Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Beer, Canals, Frites and More Beer: Two Nights in Bruges

Anyone who has seen the 2008 film In Bruges may remember this quote by Ray (Colin Farrell), "Maybe that's what hell is, the entire rest of eternity spent in flippin' Bruges."  Intrigued by the picturesque, romantic village portrayed in this movie, I made Bruges a must-see stop on an April trip the the Netherlands and Belgium. Here's a (brief) trip report from my visit.

En route by train from Amsterdam with a quick stop on Antwerp, we arrived in Bruges 1.5 hours later for a two-night stay on a cloudy day in April.  From the train station, we hopped in a taxi that brought us to the center of town and to the delightful Hotel Cavalier on Kuipersstraat, just outside of the town’s main square, Market Square.

Market Square
Since I was traveling with my brother and a hometown friend, we chose budget-friendly Hotel Cavalier due to its excellent location to restaurants, shops (lots of chocolate!), and sights.  The owner was very pleasant and welcoming and helped us carry our luggage to our triple room on the third floor.  We were thankful for the help as the stairs were very steep.  

Hotel Cavalier
The Hotel Cavalier offered comfortable beds, clean rooms and a very quiet atmosphere, which we appreciated.   The breakfast room was absolutely beautiful and the owner served soft or hard boiled eggs, meats, cheeses, fruit, yogurt, cereal, toast/bread, coffee, tea, hot chocolate and juices every morning.   Overall, a very good value and a very friendly place to stay and I can recommend this hotel to anyone.

En route from hotel to Market Square
After checking in, we set out to explore Bruges and more importantly, find some lunch.  Despite the mobs of tourists, Bruges’ historic Market Square was one of the most picturesque squares I have ever seen.  With its Gothic architecture, cobbled streets, multitude of flags, bell tower and horse and buggies, Bruges makes you feel like you’re in a medieval fairytale.  The square itself is lined with colorful buildings and umbrella-covered cafes.  There are also a couple vendors selling frites (Belgian-style French fries) with many different dipping choices – the frites were amazing! 

Market Square

Market Square
Cafes in Market Square
We found three open seats outdoors at the Craenenburg Café and relaxed with a few beers and some sandwiches.  At Craenenburg Café, I discovered my favorite beer of my Netherlands/Belgium trip, Brugse Zot, a delicious beer brewed right in Bruges.   I love how every beer in Holland and Belgium has its very own glass to match.

After lunch, we walked around the streets and canals, taking in the scene, aware of the threatening rain clouds over our heads. 

Organola Player

We walked around Burg Square, spent some time in the Groeninge Museum, the Basilica of the Holy Blood and the Church of our Lady, where we saw Michelangelo's depiction of the Madonna and Child.

We also walked around the courtyard of Begijnhof, a monastery for the Benedictine nuns who live there.  The courtyard was very quiet and peaceful but unfortunately it started pouring and we ducked into a beer bar for a beer or two.   

Unfortunately, after the rain stopped, it was too late for the De Halve Maan Brewery Tour, where Brugse Zot is brewed.  Oh well, next time!

After a nap, we ate at Bierbrasserie Cambrinus, a pub with more than 400 kinds of beer on its very heavy menu.  We enjoyed tasting several different beers and a Belgian dinner.  All in all, a great atmosphere and inexpensive choice for dinner.  

Day Two

After breakfast at the hotel, we walked to Market Square to tackle the belfry of Bruges, or Belfort, a medieval bell tower.  We paid the minimal entry fee, climbed up the (painful) 366 steps, with its narrow and slightly claustrophobic stairwell, and were rewarded by an incredible, amazing view at the top of the tower.  I wished it had been a clearer day for photographs but oh well!

View from the Bellfort
After descending the bell tower, we rented three bicycles and biked the four miles along the relatively flat, paved outskirts of Bruges.  We followed a canal, riding by two windmills and beautiful countryside, arriving in the small village of Damme, a small version of Bruges.    

Cruising on the bikes was very relaxing and scenic and we spent some time riding around town exploring before sitting down on the outdoor patio at Bij Lamme Goedzak for lunch and a beer.  This was an extremely tasty and enjoyable meal but I did read on Trip Advisor that the restaurant is now closed.

Back in Bruges, we napped and then headed out to one of Bruges’s many bars to enjoy some Chimay. 

After a while, I left my brother and friend, the sun was finally shining and I wanted to photograph some of Bruges’ beautiful canals.  I spent a couple hours wandering around Bruges’ streets admiring the architecture, stopping in at an internet café to send an email or two to my family.

In addition to loading up on Belgian chocolate for souvenirs for family and friends, I bought two Brugse Zot glasses to bring back to Boston with me.  I can buy this beer at the craft beer shop down the street from my house in Boston for a very steep price but at least I can use my glasses.

On the way back to the hotel, about 10 minutes from Market Square, I ate a delightful, three-course dinner at a quiet bistro on a side street.  The owners were lovely people and the steak was fabulous and I wish I could tell you the name of this little gem, but it escapes me and I cannot find it online.  Sad!

Thanks for reading, next stop, Brussels!  To learn more about Bruges, click here.


  1. Very nice report and photos. Exactly the kind of stop I would like to make there after seeing that film and looking at some travel resources about it. Maybe if we ever make a "Christmas Markets" trip...

  2. Thanks JohnMcQ, I am glad you enjoyed the report! Bruges was really so picturesque...I highly recommend a visit at some point.