For Andrew’s birthday trip, we took off for a long weekend in Bruges, Belgium. With an old medieval city center, some of the best beer in the world and accessibility by train from London, Bruges was the perfect place for a relaxing weekend away to celebrate.
Unlike our trip to Prague, I did my research this time around had a pretty clear picture of what we should see during our stay. This post on Adventuring and Things provided some great tips and tons of inspiration for photographs. When I reached for my camera upon arriving at our Airbnb, I quickly realized that though I had brought my camera, the battery was still in London. Luckily, that’s the only thing that went wrong this trip and the sun was shining to make our iPhone photos come out the best they can!
We had a fabulous weekend in this beautiful city. Here’s my guide to seeing darling Brugge in a weekend.
Weekend in Bruges Travel Guide
Getting There | Do | Stay | Eat | Drink | Basic Tips
Getting To Bruges
From London, Bruges is just two train journeys away, taking about four hours total from St Pancras International. The Eurostar takes you from St Pancras to Brussels, from there you can connect via a regional train to Bruges. For destinations beyond Brussels, the Eurostar ticket is good for “any Belgian station,” which, of course, includes Bruges.
Connecting was fairly easy. There is signage for connections on the platform, which leads you to the main train terminal. From there you figure out which is the train to Bruges and when it leaves, then head to the platform and board the train. We were off one train and boarding the next within twenty minutes. From Brussels, it is just under an hour to Bruges.
The Bruges train station is just south of the main city center. On foot, it took us about twenty minutes to get to our Airbnb, which was right near the city center.
On our way back, security in Brussels took us about two minutes. It was well-staffed and not crowded at all, even on a Sunday afternoon. It was much nicer and easier than taking the Eurostar from Paris, as Gare du Nord tends to be a disaster.
What to Do in Bruges
Wander the streets
Bruges is darling. Absolutely beautiful. Of our favorite things we did in Bruges, wandering the little streets of this lovely city was at the top.
You’ll want to explore the major sights, like the Grote Markt and Bonifacius Bridge.
The city really shines on those side streets, though! Head to the northeast corner of the city to explore what I saw referred to as “Hidden Bruges,” where its more residential and just so cute.
This park is beautiful, with still water, swans and lovely views.
This was our first “stop” after arriving, so to speak, so we were pretty enchanted!
Explore the Canals
Throughout Bruges are many canals. These waterways give the city a fairytale-like quality.
You can explore them by boat or on foot. We chose foot to be able to take them in at our own pace and it was pretty darn cold to be sitting on the water!
Belgium is known for its beer and Bruges is no exception! De Halve Maan is a brewery right in the city center. They offer tours and tastings and it was fascinating to learn about the craft and the evolution of this city brewery as distribution and beer making trends have changed.
The brewery recently built an underground beer pipe to bring beer from the brewery out to its processing facility just outside the city center. Crazy!
Climb the Belfry
The city centers around the bell tower and it is pretty remarkable. Featuring a carillon, it’s beautiful bells can be heard throughout Bruges.
Climbing all 366 steps up to the top viewing platform is not for the faint of heart if you have a fear of heights like me, but I did make it!
Bruges was a mill city and there used to be 23 windmills throughout. Along the outer edge of the city center, 4 windmills remain. Three were built in the 1700s!
They are arranged in a lovely little park along the canal so it makes for a picturesque walk.
Belgium and Bruges, in particular, were a center for lacemaking. I love lace (see: my wedding dress) so I had to check this out! The Kantcentrum is small and takes about twenty minutes to get through. I loved learning more about this craft, the different methods and seeing some of the stunning examples of the work that has come from Bruges.
Hot Chocolate to Go
If you visit in winter like we did, getting a hot chocolate to go is basically required. We grabbed ours from The Old Chocolate House and sipped as we took in the sights.
Where to Stay in Bruges
Our Bruges Airbnb is my favorite Airbnb to date. It really exceeded expectations and was so insanely adorable. We stayed in a little converted shed structure in a lovely couple’s backyard that was right on the canal.
It was beautiful, clean and cozy with a fireplace and an epic bathtub. The perfect spot to relax after a day of sightseeing! We lit a fire each night and made breakfast with a view each morning. It was bliss.
What to Eat in Bruges
When in Belgium, eat frites, chocolate, waffles and mussels! I love them all, so we made sure we tried each of them. It was glorious
We stumbled upon Chez Vincent while making our way over to Minnewater. We spotted a girl with a cone of frites outside and we were sold. We didn’t quite need lunch, but we weren’t going to make it to dinner without eating, so two medium fries were perfect. Even better, we could take them to go and maximize our sightseeing in daylight.
In Den Wittenkop
This restaurant came highly recommended in an expat Facebook groups for a nice but casual meal, which sounded perfect for us. Upon discovering they have a whole menu section devoted to moules frites, booking dinner at In Den Wittenkop was a no-brainer!
I, of course, got the moules frites and they were fabulous. Definitely check out this cute spot!
During our wanderings of “Hidden Bruges,” we came upon this lovely little scene at lunchtime.
Cafe Vlissinghe was a great spot for lunch. They even had an adorable restaurant dog begging for scraps. Soup was the clear choice on a chilly winter day and it hit the spot.
For Andrew’s birthday dinner, we booked Pieter Pourbus. It had been recently renovated and was so quaint!
We enjoyed delicious steaks here and the service was excellent.
What to Drink in Bruges
Belgian beer is famous around the world and there is no shortage of places to try around Bruges!
This funky little spot has prime real estate right on the canal. Both a large shop and a bar, 2be serves tons of different beers, with 16 Belgian varieties on tap. And their own homemade cups!
Lucky for us, the outdoor patio was heated and they offered a sparkling Belgian wine for people like me, who can’t drink beer. Instead I had a glass of Chardonnay Meerdael and it was really good. Highly recommend!
Le Trappiste was the beer bar that Andrew was most excited about. Set in a subterranean cave-like setting, it is a pretty sweet place. They offer generous beer flights. Andrew asked the bartender to surprise him and he served up a great variety of Belgian beers.
Though we visited during the off-season soon after it opened, the bar was completely full. Be prepared to wait or stand!
Another underground beer bar, we stopped by T’Poatersgat, too. This one wasn’t as cool as Le Trappiste, but it also wasn’t as crowded. It had a funky ambiance and gets great reviews.
We were drawn into Groot Vlaenderen after dinner by its beautiful uplit exterior and chandeliers visible through the windows. Upon entering, we discovered it was a cocktail bar. The perfect spot for a nightcap.
I got a French 75 and Andrew a take on the manhattan, as we do. The drinks were great and the bar is beautiful.
- The city is small. A weekend is enough time to feel like you’ve seen it all and it would make a fabulous day trip.
- Book your dinner reservations in advance. Because it is a small city, the good ones tend to book up.
- Luckily, I read some blogs before we traveled and got this awesome tip: get chocolate souvenirs at the grocery store, not the chocolate shops. You’ll get a wide selection of local chocolate without the shop markup.
- I read on the Visit Bruges website that climbing the Belfry tower is very popular and so it is best to try and go up early in the morning. We got there around 11 in the off-season and waited an hour in line.