WHERE TO STAY
Hotel Monsieur Ernest
We loved this boutique hotel SO much! The decor is chic, the bed was very comfortable, there's a complimentary breakfast buffet that was excellent, the staff was friendly and helpful, it's in walking distance to everything and it's affordable. This hotel price ranges from 135 USD to 175 USD depending on the time of year for standard and superior room.
I recommend reserving a room at this hotel on booking.com because, if needed, for a few dollars more, you can reserve the room now and pay when you get there.
We booked a superior double room with a canal view. I loved all the windows and light!
Hotel Monsieur Ernest in located on a lovely canal and a main road but instead of walking the main road to the square, we took the alley directly across from the hotel. There is so much cuteness to be seen going the back way!
As I mentioned earlier, breakfast is included in the price and it was quite a spread! There are not coffee or Nespresso machines in the room, but there is a very sophisticated Nespresso machine as a part of the buffet. One morning, I just popped in for an espresso and brought it back to my room.
Right off this restaurant is a cute patio and terrace so you can dine al fresco!
WHAT TO DO
Bruges might be small but there is plenty to do in a couple of days!
De Halve Maan Brewery
I'm more of a wine gal but when in Bruges, you drink the beer! I have to say, it was quite tasty and De Halve Maan Brewery is very cool. We got a table on the patio. There was even a priest at the next table enjoying a pint!
While the brewery stays open until 9pm/21:00 the gift shop closes at 5pm/17:00 so I missed getting to take home some of their beer as souvenirs.
We just spent the afternoon on the patio but they also offer a brewery tour for 12€ per person.
I'm now a big fan of Belgian Beer!
Another tour option can be booked on Viator.com. This tour is 4 hours, about 50 USD per person and will include a brewery tour, chocolate tasting at a local chocolatier and a walking tour of Bruges City Center. If you're short on time this is a great way to fit it all in!
Belgium is known for their waffles, so even though I don't usually eat dairy, gluten and sugar, I still had to have a few bites. Worth it!
Belfry of Bruges
If you saw the movie In Bruges, then you're familiar with the Bell Tower. For 12€ per person, you can climb the 366 insanely narrow steps to reach the top of the tower with the best view of Bruges. Tip: Go early! We went in the late afternoon and there were way too many people navigating those tiny stairs. I'm not athletic, like at all, so this was a bit of a challenge for me. Take caution if climbing stairs is a hard for you, as well.
Once we got to the top, though, it was SO beautiful and standing under the ringing bells was a cool experience!
We bought tickets when we got there and it's open from 9:30am-6:30pm/9:30-18:30.
Flemish Beef Stew & Glühwein
We had Flemish Beef Stew at Brasserie Rozenhoedkaai, which was delicious. They do not have a website but it's right across the street from 't Klein Venetië where we popped in for Glüwein after dinner. Glüwein is a warm spice mulled wine and if it's even a little chilly outside, this type of wine hits the spot. 't Klein Venetieë has a lovely view of the sun setting so get a table on the patio!
The Cathedrals of Bruges
There are many cathedrals in Bruges but the most notable is the Basilica of The Holy Blood. For a small donation of your choice, this is where can see a cloth with the blood of Christ. The Bruges Cathedrals were a nice, quiet place to visit and reflect on our travels and time spent in Bruges.
A Note on Traveling to & from Bruges by Train
You can certainly buy train tickets at the station wherever you're departing from, but I always like to have them on hand before we leave to give me some peace of mind.
I always book in advance with Rail Europe. Their prices are the cheapest and I can print them out at home most of the time. With some stations, they'll require them to be mailed to you, so be sure to book well enough in advance in case you have to receive them by mail.
We traveled from Paris to Bruges with one stop in Brussels and because we had never traveled by train in Belgium, we didn't know how their system worked and we missed multiple connection opportunities in Brussels.
Here's how it works - it's actually really simple!
When you arrive in Brussels, you'll check the board to see which platform your train is departing from. The mistake we made, was that we were looking for "Bruges" on the board and didn't see it. What we should have been looking for was the end of the line for the train that stopped in Bruges. After about two hours and getting lost in translation with the attendant at the help desk, we realized we could find the end of the line on Google!
Here's an example of a board I took a picture of at the station in Bruges when we were trying to get back to Bruxelles-Midi. As you can see, there is no Bruxelles-Midi listed.
When I searched Google for "Bruges to Brussels Train," I could see the platform we needed was Brus-Centraal Genk.
Knowing this bit of information would have saved us a lot of time!
We so enjoyed our time in Bruges and you will, too! Be sure to eat all of the chocolate and take some home with you. Have fun!