Iâ€™ve been a frequent user of the Eurostar over the years, first as a child doing summer holidays to France and in recent times when I did a day trip to Paris. Iâ€™ve always wanted to go to Bruges ever since seeing the movie In Bruges (if you havenâ€™t seen it, what have you been doing with your life?!).
It’s a fairytale town, isn’t it? How’s a fairytale town not somebody’s [â€¦] thing? How can all those canals and bridges and cobbled streets and those churches, all that beautiful [â€¦] fairytale stuff, how can that not be somebody’s [â€¦] thing, eh? â€“ Harry, In Bruges
Eurostar London to Brussels and on to Bruges
It really is easy to travel to mainland Europe by Eurostar and best of all youâ€™ll finish your journey right in the centre of your destination city. Check in is much easier than flying and travelling by train is also so much greener. Not so important for a weekend break (unless you plan on lots of shopping!) but there is also a better baggage allowance when travelling by Eurostar. Finally, a Eurostar ticket offers 2 for 1 entry to some of Europeâ€™s most popular museums and galleries in Paris, Lille and Brussels.
Eurostar operates up to 9 daily services from London St Pancras International to Brussels with return fares from Â£69. Tickets to any Belgium station start from Â£79. Fastest London-Brussels journey time is 2 hours. Tickets are available from Eurostar.com or 03432 186 186.
Things to do in Bruges
1. Taking a picture from the Rozenhoedkaai
This is touted as one of the most photogenic (and photographed) locations in Bruges. When you head down, youâ€™ll see why. With beautiful, historic buildings nestled between the tranquility of the canal, the Rozenhoedkaai is the perfect place to head to with your camera come morning, noon, or night.
Donâ€™t forget to look up from your lens, too, and take a moment to soak in the surroundings. Imprint that postcard in your minds-eye as well as on film.
2. Eating Waffles
Ah, waffles. Itâ€™d be silly not to really. Youâ€™re in the very country that heralded this great dish and an exploratory taste sensation to uncover where your favourites lie is unmissable.
It goes without saying but there are a multitude of waffle vendors that line the streets of Bruges. These can sometimes be a bit hit and miss, though a sure fire way to gauge popularity is whether or not thereâ€™s a long queue outside the vendor. I gravitated toward Chez Albert for this very reason and you should, too, because the waffles are phenomenal. They start from â‚¬2.50 and (unlike a lot of the others) are prepared fresh in front of you. Sweet, crunchy, hot mouthfuls of joy. I may have returned twiceâ€¦in one dayâ€¦
Additionally, for table service and a more comfortable retreat, you can head to Tearoom Carpe Diem. The rave reviews speak for itself but I concur; youâ€™ll be in fluffy, sweet, battered hedonistic heaven when you try their waffles. Not only are they melt-in-the-mouth divine, the tearoom itself is charming too. Itâ€™s the perfect place to cosy up and while away an afternoon, sipping warm drinks and nibbling on moreish food.
3. The Boat Tour
If you want a different perspective of the city thatâ€™s both unique and memorable, then hop aboard the Bruges boat tour. Tours cost around â‚¬8 for half an hour and run frequently from several locations. The multi-lingual guides are a great source of both information and amusement; we were regaled with funny anecdotes throughout and learned heaps about the history of Bruges. The tour lets you explore some of those harder-to-reach places on foot and is filled with plenty of picturesque photo-worthy gems too.
4. Belfry of Bruges
This very visible tourist attraction is the perfect way to rebalance a post-waffle indulgence. Standing 83 metres tall and requiring 366 steps to reach the top, the Belfry is a medieval bell tower that will (rest assured) reward you with a stunning vista after its punishing climb. Panoramic views across the whole of Bruges which, on a sunny day, are unbeatable and more kodak moments than you can shake a stick at; make this the one workout you do on your trip.
They only let in 70 people at a time so thereâ€™ll never too much overcrowding in the tower but itâ€™s still a good idea to arrive earlier rather than later to beat the queues. The â‚¬8 entrance fee isnâ€™t too â€˜steepâ€™ either (sorry, couldnâ€™t resistâ€¦)
5. The Markt
Located in the centre of Bruges and spanning about one hectare, this is a great spot for general wandering and people watching. Thereâ€™s also countless bars and eateries to pop into if you fancy a rest, a refuel and some warmth. Itâ€™s all quite quaint and slightly reminiscent of eras bygone with the Gothic buildings that surround, horse and cart rides, and market stalls full of local grown produce to sample. This is a good place to tie in your visit to the Belfry given itâ€™s within close proximity.
If you happen to be visiting Bruges at Christmas, youâ€™ll find the market glittering with lights and an ice rink in the middle of the square. Youâ€™ll feel the cheer whatever the season though; the Markt is one of Brugesâ€™ best loved spots and filled with great people and a great atmosphere all year round.
6. Basilica of the Holy Blood
If you can pull yourself away from the hustle and bustle of the sidewalks for an hour, youâ€™ll find momentary sanctity awaiting inside this deferential building.
Both the interior and exterior of the Basilica lends itself to a photograph or ten (you can take photos inside without the flash) and the vial of the Holy Blood can be viewed on display once inside. Itâ€™s a wonderful place to both contemplate and be silenced by the reverent atmosphere that surrounds you. Regardless of faith, thereâ€™s much to be appreciated and marvelled at from an architectural standpoint alone. The intricacies in the stained glass windows and interior decor are pretty spectacular.
Thereâ€™s no charge to enter but if you want to visit the museum and view some of the artefacts itâ€™ll cost you â‚¬2. Itâ€™s worth it to do so. Iâ€™d recommend doing a bit of reading around the Basilicaâ€™s history beforehand because thereâ€™s not too much information once you get inside.
Where to Stay in Bruges
There are a few hostel options in Bruges which arenâ€™t all central but Bruges is so small and walkable this isnâ€™t an issue. The closest hostels to the Markt are Hostel de Passage and Charlie Rockets. If a hotel is more your speed I would recommend the Hotel Martin’s Brugge which is an affordable 3* hotel and a minute walk from the Markt.
Thank you to Eurostar for providing Gap Year Escape with tickets to experience Bruges.