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Where To Sleep, Eat, Drink and Sightsee in Bruges, Belgium

Where: Bruges, Belgium
February 16, 2010 at 9:35 AM | by | ()

We took this with our iPhone and made it sepia. Awesome, huh?

As awesome as America is for road trips, and as much as we love hitting the European capitals, it sure is a breath of fresh air to head out to a smaller city—one perhaps with a preserved medieval quaintness and yet still very connected to the rest of the world. This we found in Bruges, Belgium.

The town is a mere 45-minute inexpensive train ride north from Brussels Gare-du-Midi, and once there, you need not set foot in another vehicle again until you depart; the whole town is extremely walkable, so long as you like cobblestones and bridges over canals. It's also an affordable place to spend a few nights—although we recommend avoiding the months between April and September, when the town is packed with tourists in the day and prices are hiked.

Last month we headed to Bruges for some time in the city during a time of the year when the streets are more full of locals than tourists, and thus we freely roamed around the best places for the best deals, and we'll share our tips with you after the jump!

Where to stay:
· Bed & Breakfast Setola: We poured over places to stay in Bruges, and found B&Bs to be the best value with the best locations. We settled on Setola and—with only three rooms—enjoyed excellent warm breakfasts and warm hospitality from Lut and her husband, Bruno. The rooms are on the top floor of their building in the middle of the historical quarter, and you'll find all the exposed wood beams and quiet you'd want from a medieval city. Plus, for 70 Euro a night for two including breakfast, access to a small nicer-than-IKEA kitchen and all the coffee and tea you want, we'd recommend it to anyone and everyone. bedandbreakfast-bruges.com. Sint-Walburgstraat 12.
· Relais Bourgondisch Cruyce: This is definitely the upscale option, since rooms here go for around $280 a night, but you'll be staying in a recognizable historic landmark building as well as the hotel featured in the movie In Bruges. It's got its own little courtyard just outside the entrance, your room will most likely look straight down to one of the town's canals, and you'll be swathed in luxury. The only problem you'll have here is remembering how to spell the hotel's name. relaisbourgondischcruyce.be. Wollestraat 41-47.

Where to eat:
· Bierbrasserie Cambrinus: The second we walked by its historical facade, warm-lit interior and menu boasting Belgian specialties, we knew we'd have to have dinner here. That said, it's not a restaurant that takes advantage of tourists; the menu is in many languages, but the prices are low and the food is scrumptious and plentiful. We recommend the eels on toast for an appetizer, and the hare with potato croquettes and homed applesauce for an entree. And any beer is good. cambrinus.eu. Philipstockstraat 19.
· Assiette Blanche: Just like what we did with the hotel listings above, this second item is the more expensive. Assiette Blanche is for a special occasion, or if you're looking to experience some of the culinary awesomeness that this part of Belgium is known for offering—like shrimp croquettes with foie gras mousse. They offer a 3-course dinner menu for around 35 Euros, so a good value for a fancy place. It's actually just down the street from Cambrinus, so if one doesn't look good, you aren't walking far for the other. assietteblanche.be. Philipstockstraat 23-25.

Where to drink:
· Cafe Vlissinghe: You won't find any older bars in Bruges; the Cafe Vlissinghe dates back to 1515, and it's neatly tucked down a dark alley (a safe one). The interior is a historian's dream, looking like it's been only slightly updated since the 1500s, and there's even a courtyard for the warmer months for playing boules. Their specialty is the "Tripel" ales, the strongest pale ales made in the area. cafevlissinghe.be. Blekersstraat 2.
· Bean Around the World: This is the coffeehouse that stalked us on Twitter, and we were so curious about what kind of Bruges coffeeshop would be hip to Twitter, that we had to check it out. Good thing too, because the place is excellent; centrally located in a historical building, cozy, and with free WiFi, newspapers and reasonable drink prices. it's actually run by an American who moved to Bruges after falling in love with the town, and ended up making a family (and this shop) here. Facebook page. Genthof 5.

What to do:
· Take a walk to see the windmills: Alright, alright—the traditional idea of a town in Benelux is true; there are windmills and canals and pretty old building all around the town's perimeter. There's actually four old windmills, and you can walk up the little hills to them for a better view of the town and watch them turn to grind flour if the wind is high. They are marked on pretty much any map of Bruges, so they aren't hard to find at all.
· Have a belgian waffle: The waffles that you'll find in Brussels are overpriced and over-topped with candy compared to the inexpensive, tasty ones of Bruges. You can get one for around 1.50 Euro at many little spots along the main streets, and topping choices include fresh whipped cream, chocolate sauce/nutella or fresh fruit—not all three at once to overpower the waffle's flavor. Just don't have them for breakfast; they are strictly dessert treats.
· Get breakfast from the town square's morning market: If you wake up before 10am, then you've got a great chance of catching the market that sets up in the morning in Burg Square. There's everything from fresh produce to fish to a portable butcher shop; we say find the pastries, some hot beverages, and enjoy underneath the shadow of the Belfry tower.

Got any more tips for Bruges, or Belgium in general? Leave your wisdom in the comments below!

Related Stories:
· The Case of the Belgian Coffeehouse that Twitter-stalked us [Jaunted]
· Finding out how long it takes the Eurostar to travel the Channel Tunnel [Jaunted]
· Belgium Travel [Jaunted]

[Photo: Jaunted]

Archived Comments:

My view on Bruges

I agree with the statement that you don't always need to go to the big, more known cities like Paris, Rome or London to have a great time. Small scale cities like Bruges are very interesting places to visit. I've stayed in Bruges (for work) at least three times now, in spring, winter and summer and it keeps amazing me how much there is to see on such a small surface. The medieval look of the city is quite unique (although I heard many buildings e.g. on the Market Square have been reconstructed to make them look old) and very charming. My last hotel in Bruges was located at only 200 meters from the infamous hotel of the movie 'In Bruges' starring Colin Farell. That movie actually drew even more people to Bruges, if that was even possible...

Staying in a hotel in Bruges

Of all hotels in Brugge I really like the Pand hotel, very close to the most beautiful places in the historical centre, lovely staff, wonderful atmosphere in general. Good food also, would recommend this place to everyone visiting Bruges!

Options for larger parties

We were in Bruges in October, and with 6 people it became a much more affordable option to rent an apartment for a few days. We found an amazing 3 bedroom house with a huge kitchen that was fully stocked, a hot tub, sauna and private baths for each couple in a very central location. The cost was about $55USD per day per couple. The brewery tour is also a must when in Bruges. It's not very touristy, and it's really informative regarding the history of beer in the town, as well as the beer culture in place today. Definitely good times.