Bruges is one of my favourite little cities in Europe.
When the focus is always on the Big Tourist Cities, it’s nice to take a break and go somewhere equal parts stunning and calming. This is just what I found when I stepped off the train in Bruges!
I was travelling by myself and Belgium is the perfect place to do this. Especially if it’s your first time travelling solo and especially for English-speaking females! It’s safe, it’s non-threatening and everyone is cool about speaking English (except this girl).
I’d been to Ghent the day before (if you’re in Ghent and you love books, definitely go here), and I jumped on a train to Bruges in the morning. The train cost about €6 and only takes half an hour, so it couldn’t be easier. If you’re going from Brussels, it’ll be a bit more expensive (about €15) and take about an hour and a half.
There’s no real need to book tickets in advance, but it’s worth noting if you’re travelling to Belgium on the Eurostar, you can select your destination as “any Belgian station”. This will allow you to travel on SCNB trains for the 24 hours after you’ve arrived at Brussels Midi/Zuid. SCNB trains are the national rail service in Belgium and you can jump straight on as there’s not reserved seats. My Eurostar ticket was to Brussels though, so I bought my tickets at the train station, which was super straightforward.
Where to Stay in Bruges
From Bruges station it was a pleasant walk down cobblestoned streets to Hostel Lybeer. I usually stay in AirBNB’s, because I like them better and it suits me, but I decided to stay in a hostel for many reasons:
- When I was looking, the AirBNB’s in Bruges were crazy expensive! It is honestly the first time AirBNB has failed me.
- Hostel Lybeer offers female only dorms at a very reasonable price.
- I wanted to test my introverted comfort zone and see how I’d handle interacting with a bunch of strangers without any support. (Spoiler alert: not well)
I booked into a 2 person female only dorm which was only around €20 for the night. I’d arrived at the hostel too early for my room, so I left my bags with reception. The boy at the desk was so nice, and very helpful. On a map, he drew a suggested walking path for me through Bruges. He circled and highlighted key landmarks and favourite restaurants along the way.
What to See in Bruges
I set out for my walk, loosely following his drawn on map and my phone GPS. Luckily I’d arrived on a beautiful day where I could wander slowly without getting too cold and really take in the serenity. I walked through Minnewaterpark, a stunning little forest surrounding lake Minnewater or the ‘Lake of Love’.
After lingering in the park for a while, I found myself walking through windy cobblestoned streets again. There are plentiful chocolate shops and beer shops along the way. With that though, came a lot of tourists to side step, even in the low season. So, I decided to go to the Church of Our Lady to visit the famed Madonna and Child sculpture by Michelangelo. I am not religious but I admire Catholic architecture and art and if that’s up your alley, then don’t miss this.
I had a lunch of Belgian waffles (obviously) and worked off the calories by climbing the Belfry of Bruges. A medieval clock tower standing 83 metres tall, it’s the ideal way to get an uninterrupted 365 degree view of Bruges. The 366 steps to the top sounds more daunting than it is. The steps are narrow and the staircase very narrow and winding. You’ll often have to squeeze into a corner to let people coming back down pass, so I don’t recommend going up there while carrying anything bulky. There’s plenty of stops on the way with little factoids and the views on the way are enough to distract you. It’s well worth it! You may recognise the tower (and it’s view) from that movie. How on earth they got all that filming equipment up there, I’ll never know.
That Night, in Bruges
For dinner that night I took one of the hostel boy’s recommendations and set up shop in the Vino Vino Foodbar. A darkly lit but very coolly decorated tapas bar, Vino Vino serves generous sized dishes for a reasonable price. I didn’t feel uncomfortable lingering there alone over a couple of drinks and I left feeling full and happy. I had the calamari (which came out looking like battered fish – not how I’ve ever had calamari before, but delicious all the same!) and potato wedges. I filled up on beer really!
My plan was to head back to my hostel and join a group of travellers in the hostel bar. Shyness and tiredness got the better of me though and I took a shower and went back to my room. My dormmate was there and I had a nice long chat with her instead. I’m much better one-on-one, so while not exactly my goal for the occasion, I still felt good about it…
The next day I was leaving for Brussels in the early afternoon so I took in a morning beer and tour at De Halve Maan brewery. Brewers of Brugse Zot, De Halve Maan (or the Half Moon) are the last remaining family owned brewery operating within the city of Bruges. The tour costs €9 and that includes a pint at the end. It’s informative and fun, and full of some great historical anecdotes. Again, I like beer and I like history and cool buildings so this ticked all my boxes. I’d also recommend you have a look at their intimate attic space if you’re after some quirky wedding photos!
After my beer and a quick lunch I grabbed my bags from the hostel and said goodbye to this charming little city! I fall hard and fast for places in Europe and that love isn’t always realised again when I return (more on that later). I feel though my love for Bruges was well justified. To be fair, I travelled in December when the tourist numbers were low. The weather was gorgeous and I enjoyed being away from the pressures of bigger tourist cities!
What were your experiences of Bruges? Did you love it as much as I did?