THE LITTLE SCOOP: [THE BULLET POINTS]
EAT & DRINK:
The best waffle we have ever tasted at Chez Albert. Check out the De Halve Maan Brewery, 2be “Beer Wall” and all the moules and frites you can get your hands on! As in Brussels, great chocolate is on every single street and incredibly cheap – we went into a store just for a “bite” – and paid 1.60 Euro (not 160, 1.60) for four gorgeous pieces, the perfect sweet not too indulgent treat! [thank goodness – because the waffle…more below]
We stayed at this modern Airbnb studio near Lake Minnewater. It was a short walk from the train station, as well as shops and restaurants, and the host lovingly left some great tips. The cozy space was perfect for our overnight in Bruges!
Canal tours, while touristy, run just 8 Euro. In the”Venice of the North” – it’s an ideal and beautiful way to see the town! You can also do brewery tours at the Half Man and climb the Belfry in the Market Square for panoramic views of the area. But mostly – just walk around, eat, drink, and talk about how adorable this incredible town is. If you are a person of faith, a visit to the Basilica of the Holy Blood is a must.
THE BIG SCOOP: [THE WHOLE STORY]
For years, I had been dying to go to Bruges, since seeing the movie “In Bruges” and since nearly everyone who has been to Belgium says “Oh yes Brussels, but did you go to Bruges?!”
It actually almost made me nervous. How could these tiny little town stack up to all the hype?
And yet – it really, really did.
First off, if you’re confused about the difference between Bruges and Brugge – the latter is the Flemish pronounciation, as we have moved to the Flanders region!
The name “Bruge” is believed to have come from an old Scandanavian word “Brygga” for “harbor” as it was founded by Vikings in the 9th century. At one time, because of the canals and access to major waterways, Bruges was Belgium’s largest city and a mecca for textile production. When Antwerp began to take the lead, Bruge fell but was resurrected by tourism in the 20th century. And they do it beautifully. While many tiny midevil towns become overrun by souvenir shops full of cheesy merchandise, Bruges knows that its strength is its simplicity and just lets that shine through!
We took the train from Brussels Central Station to Bruge on Saturday morning, roundtrip was inexpensive (15.80 Euro per person for a round trip weekend ticket) – there are nearly 70 trains per day, so take whatever one suits! We were out late at Delirium the night before so took our time getting up, and unfortunately Belgian trains, while frequent, weren’t quite as precise as Swiss! So we arrived a bit later, but it was no matter.
On the quick walk to our Airbnb, we flat out marveled at the beauty of Lake Minnewater (Lake of Love) – named for two starcrossed lovers, Minna and Stromberg, a Romeo and Juliet-esque story!
Next we did a canal tour, for again, just 8 Euro. You can pick them up at variety spots around the city! They are guided, but I will say that our “guide” left a bit to be desired – occasinally he would point out a building and simply say “museum” or “hospital” and put his microphone back 🤣. Which truthfully was fine with us – there was so much beauty to take in, in just 30 minutes of wading through the canals! If you are going in summer tourist season, I’d recommend going in the morning before the crowds come in, for maximum enjoyment.
Following the tour, we grabbed a quick bit of frites, naturally, and visited the iconic 2be Beer Wall overlooking one of the canals. They claim to have every single Belgian beer on the market – and they do not appear to be lying.
It was a perfect place to hang and enjoy the afternoon while discreetly snacking on some chocolates (the 1.60 Euro treat I mention above.) While we were picking them out, a kind shopkeeper shared that the term “pralines” in Belgium do not necessarily mean simply just mean the pecan gooey inside we know from the US, simply, just any inside ganache, caramel, mousse, etc.
Before our next beer break, we wandered a bit …
and visited the Christmas wonderland Käthe Wohlfahrt, which you might remember from our trip to their headquarters in Rothenberg ob der Tauber. Consistent with all our travels, I picked up an ornament to remember our trip by, as well as some lace from a nearby store. Only through the last few years of celebrating friend’s weddings did I learn Belgian lace is such a hot commodity. It really was everywhere, including this full blown map of Bruge near the canals!
To keep our buzz on, we also visited Le Trappiste Brugges, a 13th century cellar with more than 100 varieties of beer.
After the most idyllic day, we had a quiet dinner on the canal (moules and frites again) before retiring to our Airbnb. The next morning we hit the Markt (Market) Square…
before climbing the 12th century Belfry. There is a big joke in the movie “In Bruges” about the cost being 5 Euro, but it’s now 12 Euro per person!
It was cloudy for us and cool, but the views were lovely. Try to go on a sunny day if not, don’t beat yourself up if you miss it.
To reward ourselves for all those stairs, as one must always do, we had the amazing waffle atChez Albert around the corner. You might have noticed in the Brussels post I was eating a very different looking one! In Belgium, there are Liege waffles, or Brussels waffles …
While neither are intended for breakfast (🤷🏻♀️) Brussels waffles (with me on the left) are lighter and crisper with perfect square edges and deep holes. Liege (on the right with the flag) are made with a thicker batter with uneven edges and notoriously sweeter. Since I try to go easy on carbs most of the time, for me, while in Belgium, why not just go big with a Liege?!
Last we visited the Basilica of the Holy Blood, built in the 12th century, which houses drops of Holy Blood. It was allegedly collected by Joseph of Arimathea who claimed to collect it when washing the crucified body of Jesus Christ. The relic was brought from the Holy Land by Thierry of Alsace, Count of Flanders, and annually on Ascension Day (Holy Thursday of Easter weekend), there is a formal procession through town celebrating the capsule. For 2.50 euro you can see the cylinder with two gold crowns at each end, but can’t take a good photo.
Also look at all those horse and buggies! As I mentioned, Bruges really leans into the fairytale vibe without selling out. We returned to the station and set back to Brusselsfor the acclaimed Beer & Chocolate Tour . Bruges was an unbelievably charming town that seriously exceeded high expectations. We couldn’t more strongly recommend a visit for a serene and tranquil weekend!
Our trip to Luzern, called Switzerland’s most beautiful city – is up next!