WHAT TO SEE
From the train station, it is approximately a 20-minute walk to the centre of town. On the way, you can view the Sashuis (Sluice House or Lock House), outside the gate to the Begijnhof (see my review of the Antwerp Begijnhof here). Continue towards the Church of Our Lady Bruges and behind the church, you’ll find Bonifacius Bridge, a beautiful brick bridge that crosses a small canal alongside some charming wooden homes.
For the best views of the town’s historic buildings, you’re best to head to the canals. Some of the better photography points include: Jan van Eyckplein, Groenerei, Huidenvettersplein & Rozenhoedkaai.
Grote Markt pinpoints the centre of the town. It is surrounded by colourful medieval buildings with restaurants, Historium Brugge, Provinciaal Hof and Belfort van Brugge (the Belfry of Bruges). Nearby, you can stroll to Burg Square for an eye opening view of Stadhuis (City Hall) and Basiliek van het Heilig Bloed (Basilica of the Holy Blood).
After all this traipsing around town, you’ll want to give your feet a rest. Head to Huisbrouwerij De Halve Maan to enjoy a Belgian beer in the courtyard.
WHERE TO EAT
A tiny corner café tucked just behind Market Place, The Gulliver Tree has an extensive coffee and tea list. If you happily drink both, you will have a difficult time making a choice! Coffee selections other than the standard cappuccinos and lattes come in a plunger accompanied by an egg timer to tell you when it’s time to pour and sip.
Want waffles and toppings to suit? This is the place for you. Conveniently individually packaged so you can unwrap for a sugar fix later in the day.
Located amongst a string of restaurants on the edge of town, NOMAD is a must for those who are serious about brunch. Service is quick and plates come out hot and artfully presented. If you miss the brunch menu, you can swing by in the evening for a cocktail.
A contemporary restaurant on the edge of town, nibble on complimentary carrot croquettes before feasting on chateaubriand with seasonal vegetables or the catch of the day. Suitable for a charming dinner date as well as groups, make sure to book in advance.
TIP: When visiting in summer, check revised opening hours of cafes and restaurants. Owners will often be away on their summer vacation and this information is not updated on the likes of Foursquare and Google! (We were unfortunately left disappointed more than once when we turned up on the doorstep and found a ‘Closed’ sign).
WHERE TO SHOP
This Dutch multi-brand retailer does not sell overalls and hard hats as the name suggests but rather a vast array of denim, streetwear and sports brands. Find brands including Maison Scotch, Scotch & Soda, Levi’s, Tommy Jeans, Calvin Klein, Gsus, Nike and Adidas for both men and women.
With influences from Bruges’ history as well as Parisian and Asian inspiration, Sun Mae offers handcrafted bespoke luxurious lingerie and corsetry for lovers of quality, elegance and luxury. Make an appointment with owner Nele Cattrysse to create your bespoke piece or check the website for store opening times to browse her collections.
Silver jewellery fans take note. If you’re after a statement piece, Gingko has a wonderful display of necklaces, bracelets, earrings and rings. Sample silver rings are on hand for you to find your ring size and preferred style.
There are so many chocolate shops in Bruges (try to get as many free samples as you can!) but this one I remember distinctly, as who doesn’t want to gaze in awe at rows and shelves of colourful chocolate displays?
HOW TO GET THERE
IN BRUGES? YOU SHOULD ALSO SEE THE UNDISCOVERED FLEMISH JEWEL: A DAY TRIP TO GHENT
We stayed in Brussels but spent most of our time in outer towns including Bruges. Bruges is approximately a one hour train ride from Brussels. Services leave from Bruxelles-Central every 15 minutes with Intercity or every 30 minutes with Belgian Railways (€29.40 adult return weekdays; €15.60 adult return on weekends). Eurostar and Thalys offer several services to Brussels on a daily basis from London and Amsterdam with fares starting as low as £29 and €19 one way.
TIP: If you’ve travelled to Brussels on the Eurostar, you can use the same ticket to travel to any other Belgian station FOR FREE within 24 hours of travelling on the Eurostar! Show the ticket inspector your mobile or printed ticket.
Driving from Brussels to Bruges will take around 1 hour (95 kms/59 miles). The fastest route is via the E40. The use of motor vehicles is not recommended in the city centre. There are free designated car parks a short distance from the city centre; you may need to catch public transport or hire a bicycle to then reach the city centre. Alternatively, there is metered parking within the city centre or designated parking lots.
TIP #1: 24 hour car parking is available next to the train station and bus interchange for €3.50. This parking lot is called Parking Station Brugge Spoorwegstraat 10. If you choose to park here, we’d recommend catching the bus to and from the city centre. Show your carpark voucher to the bus driver; up to four (4) people can travel on the bus using one voucher – for FREE!
TIP#2: For further information, advice and recommendations, visit the official Bruges tourist website. It is super accommodating with options to view the website in Dutch, French, German, English and Spanish!
Have you visited Bruges in Belgium? Did you find a restaurant or a shop that we must know about? Let us know in the comments below!
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