Beautiful? Yes! Historic? Oh, yes. As quaint as a quaint can be? Absolutely! But cool? Is Bruges really a cool city to hang out in?
On my recent visit I realised that yes, Bruges is a cool city and so here are my recommendations for ten cool things to do in Bruges from eating in trendy lunch eateries to getting on your bike.
1. In Bruges Walking Tour
One of the coolest things about Bruges in recent years is the film In Bruges starring Colin Farrell. As well as being hilarious and packed with action, it also showcases the beauty of the city. You can pick up an In Bruges walking tour map from Tourist Information, or you can find some of the key sights listed on this website. Whether you adopt Colin’s sexy Irish accent is up to you (we did!).
2. Cycle the city (and beyond!)
While cars struggle to access most of Bruges’ inner roads, bikes can use over 90% of the city’s roads and most of the one-way rules don’t apply to those on two wheels. We hired bikes from Fietsen Popelier on Mariastraat and we were really surprised how good quality the bikes were (you need good suspension on those cobbled streets!). We actually rode our bikes all the way out to Zeebrugge on the coast, which is not at all as beautiful as Bruges, but does have a lovely sand beach and when the sun is shining, it is a nice cycle ride if you want some exercise.
3. Balls of Glory
“Handcrafted meatballs” may not be something you’d categorise under “cool”, but just you wait until you’ve tried this. Freshly made every day with the choice to eat in or take away (cooking instructions are given) we cursed ourselves for only trying three different types of these giant meatballs. I’d go back to Bruges for Balls of Glory any day!
4. Check out the nightlife on Langestraat
On the same road as Balls of Glory, Langestraat, I saw a number of affordable hostels and late night bars and realised that this must be where the backpackers stay! Although I may not be a backpacker, I wish I’d discovered this area sooner as the bars looked a lot of fun with many of them boasting live music, comedy nights and of course, a wide range of Belgian beers.
5. Go shopping!
One thing I didn’t expect from Bruges was how varied and how much shopping there would be. The two main streets for your typical High Street shops are Steenstraat and Nordzandstraat, but all across the city I stumbled upon cute independent boutiques and numerous concept and design stores. In particular, I liked the photographed shop of “Curiositeiten” on Langestraat (again!), Men at Work for menswear and the antiques and flea market that was on at Vismarkt.
6. Do lunch at De Belegde Boterham
Calling itself a “lunchboutique”, De Belegde Boterham only does lunch, which I thought was a little short-sighted… until we went there for lunch (after our long bike ride to Zeebrugge and back). I quickly realised that while they are only open until mid-afternoon, what this means is that they can really put a lot of energy, creativity and focus on the meals they create for lunch. Decor was smart and stylish, lunches were fresh, delicious and not too big and the service – delivered in French, Dutch and English! – was exceptional.
7. Enjoy a moment of quiet.
Tucked away down a side street and accessible only be a blink and you’ll miss it entrance, the Begijnhof, or Beguinage, in Bruges is one of the few places you can find peace and quiet during Bruges’ busy tourist season (which doesn’t really have an end!). Begijnhofs were traditionally religious places of residence in the Netherlands and Belgium for single women who live and work for the church though they are not nuns. It’s an historic tradition that has all but died out now and you can find out more about the practise and a famous Begijnhof in Amsterdam here. Nowadays the houses are occupied by a group of nuns so be sure to respect their own peace and quiet too.
8. Visit the Frietsmuseum
Forget art and architecture (though if you’re into that the Groeningen Museum is exceptional and the Church of Our Lady is home to the famous Michelangelo sculpture, Madonna of Bruges), the coolest museum in Bruges is the Frietsmuseum, where you can learn all about the Belgian national institution, chips! Learn why “Vlaamse Friets” are like no other fries and of course, taste the difference too, all in a stunning 14th century building, not far from Bruges’ most famous town, square Grote Markt.
9. Hang out with a wall of beer or go to Bruges’ only independent brewery.
Beer is everywhere in Bruges, but few dig deeper than the bottom of their curved beer glass to understand the history and heritage of beer in Bruges and in Belgium. For a quick insight visit the Beerwall and 2be (a bar and beer shop) but to find out more and try the most authentic beers in Bruges head to De Halve Maan, the only independent brewery in the centre of Bruges. Cheers!
10. Have a fairytale dinner!
Our favourite discovery in Bruges was Restaurant Pomperlut, a small and intimate restaurant that has a limited but lucious menu served in a corner cottage which dates back to 1612. The open fire is a real feature and the food was exceptional. When we spoke to the owners who had completely redesigned and refurbished the interior a few years ago – including introducing a whole in the celining so people can look down from upstairs – they said they were influenced by Harry Potter and other fairy tales and we could see that immediately. This is not your typical restaurant, so of course it wasn’t cheap either but this is definitely where you should go for a romantic meal or a special occasion.
This post was written by Frankie Thompson who was a Travelette from 2012 – 2015. Originally from London, UK, Frankie was nomadic for several years before settling in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, where she lives with her Australian partner and baby boy. She spends her time buying vintage dresses, riding a rusty old bike around the canals and writing books inspired by her travels. Frankie blogs about travel, writing and motherhood at As the Bird flies blog.Tweet