I have been a bit under the weather these past few days and as a result I have been able to catch up on lots of movies I’ve been dying to see. One of them was In Bruges, with Colin Farrell, dark flick but still inspired me to do my post finally about the beautiful town of Bruges, Belgium and my suggestions for where to stay and what to do. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Bruges, it’s an absolutely lovely town and as the movie says over and over, it is “like a F*@&!#+ Fairytale!” Excuse my vulgarity but it is. It is one of the most picturesque cities left almost entirely untouched since medieval times. Colin Farrell’s character did not understand its charm but I certainly did.
Bruges (the English spelling or Brugge as its known by the Dutch) is possibly the most charming European city you will ever visit. And leave it to the cynics to complain about it being too beautiful. It’s been compared to being a phony, Disney-like city. Well, cynics, I say find something more worthwhile to complain about. It’s pretty much them and Colin Farrell versus the world, I say a city filled with chocolatiers, pommes frites, waffles and beer can’t be all that bad!
View from our room in Hotel Heritage
Sun deck at Hotel Heritage. Image courtesy Hotel Heritage.
Room in Hotel Heritage. Image courtesy Hotel Heritage.
If you’re choosing where to stay, we recommend one of two places, either Hotel Heritage or Kempinski Hotel Dukes Palace. The latter is actually a UNESCO World Heritage site and combines today’s comforts with the authentic charm of a 15th century landmark. If you’re looking to go for more of the boutique luxury route, look no further than Hotel Heritage. I stayed here and found this hotel to be exactly what I was hoping for in a town like Bruges–extremely romantic.
View from Sun Deck at Hotel Heritage
Hotel Heritage’s location is extremely central and is only a short walk from Bruges’ main square, the Belfry and the Basilica of the Holy Blood. The rooms in this Four Star hotel feature Five Star quality bathrooms and service. Other standout amenities included an iPad setup to free Wi-Fi and Flatscreen televisions. I really loved the charming room where we stayed– it had skylights that featured views of the city’s rooftop’s. If you’re not on the top floor, fear not, glorious views can be enjoyed from the hotel’s sundeck. This hotel offers great value and I think is a fabulous setting for a lovely romantic getaway. I also recommend taking the complimentary walking tour included in your price of the room.
So, first things first, while it may sound cheesy, you simply must take a canal tour through town. True, you’ll feel like you’re on a lifelike version of “It’s a Small World” but there is no better way to see the city from the canals. Learn the history as you take in the sites.
When you’re finished with your canal tour (they only last about 35 minutes), catch the walking tour that meets inside the center next to the Basilica of the Holy Blood (times vary check with the front desk at Hotel Heritage). Our guide was extremely knowledgeable and answered every question my inquisitive husband and I had (his of course centered around history while mine were food and drink based). We visited Market Square, the Belfry tower, The Gruuthuse, and Saint John’s hospital, Lover’s Lake as well as several other places. Upon completion of the nearly 2-hour tour, I really felt like I gained a great understanding of the city’s history and culture…and then it was time to eat.
And eat I did in this city of temptation. Bruges feaures some of Europe’s finest delicacies and since I was only here a short time, I decided I had to indulge in everything as fast as humanly possible! First up, Belgian chocolate. Bruges is home to an absurd number of chocolatiers in Bruges and it truly is overwhelming for a visitor to even know where to begin! After asking around (and tasting quite a bit of chocolate–all for the sake of research of course) I finally feel as though I was able to narrow down the best for you! First place goes to Dominique Persoone’s shop, the Chocolate Line . This shop had the most creative treats, serving up anything from chocolate-flavored lipsticks to snortable chocolate. Yep, you read that right, chocolate powder that you can sniff like a drug. I didn’t take part in this quirky pastime but I was assured that this stuff is the real deal. We chatted with a shop girl who told us, yes, you really can get a high off of it! We skipped the powder and went with several of the chocolate covered marshmallows and the neon green passion fruit and lime chocolates.
Next on our chocolate dream team is a more typical, fancy Belgian chocolatier, Sukerbuyc, which translates literally to Sugar Belly. I mean with a name like that, what else is a guy to do other than go into chocolate? This place has no gimmicks, and is just fine chocolate all the way. It’s no wonder that its one of the most well reputed shops in town. Our last pick goes to BbyB.
Next it was onto the beer. This way, you can regain an appetite before moving onto your next Belgian treats. To really expand your beer knowledge I recommend visiting De Halve Maan Brewery (Half-Moon Brewery). The beer here is to die for as it is not pasteurized. Well I meant that in a good way, not that you will die from it. If you don’t have time though to visit the brewery be sure at the very least to sit on the Market Square and throw back a Belgian beer or two. Brugse Zot (“Bruges Fool”) was my favorite! I’m told this beer (light and dark) is winning awards all over so is becoming easier to find around the world! Believe it or not, I have actually been able to find it in New York! Very exciting moment for me! A couple other great places to sample some Belgian beers that locals frequent are ‘t Brugse Beertje and Bar des Amis.
And once I worked up an appetite I found the most heavenly place for some Belgian fries–perfectly crispy on the outside yet warm and mush on the inside. Frietkot and Friterie 1900 on the Market Square were my favorites–and if you want to be really authentic get them with Samurai Sauce–aka spicy ketchup.
If you’re looking for waffles you should know there are two different kinds, square and circle, which are a bit crispier and sweeter–I preferred the latter. I found that the best ones were served on the street from places I couldn’t even decipher a name from.
For dinners, I recommend The Olive Tree (Greek) and Bistro Raymond.
All images in this post unless otherwise noted are by Katie Goldstein.