Despite living very close to the Eurostar terminal in London, I make far too little use of this excellent train service as a gateway to continental European city breaks. The reason might be the over-absorbtion of London life that hasn’t given me much time to think across the channel or, more likely, how overpriced the train line has become in the recent years.
Whatever it may be, after finding finally a good deal on Eurostar to Brussels, me and my boyfriend decided to spend a sunny weekend visiting Bruges. Bruges is actually not on the Eurostar route but following a 2h train from London to Brussels, we were able to catch a local train there from the Eurostar train terminal. I love travelling by train, particularly in the continental Europe, so for me the additional 1h journey from Brussels to Bruges flew by. By the way, if you book in advance on the Internet you can get a really affordable weekend return ticket.
Our hotel choice was The Pand Hotel which offered an excellent location for a short break and had beautiful entrance rooms and a breakfast area. I had been warned about the small size of the ‘Charming Rooms’ in guest reviews, but I hadn’t expected them to be as small as they turned out to be. For example, it was impossible to open the suitcase without getting it stuck between making a way out of the room. In the bathroom, you needed to be careful not to get caught between the bathtub and basin. Nevertheless, the room lived up to its name of ‘charm’ in its old school styling including colourful wallpaper, furniture and paintings. I’m glad we stayed for one night only though as the red walls could have become too much far too quickly.
Instead of being perfect tourists and visiting historical sights and museums that guide books enthused about, we loved strolling around the city, sitting on terraces and sunbathing in the parks. Bruges is a UNESCO heritage site so you would expect the streets to look pretty with many historical, quaint buildings. And indeed Bruges is a very attractive city. Gothic architecture, cobbled streets, canals, horse-drawn carriages and timeless feel provide a perfect setting for a European city break. If I had to sum up what Europe is about, Bruges has it all.
One of the nicest places we found for eating out was Lunchboutique De Belegde Boterham, which serves the most inventive salads I’ve seen such as the one pictured below with artichoke heart, prawns and mozzarella. The restaurant is located in a pedestrianised ally just a few blocks away from the main square, Grote Markt, but still manages to be a non-fuss, small restaurant with attractive interiors and a small terrace where you can find a comfortable seat and a shade if it’s a hot day. In my opinion, more of this type of heathy but delicious eateries should be opened in every city! Another one that we liked was Cafedraal which had a fabulour courtyard terrace, excellent service and very local atmosphere. We sat next to a couple from Bruges with whom we had a nice chat about Bruges and our respective countries. The food in Cafedraal may not have quite lived up to its sophisticated setting but it was still enjoyable.
For drinks we liked wine shop Cuvee where we were surprised to find beautiful Scandinavian inspired interiors inside but outside a beautiful little terrace in a traditional Belgian setting. The waiters in this wine bar were excellent with very knowledgeable tips on best wines to sample and enjoy with capicola cold cut meat. Another one was the outside terrace in the Hotel DeTuilerieen which was a perfect sanctuary when the crowds of July got a little too much.
Although there is no denying that the crowds of tourists make the stay in Bruges a little less relaxing than it could otherwise be. However, when admiring the streets of Bruges late after dinner time or early on Sunday morning when everyone is still in bed, you can sense what Bruges is about and how it captures the essence of what makes a European little town. Abundance of character, history and elegance.
The Pand Hotel
Pandreitje 16, 8000 Brugge/Bruges, Belgium
Tel: +32 50 34 06 66
Lunchboutique De Belegde Boterham
Kleine St.Amandsstraat 5, 8000 Brugge/Bruges, Belgium
Tel: +32 50 34 91 31
Closed on Sundays
Zilverstraat 38, 8000 Brugge/Bruges, Belgium
Tel: +32 50 34 08 45
Closed on Sundays
Philipstockstraat 41, 8000 Brugge/Bruges, Belgium
Tel: +32 50 33 33 28
Hotel De Tuilerieen
Dijver 7, 8000 Brugge/Bruges, Belgium
Tel: +32(0)50 34 36 91
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