I’ll admit it – I didn’t even know Bruges existed until a few months ago. But as soon as I saw photos, I watched the movie In Bruges the next day and decided I had to get there. They have a massive Christmas market and ice rink in their market square, and the entire city is decked out for the holiday season. It couldn’t have been a more perfect fit for a winter vacation!
My friend Alesha and I landed in Bruges and promptly got lost, but getting lost in a medieval city with nearly every storefront decorated in string lights, wreathes, and ornaments ins’t a bad way to spend your time! After using the Belfry as our compass to the city center, we couldn’t find our way to our hostel. Luckily, everyone in Bruges speaks 47 languages and were able to help us find St Christopher’s at the Bauhaus which I highly recommend. It was the best hostel experience I’ve had. The front of the hostel is a real, quaint pub where you can meet locals and international travelers alike. The rooms were clean and secure, and the facilities were updated. I will definitely seek the St. Christopher’s chain when I travel from here on out! That night and the next day, we explored the city and visited the most famous stops in Bruges with our new Québécois buddy, Antoine.
Just like in In Bruges, we wanted to visit the Basilica of the Holy Blood to see Jesus’s blood. Then it was time to head to The Chocolate Museum and The Fries Museum! We learned chocolate started out almost exclusively as a hot chocolate, and the museum was full of various cooking instruments for perfecting the chocolaty drink. In the photos below, those aren’t teacups – they’re specifically made for hot chocolate!
We also learned that saying “French Fries” is basically a swearword in Bruges. During World War I, Americans stationed in Belgium mistook the French speaking Belgians cooking fries as French, and dubbed them French Fries, thereby giving credit to the wrong country to this day!
Of course, we had to visit the Christmas Market, which was mostly in the main square, but also bled over onto side streets. The huts around the market were selling “hot wine,” hand-made troll figurines, scarves and hats, beer, and all things Christmas related! They also have famous fries food trucks in the square that merchants have to pay €10,000 a month to use!
Belgium is known for their chocolate, but we weren’t expecting every other store in Bruges to be a chocolate shop. You can’t walk more than half a block around the main square without seeing three or four chocolate shops!
I had to get a beer at the famous De Halve Maan Brewery. I’m pretty sure I drank my weight in beer while I was in Bruges, but how could you say no to a Belgian beer at every food stop?
On the topic of beer, we also stopped at the Bourgogne des Flandres Brewery, and had dinner at the oldest pub in Bruges, Café Vlissinghe, which dates back to 1515. One of our walking tour guides told us Belgium has only a few original national dishes, and I tried one of them at the pub – Chicons au gratin!
Nearing sunset, we made our way over to the Belfry to try to catch the sunset view. There are 366 steps to get to the top, but it was so worth it. When the bells chimed, it brought tears to my eyes. It was so moving to find myself at the very top of a beautiful medieval city, preserved for centuries.
It seems Bruges is magical no matter what time of day you explore. Daytime reveals the color of the buildings, sunset illuminates the city in a new way, and at nightyou can see the reflections of lights in the cobblestone and canals. And as the streets clear, you can imagine what it might have been like to live in Bruges back in the Middle Ages.
The rest of our time in Bruges was spent exploring the streets, meeting new people, and tasting chocolate. We couldn’t leave without having Belgian waffles of course, freshly made. Even though our hands and feet were stinging from the freezing air, we stood in line and waited for the amazing, piping hot, powdered sugar covered wonderfulness.
Thank you Alesha, for your photos! Alesha is the photographer of all of the photos of me!
Visiting Bruges on a budget:
St Christopher’s at the Bauhaus: $25/night X 2 nights = 50 USD
Free – you can walk the entire city easily!
€25-35 a day, depending on how much beer you drink, and if breakfast is included in your hostel stay.
Tip for walking tours: €5-10
Basilica of the Holy Blood: free
Chocolate Museum/Fries Museum combo ticket: €13
Belfry: €10 to climb to the top
De Halve Maan Brewery tour: €9 (didn’t do this)
Groeninge Museum: €8 (didn’t do this)
Canal boat tour: €8 (didn’t do this – too cold!)