Each year I try to travel to a new country. I love the excitement of experiencing new cultures, tasting local cuisines, and seeing new things everyday. This year I chose to escape the grind in beautiful Bruges, Belgium. It is a charming, quiet city near the Northwestern coast of Belgium. Most people have heard of Brussels or Antwerp, but Bruges is the best of all three in my opinion.
Bruges is sometimes called the Venice of the North because of its many canals and quaint charm. You will also see the city spelled Brugge, as it’s spelled by the locals. If you like good eats, beautiful old city charm, and a laid back atmosphere, you will fall in love with Bruges! Here are some pics from my trip and a list of Bruges highlights you should check out if get a chance to visit.
Belgian Beer Tastings & Brewery Tour
I’m not much of a drinker, but I made an exception to enjoy some delicious Belgian beers during my time in Bruges and boy was I glad I did. There’s something extra tasty about Belgian brews, and lambics are definitely my favorite. If you have a taste for sweet drinks you must try fruit lambics like raspberry, peach, and strawberry. They have just the right hint of bubbly sweetness.
I recommend grabbing dinner and choosing from the selection of 400 different beers at Cambrinus Bierbrasserie (go early or make a reservation) and going on the De Halve Maan brewery tour (aim for the 11am slot). The guide I had on the brewery tour was hilarious and very knowledgeable. You also get an excellent view of the city from their rooftop.
Buckets Of Steaming Hot Mussels & Flaming Hot Mussels
Boy was I in heaven being in Bruges when mussels were in season. You can find them at practically every restaurant in several different bases. My favorite was white wine with shallots, YUM. A tip to eating mussels like the locals is to use an empty shell like a pair of pliers to grab and eat them. You’ll also want to hang on to some bread to sop up the extra sauce.
Another must when visiting Bruges or any city in Belgium is tasting their Flemish fries. They are sliced thick and fried twice to make them extra good. My mouth is watering for fries right now just thinking about them. The most common sauce that is paired with fries in Belgium is mayonnaise, and if that sounds strange to you, trust me it’s good! Many vendors also offer other flavored toppings made with different spices which are worth trying too. The below pic of the fries had “Brazilian” topping which was extra tasty. Just be aware that a lot of the prices posted for fries are without sauce, which they typically charge separately for, so look carefully if you’re short on change.
Belgian Waffles, And Chocolates!
Waffles, waffles, everywhere! Just choose carefully. Make sure the place you buy them from will heat them up for you, otherwise they will taste rather stale and dry. The best waffle I had was hot off the press with melted white chocolate on top.
You’ll also find lots of chocolate shops, which I think are better value and also much tastier than the waffles. Stick to the ones that are hand made and your mouth will melt in happiness. Get a box to carry the ones you don’t eat right away or they’ll get completely squashed though, which I learned the hard way.
Evening Strolls Along Canals And Cobblestone Streets
Bruges has beautiful cobblestone streets, and a great time to explore the city is in the evening. The day trip tourists have left, and you can easily find yourself wondering down quiet lanes without another tourist in site. Soak in the architecture and stroll along the canals. On my first night walking the city, I was blessed with a surprise greeting by a group of six swans, swimming effortlessly one after the other along the glassy water. The first two were super fast so I only caught four in my picture.
Splurge On A Carriage Or Canal Ride
A common Bruge activity is taking a canal boat ride or horse drawn carriage around the city. I was on a budget, so I just took pictures and did all of my exploring on foot. Just be careful anytime you’re walking around Bruge though as the borders of sidewalk vs road don’t really exist in a lot of places. And even though there isn’t much traffic in the old town, there are cars and buses every so often even on the cobblestones. And I warn you people drive super fast there! Even though the streets are small, they expect you to hear them coming and get the heck out of the way!
Go For A Picnic In The Countryside
The Belgian countryside is lush and super green. Cows, sheep, horses, and goats dot the fields everywhere you look, and you’ll find yourself wondering if you should consider moving to Belgium to become a dairy farmer. You’ll see straight rows of trees were roads cut through the fields every so often, with local peddling along on their bikes. You’ll get to enjoy the view of a lot of these fields if you arrive to Bruges by train.
Now It’s Your Turn to Escape The Grind In Beautiful Bruges, Belgium
It’s easy to get around Bruges and Belgium. Trains come to and from Bruges about every hour, and you can take a bus from the train station right into the heart of Bruges. Most of the locals speak Flemish, French, and English. And Bruges is totally flat and not that big so you can walk around without getting that tired. Belgium uses the Euro which is super convenient and prices were reasonable. I stayed in a canal view room for only $105 a night which included free breakfast. The room was tiny and had shutters instead of a normal door into the bathroom, but it was quiet, clean, and I slept like a rock!
A lot of people come to Bruges just for a day trip from Antwerp or Brussels, but I highly recommend staying at least two nights. You want to enjoy Bruge at a slow pace, and soak in the charm. Especially when there are so many tasty Belgian beers to try with your buckets of mussels and fries, you don’t want to feel rushed.
I loved my time in Bruges and really had the chance to unwind, recharge, and relax. The food was so good I’m drooling just thinking about it, the people were all polite and friendly, the beer was spot on, and the charm of the city was much like a fairytale.
Untemplaters, have I convinced you to go escape the grind in beautiful Bruges, Belgium? Do you have a favorite place that you like to go to get some R&R?
Edward Antrobus says
I’ll have to look into lambic. My tastes in beer run directly to the lighter colors, especially wheats. I just can’t handle the dark stuff. I can’t believe you’ve never had mayo on fries! I much prefer that to the sweetened tomato paste they call ketchup these days.
Belgium wasn’t the first time I had mayo with fries, but it was the first time I had some of the other spice sauces. I liked them the best.
Don’t you guys in the US ever have aioli with your chips? Aioli and mayo are SO good with them.
Belgium isn’t on my must-see list I must admit but maybe we’ll make it there one day!
It’s pretty rare. The first time I tried it in the US was when my Dutch friend ordered some for me to try. It’s all about ketchup in the States.
Belgium is definitely one of the most beautiful countries. These pics are gorgeous. Life is too short, so I am happy that you are exploring it wisely by visiting different countries.
Thanks Shilpan! Yeah I am trying to continue seeing new places because there are so many wonderful things to see, taste, and trek! I’m saving repeat visits for my older years if I ever get my fill for exploring new places. I gotta hike all the steep ruins and mountains while my knees are still working!
I have been to Bruges, it is as beautiful as you can imagine. It is far cleaner than Venice too. The chocolate shops are a real treat too. The Belgium people have made mustard into an art form and the little (mustard) shops are worth a visit too.
i don’t remember Venice being dirty when I was there, but I’m sure with the vast number of tourists there it’s bound to happen. Bruges was clean as you said and the air was fresh, no pollution either. Funny I totally missed the mustard shops! Maybe because I was constantly looking for chocolates instead! 🙂
Kathleen @ Frugal Portland says
I visited once and LOVED it — I stayed in a kitchy hotel that I think was on a boat, or at least had boat-themed rooms. It was fantastic! Fun fact: Brugge is the Flemish/German spelling and Bruges is the French — that city has a ton of history with who was in charge and when. I recommend the two-day museum pass there. That made going to museums way cheaper.
How cool! I actually didn’t visit many museums when I was there. I was obsessed with taking lots of pictures on my adventure walks and eating all the goodies. It would be fun to stay in a houseboat someday. I’ll have to try that next time!
Financial Samurai says
Love the night time pics! Any way you can blow them up and make them bigger in the post? The swans are great!
Beer, fries, and mussels. Yum!
I thought about that but it would take way too long for the page to load. Night time was so wonderful in Bruges and the pics don’t even do it justice. There’s something magical about walking along a cobblestone street, taking a turn and stumbling across a canal with a line of swans swimming gracefully by. Life’s simple pleasures!
Daisy @ Add Vodka says
Beautiful photos. I’d love to go to Belgium. It’s certainly on my “must see” list. I’ll be in Europe this time next year and hopefully I’ll visit Belgium!
Thanks Daisy! You will love Belgium and have so much fun on your trip next year. I love how Europe has so much history and laws that protect most of the architecture. It’s like stepping back in time in places like Bruge while still being able to enjoy modern facilities.
W at Off-Road Finance says
Looks nice! I’ll have to see if they have lambics at the local liquor store. They have lots of oddball imports, so it’s possible.
They just might. I found out a restaurant/bar that I visit every now and then has several Belgian beers including a raspberry lambic, one of my favorites. So now I know where to go to remenisce about my trip to Bruges.