Bruges Basics

If you are like me you probably have little background knowledge of Bruges, I honestly knew nothing about this place until we began planning our trip. If you are interested in visiting Bruges or just learning more about this mysterious little town I have put together a short informational guide based on our trip last month.

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Where is Bruges?

Bruges (or Brugge in Dutch) is the capital of the province of West Flanders in the Flemish region of Belgium. Lost you yet? Here’s a map…

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A canal based city,¬†Bruges¬†is sometimes referred to as the “Venice of the North.”¬†It is about an hour drive from the more popular city of Brussels and only thirty minutes from the Netherlands.¬†You can get to Bruges by train, car or flying into Brussels. Once you are in the historic centre of Bruges you can easily get around on foot or bike.

Where We Stayed

If you are planning on staying in Bruges (it can also be done as a day trip) make sure your accommodation is within the city walls, in the historic city centre. That is where all of the tourist attractions, shops, markets etc. are and once you are in there you can walk everywhere you need to be.

As I mentioned before my parents actually booked this trip, so all accomodation credit goes to Randy Rhoads (that’s my dad). We rented an apartment called De Drie Koningen, which I just discovered is actually ranked #1 on Trip Advisor for speciality accommodations.

My family loves renting apartment instead of staying in hotels, usually the price is comparable if not cheaper, it’s much more comfortable (for five people that’s pretty important) and you have the luxury of preparing your own meals if you want.

This particular apartment was awesome. It was a three bedroom, two bath with two floors. When you check in the owner, Niko, gives you an iPad that has all of the necessary information for your stay on it, including all of his recommended restaurants saved on google maps.

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I think my favorite part was the Christmas tree since we don’t have one in our apartment.

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I think my dad and Travis’ favorite part was the Honesty Bar where you could choose a beverage (and coordinating glass, this is important) and mark on your check out sheet. When you check out you just hand them your sheet (the owner called it the Sheet of Shame) and pay for what you drank. In this same room they also had a huge selection of DVDs (in English too!) that you could borrow. This was great for cozy nights on the couch after adventuring out in the cold.

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What To Do

This is just what we did during our stay. We spent two full days in Bruges.

Christmas Market 

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As I said before, we were there during the week and so the market was a little less hopping on a Tuesday night than it was later in the week. It was still fun to walk around, look at the shops, Christmas lights and enjoy a warm (adult) beverage.

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The Belfry

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The Belfry is a medieval bell tower that was built in 1240. You can pay to climb to the top (336 steps) and get a 360 degree view of the town. The steps are really, really narrow and steep so they only allow 70 people in there at a time. The trek is broken up with different levels where you can see how the bells are wrung and historical

 Also, it closes at 5 so you have to go during the day.

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Church of Our Lady

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Not only is the historic church beautiful but it also houses Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child- the only one of his works that left Italy during his lifetime. The church itself has no entrance fee but to see the sculpture you have to pay a whopping 2 Euros. Other sites I have read have said there were long lines to get in but when we went there wasn’t a line at all (another benefit of traveling during the week I suppose).

Basilica of the Holy Blood

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Basilica of the Holy Blood contains what is believed to be a¬†relic¬†of Jesus’ blood. The church is located off of the corner of the main square, entrance is free but a small fee is required to go into the (very small) museum and to see the vile. Definitely check the times they are open before going because they are open very strange hours.

Museums

Brugge is full of museums. My dad and Travis visited the Beer Museum while my sister, mom and I hit up the Christmas shops. They were impressed and we ended up being the ones waiting on them to finish after almost two hours. Your ticket into the museum includes two beers and they give you an iPad to guide you through (Bruges loves iPads). They were enthralling us with their beer trivia the rest of the trip.

My family had visited the Historium (which is right off of the main square) on their last visit and were none too impressed. If I were to go back again I would be paying a visit to the Chocolate or French Fry (Friets) Museums.

Where To Eat 

La Trattoria

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The first evening¬†we got into Bruges we were tired and VERY hungry after our drive. It was only 5pm but we went and when we went out searching for a place for dinner we realized many places didn’t open until 5:30. We also realized due to the small seating capacity in most restaurants, reservations are a must.¬†As we were looking (and shivering) at the menu outside La Trattoria, the manager (or possibly owner) came out and told us we could come in and sit and warm up until they opened. Clearly that sold us on where we were eating. The hospitality did not stop there though, the staff was very friendly and gave us suggestions on everything from the food and drinks to where to go in Bruges. Once the food came out, it was delicious. We also got various pasta dishes that were on special and my sister got a pizza, all of which we would order again. We even noticed they had a takeaway menu and discussed getting food from their later in the week, it was that good.

The Olive Tree

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The Olive Tree was an easy choice considering it is voted #3 on Trip Advisor for Bruges restaurants, and my mom had been told by several friends that we needed to eat there as well. It’s Mediterranean cuisine with a twist. Everything on the menu is made from fresh ingridients and they provide a mix of fish, meat, and vegetarian options. I ordered a greek stuffed chicken breast that I have been trying to recreate ever since. My family also ordered the shrimp and pork dishes that were all amazing. We weren’t sure what the hype was about this place at first but we definitely get it now. It’s also conveniently located right off the square.

Restaurant Bistro De Shilder

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We stumbled upon this spot during one of our walks around town. It was cold and we were hungry and I saw a fire through the window. Sold. It was right off one of the smaller squares and was perfectly quaint. Also their spaghetti bolognese (that I ate as a snack, stop judging) was delicious and under ten euros for a large portion. It’s the perfect place to escape the cold and have a Belgium beer or two, plus they have a “snack menu” and I am all about that.

Gingerbread Tea Room

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When I googled “Best Belgium waffles in Bruges” this place kept popping up so of course we had to try it out. My mom and I both got the Belgium waffle with fruit (seen below) and it was so delicious. I am not a big sweets for breakfast person but I knew that I had to have at least one Belgium waffle while I was in Belgium. This was the perfect choice- not too rich or sweet since they don’t put syrup on their waffles. They also have an extensive coffee and tea menu. Below is my mom’s hot chocolate and not pictured is my delicious macaroon latte (I didn’t even know they did that!).

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I read online that you should make a reservation but it was too late at that point. We were ok finding a table but during a busier time you would probably want to call ahead. Also, like a lot of places in Bruges it is cash only so bring your Euros!

Tea-room De Proverie

A lot of places claim to have “the best hot chocolate in Bruges” but this place takes the cake. They get their chocolate from the chocolaterie across the street and then you mix it with the hot milk your self. It also comes with a few pieces of scrumptious chocolates.

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Travis ordered an Irish coffee which also came with chocolates and cream.

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It is the cutest little tea room with fire places to keep you warm and homey decor. A great place to duck out from the cold and warm up. They take credit cards and we went twice without a reservation and didn’t have a problem getting a table.

Well I think I covered everything, let me know if you have been to Bruges and I need to add anything else in.

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3 thoughts on “Bruges Basics

  1. This is a really great run-down of Bruges… it really brought back a few memories. I’m definitely with you on holiday apartments vs. hotels… so much more spacer and often nicer for much less- also, an opportunity to “live like a local”, which I really appreciate. The Church of the Holy Blood really fascinated me when I was there… I was so hung up on whether the vial is real or not.

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