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top five guide: bruges, belgium

Updated: Sep 7, 2023

View of Bruges Belgium from Top of Belfry Tower on Overcast Day

My introduction to Belgium’s little town of Bruges was from the 2008 film In Bruges, starring dynamic-Irish-acting-duo Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson. If you haven’t seen the film, it contrasts this idyllic, fairytale-like Belgian town with a dark, gritty, and somewhat humorous hitman tale. Seriously, you should go watch it.

Needless to say, as is often the case when learning about new destinations from film and television, I was curious to see how this picturesque place came across IRL. We took a winter trip to Bruges as part of a larger trip through Belgium and Germany's Christmas markets, which is when these cobblestoned streets are truly in peak form. While this town did in fact live up to its on-screen hype, it thankfully wasn’t nearly as bloody as the film portrayed.

here are my top five tips for a trip to BRUGES:

Exterior of Hotel de Castillion with Christmas Decor in Bruges Belgium

1: where to stay

Bruges is a small town, and you won't find very many large hotel chains here. That is a good thing, because there are so many lovely and local boutique hotels to choose from. We stayed at Hotel de Castillion, a family-run bed and breakfast in a converted 17th-century palace that exudes the same charm, coziness, and hospitality that Bruges does. The location can't be beat, plus we loved drinking champagne in their Christmas-decorated parlor in the evenings. We also had a friend rave about their stay at the slightly-pricier Hotel Van Cleef, a 4-star hotel that overlooks the canal.

Belfry Tower at Night in Bruges Belgium

2: climb the belfry

The central figure of In Bruges is also the central landmark in town: the Bruges Belfry Tower. Situated on popular Markt Square, the bell tower was originally built in the 13th century, though it has since been rebuilt and renovated. A ticket to climb to the top may seem a bit pricey at 14 euros, but it is definitely worth paying the fee to climb the precariously narrow, winding steps and check out the massive bells. After your mini workout, you'll be rewarded with sweeping views of this charming medieval town. On that note: try to visit on a clear day!

Brugse Zot Belgian Beer at De Halve Maan Brewery Bruges Belgium

3: tour de halve maan

Belgian beer aficionados and novices alike shouldn’t miss a tour at De Halve Maan Brewery (which means "The Half Moon," not "man"). This family-run brewery is set on a location that has been perfecting the art of brewing beer for 500 years and offers daily tours and tastings. The tour itself was quite educational and entertaining, provided a lovely view of the city at one point, and ended with a tasting of their famous Brugse Zot (Bruges Fool) beer in a cozy room with a fireplace. It is the perfect way to wind down on a cold winter day.

Gran Kaffee de Passage Dinner Christmas Bruges Belgium

4: dinner at de passage

We stumbled upon the tucked-away restaurant Gran Kaffee De Passage when exploring our favorite street in Bruges, Dweerstraat, and immediately made a reservation for the next evening. The red walls adorned with antique art and collectibles creates an incredibly warm, comfortable, and romantic atmosphere that makes for an ideal environment to enjoy fantastic local cuisine and wine. It is my favorite dinner we had in Bruges.

Woman with Belgian Beer at Le Trappiste Crypt Bar Bruges Belgium

5: drinks at le trappiste

If De Halve Maan successfully ignites your love and appreciation of Belgian beers like it did for me, then sample some more at Le Trappiste. This is one of the most unique bars I have visited, as it is set inside a 13th century crypt (yes, really). This bar offers a huge selection of Belgian beers to try as you bask in the glow of candlelight and pretend to be a medieval monk. It is the coolest.

you can't always do it all, so one thing I WISH I had done:

Take a canal boat tour. These tours seem like a lovely and peaceful way to take in this beautiful city, but the weather was unfortunately not conducive to a boat trip during our wintertime visit.

Have a great trip! Feel free to leave a comment with your own favorites. You can also find these recommendations (and more!) in map format by following me on the Out of Office app.


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