Romantic cobbled streets, narrow lanes, little bridges and canals greeted us as we arrived in the charming little medieval city of Bruges.
It was easy to see why Bruges is often known as the ‘Venice of the North’ after ambling the canal paths, and it felt like we’d stepped back in time as horse-drawn carriages navigated the small streets, and intricate architecture and antiqued buildings flooded our view.
We were particularly impressed by the ultra-romantic Lake of Love (formerly Minnewater Lake), and its elegant resident swans.
The many lace shops dotted around the city – reminiscent of the city’s lacemaking tradition – were bursting full of intricate homewares, and, of course, Belgian treats were at every corner: chocolate, waffles, frites (chips, double fried, with mayonnaise squirted on top), mussels (‘moules’), beer, and more.
And it was in Bruges that I discovered the real way to enjoy hot chocolate – the best hot chocolate I’ve had yet – at The Old Chocolate House.
‘The place to be to drink the best hot chocolate’ is the slogan for this cosy little old fashioned cafe and chocolate shop, and I’m so thankful for stumbling upon it. When you enter, you walk straight into a chocolate shop, but a set of stairs leads to a lovely antiqued tea room upstairs, complete with stained glass windows, dim lighting and vintage table covers.
The hot chocolate is an experience in itself – first you choose a combination, for example, the type of chocolate (white, milk or dark) and then the combo you want with it (chilli, ginger, marshmallows).
A huge mug of steaming milk then arrives, with a mini whisk, and a separate tray full of chocolate drops to mix in – as well as a biscuit and a selection of individual chocolates from the shop downstairs.
You whisk in the amount of chocolate you want before slurping away. We were full up after drinking half the mug, so perhaps order one to share. I cannot recommend this place highly enough, and what’s great is that it wasn’t even expensive.
A horse-drawn carriage ride is a common mode of transport to navigate the small streets – and it is one of the best ways to get a glimpse of the city. Boat tours along the canals are equally popular, and also another great way to see all the beautiful architecture. We chose to spend the day on foot, however, and got ourselves lost among the tiny streets – but that’s how we discovered some of the prettiest spots.
There were a variety of museums dotted around, such as a lace museum and beer museum, along with various canal-side eateries and drinking holes where you can dine with a view.
Getting there: We took the ferry over from the port of Dover to Calais, and then got a coach to Bruges. The ferry ride took about 2 hours, and the coach from Calais to Bruges took about 2 hours, too. A quicker and simpler way to get there would be to jump on the Eurostar.
Beautiful Bruges is easily doable in a day – but for a more relaxing experience, consider an overnight stay.
Tip: wear comfy shoes (there’s lots of walking on cobbles!) and perhaps something with an elasticated waistline (there’s so much to eat!).
I’m off to try and get hold of the film In Bruges, to see if Bruges looks as pretty on the big screen as in real life.
Dag! (That’s good bye in Flemish, FYI.)