Discover an oasis of calm. Go to the Beguinage, a beautiful small green and shaded space flanked by distinctive white buildings and crossed with paths. Sisters of the religious St. Benedict order have taken the place of the former beguines of the former cloistered community. Its atmosphere is wonderfully serene.
The Begijnhof is just off Wijngaardplein and has a shop, church and small museum. There are signs asking people to be silent (though not always obeyed).
Restaurant In den Wittenkop run by a truly enthusiastic couple. Not an encyclopaedic range of beers but great advice and what they do have is worth trying.
Work up through the Rocheforts over some great food. Talk whisky after dinner and weave a merry way home. For chocs go to Pralinette, you can watch them being made in the back of the shop. Get the orange peel in chocolate!
Lovely big rooms in Hotel De Tuilereën, super spa facilities and winner of best breakfast in Benelux! Nice people, nice place. Oh, it’s got canals and museums as well.
Keep young children busy in this beautiful city by visiting Astridpark, on Schaarstraat. There's a great little playpark with slides, swings and sandpits and, next to it, a pretty park with ducks and a bandstand to play in.
If you walk from here through Vismart, depending on the time of day, your children will delight in the fish or toys and crafts on display.
Why not visit De Proeverie in Katelijnestraat. It is a delightful coffee shop. Their speciality is hot chocolate served the Belgian way with frothy milk and melted chocolate and whipped cream which you add yourself. It is out of this world. If that wasn't enough, it comes with a few chocolates from the chocalatier in the street opposite.
Hire a bike from Bruges station for the day (you'll need a passport as ID) and head for the village of Damme.
Cycle along quiet tree-lined canals and stop in Damme for a coffee or lunch. Then continue along more traffic-free tree-lined canals, popping into the odd village along the way.
Bike hire is very reasonable at about 15 euros for the day.
This restaurant was part of the excellent hotel we stayed in, Die Swaene. We decided to try it out for supper, not expecting the gastronomic feast we had in store.
The food was simply delicious, the service was excellent, and the surroundings beautiful. I highly recommend this restaurant. Our selection was the five-course Menu Romeo & Juliette.
This was also one of the most expensive meals we've ever had, close to €300 for two adults and a child. This price, however, included two decent bottles of wine from the Margaux region, early 90s. We felt that the quality of the food, wine, surroundings and service made this meal well worth the price.
Die Swaene Hotel, Steenhouwersdijk, 8000 Brugge, Belgium,
From Burg Square, exit on the south and cross the river, take an immediate left (north-east) and the hotel will be a block up on your right. It's a five-minute walk.
If you are on a low budget then you want somewhere cheap and clean to stay that is in the centre of things.
Look no further than the International Youth Hotel (not Hostel) in Langer Straat. You've got all the familiarity of being close by the city centre and a room-style reminiscent of the French motorway hotels like Formule 1 and Campanile.
It has shared ownership with the next-door dormitory-based Youth Hostel, so do not book the wrong one. Two years ago, the cost per head for a group of 20 of us was £12 per night, including meagre and just adequate breakfast, but no more than two rolls each please. Nice to find a place where average age was less than 30.
In my vocabulary, Bruges means beer!
Start with a morning brewery tour, there are two within walking distance of the centre with free tastings! Then, head for lunch at one of the swanky restaurants by the fish market (go on splash out - you only live once) where you get a different beer with each course and even your own beer waiter!
Then head for one of the taverns near the Cathedral to try a Kwak or two, just for the glass it comes in (think chemical warfare and you'll get the idea). Then if you dare, try climbing the Belfort Bell tower for comic effect or sober up with a walk around the city walls or by sampling a chocolate or waffle or a chocolate waffle!
Finally, end the day sipping your favourite beer while eating mussels and watching the world go by at one of the many restaurants in the Markt Square. Perfect!
The railway station in Bruges is 2km from the city centre. If your bags are heavy or walking is a problem, save money on taxi fares by taking any bus from outside the station with the heading 'Centrum'.
The fare is 1.5 Euros and the driver will almost certainly speak English so ask to be alerted to get off at the ‘Markt’. You will alight at the most beautiful square in the city and hotels, bars and restaurants are plentiful. Most usefully you will be only a few yards from the Tourist Information Bureau.
Stay at the Hotel Adornes right by the canal, five minutes' from the centre with the best breakfast ever, bicycles to use to travel futher afield for free and comfortable rooms and excellent service. The perfect place for a very relaxing weekend.
During the summertime, rise early on Sunday and have Bruges’ beautiful streets and attractions all to yourself.
The natives won’t be heading to work, the shops haven’t opened and the tourists have yet to rise. Grab breakfast in Vrijdagmarkt square before climbing the dizzy heights of the Belfry all to yourself; a feat more imaginable than the 366 steps that are necessary.
Take a solitary moment to reflect in the Church Of Our Lady and you’ll have just enough time left to enjoy the peace and tranquillity of the Lake of Love’s swans.
If you want to impress without breaking the bank I recommend the Jan Brito Hotel. It’s a stylish 16th century building round the corner from the Berg Square, romantic canals and museums.
The Baroness de Giey package was great fun and value – three nights' bed and breakfast, transfers, boat trip and two very good dinners at a local restaurant – we were stuffed with lots of rich Belgian specialties including garlic snails. A snip at 275 euros per person at weekends.
We had a lovely evening recently in restaurant-brasserie Vivaldi in Wijngaardstraat 24 in Bruges.
It was a warm evening so we sat outside watching the horse-drawn carriages coming past. We had the local specialities, my wife had a pan full of mussels and I had Bruges filet steak. We also had the local brewed beer.
The quality of the food was very good and the price was reasonable - three-course dinner, drinks and coffee just under 70 euros for two people.
Visit the Curiosa restaurant just off the market sqaure in Bruges - the traditional Flemish stew is amazing! If you are after something sweet, try the tea room a couple of doors away for the most beautiful, but reasonably priced, cream cakes to enjoy with a coffee.
Make the effort to take a local bus (every half hour) from the bus station, to the small Dutch town of Sluis - only just over the border. Well worth the visit, lots of bargains and don't forget the Windmill restaurant.
My family lived in Bruges for a couple of years and my top tip there would have to be the Spinola restaurant on Spinola 1. It is cosy, friendly and great value for money.
Above all, the food is delicious and the best example of real Belgium food I experienced anywhere in Bruges. The restaurant is probably best visited in winter when its roaring fire and candle-lit tables offer consolation from the cold.
My advice would be to book for December and then follow your meal with a brief walk to the Markt where you can enjoy a skate on the temporary ice-rink and a comforting mug of warm wine.
Don’t miss a trip to the Half Moon brewery in the centre where you can take a tour and learn of the traditional brewing methods.
There are quite a few very steep steps so take the tour before sampling the beer but the added bonus is the fantastic panoramic view of the city from the rooftop. Included in the modest price (around €4) is a glass of the wonderful Zot beer. There is also a good café/bar. A Votre Santé!
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