Visiting old, beautiful cities is one of my favourite pastimes – as you may have gathered from my other blog posts. After seeing numerous pictures of it online, Bruges has always been high on my list of places to visit, due to its sheer prettiness, and it did not disappoint me. My boyfriend and I took a trip there this past October, and we stayed for five nights.
Where We Stayed
We stayed at the Hotel Salvators, which was located 10 minutes walk from Bruges’ Market Square, which is the hub of Bruges. The hotel is built in the local Flemish style, with a traditional gabled roof, and prides itself on “not being a Novotel”.
The hotel had a lot going for it, it was in a great location, offered a delicious self-serve breakfast, was surprisingly affordable and was full of charm and quirkiness. The only downside to the hotel was that oddly, the bedsheets smelled overwhelmingly of curry powder. I have no idea why they smelled like that, and it wasn’t only one set of bed sheets either. Each time the sheets were changed, the new ones still smelled of curry powder. Perhaps it was the fault of their laundry detergent? Either way, it was a bit off-putting, and it actually smelled so strong that it was a bit hard to fall asleep…!
Despite the strange smell, I would still recommend the hotel overall due to its positives…just maybe bring some Febreeze with you if you do decide to stay there!
What We Did
What didn’t we do would be the better question. We really packed a lot into our trip – here’s what we got up to:
We often start our trips by doing some sort of tour, as it’s a good way to learn how to navigate a new city. The City Bus Tour appealed to me because it featured a small bus instead of the usual double decker (in my case, the fewer crowds and tourists, the more I enjoy the experience) and also because the tour was only 50 minutes long, which is the ideal amount of time to get a feel for a place and find things we want to see or visit. All throughout the tour, my boyfriend kept finding places he was interested in photographing, so for that reason alone, it was well worth doing.
In addition to doing the City Bus Tour, we also opted to do a free night walking tour. We love walking tours (it’s actually how we met!) because it’s a terrific way to see parts of a city that are tucked away from the well-trodden path. Our tour guide was very charismatic and told us fascinating stories about Bruges’ history, including chilling ghost legends, which added a fun atmosphere to the experience, and prevented the tour from becoming dry or heavy. The tour finished by offering a free beer in a local youth hostel, which I though was a nice touch, and very generous of the company. This was easily one of the best free walking tours I’ve ever done (and I’ve done quite a few), so if you’re looking for a fun way to spend an evening in Bruges without spending too much, then I would recommend doing this particular free walking tour. If you enjoy the tour, you can show your appreciation to the tour guide by making a small donation at the end.
Visiting The Windmills
If you’ve walked round the main touristy part of Bruges and want to get away from the crowds, I suggest you go and check out Bruges’ windmills. The windmills lie in the old city boundary, in a green park that surrounds the city, next to the canals. The windmills are open to the public from April to September (so we just missed being able to go inside) and its worth noting that you can still actually occasionally buy flour from some of them. Walking around the Windmills offered a refreshing change of pace from the very crowded Bruges streets.
This museum was one of the most popular attractions in the city, but it was my least favourite outing. Perhaps this goes without saying, but you have to really be interested in the process of how beer is made to truly get something out of the experience. I enjoy drinking beer, and I like trying different varieties of beer, but truthfully I do not really care how it is made. I realise that this is down to personal preference, and this isn’t a reflection on the museum itself. If you like learning about how things work, you will really enjoy it; the museum is informative and well-laid out, with multiple language guides, making it easy to follow the exhibits. If you don’t enjoy learning about technical things, then you could always just visit the museum’s bar instead, and sample some of Belgium’s tastiest brews.
This was my favourite of Bruges museums! The small cozy museum really gave me an insight into how people in Bruges used to live, and it brought history to life. The museum was divided into several rooms, with each room depicting a different theme or place.
For instance, one room was made up to look like an old school classroom, whilst another room was made to look like a working pharmacy. It really caught my imagination, and my boyfriend enjoyed it as well, as some of the objects placed in the rooms were familiar to him from his own past (I promise he’s not that old!). Another thing I liked about the Volkskundemuseum was the fact that it wasn’t crowded at all – we pretty much had the place to ourselves. In my opinion, I think the museum was one of Bruges’ hidden gems. I’m so glad we discovered it!
On the last morning we still had time to kill so we decided to look around the Bruges Friet Museum. I must admit, it wasn’t a museum that we were particularly interested in, when we first got to Bruges, but we were pleasantly surprised by how fun the museum was! The museum had a range of exhibits, from the history of the humble potato, to how Pommes Frites were invented, to various humorous adverts all featuring fries. It sounds dull, but the museum was actually very interesting, due to its sheer passion and love for all things potato, and that passion swept us along with it. I would definitely add it to a list of niche, eccentric museums that are worth visiting.
What we ate
I’ve realised that I need to add a “what we ate section” to these sorts of blog posts, since eating out is such a big part of our trips! This time we sampled quite a few local dishes, since it was the kind of food that was right up our street!
On the first night out we ate one of the best stews I’ve ever tasted, a local Flemish stew made with beef and beer. It was so rich, hearty and comforting, I wish I knew how to make it so that I could have it again. I also ate a similar tasting, and equally delicious rabbit stew for another meal, and a month later, I’m still craving both! Both stews came with a large portion of Bruges’ most famous food, pommel frites or French fries. In fact, we did not have one meal that didn’t come with French fries in Bruges, so if you’re on a diet, you may need to do some extra walking whilst you’re there!
We also ate an array of international dishes, from a superb duck l’orange to incredibly fresh burgers. I ate very, very well and only had one mediocre meal during the entire trip. Tip, all the best restaurants are the ones that are hidden away on the side streets – the worst restaurants are the ones directly located on the market square.
Bruges is a lovely city and is ideal for an affordable getaway in Europe. Whilst it is small in size, it still has a lot to offer and if you want to visit Belgium, but you aren’t sure where to begin, then I would say that Bruges is a great place to start.