I feel like when travelling in Europe for a decent amount of time, you either love or hate a place. Bad weather can make me completely hate a place just as well as a beautiful sunny day (even in winter) can make me fall in love! Bruges did exactly that as we had the best weather! We had 1 and half days in this cute town but easily could have had a few more to explore the outskirts. It’s the country where Belgium chocolate originated from (obviously haha) so how could one not love this place? The stuff is everywhere and it’s AMAZING! Waffles, fries, chocolate, beer, sausages, muscles and more its all here!
We arrived from Paris taking only about 4 hours by bus and decided to snap up the opportunity to join a free walking tour provided by our hostel, which is a fantastic thing to do to orientate your self to a new city. Bruges is quite a small town, making it walking distance to pretty much everything, perfect for exploring and getting lost.
Here is my complete guide to Bruges:
TO STAY: As we are on a tight budget we stayed at Bauhaus Hostel (partners with Saint Christopher’s chain, which are known to always be fantastic throughout Europe), which cost us just under 20 euros each a night and was walking distance to everything. Rooms were great as you have your own pod bed with a curtain, charging points, bedhead and lockers under the bed for storage. The hostel didn’t have a kitchen (although they said we were welcome to use their microwave and kettle) but they do have a restaurant and bar that provide pretty cheap meals. As for other places to stay my only recommendation would be to stay with in the city center ring area so you are able to easily walk everywhere.
TO EAT: If you are on a diet visiting Belgium that will go straight out the window. I mean, the country is famous for Belgium chocolate & waffles, homemade Belgium fries, 100’s of flavours of mayonnaise (they even had vegan mayo!), strong homebrew beer and heaps more! The food is crazy! So spoil yourself for a few days and use “I’m embracing the local cuisine” as an excuse!
- BUDGET FOOD: “Pasta Presto” is a small Italian take away shop which cost us 3 euros each for pasta in a box (4 euro for medium & 5 euro for large)! They also have cheap pizza and a few other things as well. Can’t go wrong if you’re looking for an inexpensive quick feed! Photo doesn’t look that appetising haha but it was delicious I promise! Oh and the staff were really friendly here too, like the guy waving at us!
- BUDGET FOOD: “Humpty Dumpty” provides 3 course meals for a very reasonable price for a restaurant in the city center. We didn’t eat here, but we heard good things about this place.
- SUPERMARKET: CHEAPEST in town is called “Proxy” it’s big and has pretty much everything you need! They even have really good prepackaged salads and sandwiches to grab for lunch on the go. We bought 2 blocks of Belgium chocolate for 3.50 euro and later on in the day we found the EXACT same thing for 9.95 euros in a chocolate shop. Crazy!
- BELGIUM DESSERTS: Biggest tip to find the best traditional chocolate at a reasonable price is to go to the supermarket (as mentioned above) for blocks of chocolate and if you are wanting specialty chocolate go to the smaller looking local shops that say hand made. The shops with huge touristy looking signs are usually very over priced! The cheapest one we found is pictured below.
- Waffles, waffles, waffles! Waffles are usually the same price everywhere you go BUT make sure they are fresh and handmade! If they aren’t fresh they won’t be nice! But when they are, they are absolutely to die for! Especially when its cold and you have a freshly cooked waffle, with warm Belgium chocolate sauce and your choice of toppings AHHH YUMMM!
- LOCAL: “Chez Vincent” makes the best homemade Belgium fries in Bruges according to all locals. They use fresh potatoes NOT frozen and they use vegetable oil instead of animal fat meaning it is vegetarian friendly. These fries are also the same price as what you will see everywhere else so make sure you are getting the good stuff! These were the BEST fries I have ever tasted, I would highly recommend this place!
- DRINK: “De Garre” serves the strongest beer in Bruges. Situated in a quite alleyway off the main street here you will get 11.5% to 14% homebrew beer! They are actually only allowed to serve 3 per person because of it’s strength. It can be a bit tricky to find, but if you ask a shop or local I’m sure they would be happy to point you in the right direction.
THINGS TO DO:
There are a fair few things to do to keep you occupied during your stay in Bruges, these are just the some we got up to, but there are many other awesome things to see and do as well.
We visited the Choco Story, which is a chocolate museum that exhibit displays and information as well as a live demonstration of the steps to how they make real Belgium chocolate. It costs 8 euro each for the entry, which includes a small bar of their homemade chocolate, and some samples through out the tour. To be 100% honest it’s not something I would rave about, but if you have time it is enjoyable and still cool to see.
We also climbed 366 steps to the top of the Belfry tower costing us 6 euro each (for ages 6-25) that provides awesome views over the city, especially beautiful on a sunny day! This is a must do! The lines can be really long, so I’d recommend going in the morning!
If you are looking to explore outside of the city, hiring bikes can be a good option. 45 minutes riding will take you to Zeebrugge beach, which is supposedly a nice visit in summer.
Koningin Astrid is a beautiful park that locals love coming to, to get away from tourists haha! This would be a lovely spot for a pit stop picnic lunch.
Picture perfect Bruges. Rozenhoedkaai is theee spot for an awesome photo! Any post card you find will most likely have this shot on it. P.S sunset views here are the best!
Take a free walking tour! Most hostels/hotels can inform you of these and it is an awesome way to get a feel of the city. What I usually do is, take advantage of this in the afternoon of arrival, pin places on “maps.me” app that they show and then the next day you are full of things to do. We had an absolutely awesome guide so we tipped her a decent amount, but it’s always up to you if you want to.
We also liked just walking around finding pretty houses and buildings to photograph. There are so many nice ones!
You can also do things like take a boat ride through the canals, drink your way through local breweries, visit some of the many beautiful churches, see wacky museums (fries, tabacco, beer, lace, lamps and heaps more), bargain your heart out at the Sunday flea markets and lots of other cool things we didn’t get time for!
What a breath of fresh air it was not to have to worry about pickpockets and scammers, coming from Paris it felt like being back at home in Australia where you don’t have to think twice! Obviously we were still careful and had general common sense while being in Bruges, but I felt so much safer than many other places we have visited, it was lovely!
– When walking through the town, make sure you look out for a Blue badge (pictured below) on buildings and houses. This means that they are protected by UNESCO and are 85-95% original buildings and cannot be touched! Some of them are just beautiful!
– You will also see big numbers on the buildings, this actually is the date that it was re constructed NOT originally built as the originals were built with wood and burnt down in many fires. This proves how old of a city Bruges actually is!
– Bruges is also known as Venice from the North, as there are multiple canals surrounding the city center with more than 80 bridges. It has an “Amsterdam” kind of feel about it, but much quieter and less touristic.
– Apparently when the film makers of the movie “In Bruges” were in the town finding set locations, they came across a golden Labrador hanging out of a canal side window snoozing, they couldn’t resist so they put him in the movie! Now he is Bruges most famous dog, where swarms of tourists stand to photograph him daily and it doesn’t seem to bother him one single bit!
– Keep in mind that most sightseeing closes at 5! So be sure to visit these things in the morning so you don’t miss out!
– From one backpacker to another, if you want to try those specialty fancy Belgium chocolates until you see the prices? Most chocolate shops will have a lady with samples walking around asking if you would like to try a selection they sell. So every shop you see, walk in looking interested and after a few shops you would of eaten that many samples you will be satisfied for free! Wooo #backpackerlife
– Majority of shops and restaurants close on a Sunday in Bruges, so if you are only visiting for a short amount of time plan your visit to avoid Sunday or stock up on food on Saturday!
I never expected to enjoy Bruges as much as I did, but it’s such a stunning place. From sightseeing, spending your whole day eating treats or just walking around admiring the beautiful canals and buildings, I’m sure there will be something about Bruges that you will love, guaranteed!
NEXT UP – WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO BACKPACK EUROPE? TRAIN, BUS, FERRIES, FLY, TOURS?