Put Bruges on your bucket list! This fairy tale town in Belgium is located just one hour from Brussels, and you won’t get better waffles and chocolate than here! If this is not reasons enough to go, continue reading…
Bruges was once my home for 7 months. I could go anywhere in the world, but my boyfriend got a job there and so I came along. It turned out to be a brilliant decision! Very few places own the same charm as Bruges; from the timber framed buildings and old, cobbled streets to the winding lake and quirky waffle houses. Yes, there’s a reason this place is called ‘The Venice of the North’. Next time you’re heading out somewhere in Europe, make sure to put Bruges on your list! And while you’re there – why not stay at the best hotels and indulge in the cutest cafés?
STAY: Top 4 hotels
I’d choose a charming family-owned hotel over a huge corporate hotel chain any day. That’s why I’ve put these 3 hotels on my list of must-stay places.
Hotel De Orangerie
I stayed at Hotel De Orangerie for one night and completely fell in love with the amazing interior and homely atmosphere. This family-owned boutique hotel is located in the oldest part of Bruges overlooking the river ‘Den Dijver’ and the cobbled streets. Once you step inside the reception, you instantly feel the presence of history – if only walls could speak. Make sure to book the afternoon tea, which is served until 5PM – and don’t forget to enjoy your breakfast in the terrace by the river if you visit during summer time.
Hotel De Orangerie, Kartuizerinnenstraat 10, 8000 Brugge
Hotel De Tuilerieen
An elegant house dating back from the 15th century has been turned into a small luxury hotel of only 45 rooms. Located just opposite of Hotel De Orangerie, Hotel De Tuilerieen combines historical details and contemporary design. There’s an indoor swimming pool and sauna pampering you after a long day of exploring the town, but my favorite part is the hearty breakfast buffet with Prosecco. The hotel was nominated ‘Belgium’s Leading Boutique Hotel’ in 2015.
Hotel De Tuilerieen, Dijver 7, 8000 Bruges
The Relais & Chateaux Hotel Heritage nestles on a quiet street just a stone’s throw from the busy market square. The hotel is another ‘home away from home’ with only 22 rooms and an exquisite eye for details. Hotel Heritage has several green initiatives implemented, which means they’ve obtained ‘The Green Key’ for environmental responsibility. Enjoy a drink in the cosy library bar followed by a dinner in the gourmet restaurant ‘Le Mystique’.
Hotel Heritage, Niklaas Desparsstraat 11, 8000 Brugge
The Pand Hotel
This charming hotel is located in a 18th century building, which was originally used for carriages. Today, the house accommodates a small boutique hotel of 26 rooms and an atmosphere, which is hard to find anywhere else. The Pand Hotel charms its guests with a cosy lounge containing stacks of books, old antiques and a fireplace – and the breakfast is simply splendid! Super friendly staff, too.
The Pand Hotel, Pandreitje 16, 8000 Brugge
COFFEE: Top 4 cafés
My favorite way of starting a day abroad is by heading to the nearest coffee house and maybe even order a brunch. These four cafés will brighten your day.
If pancakes, waffles and homemade hot chocolate sounds good to you, there’s no way around Patisserie Prestige. This chic café attracts both tourists and locals, and the nostalgic interior reminds one of being at grandma’s. Prestige also serve lunch, but the waffles and pancakes are must-try’s.
Prestige, Vlamingstraat 12, 8000 Brugge
Books & Brunch
Indulge in delicious salads, healthy sandwiches, heavenly coffee and sinful desserts – oh, and books from all over the world. Books & Brunch in Bruges is the go-to place for many students, but also locals who like to meet up for a chat in cosy surroundings. The café is owned by a couple, who are very passionate about organic food from local producers. Try one of the breakfast offers and bring your laptop if you need to catch up on work. Closed on weekends.
Books & Brunch, Garenmarkt 30, 8000 Brugge
When I lived in Bruges, Dell’Arte used to be my favorite spot for lunch and snacks. Being both a tearoom, a brasserie and a bar, this place caters to your needs whether you’re in the mood for pancakes, croque monsieur or moules marinées. And there’s plenty of Belgian beer types too. When the weather’s nice, opt for the terrace in the back of the restaurant. During winter, the cosy fireplace is taken into use.
Dell’Arte, Vlamingstraat 28, 8000 Brugge
Li O Lait
At Li o Lait, it’s all about the art of making coffee. Grab a cappuccino, caffe latte, cortado or whatever sets your soul on fire, and enjoy a quiet moment in the homely surroundings. The café is very popular amongst students and there’s practically no coffee variation you can’t get here.
Li O Lait, Dweersstraat 30, 8000 Brugge
EAT: Top 5 restaurants
Compared to the size of Bruges, there’s a tremendous amount of restaurants! Most of them look nice, but don’t be fooled by the tourist traps. Here are my favorite restaurants in the city center.
De Karmeliet (*** Michelin)
Want to pamper your taste buds? The three star Michelin restaurant De Karmeliet is Bruge’s most luxurious restaurant offering a delicate French cuisine since 1983. Unfortunately, De Karmeliet will close their doors for good in the end of September this year, so go there soon – or make a reservation at the sister restaurant Bistro Refter. Last-mentioned offers a contemporary cuisine with notes of traditional Belgian food. Both restaurants are definitely worth a visit!
De Karmeliet, Langestraat 19, 8000 Brugge
Bistro Refter, Molenmeers 2, 8000 Brugge .
During my time in Bruges, I’ve had some of my most memorable dinners at Tom’s Diner. The place is tucked away in a quiet street just outside of the city center, but the restaurant is packed with guests almost every day – especially during weekends! The old rafters in the ceiling, the open kitchen and the winding staircase to the eating area on the 1st floor, makes the place extra cosy. The kitchen cooks mainly French-inspired brasserie food, but a brand new sister restaurant next door specializes in tapas, so the choice is up to you.
Tom’s Diner, West-Gistelhof 23, 8000 Brugge
It’s impossible to visit Belgium without tasting a national dish or two. That’s why there are places like Cambrinus! This cosy, traditional restaurant specializes in Belgian beer – in the food as well – and there’s often a line to get in. Popular place amongst tourists, but nevertheless worth a visit! Genuine food and a lively atmosphere.
Cambrinus, Philipstockstraat 19, 8000 Brugge
Kok au Vin
A cute little bistro with an exquisite kitchen! I had lunch here a couple of times and often dreaming of coming back. A blend of local produce, tasty ingredients and innovative creations on the plate, will make you return (just like I did!) Open for both lunch and dinner, but I recommend booking in advance.
Kok au Vin, Ezelstraat 21, 8000 Brugge
One of my favorite places in Bruges for dinner. Located in the heart of the city, just off the Market Square, there’s no excuse not to visit Brasserie Raymond. Indulge in delicate seafood such as oysters, lobsters and moules marinées and don’t forget a bottle of champagne. My favorite is the rack of lamb and the delightful créme brulée for dessert. Try the vol-au-vent as well (puff pastry filled with chicken). A piece of Paris in Bruges!
Brasserie Raymond, Eiermarkt 5, 8000 Brugge
DRINK: Top 4 bars in Bruges
If you’re lucky enough to stay in Bruges over a weekend, head out for a beer or a cocktail and feel the city come to live. These venues are my absolute favorite.
Brugse Gin Club
A must-visit bar for all gin lovers! This bar offers 170 fine gins and the menu spans from traditional G&T’s to more exotic variants – all created by experienced bartenders. Forget about the regular Gordon’s gin and Schweppes tonic; opt for a Hendrick’s and Fentimans instead! Brugse Gin Club is open every weekend (including Sunday) from 6PM to midnight, but the space is limited, so come early.
Brugse Gin Club, Jozef Suvéestraat 19, 8000 Brugge .
Bar Des Amis
Bar des Amis is a popular meeting point amongst students, but anyone who crave ice cold beer and a lively atmosphere can come here. The bar is actually part of a chain and so you can find similar places in four other locations around Belgium. The space is quite limited, so it’s completely packed in weekends, but it’s a fun place to start if you’d like to experience Bruges by night.
Bar des Amis, Markt, 8000 Brugge, Belgien
Bistro Zwart Huis
Tucked inside an old historical building from the 15th century, Zwart Huis is all about having a good time in cosy surroundings. Dimmed lights, wooden rafters in the ceiling and age-old details are all part of the charm, and the music mostly consists of blues or jazz (which the owner is very passionate about!) You’ll often find live music in here as well, so pop by for a beer and a snack after dinner or book a table for dinner on a Friday night. It usually gets very crowded.
Bistro Zwart Huis, Kuipersstraat 23, 8000 Brugge
This is undoubtedly the most elegant cocktail bar in Bruges! Located inside an old historical building (well, most venues are here!) and a grand selection of fine spirits and fancy cocktails…what’s not to like! The interior is quite dark making the neon light bar stand out, which is a classy detail if you ask me. Groote Vlaenderen is a must-visit place for an aperitif before dinner or a couple of cocktails after.
Groote Vlaenderen, Vlamingstraat 94, 8000 Brugge
* When to go?
All seasons in Bruges are pretty, but I’d recommend going in summer (June, July, August) or around Christmas, simply because the city offers most things in these periods.
Tip for summer: Go sailing in the channels and enjoy an outside lunch in the cobbled squares.
Tip for winter: Enjoy the cosy Christmas market and plenty of waffles and hot chocolate!