This past weekend my friends Sian and I made our way to Bruges for our rearranged trip from December. It was a fabulous girls weekend of catching up and eating really good food – and of course some sight seeing!
We took the Eurostar from London to Brussels and changed to get an Intercity train to Bruges. Our Eurostar ended up being slightly delayed and so we missed the normal connecting trains. The train time they gave us on the Eurostar ended up being one that took 2.5 hours long! Make sure you pick a direct train between the cities as it was too long as the third train of the day!
We got to Bruges in the end luckily we were staying right by the station in an Ibis Budget. It was clean and modern, but compact. You need to be very good friends to share a room in this chain.
Our first task was to find a restaurant for some dinner. We started walking towards the centre of the city, but aware that we wanted something on the outer streets as the closer you get to Markt, the more expensive it becomes. We end up finding a little pizza place called La Trattoria and it was fantastic. I enjoyed my first beer of the trip – a Bruges Zot – and a wonderfully fresh pizza.
We then had an early-ish night as we wanted to make the most of the full day we had in the city.
We started out on Saturday heading towards a tearoom come bakery I found online and that I knew was open early, called Carpie Diem. It was really popular with lots of couples having the Champagne breakfast. We went for a slightly cheaper option of crossiant, Belgian roll, and coffee, which came with a little slice of cake and a Belgium chocolate. It was a fantastic start to the day!
The chocolate was a caramel that melted in the mouth and the cake was a pecan pie type cake that was not too sweet and extremely delicious.
We then headed towards the Markt, passing the cathedral (which was closed?) and the Church of our Lady Bruges. We passed lots of shops we planned to wander back past once they opened and we had done all we had planned.
The firsts stop was the Markt and the Belfry. We didn’t end up going in and climbing to the top as it was awful weather and we didn’t think the view would be great, but we had a good look around from the outside.
I took lots of photos of the horse and carriages awaiting the tourists wanting tours. I always have mixed feelings about this activity, but all the horses looked in good health and as there was little traffic in the centre they didn’t seem to be at as much risk compared to other places. We didn’t take a tour, but instead headed to the canal to take a boat tour.
We got to the boats very early and watched the first one head off while we bought our ticket just after 10am. I would recommend taking the tour. It was 8 euros for a 30 minute tour that takes you one way and then the other (depending on where you get on the boat). I tried to take lots of photos, but have ended up with lots of heads in random places so will be having a bit of an edit as part of the photography lessons/practice I’m currently having.
After our boat trip I made Sian walk to the other side of the city (probably around 20 minutes easy walking) as it wasn’t yet raining to see the windmills out by the river and the Gate of Ghent. I imagine this would be lovely in the summer when it is a bit warmer and you are able to go into one of the windmills.
We then decided as it was almost lunchtime it was time to try another speciality – a waffle! I went for one with cherries and Sian had chocolate and cream. They were freshly made from Chez Albert and absolutely amazing! Gooey, warm, sweet, sticky and light all at the same time. These were the real thing and I don’t think I will ever like waffles that are not like these again!
We then headed to the Choco-Story Museum for a lesson in the history of chocolate and to try some proper Belgium chocolate. I will say we both though the Cadburys Factory back home is better, with more free samples and a bit more fun with the history, but it was great to do and it got us out of the cold for a while.
Just because a chocolate museum was not enough we then headed to the Choco-Jungle Bar where I enjoyed an Aztec hot chocolate. I could use the moon chart to decide how to flavour my hot chocolate, and I used the God of Health I think. It was the one that had a little bit of every spice – cinnamon, cloves, pepper, star anise, and ginger. It was a very rich hot chocolate made with real chocolate and the spices were an excellent touch that made it stand out. I made it my own by adding more cloves and cinnamon.
We decided then that we needed something savoury and went to the Frietmuseum – a museum dedicated to the chip! Yes you read that right…
The museum basically took you through the history of the potato and the theories for how the chip (and other versions) came into being. It was fun to spend another hour indoors out of the cold, plus there was a cafe in the basement that pretty much just did chips. We both had a cone with mayonnaise. I enjoyed them as they were cooked fresh, but I will always have a soft spot for chip shop chips over anything else!
We then went to wander the shops and find 2be The Beer Wall to get a taster of beers. Thanks to Ashley over at Healthy Happier Bear for the tip on this one. It was very busy as it had started to rain and everyone was looking for a spot of cover. We went for the light beer taster set of four beers and I like them all. It came with three little snacks, which were a great bonus for 10 euros.
We tried them in order starting with Coconut, then Blanc de Numar, then Kriek Boon, and lastly Bruges Zot. My favourite was definitely the Bruges Zot as it was the most lager type and was very smooth.
While we were enjoying out beer tasting a random carival started to pass in the street outside. We watched what we could while drinking beer, but quickly finished and headed to the Markt to catch as much as we could. It was really great fun with lots of people laughing, singing, and dancing to rave music! The floats and costumes were very impressive and even with a Google search I haven’t been able to find anything to definitely say what it was for, but it made standing the the rain much more pleasant.
This was late afternoon and the only thing we had left to do was to find some souvenirs. I knew I wanted to take from delicious chocolate home, so we headed to find Galler, where I succumbed to my crazy cat lady status and bought chocolate in the shape of cats! This was a special edition I was told, as it was a collaboration with an artist and the chocolatiers.
We then went to The Chocolate Line as it was recommended by our friend Jen. I bought a selection of coffee chocolate. I ate these when I got home and they were absolutely amazing.
We then spent the Sunday travelling back home (on much quicker trains) after a wonderful time in Bruges. I would recommend it as place to visit. A day is all that is really needed. I would like to go back in the summer at some point as I imagine it to be lovely when warmer and everyone can sit outside. I would also still go for the the Christmas Market, but there are other places I would go first now I have been to Bruges. Overall a wonderful weekend and it showed me how easy it is to travel to Europe for a weekend without having to fly. I’m not thinking about Paris and Salzburg!