Friday, September 2, 2011

In Bruges (and Brussels)

Visiting the medieval town of Bruges feels like going to sleep and waking up in a fairy tale.

I fell totally and utterly in love with its narrow, cobbled streets, its imposing buildings and Gothic architecture, its unique ambiance, its warm and welcoming people, its history and awe-inspiring art and its purely satisfying food.

Bruges (Brugge in Flemish) is a Flemish city in the northwest of Belgium, whose old city center is, unsurprisingly, a World Heritage Site of UNESCO.

The city center is rather small and nearly encompassed by canals.

Right in the middle of the old town, there is the Markt (Market) where one of Bruges' most prominent symbols is situated; the Belfort (Belfry), a 13th century medieval bell tower.

The Provinciaal Hof (Provincial Court), a neo-gothic government building, is also situated in the Markt.

In Burg square, very close to the Markt, you can see the Heilig-Bloedbasiliek (Basilica of the Holy Blood); a Roman Catholic church built in the 12th century. The Basilica houses a venerated relic of Christ—his very blood on a piece of cloth, used by Joseph of Arimathea during the Descent from the Cross.

In the same square you can also see the Bruges Stadhuis (City Hall).

Another famous sight in Bruges is the Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk (The Church of Our Lady), a 13th century church that houses the marble sculpture by Michelangelo, "Madonna and child".

I was captivated by the paintings from Flemish masters like Jan Van Eyck, Petrus Christus and Pieter Pourbus at the Groeninge Museum.

Besides all the fascinating scenery, architectural marvels and art, Bruges also has to offer some pretty amazing food. And chocolate. And beer.

There are innumerable chocolateries in Bruges and I have to say that the chocolate I sampled there was superb. The place to buy it? The Chocolate Line. This small shop sells top-quality chocolate that will make you swoon from the very first bite. It is not part of a chain (a very popular thing in Belgium) and they make the chocolate in-house. Try the bitter chocolate with cream that is sold in a cup and the dark and milk chocolate with almonds or praline, sold in blocks by weight.

Local beer, Brugse Zot (Bruges' Fool)

S was in heaven in Belgium. There were beers everywhere. So many of them actually that it was impossible to pick one to drink. Thankfully, we had inside information and one night we went to Cambrinus, one of the best beer-brasseries in Bruges. Cambrinus offers a selection of over 400 beers and the staff there were more than eager to help us choose the ones that fit our particular tastes.

Belgium is synonymous with waffles and we couldn't leave without trying one, or two, or, ok you got me, I can't resist waffles, ok? BitterSweet serves some delicious waffles and the best cappuccino S has had outside of Italy. S is an espresso and cappuccino fiend. He knows what he's talking about.

The Flemish part of Belgium is famous for fries (Vlaamse frites) and if you want to try the real stuff then you have to go to Chez Vincent. They also serve Hollandse bitterballen (Dutch meatballs) and fries to-go paired with mayonnaise—just like here in The Netherlands—which is ideal when you'd rather go sight-seeing around town than sit at table.

While in Bruges, we went to two restaurants where the food, service and atmosphere were simply excellent.
The first, De Vlaamsche Pot, served real Flemish food. We had Zeeland steamed mussels with Belgian fries, Burgse (from Bruges) sausage that was made by a local butcher specifically for the restaurant, and Waterzooi van zeevis (fish stew).
The second, Brasserie Raymond, served Belgian-French cuisine. We had North Sea shrimp croquettes with fried parsley, bouillabaisse, Belgian beef steak with béarnaise sauce, and Vol au vent with poultry, a classic Belgian dish.

I need to go back there. I miss the food.

We then headed towards Brussels, which is only an hour drive from Bruges.

House of Dukes of Brabant

The Grand Place (Grote Markt) was magnificent.

The Guild Houses

Victor Hugo described it as "the most beautiful plaza in the world".

Brussels Stadhuis (City Hall). A Gothic building from the Middle Ages.

I liked it. In fact, I was quite impressed by it.
But, it wasn't Bruges.

Click here to see more photos from Bruges and Brussels.


  1. What a beautiful city! I was in Brussels a few years ago and remember it fondly. Great chocolate eating on a grey rainy day and the beer wasn't bad either! Nice memories revisited via your photos.

  2. I've never heard of Bruges before so thanks for guiding us there. It is a very beautiful city indeed.

  3. It a a beautiful place. Thanks for sharing your wonderful photos.

  4. Bruges is an absolute gem, as is Brussels! This post brings back fond memories of day/short weekend trips there while living in Amsterdam, Lovely photos.

  5. It is so picturesque there! :o I can see what you mean about the fairytale aspect :)

  6. From what I can see, Bruges is my kind of town. It looks beautiful and that chocolate, oh my. I'm sure they have specific beers to drink with it too...

  7. Beautiful clicks and town! A place a foodie like me would love to visit, especially with all that belgium chocolate.



  8. I visited Bruges this spring with some friends and we loved it - expecially pub crawling and trying one of the hundreds of fantastic Belgian beers in each pub. Did you get a chance to try freshly made Gaufres? I dream of them since when I first tasted them when I was ten.. And the chocolate - simply the best, ever.

  9. Bruges is definitely on our "to do" list! We loved Brussels and just wish we had time to venture further. We had great in Brussells but are glad to have the Hollandse Bitterballen at Chez VIncent - I think we went to Chez Leo for ours... Again - a lovely post! hanks!

  10. Thanks for the tips. We have just arrived in Brugge and I have been noting you recommendations.