A FEW NIGHTS TO REMEMBER (OR TRY TO) IN BRUGES: NIGHT 1
It’s been said by many a traveler that Bruges is one of the most beautiful places to visit and we believed them, what we didn’t believe was just how beautiful it truly was. After a quick train trip from Brussels we arrived into Bruges Station (Stationsplein) into freezing weather. Cold and a little tired we decided not to brave the walk to the hotel, opting for a quick cab ride instead.
We were booked to stay at Passage Bruges, a sort of hotel/hostel/restaurant establishment. After ambling down a little alley and enjoying a most bizarre conversation with the owner of the establishment we were on our way to exploring Bruges. Bruges radiates medieval charm and European romance with its cobbled streets, old architecture and canals. Originally an important tool in importing and exporting to the rest of Europe, Bruges is now loved for its well-preserved medieval architecture and charming ambiance.
One of the best things about travelling through Europe in winter, aside from dirt cheap accommodation, is that come winter, beautiful European cities become magical Christmas kingdoms. We wandered down the maze of cobbled streets to head to the Town Square known as The Markt. The town square was full of festive spirit with it’s Christmas market well under way. Little wooden huts were displaying magical decorations and the smells of cinnamon from the mulled cider were mixed with mouthwatering wafts of deep fried potatoes. Embracing everything at once we balanced beers, mulled ciders, frittes and bratwurst as we wandered over to the ice skating rink. Together we tried not to choke on our stash of treats as we laughed at many ice skaters crash, tumble and drop. Whattt??? Scrooge is just as much a part of Christmas as Santa right?
We wandered past the amazing Belfry structure although it was closed when we got there. Hordes of locals and tourists wandered through the streets and all of the chocolate shops we showcasing their tastiest treats until late, it was every stereotype of a beautiful European city. We were lucky enough to find the most AMAZING little city guide called Use-It Europe and it will take you to through a very funny mix of tourist, local and downright weird points of interest. If you can’t pick one up then visit their website. Hands down better than any Lonely Planet guide I’ve ever seen and FREE.
With the blistering cold..um..blistering…our faces we decided that it was far too brisk to venue out for dinner. Luckily The Passage has a popular restaurant downstairs with a few famous dishes worth checking out. Everything was truly delicious that came out of the kitchen however the main surprise is the rack of ribs. We laughed as a plate half a meter long of meat came out, commenting how funny it would be if that was the ribs. Five minutes later when the same dish came bobbing over to our table the laughs turned to sheer horror at the logistics it would take to finish the dish. Dinner was being eaten and a little bit of polite conversation with the table next door, who had an AMAZING wolf with them, turned into joining tables, trying a wide variety of Belgian beer, smoking far too many cigarette (we’ve quit now mums!) and sampling some mouth watering dessert. It was one of those great evenings of candid conversation shared with like-minded people who didn’t share the same language or culture, the candles had burnt out by the time we headed to bed.
Getting there: It’s quite easy to catch a train from Brussels to Bruges, the Belgian Rail website can be accessed in English. The site can take a little bit of trial and error to navigate but once you’ve worked it out it’s the fastest and easiest way to access train tickets. It’s also the local service so prices are cheap, around €15+booking fee, tickets seem to be slightly higher when you purchase them at the station (attendants speak English). The journey takes just over 1 hour and is often busy, we advise having one backpack and a day pack ready to go when the train pulls up as sometimes it only stops for a minute. Accommodation: At €25 per night, per person it’s definitely an economy style accommodation. The building is old and cosy with big rooms and wooden floors.
There are no double beds so we had twin beds instead which wasn’t a huge deal. Showers and toilets are at the end of the hallway and shared, they weren’t overly clean but it was winter and staff were skeleton. We didn’t have any noise or bother from other guests and felt our belongings were secure. There are no hangers etc and no lifts so be prepared to carry your things up the stairs. Passage doesn’t serve breakfast but you’ll find a few good options next door and down the street. Wifi was good and restaurant staff were owner is quirky with a dry sense of humor (maybe a Dutch thing?), he will happily talk non-stop but is very quick to offer advice and tips and give you a true local experience. If the bathrooms were spotless with more spots to hang towels etc this hotel would go from good to great!