My meem (“mom” to you normal folk) took me on a trip to Europe in May as a graduation gift for getting that good ole’ Master’s degree. Yes, she’s quite wonderful. AND I got to choose our destination(s).
I had never been to Bruges! Brussels, yes. Germany, France, Belgium, Ireland, the UK (England & Scotland), Switzerland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland, Luxembourg, Austria, Italy, Slovakia, Estonia – yes (I know, I’m bragging, I’m rude). But never Bruges. And boy was I not disappointed. At all. Seriously. The only thing that would have made it any better is if my favorite men had tagged along. But really, it was great great great even without them. Everything was so fantastic, I’d go back in a heartbeat. Every local (and many a non-local) we met was incredibly friendly and spoke, on average, 4 languages. The food (though very pricey) was all fantastic. The chocolate is a fantasy of all your hopes & dreams. And the beer selection – if you like that malty, monk-made, strong, sweet ish – cannot be topped. Not to mention the incredible antiquity & beauty of the canals and architecture. Or the fact that you can walk anywhere and everywhere. Or the “airbag” (AKA accordion) festival that we had the most extraordinary pleasure of encountering our first night in town. And I don’t mean the German beer hall, grandpa loves this tune, old-timey French ballad – accordion music. I mean rock AND roll, sexy Spanish men singing their hearts out, funky (in a good way) accordion music. And the flea markets, and the kitchen store that had everything any girl with a food blog dreams about daily (plus the one’s she never dreamed of), the FRENCH FRIES & WAFFLES (how did I not take a single picture of the waffles?!?!), the bicycles, the boat tours, the lace. The cobblestones, the history, the art.
If you like fun, go to Bruges. If you like food, go to Bruges. If you like beer, go to Bruges. If you like anything, go to Bruges.
GO TO BRUGES!
Quick Guide to Bruges
Gruuthuse Hof: Lovely, cozy atmosphere with classic decor. A touch fancy, like Iggy. Attentive staff. Absolutely fantastic food. The white asparagus poached in butter was perfection.
Gingerbread Tea Room: Perfect little spot for a light lunch. Soups, salads, sandwiches & quiche. Wonderful coffee. Lovely assortment of homemade desserts (including waffles!) Sit outside if the weather is nice.
We tried to find Laurenzino’s for their famous Belgian waffles but there was a construction site where the storefront should have been. If anyone knows what happened, feel free to fill me in. After a good 20 minutes of confusion and a broken URL, we surmised it no longer exists. And now I believe it was re-opened as an ice cream bar called Oyya.
Chocolatier Dumon: The best dark chocolate I’ve ever had in my life. Don’t go for the “pralines”. Go for the solid stuff. The chocolate bars & the truffles. The pure chocolate goodness. There are 3 locations around Bruges. The oldest is the quaintest but also has a smaller selection than it’s modern counterpart in one of the many town squares.
Depla Chocolatier: Fantastic milk & dark chocolate bars. ERMAHGERD. Yum. The dark doesn’t have as sweet a finish as Dumon’s but the milk chocolate is out of this world – in bar & truffle form.
The Chocolate Line: Funky chocolates like marijuana flavored “pralines.” Wonderful selection of enormous blocks of chocolate – they cut me (to the weight) big chunks of Ecuadorian (71%), Peruvian (64%), and Panamanian (80%) dark chocolates (with which I made the best chocolate ice cream of my life).
Gille & Kamille: LADIES. Gentlemen. Every kitchen utensil, gadget, gismo & accessory to fill your dreams and fantasies. Plus more. I could have spent the entire weekend in this store and yet I somehow managed to talk myself out of buying a single thing. It is lovely and well-stocked and glorious. Shop here. SHOP HERE.
The Bottle Shop: The Bottle Shop has an excellent selection in an excellent location close to the main square. Knowledgeable staff. Well organized layout. WESTVLETEREN. They hide the Westvleteren behind the counter. Also, if you didn’t know because you’re not a Belgian beer fanatic, Westvletern is one of the highest rated beers in the world. It is brewed by monks, obviously. And is nearly impossible to find in the US.
A large selection of Belgian beer can also be found at convenience store-esque locations around Bruges (as pictured above).
Groeningemuseum: Art. That’s old. And Flemish. Check it out. It’s a nice spot. Seriously though, some incredible paintings by Belgian master artists.
Canal Boat Tour: There are a few different companies who host tours. I honestly can’t say which one we used but our guide had a great sense of humor (like most locals we met) and an amazing knowledge of Bruges history. He also gave tips on places to check out (like which bars had the best beer). Plus he gave the tour in English, French AND German.
I vehemently regret not climbing to the top of the Belfry, especially after seeing In Bruges, but it was hot & smelly and have I mentioned I have a crazy fear of steep narrow staircases and possibly falling down them? I usually still go up them though. Sorry if you ever get stuck behind me walking down a 1,000 step spiral staircase.
Hotel Navarra: About a 1 or 2 minute walk from the main square. Very friendly, casual-chic atmosphere with a jazz bar/lounge (equipped with a pianist), wonderful complimentary breakfast selection, several sitting areas and spacious rooms. There’s also a garden with tables out back and a fairly large pick-up/drop-off space for cars/taxis.