As a part of our two week trip to Europe in May, my husband and I spent three wonderful nights in Bruges. I had visited once before, when I was 15 years old. My parents took the little brother and I on a whirlwind trip so we could experience as many cities and countries as possible. We touched soil on 8 different countries in only two weeks! And yes, my brother and I got very sick of each other, very quickly. =) But in the short time we visited Bruges, it became one of the highlights of the trip for me.
With the tight cobbled streets, serene canals and little bridges, I knew I had to take my husband there and spend more time in this lovely city. He instantly fell in love with it too. Food portions were huge, gourmet chocolate shops and bakeries were at every turn and we came across many unexpected highlights. It was on a hot afternoon that we found flea market along a canal where we purchased a beautiful iron door knocker that will go on the entrance to our new home. We walked through a convent that had been there for centuries and enjoyed the music of buskers in the streets. The quality of food was one surprise to me that I hadn’t remembered from my first visit to Bruges. I’m not talking about the cafes and restaurants in the main square though – avoid those at all costs (overpriced, bad service, terrible eats), but the little gems hidden away on back streets, such as De Vlaamsche Pot. Everything was so fresh, rich and delicious.
I would go back again in a heartbeat.
Our Recommendations in Bruges:
When deciding on where to book, I remembered having kept a brochure for the B&B I had stayed at 10 years earlier. Hunting through some memory boxes, success! I found it. I remembered it being reasonably priced and the hosts being very kind. Upon entering the website addres in my internet browser, I was immediately redirected here to discover that owners Kris and Els had purchased a stunning home, just outside of the centre and expanded their bed and breakfast to include three bedrooms and a full service breakfast. The gorgeously appointed common kitchen and dining area has vintage, shabby chicness about it. The bedrooms have also been beautifully renovated and decorated. The whole look of their home is airy, fresh and clean – perfect for our three night stay. They truly take pride in their home and have been featured in a Belgian design magazine as well as on a local reality TV show where B&B owners are profiled. Having mentioned that I had visited their previous location, they gave us the lovely, patio level room, with full height paned windows that opened up onto the stunning back yard.
Kris and Els are the kindest, most accommodating hosts. Not only did they pick us up and drop us off at the train station, Els drove us into the centre of town a few times when it was chilly and raining. The breakfasts were enough to keep bellies full until dinner time, and she always insisted you pack up the leftovers to take them with you for the day ahead. Their passion for the business was evident throughout every detail – from sitting us down with maps upon arrival and pointing out the highlights of the city tailored to our personal interests, to the details and furnishings in the rooms, to soft boiled eggs from their very own hens. The bed and linens were cozy, the bathrooms were spotless and modernized. Bicycles are available night and day, free of charge for guests. We used them throughout the visit, as Bruges is the perfect biking city. When it was raining or a bit chilly, we opted to walk rather than ride. After dinner, the 30 minute walk from town back to the bed and breakfast was actually a treat in the cool evening air.
I rave about Kwalito to anyone who asks about our trip. It was truly the highlight of our European vacation, and after feeling a bit weary a week in to travelling, it was the perfect place to rest and rejuvenate before continuing the journey to Paris. We felt completely comfortable and at home here.
Both of these restaurants were recommendations from our host, Kris.
Hidden away off a main road, De Vlammsche Pot was where we ate on our first night in Bruges. The wait staff was attentive and atmosphere was very romantic. We had to wait a few minutes for a table, not having made reservations, but were seated outside on the covered and heated terrace. It was a beautiful little spot, with brick walls, glowing candles and red and white checkered table clothes. I ordered mussels in white wine and garlic, Manaen had the Flemish Stew – cubes of beef marinated and simmered in Belgian beer. Both came with huge and never-ending helpings of French fries, which as we learned, were actually invented in Belgium. We left with very full tummies and the wine kept us warm on our walk back to Kwalito.
Kok au Vin is a higher-end dining experience, and reservations are definitely recommended. A very modern atmosphere with an open kitchen, their food was simple and beautifully presented, like little works of art. Plan to spend more here on dinner for two – closer to 100 Euros with a bottle of wine. The wait staff were very professional; however, language was a bit more of a difficulty here over other locations in Bruges. Menus are in both French and Flemish though, so we muddled through on vague English explanations from the waiter and our limited French. The dishes were absolutely delicious. I had a cream based seafood soup, and hubby ordered the shrimp croquettes. He had Coq au Vin for his main, and I enjoyed the light and fluffy halibut pictured below. Yes, I ate around the peas… =) A satisfying meal out.
You really must bike around Bruges to get the feel for it. You cover so much more ground and it’s truly a delight to bike in this city. If your accommodation doesn’t offer bicycles, there are plenty of places to rent in town. The paths, pedestrian areas and little bridges are so neat to explore this way.
Go on your own Chocolate Tasting
There are tons of chocolate shops throughout Bruges. Many offer free tastings or price their chocolates by weight so you can inexpensively create your own little tour sampling the gourmet varieties from shop to shop. One favourite of ours was The Chocolate Line, where they had exotic and experimental flavour combinations.
Tour the Last Brewery in Bruges
Visit the last brewery in Bruges, De Halve Maan. The guides make the tour very interesting and each tour includes a pint at the end, which you can enjoy in the private courtyard of the brewery. There are many steep ladders and stairs throughout the tour though, so wouldn’t recommend this one for those who have trouble walking or are afraid of heights. The view from the rooftop is astounding, and worth the butterflies if you are a more cautious climber (like me). It’s a nice, inexpensive way to spend an hour in Bruges.
See the Madonna and Child
The Church of Our Lady was one of the nice surprises we came across on our visit. I had no idea that Michelangelo’s sculpture of Madonna and Child resided in Bruges. The church itself was brighter and more airy than many gothic cathedrals I have seen throughout Europe. The sculpture, made of white marble, is very serene and peaceful to view. It was a treat to stumble upon this work of art in Bruges.
Take a Boat Tour of the Canals
A ‘must do’ for anyone visiting Bruges is to hop on a boat for a tour of the winding and intricate canals. There are a few tour companies to choose from, but from what I understand, they all travel the same path and point out the same highlights. We were able to board at a less busy, less central location, which cut down on waiting time and line-ups. Viewing Bruges this way really is a must, as there are certain areas you can only see from the water. Next time, I’d love to do the same tour at night time, with the buildings all lit up.