We get spoiled living in Old Town. It’s a lovely colonial town with a rich history plus shops, restaurants, and a waterfront. When traveling it’s nice to go somewhere as charming and picturesque as our fabulous town. Well, if you love living in Old Town then you’ll love visiting Brugge.
One immediately surrenders to the grander of this city that makes our Old and Historic district seem like a sweet little historical infant. Brugge is a picturesque place that remained completely untouched by the devastation of the world wars. Cobblestone streets hear the clack of horse drawn carriages and a canal runs through what is often referred to as the “Venice of the North.”
The Pand Hotel
We stayed at the Pand Hotel which is a member of “Small Luxury Hotels of the World”. This 26 room boutique hotel delivers on its promise of cozy and romantic luxury. Brugge is a very walkable city but the location of the hotel could not be more perfect. The Pand is situated on a quiet street and is a refined and charming oasis just steps from the canal, Burg Square, Market Place, as well as many museums and boutiques. Our stay at the hotel also included a two hour walking tour which we thought was a nice touch. We took part in this amenity early on in our trip to to better plan activities for the remainder of our stay. Every detail at the Pand is meticulously thought out and executed and the service impeccable.
You definitely feel like you’re in Europe when you look around Brugge. But your European experience in the “Venice of the North” is sprinkled with everyone speaking superb English. It’s not just easy to order but when out and about it’s easy to strike-up conversations at a pub just like you would in Old Town. As a side note, there are a lot of television shows broadcast in English. Of course, you don’t travel to Europe to watch TV but it’s nice to have a few options.
One of our most colorful waiters (who we will call Charles so he doesn’t get into any trouble for his storytelling) told us a story about the movie In Brugge. He worked just next to the Belfry Tower in the square. The Belfry was once a watch tower where their would be a lookout for fires as well as bad guys wanting to invade the city. Now the Belfry boasts 366 steps that allow you to climb to the top and enjoy a magnificent view of the not just the city but all the way to the coast on a clear day. Miles climbed to the top and got some magnificent photos. I got scared and stayed down below enjoying a latte. It’s recommended that if you’re going to climb you do so right when they open or the crowds make for an unpleasant experience.
After Miles climbed the tower we were chatting with Charles and he told us you used to be able to climb to the very top but they stopped that because of the suicides. He actually heard three of them while working. Miles asked if he’d seen the movie In Brugge as there was the attempted suicide scene off the Belfry in it. Not only had Charles seen the movie, watched them film it, but he also had some additional gossip to share about the mayor and the movie.
Evidently, Brugge’s mayor was very excited that a Hollywood production was going to be filmed in Brugge and allowed the filming without knowing the script. He was very proud and peacock-ing around as Charles told us. Charles then went on to tell us that the mayor traveled to Brussels for the opening. Walking the red carpet. Waving to fans waiting. Kissing cheeks with celebrities. He nestled into the front row next to Colin Farrel and the movie started in which the first line is “why did you bring me to this shithole Brugge?” Then the mayor just sank down in his seat in embarrassment. All that said, Charles said that the movie did improve tourism in the “Venice of the North” and for that the citizens were grateful.
Boat Ride on the Canal
The canals in Brugge provide for a lovely view of the city. Only commercial boats are allowed in the canals. The captains give the tour in serveral languages including English. You can go aboard at several locations in the city and they bring you back to your point of origin. The ride takes about 30-45 minutes and is under 10 euro.
Miles and I decided to take a carriage ride through Brugge on our last day. And in true “Jiles” (Jennifer and Miles, get it?) fashion we decided to have a beer before our romantic ride. Charles was near by so we stopped in the square and ordered two beers. Charles asked if we wanted large and Miles said yes without hesitating. I confess I thought we were already drinking the large until I saw they vessel of beer come out that was as big as our heads I realized that was not so. Needless to say, the ride was wonderful and we were giggling the entire time.
You can get the carriage rides in the square by the Belfry. I’d recommend taking the ride on a week day as we were able to get a carriage immediately versus on the weekend.
After World War I, my great grandmother immigrated from Brugge to the United States with her mother and all of her siblings except one. Brugge has remained a special place in my family since that time and my parents, Sharon and Ron, have been several times and vacationed with Miles and me on this trip. Fortunately, we were able to meet-up with my distant cousins to talk family history, as well as Belgian beer and Brugge restaurant recommendations.
So between my parents and my cousins, Miles and I were very lucky with guidance on restaurants, frites and waffles. The beer we decided to explore on our own and pick our favorites.
Eats & Drinks
Brugge had a plethora of restaurants, bistros, waffles, frites and beer. Miles and I enjoyed just sitting out in the afternoon enjoying a Belgian beer while people watching and playing on Facebook. In Brugge, it is customary for beer to be paired with a particular glass that they believe would optimize the experience for your palate. Additionally, a tiny snack is also served such as olives, cheese or peanuts.
Brugge has some great eats and drinks. Here are some of our favs:
Hands down Miles’ favorite. We went back 3 times! We dined on mussels and steak there. And Miles LOVED the crab legs that they served cut open – we’d never seen it served that way in the United States. Everything was excellent but their specialty is mussels. We got them in a white wine cream sauce which was recommended and yummy but they had other sauces as well.
Lovely spot off on the corner of a residential area with a tiny delicious menu. Two brothers own the place – one cooks and one serves. Reservations are necessary and they won’t take anyone too late as it’s too much for the brothers to handle. We had duck which was delicious.
A couple of storefronts to the right or left of Breydel DeConine is a waffle place. You just go up to the counter to get your order and walk around with them. My mom swears they are the best in Brugge. Miles got them with a strawberry topping but they are so delicious you really don’t need anything on them. Very different than American waffles – they have a type of sugar or something in the middle of them and a coating on the outside.
They serve them everywhere with everything. That said, the best ones we found were in a stand outside the Belfry. If you’re facing the Belfry they are in the stand on your right. I’d recommend trying them with the mayonnaise although that is very un-American. The mayonnaise seemed to taste different than what I’m used to here.
De Halve Maan – Brewery + Brasserie
We went on a Saturday afternoon, and while it was quite crowded, we were able to find extra chairs to pull up to a table of our own. One of our favorite beers that was served all over town is Brugse Zot Blonde and it’s brewed here. You can tour the brewery or just stop in for some refreshments. Brugge takes both its beer and historic preservation seriously. They brew the beer in the old brewery but they bottle it outside of town. They have begun installing an underground tap system! The plan is to funnel the beer from the historic brewery to the offsite bottling facility thus keeping trucks off the roads. Sound familiar Old Towners? Remember the call for barging with the waterfront development?
Place brews it’s own beer. Charming interior. We had the house beer which was very smooth. They will only serve two drinks to tourists because the beer has such a high alcohol content. Evidently this place is a big deal as we had people telling us about it back in Old Town before we even left so Miles made sure we got there! It’s located down the smallest alley in Brugge just down from Breydel DeConine.
We had drinks here. The atmosphere inside and in the internal courtyard was picturesque. My cousin, Lies, said they serve the biggest and most inexpensive glasses of cava in town.
Open on Mondays and most places in Brugge are not. Had a traditional Flemish stew that was good and Miles enjoyed the steak tartar which was also very yummy. Be prepared to wait once you’re seated as there are not that many servers. Maybe it’s a Monday thing?
You really felt like you were in a local spot here. Very off the beaten path. Tiny place so a reservation is recommended. They served a Flemish stew with frites that was very good.
Brugge was a magnificent vacation. We highly recommend it for the majestic scenery, walkability, cleanliness and friendliness of service. You can tell the people living there take great pride in their city. Just like we do in Old Town!
All photos are from an iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.
Many thanks to Miles for taking so many pictures with your 6 plus. You’re a much better photographer than I am :-). Looking forward to our next adventure! XXOO
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