You may remember that, a while back, I went to Brussels with the boyf for a long weekend. While we were there, we popped over to Bruges for 24 hours, and actually managed to pack quite a lot in! Here’s what we did.
We got a train from Brussels Midi to Bruges – they are pretty regular so we just headed over to the station when we were ready to go. We didn’t book tickets in advance as you can purchase them at the station/on the train. The journey is direct and takes about an hour. When we arrived, we got a taxi to our hotel – the wonderful Hotel Prinsenhof. This is a lovely, fairly small, 4-star hotel in an excellent location in the centre of Bruges. We arrived, dumped our stuff, freshened up, and headed out. We got some recommendations (and a handy discount card!) from the front of house staff, who were extremely helpful and friendly.
The first thing we did was walk across to Market Place (or Markt), which was only a 5 minute walk away. The square is pretty, though you do feel like you’ve stepped back in time! Despite being a tourist destination, it manages to be bustly without being too claustrophobic. Our first impression of Bruges was that of a sleepy town with some hidden gems. We attempted to visit the Belfry but, despite the advertised closing time of 5pm, they often close early if the queues are too long and we were asked to return the next day.
We went for a walk to take in the surroundings and then went to Bierbrasserie Cambrinus, one of the hotel recommendations, for dinner. Despite being popular with tourists, this pub/restaurant offers a taste of traditional Bruges. There are over 400 beers to try and an extensive menu of Belgian specialities. We each got a tasting tray of 4 beers and shared them. They were all so tasty! Even if you’re not a beer lover, you really get into the spirit of it when you’re in a place that is so proud of its flagship product!
We also got a brownie and creme brulee for dessert. I definitely recommend this for anyone going to Bruges. Our meals and drinks came to around €100 which is great value considering how much we had and how good the food was. Only downside is that the restaurant is quite small and there is no outdoor seating.
Cambrinus rating: 4/5
After dinner, we went to Rose Red, another hotel recommendation. This was quite a contrast to Cambrinus. Off the beaten track, this bar is a quiet, romantic spot, with red roses hanging from the ceiling.
I thought that, as this was such a date spot, I would be able to get a nice glass of wine – then I remembered I was in Bruges! It was all about the beer. I tried a couple of fruit beers while the boyf stuck with triple blonds. It was a really nice end to the evening, especially as it was so far removed from the noise of stag dos and lads holidays.
Rose Red rating: 5/5
After an excellent night’s sleep, we had breakfast at the hotel. It was mostly your standard hotel breakfast with a few added bonuses; freshly made pancakes and unlimited Champagne – hello Mimosas! Once we had fuelled up, we went for a walk around the town. We came across a canal boat dock and hopped into the queue for a tour – we had both been told it’s a must do when in Bruges. The wait was about 20 minutes, which is not too bad at all. If you come across a dock with a huge queue, I would recommend walking along the canal and finding another. The queues closest to the centre are much longer than the others.
Canal Tour rating: 5/5
As we wandered through the town after our tour, we were drawn into a bar which had a wall of beer, literally. 2be Bar is a hip, lively bar with – you guessed it – a wide selection of beers. There is also an outdoor area which overlooks the canal but the highlight was most certainly the coconut beer, served in a coconut shell!
2be Bar rating: 5/5
After wetting our whistles, we hot footed it back to the Belfry, preparing ourselves to queue for a loooong time. The queue actually wasn’t bad at all – we were waiting for about 15 minutes before we went through. Tickets were €8 (again) for Adults but we got them for €6 as we were both under 26. The climb wasn’t too much hard work apart from the constant need to cram yourself into a corner as groups of people come back down. Once you get to the top of the bell tower, the views are impressive in that you can see a lot…but they’re not that impressive in that there isn’t really anything to see. Perhaps I’m spoilt in London as we have, in my opinion, an interesting, exciting skyline with lots of sites to spot from the top of *insert your favourite London skyscraper here*.
Photo credit: Rannick Vermeire
Despite not being a massive fan of the views, I enjoyed our experience in the Belfry as we, completely by mistake, timed it perfectly for the bell ringing. Watching the mechanics of the 47 bells and hearing them chime so close up was pretty cool. This happens every 15 minutes, so it’s well worth sticking around for it.
Belfry rating: 4.5/5
Walking up 366 steps, and all the way back down again, is a darn good way to work up an appetite. We decided to have lunch in the Market Place. There are restaurants on every side of the square so we were spoilt for choice. We settled on Da Mario as they had a good outdoor area but with enough shading from the sun. The beer choice (as always) was good, however, the food was extremely overpriced. Unfortunately, it also didn’t stack up in terms of taste and quality. We paid about €70 for a main and two drinks each, which would be a fair price if the food was any good! I have a feeling that most of the places on the square are similar so would advise anyone visiting Bruges to venture further away for food!
Da Mario rating: 2/5
It was a shame to end on a bad note but our 24 hours was up by this point! We headed back to the hotel to get our belongings and prepare to go back to Brussels. The hotel staff, helpful as always, arranged the taxi for us. We enjoyed our stay and would absolutely recommend the hotel for anyone visiting Bruges.
Hotel Prinsenhof rating: 5/5
I hope this shows you that a lot can be done with 24 hours in Bruges! If you want a more ‘alternative’ experience in the town, you could always watch the movie In Bruges and see if that floats your boat 😉
Have you ever been to Bruges or are you planning on going? Let me know what you thought of it/what you’ve got planned in the comments!