Bruges is one of Europe’s biggest small surprises. Often overlooked for better known locations like Amsterdam and Paris, Belgium's pretty city of Bruges makes the perfect pitstop for a low-key, romantic weekend away.
And, lucky for you, Virgin Red, in conjunction with craft beer club Beer 52, is offering you the chance to win a long weekend for you and a friend to head to the beautiful city of Bruges. The winner will receive accommodation, tours of local breweries and sample Trappist beers. Visit Virgin Red to find out more.
The entire city is a UNESCO World Heritage site and every building looks like it was dreamt up by the Brothers Grimm. Come for the architecture, narrow streets and canals, and stay for the waffles, the frites and a pint of local beer.
Bang in the centre of the historic city is the Markt Square, and one of Bruges’ most symbolic structures – the medieval Belfry. At 83 metres tall, this bell tower once provided the perfect vantage point for spotting danger from. The 366 steps are a schlep but they’re worth it for the views.
There’s a food market in full swing on Wednesdays in Markt Square. Come here to pick up fresh sausages, cheese and trays of perfectly baked apple tarts.
The Markt is also close to other must-see sights like the Burg and the Rozenhoedkaai, a picturesque meeting of canals known in English as the Quay of the Rosary. You can enjoy this view from dry land, but it’s better from a boat. A trip to Bruges certainly isn’t complete without floating around the expansive canal network.
Strolling around shows just how culturally significant Bruges is. Its rich history comes to life thanks to its UNESCO-protected architecture: there are enough spires, crooked houses and meandering streets to keep the 7.7 million tourists who visit the city each year happy.
The Groeningemuseum should be a mandatory stop on your itinerary. It houses paintings by Jan van Eyck and Hieronymus Bosch, who called Bruges their home. Also worth a visit is the Beguinage, an immersive historical experience inside a 13th century convent.
It almost goes without saying – you’ve got to eat a lot in Bruges. Namely: waffles, frites and chocolate.
Nobody does chips better than the Belgians, because nobody has been doing them for as long. Belgians invented the humble chip – the frite, erroneously dubbed the ‘French Fry’ by many, has become a national dish in Belgium. Although fries are often served alongside dishes like Moules-Frites or Stoverij (a traditional beef stew), they’re no stranger to being the main event either, and typically with lots – and we mean lots – of mayonnaise.
Some of the best frites in town come from the Friekot de Markt, a green food truck parked at the base of the Belfry – perfectly located for a well deserved reward for those having just completed the 732 step round-trip.
Bruges is great if you have a sweet tooth as waffles and chocolate rule here. The air is filled with the scent of Belgian sweet treats. Every other shop has a sign that draws you inside with the promise of free samples. For waffles, Chez Albert is the clear winner. However, for chocolate, it’s not so simple. Take your pick from internationally renowned brands, like Godiva or local choices like Dumon.
Beer in Bruges is big. You’ve got to drink something with your frites, right?
De Halve Maan (Half Moon) brewery is a quintessential example of Bruges’ beer making tradition – it’s a family business that has been brewing booze on the same street for centuries. They brew the beer of the city called Brugse Zot (translated as ‘Bruges fools’) – the affectionate nickname given to the people of Bruges – and you’ll see it everywhere. De Haalve Maan offer brewery tours daily, and for the beer fanatics out there there's the XL tour which includes a full tasting session.
At the end of a day’s sightseeing, there’s nothing better than putting your feet up in the pub. Bruges has no shortage of terrific watering holes frequented by locals and tourists alike. Perhaps the most famous is ‘t Poatersgat, which has a cosy, candlelit atmosphere and a great selection of beers. The Cafe Rose Red, on the other hand, is the Mecca for Trappist beer, so afficionados should head there.