Described by the locals as ‘the Venice of the North’, Bruges was a fantastic destination for us to go for our 1st anniversary weekend. Admittedly we had originally planned on hitting Venice but by the time we paid for flights and accommodation and factored in the travelling time it was all too expensive and time consuming for a 3 day weekend, especially as we had just recently travelled extensively for our postponed honeymoon. Bruges on the other hand was much cheaper and easier to get to, as we were able to jump on the Eurostar (which, by the way I am a huge fan of).
This medieval city certainly does live up to its romantic reputation. Full of canals, bridges, willow trees, cobblestone streets, medieval style buildings (some of which are brand new but built in the same style), horse and carriages and Flemish-style paintings, lace and food everywhere, it’s so romantic it’s almost sickening. We had a map that marked out ideal kissing locations and claimed that Bruges was voted the most romantic city on earth in 2011 by Trip Advisor, although I can find no evidence of such vote online. Spending a weekend loved-up in a beautiful, romantic city probably explains why my previous post was so gag-worthy, apologies!
It doesn’t quite tip over into the ‘cheesy’ category though as it’s balanced out by a bunch of really cool bars, quite a big backpackers scene, amazing food (namely mussels and waffles) some awesome beer and of course the chocolate. The chocolates are called ‘kleine juweeltjes’ in Dutch, or ‘little jewels’ and it certainly is a craft. They are so beautiful and intricately designed and there is every shape and size you can imagine, from the tiny little jewel-like ones I mentioned to massive fish (see pic below) and even a life-sized Barack Obama (which we managed to hear a lot about and never find).
Sadly, there is only one local brewery left in Bruges itself but happily, it is open to the public for brewery tours and tastings and it is well worth the visit if you have any interest in how it’s made. We also went to the chocolate museum which frankly, has some interesting points but could have been condensed to one or two rooms rather than four floors and I would probably not recommend it being high on the agenda – better to do a tour of the chocolate shops than the museum.
The aforementioned map we were using also marked out some spots for food, drinking and shopping recommended by the locals and off the tourist beat, which was really useful. So we were able to find the nicest little restaurants we never would have known existed and try some traditional and delicious food while sitting on the canals. And on one of our nights in Bruges, I guided Colin on a pub crawl (best wife ever) to some of the best bars we’ve seen.
The restaurant we went to on our last night there was so quaint and lovely. It was down this little alley you wouldn’t expect to find a restaurant on, but was absolutely packed. It had old-school board games hanging in frames on the walls, candles, an open fire, plants all over the place and from the warmth and welcoming reception, you got the feeling you were sitting in someone’s home or front kitchen. The music was everything from the Beach Boys, Bangles and Elton John to The Cranberries and Queen. And the food was delicious.
Belgium is definitely the place to go if like me, you love chocolate, and like Colin, you love beer. It has both of these things in abundance and we ate and drank ourselves sick most of the weekend in between museum visits (of which there are plenty) and strolls around the city. Watch out because most of the beers are about as strong as wine – but delicious and very, very moreish.