A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
My expectations of a city-trip to Bruges entirely revolved around quintessential Belgian stereotypes: I was going to eat the best-tasting fries ever, the best-tasting chocolate ever, all the while wandering beautiful medieval streets. In fact, I based most of the items on my ‘top sights’ list from scenes from the movie In Bruges, a move that wasn’t entirely silly (British gangsters notwithstanding, it does give you a glimpse of key places to visit). Despite the never-ending rain, it was still a successful weekend, so here’s a short guide to the medieval city.
Where to Stay?
Be prepared for Bruges to be pricey – it’s a massive tourist destination, owing to its UNESCO World Heritage Site designation. However, it’s still possible to find somewhere relatively cheap to stay. Snuffel Hostel isn’t far from the main centre, and caters especially for backpackers or student travellers, so room rates are very reasonable – and breakfast is included.
Where to Eat?
For those wanting a real Bruges experience, there are plenty of restaurants and cafes on the main square with a great view of the historical Belfort, but head off the main streets and you’ll find some good spots too. If a quick dinner is what you’re after (and a place to try real Belgian fries), check out Chez Vincent, which is attractively located opposite the imposing Sint-Salvators cathedral, off Steenstraat. If you want something more special there are lots of restaurants in the area of Philipstockstraat, especially if you’re after vegetarian or vegan cuisine. Brugs Pittahuis offers affordable vegan curries and other Middle Eastern dishes, and De Brugsche Tafel is a family-run, cosy café/restaurant where you can opt for real Belgian dishes.
What to See?
The top tourist attraction in Bruges is the Belfort, the 83-metre city bell tower. Tickets for those under-26 are €10, which isn’t bad, but if the weather looks unpleasant it’s perhaps better to give it a miss and save the money. Around the corner from the Belfort, you can take shelter in the Basiliek van het Heilig Blood (Basilica of the Holy Blood), which houses what some say is Christ’s own blood – for a small donation you can see the blood for yourself.
If you want to see some quieter Bruges streets, head west of the main centre and out towards the Kruispoort. Climb up the hill towards Bonne-Chièremolen (the closest to the Kruispoort) and you’ll also get a good view of Bruges’ centre, with the Belfort, Sint-Jakobskerk and Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk piercing the skyline. On your way back into the city centre, make sure to stop at Rozenhoedkaai and snap a picture of a famed Bruges view.
If you find yourself with a few hours to spare on your final day, meander slowly south towards the station and take in the Begijnhof, a convent founded in 1425. These houses are still inhabited by nuns, and the entire area is wonderfully peaceful. Head further south and you’ll come out at Minnewater lake, otherwise known as the Lake of Love. From here it’s just a five-minute walk to the train station.
How to get there?
Bruges is easily accessible from South Holland, and if you’re lucky you could get travel there and back for €30. Take a bus from either The Hague or Rotterdam to Antwerp, and from the Central station change to a regional Belgian train to Bruges. If you’re under 26 you can get a single ticket on the Belgian network to anywhere for €6.20 – perfect if you fancy getting out of the Netherlands and exploring a little bit more of Europe.