Bruges is the perfect European city to visit for a 3-night break. We wanted a picturesque destination with plenty to see and do, and Bruges matched our wish list with its pedestrian-friendly streets, beautiful waterways and medieval architecture. Chocolate shops, waffles and beer tastings were a bonus for a couple of travellers that enjoy eating their way around the world!
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Before we could say “Jean Claude van Damme”, yes he is from Belgium, we had hailed a taxi from outside the train station in Bruges and were being whisked away to our canal-side hotel, Martin’s Relais. The ’boutique hotel’ near Spieglrei harbour dated back to the 13th century designed by utilising five ancient residences. I loved the theatrical interior styling with its crystal chandeliers, oak stairways and open fireplaces giving it a luxurious feel.
The Famous Bruges Waffle
Eager to try a local dish for dinner, we headed down the cobbled streets and found a local restaurant serving the Bruges speciality, Belgium stew. We sat outside at a table for two and enjoyed a crisp glass of wine with our meal. The stew was delicious and the atmosphere authentic, a welcome treat from the “tourist restaurants” serving pizza, pasta and burgers that a scattered all around town.
Bruges is an ideal place to wander around and is one of the most beautiful places in Belgium. After pressing our noses against the windows of the many chocolate shops around, we decided to submit to Belgian waffles at Chez Albert for our desert. On the steps of the Belfry Tower in Grote Markt, we scoffed them down; notice how one of us had already started before I took the photo and watched the evening activity in the square.
Taking a trip along the canal
A trip along the canals in Bruges reminds you why it has the nickname “Venice of the North”. Waterways wind themselves around the city, passing by historical buildings and underneath cute stone bridges similar to Venice in Italy.
Bruges is smaller but offers some enchanting views that you can see during a 20-minute trip along the canals. The journey has commentary in English and gives you information about the history of Bruges’s surroundings.
We had heard about the many varieties of beer in Bruges and decided to try a “beer flight”. The “flight” consists of a selection of beers ranging from intense and dark to light and fruity, flavours for all palates.
The Bourgogne des Flandres Brewery is situated along a cobbled street and has an outside seating area overlooking the canal. We chose the six beer flight option along with a cheese board and tapas meatballs (optional). I discovered two of the lighter, fruitier varieties that were pleasant, and I thought it was an enjoyable way to spend a few hours.
De Halve Maan is another beer lover’s dream. This 16th-century family brewery, owned since 1856, offers a 45-minute tour focusing on beer production. The journey takes you along passageways and onto the roof for a panoramic city view and finishes with a tasting.
This evening we chose to do a free walking tour with Legends Tours. This 90-minute tour was fun and informative and was worth doing.
On our last day, we took the 90-minute City Tour bus, which picks up in front of the Belfry Tower in Grote Markt and shows you around the places of interest in the city. I would recommend that you do this on your first day to get your bearings.
The one place we hadn’t visited on foot was the windmills that sit on the city’s outskirts. Sint-Janshuismill was built in 1770 and is the oldest working windmill in Bruges still standing in its original position and open to the public. Out of the twenty- three mills located around the city, there are now only four. You can walk to them from the city centre or hire a bike and fully discover the area.
Belgium Chocolate Shops and Charming Cafes
The quaint canal-side restaurants are plentiful, all offering a unique charm. We wandered around the city, stopping for crepes and ice-creams and visiting the chocolate shops. The Chocolate Line is a good one to visit and offers an insight into the process of making chocolate featuring flavours from Asia, Brazil and Italy along with regular favourites.
My honest opinion of Bruges
What month did I travel? August
How was the weather? It was scorching and sunny.
Is Bruges a good place for solo travellers? Yes, Bruges is a compact city and is one of the best places to travel alone in Europe.
Would I recommend the hotel? Yes. Martin’s Relais was a good base in Bruges, slightly away from the busier part of town. It was a boutique hotel with a charming interior. The room itself was large, with windows overlooking the canal.
Would I recommend three nights in Bruges? Most definitely although you could condense all main activities into two nights. I loved the architecture, the canals, the beer and chocolate and the ease of walking everywhere. The Eurostar journey is under 4 hours from the UK and so a great place for a European city break.