As we all know, no matter what anyone may tell you, size does in fact matter. However, Belgium completely squashes that mantra, as this little country packs one serious punch. The land of beer, chocolate and waffles, what’s there not to fall in love with?
We arrived at Brugge Station and headed straight for the old town, which meant Markt Square. This square features many historic buildings, cafés, shops and restaurants, but it is here that you will find the fiercest rivalry in all of Belgium. Two food stalls set up only metres away from one another both claiming to sell the “best fries in the world” – who knows why the French get the credit because Belgium’s fried potatoes are the best in the world. Served in a paper cone, liberally dusted with salt and almost too hot to hold. Fritjes can be described, in only one word, addictive. Try them with mayonnaise for a traditional flavour, or curry sauce for a bit of an adventure. But first you will need to decide which stall you will choose to eat your fries from. However, make no mistake you must try them both. I was extremely skeptical about them, because really how good can fries truly be? I thought I’d had decent fries in my lifetime from various drunken adventures, but nothing could prepare me for how amazing these would taste. I am now a believer that these were in fact the best fries in the world.
With the smell of cheese, waffles, sausages and wine (it was only just past 9am) filling the air, our knees were starting to go wobbly and our mouths salivating, ready to eat some local produce. Opting to escape the harshness of the morning breeze, with the temperature-nearing freezing we headed for a charming little café in the middle of the markets, puuuuuurfect. We warmed our fingers with hot coffees and had some local breakfast and never wanted to leave. With the condensation dripping down the window and everyone outside pulling out beanies and mittens, we knew it would be wise to not brave the cold just yet, instead we ordered a second coffee and a slice of homemade apple pie. It proved to be a very wise decision in the end.
Around the corner you will find Burg Square, with the most famous landmark in Bruges, Grand City Hall built in 1376. Although not as chaotic and touristy as Markt Square, Burg Square has plenty to offer. Most notably is the Basilica of the Holy Blood, where it is said the last vile of Jesus Christ’s blood now resides. This 12th century chapel lies in the heart of the medieval town where the vile is on display for tourists to see. Although a lot of people leave feeling very skeptical about whether or not it is real, the chapel itself is amazing to see.
After seeing some famous blood we were starting to get hungry, and obviously no trip to Belgium would be complete without tasting waffles and chocolate, two things that the Belgians are world famous for making. We headed to a tiny local shop selling waffles. The only real question here was how many can we eat before we start getting judgmental looks. The waffles were so sweet and deliciously warm, our time in Belgium was fast becoming a food fest. No one does waffles quite like the Belgians, and boy were they addictive.
Bellies full and the weather starting to drop dramatically, we needed somewhere warm to escape the cold. We headed for ‘T Brugs Beertje’ a special beer tavern in the centre of Bruges. This tasting house is where the real beer culture of Belgium can be enjoyed by many locals and tourists a like. Here you can find more than 300 beers, so not matter your taste preference you’ll find something you like. The staff were extremely friendly and happy to help answer all questions (the menu’s aren’t in English) and with a great atmosphere and a warm fire going, it was the perfect way to cap off a great first day in Bruges. We sampled many beers, some as strong as 12% so it’s best to pace yourself, as it’s very easy to get drunk quickly! Our favourites definitely had to be the special Christmas ales, with charming little labels we instantly fell in love with this tavern. For anyone planning or thinking of going to Bruges, I cannot recommend this place enough! They open their doors at 4pm, so you can explore the city and canals all day and then quench your thirst here in the afternoon.
The following day we just ventured around all of the amazing canals. Bruges has been dubbed the “Venice of the North” and is definitely one of the most romantic cities in Europe. Here you can take boat tours down the canals, or just get lost exploring the cute little laneways of the city. Best of all, as the city is so compact and small, no matter which way you turn, you’ll never really get lost!
Belgium is often a country that is overlooked by travellers coming to Europe, but was one that we thoroughly enjoyed. Although our time here was brief, it was a country I would love to return to one day for an extended period of time, of course, I’m not just saying this because I already miss the waffles.