Bruges: the medieval Belgian city famed for its baroque-like architecture, picturesque squares and incredible history. Oh, and the French Fries! All this, and much more, is what you can expect when visiting Bruges. I recently ventured back to Bruges (I used to live there about 6 years ago) and was pleasantly surprised to see that not much had changed. If you want a no-nonsense, classic city guide to Bruges – look no further! I hope you’ll enjoy your time there. It’s truly a magic little place.
– Where to stay –
The family-friendly version:
Hotel Portinari is situated a 10-minute walk from the main central station and outside of the buzzing city center. it’s facing a large square and has an open terrace connected, where you can enjoy an aperitif or a coffee.
Portinari is a four-star, family-friendly boutique hotel with 37 rooms. Its modern style and amenities sets the hotel apart from many others in Bruges. Click here for more information.
The romantic boutique version:
Hotel de Orangerie
This 20-room boutique hotel is truly a place where past meets present. Located in an extraordinary renovated old cloister from the 15th century, on the border of the Dijver (the canal), Hotel de Orangerie is an ode to the magnificent past of Bruges. In summer, you can enjoy breakfast or a drink on the waterfront terrace, while winter days are best enjoyed in front of the crackling fireplace amongst the old paintings and antiquities. Click here for more information.
The modern B&B version:
Kind of OJ
If you’re looking for something else than the ‘typical’ hotel experience, a B&B or a guest house might be the best option for you. I came across Kind of OJ – a well-kept little paradise in the outskirts of the city, on my recent trip to Bruges. With its dedication to unique design, art and a new kind of luxury, Kind of OJ is an interior designer’s paradise! The owner, Johan, is born and raised in Bruges, and very passionate about giving his guests the ultimate B&B experience. You’ll find three different rooms (M-Suite, L-Suite and XL-Suite). Click here for more information.
The old-school luxury version:
Duke’s Palace is the only five star hotel in Bruges – and with quite a history, too. So of course I had to include it in the list. Perhaps especially for its beautiful architecture – it’s located inside an old aristocratic 15th century palace. Today, boasting 110 rooms and a 3000 m2 garden plus a restaurant, a terrace, a bar and a spa. Once managed by Kempinski, Duke’s Palace is not a part of The Swan Hotel Collection. Click here for more information.
– Where to dine –
A cosy place in the city center serving everyday classics and gastronomical delights. I had dinner here on my own, which was a very nice experience due to the friendly staff and comfortable interior. The wait was a bit long, but I’d definitely come here again. You can pick from the A la Carte menu, suggestions or monthly menu. Click here for more information.
For a light lunch or snack:
A young and vibrant restaurant serving hearty brunch specialities, light lunch classics and delightful desserts. When I enjoyed a buddha bowl here on a sunny afternoon, the place was packed – inside and outside! So remember to book a table in advance. Nomad also offers a gin and cocktail card, not to mention a special Friday Supper Club. It’s located right next to Hotel Portinari. Click here for more information.
The people behind Hertog Jan – Belgium’s only 3-star Michelin restaurant that closed in 2018 – brought a new type of restaurant to Bruges in 2014. Although it’s not as fancy or pricey as it’s bigger sister was, Less Eatery certainly shares the love of high quality and locally sourced ingredients. The motto of the restaurant is “love, eat, share, smile”, which should be pretty easy to comply taken the mouth-watering menu and classy surroundings into consideration. A great place to enjoy some extravagant everyday cuisine. Click here for more information.
If you’re into fine dining, you won’t be dissapointed by this gem of a restaurant holding two Michelin stars. De Jonkman is managed by a couple, Sandra and Felipe, who pampers their guests with the most delicious treats. Located in a beautiful villa just 10 minutes from the city center of Bruges (by car), this place is ideal to visit on a warm spring or summer day when the terrace is open. Click here for more information.
– Where to drink –
The exclusive one:
My favorite cocktail bar when I used to live in Bruges some years back; Groot Vlaenderen simply has that magical after-dark ambience, which is supported by its dark, velvety interior. One drink here is merely enough, as each cocktail is mixed with love and passion by the friendly bartenders who are more than happy to introduce you to different tastes and ingredients. The perfect spot for an aperitif either before or after dinner! Click here for more information.
The nerdy one:
Brugse Gin Club
Needless to say, gin lovers will be stoked to visit this little place! One could call it a speak-easy bar, as you must knock to get in, and it’s not particularly easy to find if you don’t know the city well. Also, there’s only room for 20 guests at the time. But if you do get in, you’re in for a treat! The owner Edward knows everything there is to know about gin, so go ahead and ask him a thing or two about his collection of more than 400 gins! I’ve heard that locals like to come here too, which only adds to the experience. You can’t reserve a table in advance. Click here for more information.
The laid-back one:
Bar’n is, in its essence, a place to connect with other people. With a mix of music, tapas, quality cocktails and Belgian beers, this bar is an obvious choice after a long day of shopping and exploring the city. The female owner of the bar is called Gaelle, and her father runs the popular neighboring Café Craenenburg. If you’re not that thirsty, come here anyway for the charming interior created by Belgian interior designer Frederiek Van Pamel. Click here for more information.
– Where to shop –
The Old Chocolate House
Belgians take their chocolate quite serious, and that’s something you can definitely feel when strolling the cobbled streets of Bruges! Katalijnestraat is a great place to start your chocolate shopping, as dozens of shops are lined up next to each other; still, The Old Chocolate House in the city center is one of my own favorites. I mean, does it even come more idyllic than this place? I don’t think so. What began as a place where you could only get hot chocolate some 18 years ago, the little house now houses a chocolate shop section, while you can sink your teeth into delicious Belgian waffles and hot drinks upstairs.
Click here for more information.
For lace lovers:
For 37 years, this little shop has been selling hand-made lace and also displayed antique lace (the oldest are from the 16th century!) Whether you’re looking for beautiful lacing for your own creative projects or you’re simply fascinated by the compelling handword, it’s always worth paying a visit to t’Apostelientje. There are laces for every budget here, and if you miss something, you can also purchase their products online. Click here for more information.
Looking for something a little bit more extravagant during your time in Bruges? Then the famous local Goldsmith Peter Quijo (and his daughter, who’s also a local Goldsmith!) will definitely hit the nerve! Located in a tiny shop in one of the old city’s Medieval houses, Peter took over from his father and kept the family-business going. Today, a wide range of exquisite and locally inspired creations await you. I’m especially fond of the bright and colorful rings. Click here for more information.
Home-made sweet treats:
Confiserie de Clerck
Stepping into Confiserie de Clerck is like stepping back in time. The doors of this shop was first opened 100 years ago, where ‘spekke’ (caramelized chew) was the big thing! In 1948, the grandparents of the current owner took over, and the rest is history. You can get a wide assortment of different sweets in here – even classics that seem to have vanished from anywhere else. A candy heaven for children and adults alike. Confiserie de Clerck doesn’t have a website, but is located on Academiestraat and is open daily.
A few more tips:
– Drink local beer at Brouwerij De Halve Maan
– Eat French Fries at Frietkot
– Enjoy an afternoon of art at Groeningemuseum
– Have a coffee at EspressoBar (the best coffee in town!)
This guide was created upon my recent visit to Bruges sponsored by Visit Bruges. All opinions are my own.