Travel | A Long Weekend In Belgium

It feels like it was months ago since Jordan and I went to Bruges when it was only in March, but I guess that’s the way that 2017 has been flying by.

We decided back in January to take a little trip mid-March as we knew that a house was on the horizon for us, and we wanted to have a break just the two of us before the chaos started. At the time the Eurostar was having a sale, so we started researching the places you could go to on the train, which turns out is only Belgium or France, and I’d already booked to go to Paris in June for my birthday.

I’ve been to Brussels before a few years ago and loved the city, but I wanted to go somewhere different, so we agreed on Bruges. A few of my friends had already been over the last few years and said it was such a beautiful place, making it an easy choice; plus, the chocolate and waffles were a big deciding factor.

Because the Eurostar we booked got us into Brussels at 7pm (and the train to Bruges was an hour on top of that) we decided to have one night and morning there before heading over. I chose a hotel that was relatively near the centre so we dropped our bags off and went for a wander.

We started at a bar called Delirium, which, if you’ve ever been to Brussels will know is quite an attraction. I had a mango Timmermans, and Jordan went for a Kriek (cherry beer) which quickly turned into his drink of choice for the whole trip.

After a wander round some of the Belgium chocolate shops in the Grand Place (tip – if you want to bring chocolates home with you, or just eat them whilst you’re there, go further out of the main square where the prices significantly drop) we went to an Italian restaurant on one of the side streets where they very awkwardly made us feel like VIPs in front of a full restaurant. We went for a couple more beers before walking back up to the hotel for the night.

The next morning we woke up early and went to find some breakfast, which turned out to be harder than anticipated – who knew Belgians were the only people in Europe who don’t love brunch? Although we did find quite a lot of bakeries, we grabbed a quick snack and headed for the train to Bruges (which was a double decker one and really really cool!)

When we arrived in Bruges, we jumped into a taxi to our hotel, Hotel Ter Brughe, and surprisingly made it there in one piece seen as our taxi driver thought he was a stuntman in a Bond film. When we jumped out, I noticed how similar the buildings were to Amsterdam, and there were even a lot of cyclists – when you look at Bruges on the map, it isn’t too far from Holland at all.

The one thing I noticed more than anything about Bruges is how different it was to Brussels. The whole pace of the city was much slower and much more chilled, and the people seemed more relaxed. The city itself is stunning: It’s a mixture of Belgian, almost gothic architecture, but feels quite Venetian with the amount of canals and river boats.

Once I’d picked up a bar of chocolate to fix my sugar craving, we went to the Beer Museum, which, if I’m honest, wasn’t massively impressive. You’re given an iPad to go and learn about the history, but mine stopped working half way through, and I enjoyed the tasting side of the experience much more. With your ticket, you get to try 3 Belgian beers and have the option to buy more, which obviously we did…

After the Beer Museum we had a wander around the shops, and took a beer for the road: I’m a massive fan of Belgian beers from trying them over here, but the real thing just tastes so much better.

We decided on a burger restaurant to have dinner in, but before that, we visited Bar2Be which was recommended by a friend. I’m so glad we went here because firstly, the outside bit of the bar was right next to the canal, secondly, you got to try 4 different beers for 10 euros, and thirdly, those beers were so good! My favourite from here was a coconut beer, which usually I wouldn’t have gone for, but it was amazing; we also got a little side of salamis, nuts and cheese.

After dinner, we went to another bar overlooking the canal and had a really lovely evening just watching the world go by. I have a thing for eating and drinking outside by the water, so this really was a great evening.

On the second day, we had breakfast at the hotel, which was a mixture of pastries, cooked breakfast, bread and cold meats. After going back for a 4th or 5th plate, we decided to have an hour to regroup (i.e. not throw up…) before we went out.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a fan of a walking tour as I feel you get to see a lot of the city that you wouldn’t on a tour bus, and learn about the history of the everyday people. I’d googled in advance the best one to go to, so after a mosey around a few shops (and a cheeky lunchtime beer) we headed to the meeting point.

Funnily enough, our tour guide was from Yorkshire, about an hour away from us, and was absolutely lovely. The tour lasted about 3 hours, but the time flew by. She pointed out that the chocolate shops that have a cocoa bean outside are the best in the country, and as we’d walk past a couple, we went back to them to pick up some goodies. They were slightly more expensive that the other ones that we had visited, but the quality of the chocolate was unreal.

Still on a sugar high, we decided to go to the chocolate museum, which I really enjoyed and would highly recommend. We learnt all about the history of chocolate and the origins of different types and watched an expert make truffles at the end of the tour, which we got to try as well.

After getting ready for dinner, we wandered through the streets just as the sun was setting, and it was truly picturesque. We went to a traditional Belgian restaurant and shared a double portion of stew with dumplings and fries, and it was delicious. Afterwards, we stopped at a waffle truck and ate them walking down the canal with a beer.

On the final morning, we had breakfast at the hotel again, packed up and left our bags with reception before heading out. We had seen the boat tours the past couple of days and decided it would be the perfect time to go on one in the early morning sunshine. The tour lasted about 45 minutes, and we got to see so much of the city from a completely different angle.

After the boat tour, we walked over to the Huisbrouwerij de Halve Maan brewery, where they produce Brugse Zot, one of the most popular beers in Belgium. I’ve done a few brewery tours in the past, and this was up there as being one of the most informative and interesting. The beer we got to try at the end was really nice, even at 11:30 am.

Because the brewery was really close to the Beguinage gardens, which is home to the Benedictine nuns, we went for a walk around the daffodil-filled gardens, which was so peaceful. After another waffle and a stop in a chocolate shop to buy presents for our family, we walked back to the hotel and jumped in a taxi to the train station.

After an hour train to Brussels and a two-hour Eurostar back to London, we found ourselves back in the UK after a lovely little break.

I would definitely go back to Bruges in a heartbeat – it was so magical and tranquil and perfect for a few days away (especially if you love beer and chocolate!)

xx

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