I have been dying to go to Bruges for years. I tried to go once before, but was unable to make it happen. So once I knew I was moving to Paris and Frenchman and I would be making plenty of little trips, the very first one on my list was Bruges!
It was a short trip – 2 nights and 2 very full days – but it’s a small town and we made the most of it. Bruges (or Brugge) is a beautiful little medieval city with some of the coolest architecture. It’s also home to beer, chocolate, lace, and waffles. I think you can guess which 3 of those things we focused on! (Hint: not the lace)
We arrived late-ish Friday night and walked from the train station to our B&B. We barely saw a soul – Bruges is possibly the quietest town I’ve ever seen, even at 10pm on a Friday. Despite the wet, drizzly rain I could already tell I was going to love it.
Unfortunately, we got in later than we hoped and it was Frenchman’s first week at his new job, so we didn’t go back out in search of a drink after we found our B&B. Instead, we tucked in and made plans for Saturday.
After a nice breakfast courtesy of our host Lander, we set out towards our first stop, the Saturday morning market, after which we explored some shops and walked ’til we got hungry. We picked a place for lunch right on the Markt square (not a typo) which was touristy, but you can’t beat the view. I ordered a Belgian beer. Non-beer-drinking Frenchman did not. We both ordered the “traditional Flemish stew.”
After lunch, the sun came out and we made tracks to find some chocolate. There are TONS of chocolate shops in Bruges, practically on top of each other, but we weren’t looking for just any chocolate. We wanted quality, top-of-the-line chocolate and were willing to hunt for it. We made our first stop at Dumon, which is adorable and, more importantly, incredibly well reviewed (inside, the woman who makes the chocolate herself made sure to tell me she was in Rick Steves’ guidebook “for many many years”).
We made our choices, then booked it to a free walking tour suggested to us by Lander. The Legends of Bruges guys are friends of his, but we took the recommendation looking to get a bit of history, and I’m glad we did. It was a full 2 hour walk around the heart of the city with plenty of detail of how Bruges began, grew, and fell. Interesting, for sure, and totally recommended if only for the fact that it was completely free! Can’t beat that deal.
Then we bought more chocolate.
No, I’m not kidding.
While we felt that a 500g box (and some champagne truffles – my pick!) was a good start, it just didn’t feel like enough. After all, we were in Belgium! So we looked around for just the right place. And boy did we find it. Move over Dumon! Sorry, Rick Steves, but you’ve got this one wrong – we found the best chocolate in Bruges at Depla.
Put THAT in your guidebook! (no but don’t, because I don’t want the secret to get out!)
In googling just now, I just saw that Depla may actually be the oldest chocolatier in Bruges. We stumbled on it on our own, but it really is fantastic. We were so excited that we chose another entire 500g box, which we could fill as we liked with anything that struck our fancy – something we didn’t get to do at Dumon, which handed us a pre-filled box of mixed chocolates.
Tuckered out from all that excitement, we went back to our room to relax, clean up, and get ready for dinner. We had a hell of a time trying to figure out what to do for dinner. There are bazillions of restaurants for such a tiny town, and yet days ahead of our trip when we tried to make a Saturday night reservation, SIX different places told us they were completely booked. I had resigned myself to pub food and beer rather than the fancy treat we had hoped for.
On a whim, we picked a fondue restaurant well out of the way of normal foot traffic, and it paid off. We immediately got a seat and enjoyed a long, tasty meal at De Nisse before walking it off a bit with a nighttime stroll along the canals.
Sunday morning, our #1 goal was to climb the belfry. Since they only allow 70 people in the Belfort tower at a time, the line can get a bit long so we got there early. We climbed 366 steps up, broken into several levels with interesting tidbits to see and read. What was most surprising though is that there is a real live modern man who plays the bells which ring deafeningly at the topmost level. You can’t hear a word anyone is saying up there, but it doesn’t really matter when everyone’s staring at the incredible views. We were lucky that the sun was out for this moment after some patchy, rainy (northern) weather.
After carefully making our way down, we set out for a boat tour of the canals. Originally, I wasn’t convinced that I cared much about a boat tour, but somehow we both came around to the idea and for just 8€ it’s worth it for a slightly new perspective of Bruges from the canals.
After having hit our main attraction goals, I knew that my next item to check off the list was more beer, but we just weren’t hungry for lunch yet. Suddenly, we found ourselves on a walking/biking trail ringing the city that leads to… WINDMILLS! I was so excited. I had the windmills on my list but didn’t think we would be able to get to them. Turns out they’re much closer than I thought, and made for a perfect activity before heading to the oldest and only remaining brewery in Brugge for a late lunch. Frenchman humored me as I sampled not one, but two of their varieties while he enjoyed his plain water.
We had just a couple of hours left in Bruges, so we took advantage of the nice weather and walked through some slightly less traversed areas, enjoyed the views, and then checked off the final item on our must-do list…
As we grabbed our bags and set out for the train station, suddenly we turned the corner to see a gorgeous sunset over Bruges. It was the perfect end to a fabulous weekend.