When Lindy Bop lover, Leander, got in touch to tell us all about Bruges and her love of Lindy Bop fashion, we didn't hesitate to invite her to share a city guide.
Bruges, titled the Venice of the North, is famous for its cobbled streets, fairy tale surroundings and beautiful canals. I’ve only ever visited Belgium once before (over 15 years ago) with school and having only vague memories of the place I couldn’t wait to visit again.
Whenever I travel I try to ignore the guide books and explore away from the beaten track. Pinterest is a great tool for recommendations, I’ve found so many hidden gems on there and it’s what I used for my first ever time in Bruges.
Where to eat?
Breakfast – Ginger Bread is a sweet little place just off the Market Square and a great spot to grab a waffle! If you find it acceptable to have cake for breakfast (which I do) then the Chocolate Sponge is to die for. Reasonably priced and a large variety of yummy cakes.
Lunch – There’s a small café called Breakfast Tea Room facing The Beer Wall close to the canal on Wollestraat. I ventured out alone one lunch time and stumbled across this place. It was the vintage vibes that drew me in, the décor is lovely and there are cute pictures of pin-ups on the wall and little notes people have left on napkins hanging all over, a great read whilst eating. I had a toasted ham, chicken and tomato Panini and a glass of house red for less than 10 Euros. A relaxed and pretty place for a quick lunch.
Dinner – Usually I’m a sucker for a romantic 3 course meal with wine but travelling with 3 others (2 men and my sister) I was dragged to Ribs & Beer, an all you can eat ribs restaurant with a beer for 18 Euros. I always think about Homer Simpson when he eats all the food in that episode and how a restaurant would probably chuck you out if you actually attempted to but here you can literally eat all the ribs you like because you're not going to get past 3 racks, they are HUGE! There is a choice of spicy sauce, BBQ sauce or chocolate and beer sauce. I could only manage just more than half a full rack of spicy ribs (with chips and salad) which I am impressed at because my
eyes are much bigger than my belly but it really is a must! One of the best meals I’ve ever eaten. The house wine goes down a treat with the spicy ribs too.
Desert – There’s no point ordering desert straight after a meal because there are so many standalone chocolate, sweet, cake and ice cream shops around. Not far from Ribs and Beer on Geldmuntstraat is a wonderful emporium of ice cream and goodies. Its name? Gelateria Da Vinci. I (secretly) returned four more times to this exact place to sample the tremendous tastes available. I would strongly suggest having some of the cookie ice cream. It top trumps any Ben and Jerrys!
In terms of chocolate and I sampled a lot (a lot a lot) during my 3 day stay, the nicest I tried was Dumon. A small little shop just off the Market Square with a range of delicious Belgium Chocolates. Every time I 'passed' (stop judging me) it was always busy so expect a small queue but great prices and very welcoming.
Where to drink?
Not being a beer drinker, I was apprehensive about visiting Bruges and not being able enjoy a classic Belgian beer but there is a bloomin' beautiful array of all kinds of beers, ciders and wonderful wines.
The Beer Wall is a great place to sample, 2 Euros for a small glass. They have 14 draft beers and there’s a great bit of history in there too. The bar is only open until 7.30pm so don’t plan an evening trip there.
The Red Rose Café is a beautiful quaint hotel bar situated around 5 minutes from the centre. Here you will find over 50 red roses hanging from the ceiling with a small terrace bar at the back complete with quirky signs and hanging props on the wall. Many beers are available (some even 12%) I opted for a fruit beer Echt Krikenbier. Delicious!
One of Bruges' oldest bars Cafe Vlissinghe is amazing to visit in the day time, a huge garden at the back and again, somewhere with great history. There is food available all be it a little expensive but you could get a small cheese toastie and onion soup for around 5 Euros which seemed reasonable.
Le Trappiste is where we spent our main evening drinking, it is an underground bar fitted with romantic lighting complimented by authentic jazz music. Again, a large amount of beers available and they let you have
little tasters whilst trying to find one that you like. Lots of fruit beers which was nice but it was here I FINALLY found the first ever proper beer I like. It is called Brasserie D'achouffe. So for any ladies who don’t really like beer and are wanting something light and refreshing this is the one, trust me! I’ve been searching for nearly 10 years.
Where to Shop?
Although I didn’t spend a lot of time shopping, I did pop in a few places that caught my eye. A great street to explore just off the Market Square is Breidelstraat, there’s an adorable toy shop occupied by amazing Christmas decorations (I imagine you couldn’t move in here during the Christmas market season) and small souvenirs. Through a little doorway there is a room full of unbelievably carved cuckoo clocks, try and hang around until one of them hits the hour. The name of this magical place is Kathe Wohlfahrt.
Where to Visit?
The Belfry is 366 steps high and has spectacular views all over Bruges. If you’re under 25 years old it is a 6 Euro entry fee, for anyone older than that it's 8 Euros. When visiting I would suggest going early in the morning, I visited around 9.30am and there was no queue what so ever. I was up and down in one hour.
The Torture Museum is a peculiar little place situated in the oldest building in Bruges, Oude Steen. It was thought to be a prison in the 12th century AD and for 8 Euros you can explore the weird and insane torture methods used hundreds of years ago. Not really for the faint hearted but very interesting (and they have sweets on reception)
With our hotel 'Koffieboontje' we were able to use bikes for free. I would highly recommend hiring bikes if they don’t come free with your accommodation. You get to see so much more of Bruges, you can cycle along the canal and get lost in the maze like streets. We spent a few hours soaking up the sites and then stopped for a little rest in Astrid Park which during summer is full of bloom and with the small fountain and statue situated in the centre, would make the ideal location for a picnic.
Boat trips leave from the main section of the canal every 10 minutes and a round trip will cost you 8 Euros per person. The trip lasts around 30 minute and it's a great way to see all the old architecture and snap some pictures. Look out for the wooden decking on the canal side half way through, a great place to head back to. We took a few beers there on the last day before we had to leave and even managed to get a little sun tan whilst we were there.
The Basilica of the Holy Blood is spectacular to visit, the church itself is glorious and free to enter but there is a 2 Euro charge if you want to enter the Treasury. And of course one of the most famous scenes from the movie In Bruges was set within the Basilica. Just in case they ever decide to shoot as equal, visit! You might bump into Colin Farrell, if he survived.
What to Wear?
Belina was a perfect choice for my first day in Bruges as there was a slight breeze so the heavy material wasn't flying up showing my under garments, accompanied with a light jacket with the sun shining was the perfect attire for strolling around the canals admiring the trees and flowers in blossom.
The second day I went for an Audrey swing, it was great fun pretending to be Marilyn Monroe at the top of the Belfry with the wind! Perfect for cycling in and sitting in the sun with an ice cream.
Overall a superb trip, I will certainly be returning in the near future. Who knows, maybe for the Christmas markets later this year...
Thanks for your top tips on Bruges, Leander! We're pricing up flights as we type.
Liked this? Want to say hi to Leander? You can find her on Twitter.