots:
- Markt Square - this is the main town square. Come here during the day to people-watch, pet the horses and admire the old architecture. Come here late at night to see the buildings lit up and enjoy a beer while the tourists sleep.
- Belfry Tower - this is the tower at Markt Square. Be sure to pay to climb to the top, the view is incredible. But beware: it's 366 stairs to the top (no elevator) and the stairwell is small and winding. I found it fun and saw it as a "you have to earn the view" type of thing, but apparently some people are bothered by the chore. Regardless, we were battling 50mph wind gusts at the top of the tower and we still loved it, so that says something.
- Koningin Astridpark - a gorgeous park that would be perfect for a picnic. Green grass, a gazebo, fountains and swans.
- Canals - I'm not sure I even need to mention this because it's so obvious, but the canals are beautiful. Take a canal tour if you have the chance and befriend some swans.
- The north-east to south-west perimeter of Bruges (inside the city walls) is one long park. I really enjoyed walking along the sidewalk in the morning while joggers passed by and people headed to work. The area of Minnewater is a bit more populated with tourists, but is still gorgeous and worth visiting.
There were a few key foods we knew we had to eat in Bruges. And let me tell you, they did not disappoint.
- Wednesday Market in Markt Square - On Wednesday mornings there is a big market with food and flowers in Markt Square. We heard good things about the chicken (it's delicious!), so we bought some little drumsticks and people-watched in the middle of the square.
- Chocolate - you can buy chocolate everywhere. No matter which store you end up in, it'll be the best chocolate of your life. I still have dreams about it.
- Frites - in Markt Square, there's a competition between two frites stands at the base of the Belfry Tower. Make sure you get them with mayo and ketchup and those cute little forks.
- Waffle - obviously. Buy one from the guy who makes them fresh at the Wednesday market.
- Pasta - I know, random. But I'd heard of this magical place where the spaghetti is delicious and the portions are plentiful -- and only costs 4 euro! We went there for dinner after a long day of exploring and left happy and full. It's called Brassiere Medard and it's perfect for the budget traveler.
Like I said, the best thing to do is go to Bruges, drop off your bags (we stayed at the Bauhaus hostel because of the free breakfast) and get lost.
**FYI we used this amazing guide to navigate the city. It really helped us make the most of our limited time in Bruges.
Have you ever been to Bruges? Did you go because of the movie, too?