Our favourite bars and restaurants in Bruges

There are a lot of bars in Bruges, and it can be quite difficult to know where to start! Our first trip began with two thirsty Brits wandering into the first bar we could find- a bland establishment obviously reaping the benefits of being in such a busy touristy city without putting any effort in to retain it’s customers, with a beer menu featuring 5 or so common Belgian ales, a Pils on draught and a tiny dish of Bombay mix style snacks plonked down with your beer which may or may not be served in the proper glass. There are a lot of them out there unfortunately. There are also a lot of brilliant bars with huge, constantly evolving beer lists. These places embrace the history of Bruges and Belgian beer. They are usually packed full of locals as well as tourists, and you can sometimes struggle to get a table (most of them refuse to serve you without a seat). The staff are always knowledgable and willing to help you choose something you’ll like.

All of the below bars are decent authentic Belgian bars (well, sort of in the case of Le Trappiste) and all serve their beers in the correct glass.

Le Trappiste

Kuipersstraat 33

trappisteLe Trappiste has an interesting history. It was originally a Belgian beer bar in Altrincham, UK run by Brits. After a few years of trading in England, owner Martin Matthews decided to relocate the bar to it’s “spiritual home” and moved over to Bruges in 2013. Since then the bar has gone from strength to strength, showing that when it comes to authentic Belgian bars, the Brits can give the Belges a real run for their money!
Le Trappiste is a specialist beer bar just off Markt Square in Bruges. It is located in a cellar which is apparently 800 years old. The Beer Menu features over 100 beers, including international beers. Its a beautiful old cellar with a vaulted ceiling, fairy lights and candles on the tables. It has a really friendly, cosy feel about it. There’s a great atmosphere and the serving staff really know their beers.
Food is the typical Belgian “tapas”- cheese, meats and mustard.
Opens late and often has live music playing. Gets very busy at peak times! Here we are at New Year when we last visited. Notice how I (the blond on the right) was only drinking mineral water- I was 6 months pregnant but Carl’s arm hides my bump! In fact, looking at the photo there is a disappointingly low amount of beer there! We must have just had the table cleared! Not like us at all!


Cafe Rose Red

Cordoeaniersstraat 16

crrCafe Rose Red is tucked away on a quiet side street in the centre of Bruges. It is part of Hotel Cordoeanier so for some reason I always expected it to be a bit fancy and unwelcoming. I was totally wrong. It has a lovely little courtyard out the back and inside is just beautiful, with wooden furniture, candles and its namesake red roses hanging from the ceiling. Still, the atmosphere is laid back and friendly, and although it was always busy when we visited we still always managed to get a seat.

The general manager Kris Veireman is a passionate beer drinker and the beer menu reflects that, with over 120 beers to choose from. They also specialise in Trappist beers. It pleases everyone: a romantic setting for the ladies and a good selection of beers for the men! Limited “tapas” bar snacks. Friendly and knowledgable staff. Renowned for their 4 beer sampler which is well priced, €10 (though that price may have gone up).


Brouwerij De Halve Maan

Walplein 26

halvemaanThe Halve Maan Brewery has not had an easy past- originally opened in 1856 by Leon Maes and passed down to Henri II and his brother Achere who both died young. Their widows kept the brewery going through the First World War at a time when there were over 30 brewhouses in Bruges. The brand was bought out by the Riva Breweryin 1988, who made the Halve Maan stop brewing it’s Straffe Hendrik beers when they decided to start making it themselves. Undefeated, a young son of the family Xavier Vanneste started to brew a new Brugse Zot beer in 2005, and found huge success. His success was so great that in 2008 the brewery was able to buy back their brand when Riva went under- and they regained the rights to its own Straffe Hendrik beer, brewed following the original recipe and methods.

The restaurant part of the brewery is based in the former bottling hall of the original brewery and okay, so we go on about this place a lot. But what’s not to love? We’ve had many lovely times here. The food is really good, usually incorporating some sort of beer into the meal. The beer menu is obviously limited to the Halve Maan’s own beers, but they’re pretty good so its no big deal. They also have some unusual vintage versions of their own beers, which come with a price to match.

Hint: Don’t buy any souvenir beers here, it’s a tourist destination and is priced as such. The Bruges supermarkets always have a good stock of the Halve Maan’s beers- last time we went they even had the vintage Straff Hendrik at a fraction of the price we paid to drink it in the brewery! But its somewhere you just have to go when in Bruges– do the tour, have a beer and have a meal. You won’t be disappointed. My mum always said I like the food in this place so much because I always ate it after having sampled a few of the beers… then we took her here and she changed her mind!


Bierbrasserie Cambrinus

Philipstockstraat 19

cambrinusWe love this place. I can’t remember how we first found it, but it was one of the first places we went to on our very first trip to Bruges. I chose it to go to for lunch on my 30th birthday, it was the host of the one beer I allowed myself during the trip as a preggo. Oh Cambrinus, we love you.

Cambrinus in known as the King of Beer in many European countries, said to have invented the Brussels Faro and lambic beers- and is therefore said to have invented beer. What a legend! The building itself shows him in two places: in a statue as part of the facade and as a stained glass window. In both places he is sitting on a barrel of beer.

The building itself dates as far back as 1699, and has been through many names.

The beer menu is epic. It’s a wooden bound Bible to beer. You don’t get to keep it for long, the waiters come and take it to the next table as soon as you’ve ordered your beer (unless you’re in a big group and hide one! Mwah ha haa! What? We needed to prepare for the next order!). Cambrinus stocks over 400 beers, and if you’re overwhelmed, unsure or a pure novice the waiters will talk you through what sort of thing you like and help you pick something.

The food is always really good too. Book a table or arrive early. We once got literally the last table free in the whole place, and enjoyed sitting in our window seat watching people spend a good 10 minutes reading the menu, talking about what they’ll have, then coming in only to be told it’s full.

Cambrinus is a place we always go back to. Every time.


Other places that deserve a mention…

These are a few places we always put on our itinerary but have never quite got to for various reasons, but we’ve heard they are worth a visit and will probably eventually work their way above this subtitle to make it to the main article!

Staminee De Garre

De Garre 1, off Breidelstraat

A slight lie, we have technically been here a few years ago, but it was so packed we had to leave without having had a drink! Tucked away down a tiny alley. 130 beers, including a house speciality on draught- Tripel van De Garre.

‘t Poatersgat

Vlamingstraat 82

Meaning The Monk’s Hole, referring to the cellar-based location of the bar. Vaulted ceilings. 75 beers. No food. Closed during the day.

Cafe Brugs Beertje

Kemelstraat 5

Beer menu of 250, arranged by region and brewery-a variety of old classics and newbies. Five daught beers rotate seasonally. Huge support for local and upcoming brewers.

Visiting Belgium with a baby

We got our little one’s passport sorted and booked her first trip to Belgium to properly welcome her into the family! She was just under 3 months old and we headed off to Ghent, a city we are fairly familiar with. Like my article on travelling while pregnant, I found very little info on the internet about travelling with a very young baby (other than information specific to flying). Maybe most parents don’t have the same Belgium withdrawal symptoms that we do!

Our trip was actually really successful, despite me being really nervous beforehand. We had a great time, as did the little one (we assume… I mean she didn’t cry the entire time so that’s a start!)

Before I get into the swing of things, I just want to say we found it really simple to get our baby’s passport sorted, although we do find it funny that her baby photo will stay with her until she’s five! There’s a link to the government website for passport applications at the bottom of this article.


Babies are pretty simple in terms of luggage- they need to poo, eat and sleep. Pack accordingly!


Nappies and wipes are important, but just as easy to find in Belgium as they are in England! You should have an idea of how many you get through a day, so just pack what you need and don’t go overboard. Don’t forget any medication your baby needs and suncream if it’s going to be hot.

I breastfeed. Having mooched the internet a little I found that breastfeeding rates are pretty low in Belgium. Legally, women do have the right to breastfeed in public anytime, anywhere like we do in the UK. At the same time I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about breastfeeding in public in a foreign country where it wasn’t so common (and is it even that common in the UK?) so we packed all of the formula stuff, and I even ordered a special bottle warmer. As it turned out, I felt completely fine feeding her in public. It was an excuse to have a sit down in a bar every couple of hours! I got no odd looks or comments and even spotted another lady breastfeeding. So we didn’t even unpack the formula equipment from the car when it came to it. But I was glad we took our formula so we had the option.

Make sure you pack a lightweight pushchair- if you’re walking around on cobbled streets for a whole day you really don’t want to be lugging your big Silver Cross travel system around. We invested in a lie-flat stroller with a pull-down sunshade. It was great- not a hassle at all, easy to manoeuvre around and because it was lie-flat our newborn was comfortable and able to nap in it. She actually napped really well during the day as the cobbled streets jiggled her to sleep! If it’s going to be dry but not too hot a baby carrier or sling would also be good.

An extra tip- if you need a kettle for sterilising or making up formula, make sure your hotel room will have one! We stayed in the Ibis in Ghent, where we had stayed before. We had a feeling there hadn’t been a kettle and tripadvisor reviews confirmed that. So we did bring our own as we use it to sterilize her dummy. It’s one of those things you might not think of but could be really important and if you’re travelling in a car it doesn’t take up much of your space.


With a baby, it’s easy to get through a few outfits a day with sickiness and poo and all sorts of other possibilities. Baby clothes are also unsurprisingly small so pack a couple of spare outfits, but remember that if you’re travelling to a city like we did there are lots of shops with baby clothes at reasonable prices, so there’s no need to overpack! (Also, what a cute momento for your baby’s first trip abroad). Keep in mind the weather… if you’re travelling from the UK it’s usually a similar temperature so pack accordingly. We travelled in late May and the predictions were warm but wet so we just packed lots of sleepsuits and vests, and then a couple of extra blankets. Easy, small and versatile. Suitable for daytime or nighttime. Lots of layering possibilities if needed.

Remember also how a little vomit can ruin not only your baby’s outfit but also your own, so pack an extra outfit for yourself too!

Just in case you do need to buy a baby outfit, be aware that the sizing can be confusing! It’s measured by the baby’s height in centimeters and goes up in 6s. Here’s a quick rough guide:

UK Size                    European Size

Newborn                 50
0-3 months             56
3-6 months             62
6-9 months             68
9-12 months            74
12-18 months          80
18-24 months         86
2 years                     92


We brought our baby’s Moses basket with us. Having the car with us, and it being her first trip away we wanted somewhere familiar for her to sleep in case she struggled. The hotel had put up a travel cot for us anyway but we chose not to use it. I was a bit nervous about a hotel travel cot and had visions of a dirty or unsafe rickety old cot… unlikely when you think about how serious the implications of anything less than perfect could be! In reality, we were really impressed by the cot we were provided with and have since used hotel supplied travel cots with no problems. We do bring her sleeping bag though so she at least has something that smells familiar to her. But for Ghent I needed the security knowing she had a familiar space to sleep in.


Belgian hotels are generally family friendly, and often have really nice family rooms. Having a central hotel is handy so you always have somewhere local to retreat to if baby needs some time out. The best options, we thought, are either a self-contained self catering place or a large anonymous chain hotel. The former is handy if you want to be able to put baby to bed and then sit up in a different room drinking, eating, chatting etc. We went for the latter which meant come baby’s bedtime around 7pm we were confined to the hotel room. We tended to buy a couple of beers from the local Carrefour Express or the hotel bar and drink them in the room while chatting and watching the TV (in our Ibis we had access to about 4 English speaking TV channels including BBC 1).


I’ve already written about how to get to Belgium here, but when travelling with a baby there are a few extra things to consider. Things to consider:

  • Continuous time in the carseat for the baby. Current guidelines are that a baby has a break from the carseat every two hours. We drove from Leicestershire to a Premier Inn half an hour away from the Channel Tunnel, stopped over the night and then took an early train over to France in the morning. That way she had a break and there were no pressures on us to get to the Tunnel by a certain time. I also got to breastfeed under the sea which was something I’d been excited to do! (and change a pooey nappy, which I was less excited about!)
  • The law. A baby in a car must be in a child seat or child restraint. The only vehicle a baby doesn’t need to be in some sort of restraint is a taxi.
  • Eurostar (as a foot passenger) have baby changing facilities on board, as well as family carriages with more tables and luggage space for pushchairs etc.
  • If flying, remember that baby food and formula milk may not make it through security!
  • Parking. Parent and child spaces are available in larger public car parks. Otherwise, car park spaces tend to be a little larger than in the UK. Most hotels are happy for you to pull up outside the front if that’s possible so you can get the baby out before parking up.
  • Make sure you have a window shade, especially if it’s going to be hot.
  • If you like to bring a lot of beer back and find your baby is taking up too much valuable car space, invest in a roof box. I’m partially joking, but we got offered one to borrow over whatsapp JUST AFTER we’d set off so it was too late. Carl was gutted!

Eating and drinking

Most restaurants and bars in Belgium are family friendly, especially in warm weather when you can sit outside. We managed to eat out every evening without any problems. The only thing we did differently was book a table for early evening instead of around 8 or 9pm. It’s important to know that traditionally Belgians don’t eat the evening meal until quite late compared to Brits, but a lot of restaurants in tourist destinations and cities are still open early enough for families with young children. Just check opening times if you want to eat in a particular restaurant and book if you need to.

Baby Facilities

Baby changing facilities in Belgium are much less common than in the UK. It would be worth googling- for example- “Ghent baby changing” if you’re going to Ghent so you can find out the location of some. We found one in our whole stay, although I’ll admit we weren’t looking as we had a central hotel and so just took her back to the room to change her. HEMA is a shop similar to Wilkinsons I suppose in terms of what they stock and they usually will have a disabled toilet with a pull down changing table. You can usually find a HEMA on the main shopping street of a city. They also sell cute baby clothes pretty cheaply as well as general baby supplies like nappies, wipes etc.

For peace of mind…

Because new parents are prone to panic, the following bits of info are good to know in case of an emergency:

  • The generic emergency services telephone number in Belgium, as across Europe, is 112. There are always English speakers. There’s a link below to a map of all hospitals in Belgium.
  • Emergency telephones for an S.O.S. line are installed every 2km along motorways.
  • Medicines are generally not available from supermarkets, you have to go to a pharmacy. There are always plenty in cities.

Things to do

There’s plenty to do with a baby in Belgium. We mostly just walked, took in the beauty of the place, ate good food and drank good beer. You probably don’t want to be lugging baby up a Belfry, and might want to avoid a museum around feeding time… but generally babies don’t mind what they do so long as you smile and chatter to them.


Federal Public Health, Safety and Environment Service website on breastfeeding

RAC website on driving in Belgium

Guide and online application form for UK child passport

Interractive map of hospitals in Belgium

Bruges Christmas Market 2015

Bruges really is a magical city at Christmas, and nothing adds to the festive atmosphere quite as much as the Christmas market, which is finally here for the year! The idyllic festive treat opens each year in the last weekend of November: this year it fell on Friday 20th November and promises to be just as beautiful, cheerful and funfilled as previous years. It will close on Saturday 2nd January 2016.

bruges xmas1

The Bruges Christmas Market is now an annual tradition of the city, held every year both in the Grote Markt (or Great Market) and Simon Stevinplein. It is accompanied by a beautiful outdoor Ice Rink which surrounds the central statue of Jan Breydel and Pieter de Coninck under the Belfry in the Grote Markt. Twinkling fairy lights, cobbled streets and the smell of freshly baked waffles add to the cheerful warm feeling you can’t help but get from wandering Bruges at Christmas.

The market stalls open daily from 10.30am until 10pm (11pm on Fridays and Saturdays). The Swiss-style chalets which pop up all over the city sell food, drinks (try the Gluhwein met Amaretto!), gifts and decorations.

Still running from the Grote Markt are the traditional horse drawn carriages which, although running throughout the year, somehow seem even more appropriate for cosying up under the supplied blankets during the winter. A half hour ride- which can take up to five people- costs €44 in 2015 (seems to go up by a couple of Euros each year) and includes either a commentated or quiet tour around the cobbled streets with a five minute break by Minnewater Park to give the horses a rest. A money saving tip if you’re in a couple and don’t mind sharing is to wait around the queue until you spot a likeminded small group and ask to share your ride (and therefore fare!)… €22 per person suddenly becomes a more reasonable €9-11. It’s also nice to remember that in Bruges the welfare of the horses is seen as really important, and apparently they are only allowed to work 2 days per week, can only do the route 20 times per day and MUST have their break in the middle of the route.

Another Yuletide tradition of Bruges is the Ice Sculpture festival, which I’ve written an article about here. This year’s theme is Wanagogo.


Seeking out the Westvleteren Brewery at Saint Sixtus Abbey


The Sint Sixtus Abbey in Vleteren was founded in 1838 is one of the eleven Trappist breweries worldwide, and one of the six located in Belgium. Brewing only 3 different beers, it has a worldwide reputation for taste and quality. In particular, we were seeking out the Westvleteren 12: supposed to be one of the best beers in the world.

The abbey produces one of the lowest volumes of beer at under 5,000 US gallons. This is because the beer is not brewed for financial gain, but purely to keep the Abbey going. Therefore only a small amount is brewed, just enough to make ends meet. This is then sold directly from the Abbey to individuals who have reserved their beer weeks in advance. A small amount is also available from the gift shop in the form of boxed sets including glasses- although there is no guarantee of which beer, or how much, will be available.

As well as the Westvleteren 12 (or “Westie 12” to those of us who try, but fail, to pronounce the whole word correctly) at 10.5% with a yellow cap, the Sint Sixtus Abbey also makes the Westvleteren 8 at 8% with a blue cap and Westvleteren Blonde at 5.8% with a green cap. Bottles come unlabelled, the only indication of the brewery other than the cap being the word Westvleteren embossed in glass around the neck of the bottle. All legally required information is printed on the caps, although some US importers will add a label to comply with local regulations.

We decided to seek out the brewery as a bit of an adventure. We were hoping to get our hands on the legendary Westie 12. As it was around Christmas there was no convenient date for us to book and pick a crate up through the regular procedure, so we had to take our chances on In de Vrede: the on-site café and gift shop.

To get to In de Verde you have to follow a series of local country roads. We found the signage to be fine but others have said there isn’t enough. We did have the GPS on too so maybe we’d have found it harder if we had been relying on maps and signs. It was a pleasant enough journey: we were on our way from the Eurotunnel to Ghent and it was vaguely on the way with a bit of a diversion. From the Eurotunnel it took about an hour to get there along the A16 through France into Belgium, then exiting the E40 at J1a onto the N8 until you reach Vleteren, then following signs for Sint-Sixtusabdij along local streets until you find the Abbey.

In de Verde is not what you expect from a monastery. It is large and modern, with a clean, open-plan, cafeteria style layout. The small gift shop in the corner has an un-reliably stocked selection of beer gift sets, as well as other products of the Abbey such as cheeses and pates. We were lucky enough to get our hands on 4 Westie 12 giftboxes- as there were only 2 of us we didn’t fancy carrying more- although there were others who were unashamedly packing their cars full of as many boxes as they could get their hands on. We stopped for a beer (Carl was driving so he could only have a blonde: I had an 8) and a sandwich for lunch, all of which was really good. It’s worth noting that even when there are no boxes available in the giftshop, the café usually has all 3 beers in stock. Full and (me at least!) feeling a little tipsy, we left after around an hour, clutching our prizes giftboxes and grinning like two Cheshire cats.

All round I’d say the trip was well worth the detour which added about 40 minutes on to our total driving time. One day we’d like to have a go at ordering a crate to bring home but fate just meant that wasn’t the time for us to do so.

Bruges Ice Sculpture Festival 2015/2016 theme announced: Wanagogo

Now an annual “staple” for the Bruges Christmas/New Year season, the Ice Sculpture Festival is back! This is something we’ve attended in previous years and loved, despite not really being all that interested in the year’s theme (Disney when we went).

This year’s theme is Wanagogo (a collection of 3D cartoon characters from a collection of apps) and will take place in Station Square, Bruges, from Friday 20th November right through to Sunday 3rd January 2016.

The sculptures will be the work of 40 artists, who will use around 300 tonnes of ice and 400 tonnes of snow flakes, displayed in a 13,000 square foot thermal tent at -5ºC.

As I said, we went a few years ago when the theme was Disney. Not particular Disney fans we thought we might as well go just for the experience but we really did have a great time and have some lovely memories and photos! I’ll have to see if I can find any to add to this page! It’s primarily a family event obviously, but in my opinion anyone would enjoy it.

Wear warm clothes and avoid peak times! We went around lunchtime one day to find huge queues, then returned early evening to find it deserted! It’s open every day from 10am til 6pm so plenty o f opportunities.

The cost for an adult is €15,00, 13 for students, and pensioners, 11 for children 4-12 years old and free for under 3 year olds. For more information visit the official website.

New Year’s Eve in Belgium


New Years is great in Belgium, we’ve been a few times and are returning to Bruges this year for my 30th birthday (New Years is always super special in our household because my birthday is January 1st! Little did Carl know when he first met me that he would NEVER have a say in how he spends New Year’s Eve again! And hangovers on New Year’s Day with the family visits we do? Not an option!)

A little local background…

New Year’s Eve is known as “Sint Sylvester Vooranvond” in Belgium, although we’ve heard it being called Sint Sylvesterfest or Sint Sylvester Eve. Saint Sylvester was the Pope about 1800 years ago, and was buried on 31st December. A lot of other Western-European countries use this name for New Year’s too. Sometimes it is also called “Oudejaarsavond”, literally Old Year’s Evening: an interesting reflection of the Flemish language. 1st January is still called Nieuwjaarsdaag, literally… and unsurprisingly… New Year’s Day. I like the way the last day of the year looks back and the first day looks forward. Of course, almost everyone in Belgium speaks perfect English, so although they might talk to you about Sint Sylvester, once they see your blank faces and confused looks they’ll tell you they mean New Year’s Eve.

What the locals do…

Belgians generally celebrate New Year’s Eve privately in their homes with family and friends, but they all come out at about 11.30 and gather in a local square or other public place (see my articles on New Year in the different cities for guide of where to go, referenced at the bottom of this article) as a whole town partying together. Most people bring a bottle of bubbly, and it’s perfectly acceptable to drink in those public places as part of the celebration. Some towns start the public celebration a lot earlier, but don’t be surprised if you go at the advertised start time only to find it dead (or full of English and American people) until much much later.

What you can do…

Most restaurants operate on a pre-booked only basis, with one or two sittings. For most restaurants the week leading up to New Years is fine to book, but if you want to go somewhere specific it’s worthwhile contacting them early December or even earlier- especially the more exclusive places. If you don’t book in time, your answer will just be a flat no, there’s no room for negotiations. Food is usually from a set menu too, and obviously prices go UP so make sure you know what you’re booking for. If you plan to eat somewhere more casual like a bar or chips stand, make sure you check they’ll be open at all. In our experience pretty much everywhere just closes, something we didn’t plan for one lovely New Year’s Eve in Ghent, which we’d planned to get chips and mayo and romantically eat wandering along the canals, but ended up in a huge queue *just* before closing time in the local Pizza Hut as it was the only place we could get in without a booking (as every other last-minute mug had also found out!). Most restaurants will chuck you out at a given time, when you’re expected to make your own entertainment.

Most people will then join in the local public celebration, often held in the largest open space in the city- a square or riverbank or whatever, it’s easy to find out by asking around. These places often stay pretty quiet until just before midnight, so don’t be disappointed if you turn up early. There’s sometimes music, almost always fireworks, and definitely a lot of people from all over the world and a great atmosphere. In some places the crowds disperse pretty quickly after midnight, in others people hang around well into the New Year.

Activities on New Year’s Day (Nieuwjaarsdaag) depend on where you are. In touristy cities like Bruges a lot of bars, coffee shops, shops and restaurants are open. In places with less tourism like Ghent everywhere is shut and there is absolutely nothing to do except wander and maybe explore the wider area.

I think that’s all of my info on New Year in Belgium as a whole. Check out my articles below for more city-specific tips.

Guide to New Year’s Eve in Brussels – 2015/2016

New Year's Eve, Brussels - credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/frf_kmeron

  • When to book- September/October should be fine, with the variety of hotels and hostels in Brussels. Be prepared to travel to the outskirts if much later- see below for transport info.
  • Minimum cost assuming two adults Hostels cost approx €70 (2015), bottle of Cava €4 from CarreFour (probably more in local shops if you don’t have a car), fast food dinner €30, evening entertainment free, breakfast €30… total approx €135 plus travel for one night.
  • Recommended place- Place de Brouckère for huge crowds, sing-along music and fireworks (see map in main article).
  • Recommended arrival time- 7.30pm if you want to be at the front, 8pm for the beginning, crowds get big around 11pm
  • Key info- Plenty of choice if you don’t get a chance to book restaurants, but expect hugely inflated prices.. Family friendly. Very busy, maybe too busy for small children. The metro and tram stay open until 2am, night buses run until 5am.

As Belgium’s capital city, New Year’s Eve is celebrated in style in Brussels, with the streets packed with both locals and tourists all looking for a good time. Traditionally the main celebrations took place in Mont the Arts, but in 2014 the show moved to Place de Brouckère.

Booking up

With the wide variety of hotels on offer in Brussels, the need to get your hotel booked isn’t as urgent as in smaller Belgian cities such as Bruges. Having said that, if you’re on a budget it’s a good idea to start looking in September if you want somewhere central. If you do miss out, don’t worry about taking a hotel on the outskirts of Brussels, as transport links are good on New Year’s Eve, with night buses running every 30 minutes until 5am and trams until 2am.

Eurotunnel can be booked up to 9 months in advance, and usually the sooner the better. As always, I would *strongly* recommend crossing the channel on the Eurotunnel if you’re travelling from the UK as we do, especially in the winter as it’s less affected by the weather as the ferry can be. Read through my experience of New Year’s Eve in Bruges for a brief description of our disasterous winter ferry crossing our first time travelling to Belgium, when I insisted on using the ferry due to my romanticised memories of summer holidays in the South of France!

Restaurants charge hugely inflated prices. You don’t need to book necessarily, but it’s probably a good idea to do so. I would find somewhere with an advertised flat-price menu and book with that: at least then you know exactly what the damage will be at the end of the evening. An unusual idea I’ve come across is booking in at the Grand Casino, which claims to boast dinner, entertainment and a view of the fireworks, although its not something I’ve experienced personally.

The run up

Brussels hosts a typical Belgian Christmas market and ferris wheel throughout December.

Attractions, museums and theatres are generally open as normal every day after Christmas including New Year’s Eve, although they often close a couple of hours early.

New Year’s Eve

There’s a great atmosphere in Brussels all day, with celebrations starting fairly early from 8pm. Throughout the city buildings are lit up with different coloured lights, dancing to music played through loudspeakers.

As said, the main attraction takes place in Place de Brouckère, although loads of people also gather in the Grand Place. The latter is probably less family friendly, with  huge crowds of loud drunken people and firecrackers everywhere.

Place de Brouckère is more recommended, with a schedule of events, typically featuring animations on big screens, street theatre, DJs and sound and light shows. If you have kids get there early, from 7pm even if you want a good view. Otherwise arrive whenever is convenient for you: the celebrations run right through to a countdown clock from 11pm, the countdown at 11.55, fireworks at midnight and then a light show with DJs until 1am.

For the afterparty, clubs are open til late: think 6 or 7am when they serve bacon butties for breakfast. In 2014 you could even get a party pass which lets you in to 8 different clubs in one night. This costs 45 euros at happybrussels.com, and if popular might become annual. Clubs do get very full and partygoers get messy so be prepared. Lots of popular clubs get sold out weeks before NYE so buy your tickets in advance. Entrance into a good club will cost up to 25 euros.

New Year’s day

Most big shops are closed on Nieuwjaarsdag, as well as 2nd January too. Museums are all shut; bars and restaurants depend on the owner. But after a big night out the night before, not many people are awake or willing to serve tourists so its worth planning a relaxing day in one of the local parks or just wandering the streets admiring the architecture.

Guide to New Year’s Eve in Ghent – 2015/2016

Ghent at Night

  • When to book- no need to book too far in advance, start looking in November.
  • Minimum cost assuming two adults Hostels cost approx €65 (2015), bottle of Cava €3 from CarreFour (probably more in local shops if you don’t have a car), fast food dinner €15, evening entertainment free, breakfast €10. total approx €95 plus travel for one night.
  • Recommended place- Portus Ghanda for big crowds and fireworks (see directions in main article as well as where to stand).
  • Recommended arrival time- 11.30pm.
  • Key info- restaurants need to be booked in advance- no street food. Very busy. Recommended for partygoers.

Ghent is a lovely small city which, although not as busy or touristy as the more frequented Beglian cities such as Bruges or Brussels, still has a lot going on around Christmas and New Year and should by no means be seen as a write off! Often said to have a good nightlife, I’d recommend New Year in Ghent for travellers who want to mix with the locals somewhere where everyone wants to party!

Booking Up

Ghent is overlooked by a lot of travellers around Christmas and New Year, probably distracted by the promises of magical markets and karaoke from Bruges. Therefore the urgency of getting booked in somewhere isn’t so prevalent when planning a trip to Ghent for the same time. Start looking in November or even early December, unless you have a very specific budget or place you want to go.

Travel probably needs to be booked sooner, maybe look around October or November. The Eurotunnel can be booked up to 9 months in advance.

Restaurants and bars are open as usual in between Christmas and New Year, but are often very busy. Most bars and restaurants close completely on New Year’s Eve. Those restaurants that do open will offer a set menu, for which you should expect to pay a lot more than on any other night. Most do need booking in advance and street food outlets such as the chip huts shut down completely, so make sure you book up unless you want to end up in Pizza Hut!

The Run Up

Ghent is taken over by a typical Belgian Christmas market throughout December into the first few days of January. Although much smaller than the market you’ll find in Bruges, it fills the city centre quite nicely. This includes an ice bar and ice skating- a nice idea but extortionate prices and usually packed of tourists. I’d recommend drinking in a bar in one of the surrounding streets. There are also street food stands, a large outdoor bar serving all sorts of drinks from Belgian beers in the right glasses (for a deposit), Gluhwein (mulled wine) and hot chocolate. By the cathedral is a huge Big Wheel which costs around €5 per person (2014 prices).

Museums and other attractions are also generally open usual times between Christmas and New Year, and many seem to have some sort of Christmassy event going on. Most will close from 31st December until 2nd January, or even until the first Monday of the New Year so make sure you check before making an itinerary. The same goes for some bars, cafes and restaurants.

New Year’s Eve

As I said previously, a lot of bars and restaurants close completely for New Year’s Eve. Those that are open will advertise their menu on the evenings before so make sure you find somewhere that takes your fancy and book up. You won’t bump into any locals at all in the evening- they’ll all be at their own private parties right up until 11.30/11.45pm. The main celebration takes place at Portus Ganda, a harbour a short walk from the city centre. We were worried about being able to find it when we visited one New Year, but there’s really no need- you just go outside and follow the crowds.

To get to Portus Ganda (just in case you miss the crowds), head left past Saint Bavo’s cathedral, facing away from the Belfry along Kapittelstraat. Follow the road round to the left and take any of the roads on your right: Hoofdkerkstraat, Nederpolder, Barrestraat… any of them, they’re all parallel and lead to the same road. At the end of whichever short road you chose turn left on to Bisdomkaai, which in turn become Nieuwbrugkaai and you’re there. We crossed the bridge and sat on a wall by Veermanplein which was okay, but I wouldn’t recommend (see below)

If you’re not booked in anywhere, Ghent is lovely to just wander during winter evenings. We hadn’t booked (having planned to eat from a Chip Hut but then finding them all closed) so ended up at Pizza Hut, then just took a slow meandering wander to Portus Ganda. We probably arrived around 11pm, at which time it was pretty quiet. There were a few people standing by the railings who wanted a front row view, that was it. We found a high wall to sit on a distance back from the water by some blocks of flats on Veermanplein. The view was alright but as midnight drew closer large groups of teenagers with lots of booze and fireworks turned up on the car park behind us- they were just having fun and pretty friendly and harmless but I did feel on edge knowing there were drunk kids with fireworks behind us. I wouldn’t recommend sitting up there again.

We were completely clueless about the arrangements for the celebration at Portus Gandus, and there seemed to be little information on the internet. There was some music playing from somewhere but no obvious key focal point and we really didn’t know where we were supposed to be looking. We’d brought a bottle of bubbly from the supermarket- there are no laws against drinking in public places- and most people seemed to have something to drink with them. Whereas in Bruges there is entertainment leading up to midnight and beyond, this is not the case in Ghent.

From 11.45pm you could see private fireworks displays going off in the distance, then at 11.59 all of a sudden a countdown starts and the crowd suddenly wakes up. Everyone is counting down in different languages and you suddenly feel like part of something special.

At midnight the main fireworks start- across the other side of the harbour- you really can’t miss them no matter where you’re standing. We were looking right from our spot on Veermanplein. I think the fireworks are probably set off from Coyendanspark, so for the best view you’d want to be at the railings on the further side of Veerkaai, away from the city centre and closer to Julius de Vigneplein. They go on for about 10 minutes and then that’s it- everyone leaves. Most people are cheerful and friendly- strangers coming up to wish you a happy new year, even hugging and kissing you as if you’ve known each other for years, something us Brits are not used to haha! Then everyone heads back home to their own private parties or on to the few open nightclubs which open at 11pm but don’t fill up until after the fireworks.

If clubbing is your scene then you have a few choices but need to plan where you’re going in advance and possibly book tickets. Culture Club is usually open for New Year and plays house and urban music – tickets need to be pre-booked at €22 (2013 price), Decadanceopens and you don’t seem to need to book. Both are a good half hour walk from Portus Ganda. Think you’ll get a taxi? You might be lucky and get one, but it’ll be expensive- and chances are your taxi driver from the night before will be partying with you in Portus Ganda and be looking for someone else to drive him somewhere too. Club 69 is much closer but has limited capacity so probably best to get there early. Hot Club de Gand is more central and often hosts some sort of party which is free and opens from 12.30am until breakfast time, but will no doubt get packed out.

Not really being clubbers, the best we could find for a New Years drink was our hotel bar, which stayed open past 1am and became quite lively once everyone had returned from the fireworks- I guess most people had the same idea as us.

New Year’s Day

EVERYWHERE is closed in Ghent on New Year’s Day- even most restaurants are closed. Some might do a set lunch menu, so you need to plan what you’re going to eat and where in advance if you’re hanging around. We found one small cafe open right next to our hotel and decided seeing as that had been so easy to find then others must be open. We walked all around Ghent about 3 times and ended up going back to the first place very hungry. NO WHERE was open- bars, shops, cafes or restaurants. We’d booked a restaurant for the evening but I think we were very lucky there. Museums and other attractions are also closed, although the Christmas market does open. A lot of places stay closed through the 2nd January or even until the next Monday, so plan ahead.

Guide to New Year’s Eve in Bruges – 2015/2016


See also: my articles on specific recommendations and menus of restaurants known to be opening in Bruges on New Year’s Eve, and more general information on New Year’s Eve in Belgium.

  • When to book- start looking at hotels and travel by September, although some places advertise rooms as early as April.
  • Minimum cost assuming two adults Hostels cost approx €50 (2015), bottle of Cava €3 from CarreFour (probably more in local shops if you don’t have a car), fast food dinner €20, evening entertainment free, breakfast €20… total approx €100 plus travel for one night.
  • Recommended place-Het Zand (shortened to ‘t Zand) for huge crowds, sing-along music and fireworks (see map in main article).
  • Recommended arrival time- 9.30pm if you want to be at the front, 10.30-11pm if you want to be part of the crowd.
  • Key info- restaurants need to be booked in advance. Family friendly.Very busy but safe.

New Year’s (or Sint Sylvester Vooranvond as the locals call it) is great in Bruges. Here’s a write up of my experience and tips so you can have a great time too!

In the lead up to Christmas there’s a big Christmas market in Bruges, which takes over all of the shops and squares in the city centre and goes on right up until 31st December. There’s also usually an ice sculpture display just by the train station and ice skating in Grote Markt by the Belfry. A LOT of people travel to Bruges for Christmas and New Year so don’t go expecting a nice quiet little city break!

Booking Up

Start looking at booking your hotel in September, or earlier if you want somewhere specific. We’re going for 2015/16 and booked back in May, although most places haven’t released dates for booking yet and the hotelier did comment on how early we were! But it’ll be my 30th birthday and we wanted somewhere specific so e-mailed ahead to get it booked.

If you’re travelling by Eurotunnel you can book 9 months in advance typically, but again you want to be starting to look around September as they do get booked up early and prices go sky high! I would *strongly* recommend crossing the channel on the eurotunnel if you’re travelling from the UK as we do- fantastic service, really easy and we had one *very* bad experience one return journey on the ferry in early January when the weather was really bad, we had to queue for hours to get on and then the crossing was really rough. We had very nearly got on to the ferry which left before ours and apparently that was stranded in the sea for five hours because Dover had closed!

Restaurants are open as usual between Christmas and New Year, but need booking in advance for New Year’s Eve. Most restaurants will have a strict set menu for the evening- they want to keep it as smooth as possible for the poor serving and kitchen staff who have to work! Start looking at menus online early December to decide where you want to go- or earlier if you want to go somewhere more “exclusive”. Some restaurants take you right through the evening and into the New Year, but others will chuck you out early- so make sure you know what you’re booking. Look out for hefty prices too- you should expect to pay double what you’d normally expect. As for bars, some close early, some don’t serve food, or some are just completely closed so ask if you hope to eat somewhere.

The Run Up

Bruges is host to a huge Christmas market throughout December which is beautiful but nothing extraordinary as far as Christmas markets go. On Grotemarkt there is also ice skating. Shops all take on Christmassy displays which tourists slow right down to gaze at. Bruges is really REALLY busy at this time of year and there is no getting away from the crowds until evening. Everywhere from restaurants to trees to bridges seem to be decorated in fairy lights, and walking along the canals if you’re lucky enough to get a mild evening is just magical.

There is also an ice sculptures exhibit in the square outside the train station which tends to have a family-oriented theme. This is pretty pricey to get into but is probably worth it. Keep your eyes peeled for discount vouchers in booklets etc, it’s the sort of place you never need to pay full price. We went one lunchtime to a massive queue and were put off, then returned early evening to no queue at all. At peak times expect to queue for up to an hour. It was still pretty busy inside when we went much later and I can’t begin to imagine whether it would have been worth it had it been even busier. It stays open until 7pm so it’s worth waiting until the crowds die down for a proper look. There’s an ice bar in there too. It’s also worth noting the Ice Sculptures open on New Year’s day too.

Attractions and museums are generally open as normal every day after Christmas including New Year’s Eve, although they often close a couple of hours early. We got a City Pass on our first visit to Bruges which meant we could visit a lot of the attractions for a one-off payment- but do be careful if you buy more than 24 hours: the days have to be consecutive, even if your second day is New Year’s Day when a lot of places are closed.

New Year’s Eve and the Fireworks

Plan where you’re going to eat on New Year’s Eve in advance, as restaurants book up early and put prices up dramatically. We chose to eat a big lunch at 2pm in the Halve Maan Brewery restaurant after a tour, then just had street food on the evening- street food is definitely “where it’s at” for a price-savvy tourist on New Year’s Eve.

Most Belgian cities have some sort of public party on New Year’s Eve and Bruges is by no means an exception! The main celebration occurs in ‘t Zand, a large square not far from the train station.

To get to ‘t Zand from the Belfry in Grote Markt, face away from the Belfry and take the road to your left: Steenstraat. This is a major shopping street during the day. Then you basically just keep going, past the lovely Simon Stevinplein and Sint Salvatorskathedraal on your left, the road changing into Zuidzandstraat (literally South Zand street), and you’re there- Het Zand. The square isn’t much to look at on a normal day, but does host weekly markets as well as a huge fleamarket in summer months. It is, however, the largest square in Bruges which is why it gets the honour of hosting the New Year celebrations.

This is advertised as a giant karaoke event, and you can pick up lyrics in bars, hotels and the tourist information office some time during the early evening. In reality, this is a huge stage on which performers sing well known songs in English and Dutch, and the audience are encouraged to sing along. In other words, don’t worry, you’re not going to be invited on stage! It gets pretty packed: think 18,000 people plus but everyone is friendly and crime in Bruges is low. It’s still probably worth leaving your phone and cash in the hotel room as you never know who’s next to you wherever you go.

The main event is advertised at starting at about 10-10.30pm. Some people arrive earlier and mill around in small groups with bottles of bubbly, most Belgians don’t turn up until 11.30pm or later. When we’ve been, we got to the local area at around 9.30pm and checked out the small bars which line the square. They’re not the nicest of bars but do offer warmth, drinks and a loo! Beware though, a lot of them will charge for the toilet (even for customers drinking and eating with them!) on New Year’s Eve. The first one we came across I was *bursting* for the loo but was so outraged by the charge I refused, moving on to the next bar, and the next, until a mile’s walk and an hour later I gave in and paid the 50 cents for the privilege which I could have done at the first place haha. I think it’s just a necessary evil- and fair enough considering how busy it gets. It may seem like a waste if you’re penny pinching as we were at the time, but how many times are you going to wee during that one evening really? Probably more if it’s on your mind so don’t get bothered by it like I did!

So into the crowd you go. I can’t really recommend a particular place to stand, other than to say the further into the crowd the better! If you want to be anywhere near the front you need to arrive early, around 9.30-10pm. In my opinion being mid-crowd has a better atmosphere. No matter how much space you have when you first arrive, you WILL get packed in! In my opinion it doesn’t really matter where you are in the crowd or how much you can see- I’m a shorty so am used to seeing very little at these sorts of things. The atmosphere is great and if you bag a lyrics booklet you’ll have a great time singing along with the random French bloke next to you. You do get silly people doing silly things like trying to light Chinese lanterns and let them go- never a good idea in crowded places! But those people soon realise that there’s really no point, they’re not getting anywhere and all they’re doing is causing a hazard- so don’t buy them and don’t try to let them off. There are no laws against drinking in public places in Belgium, so it’s perfectly acceptable to bring a couple of bottles of something fizzy to share with your friends, family and new friends on New Year’s Eve. We make a habit of frequenting the local CarreFour supermarket to stock up on beer whenever we’re in Belgium, and a perfectly adequate bottle of some sort of Cava-style fizz can be picked up for a couple of Euros (although we are by no means wine connoisseurs, but if you’re more choosey than us then you’ll know what you’re looking for). Most people will have some drink with them, and many will be willing to share we’ve found!

By midnight it feels like the whole city has invited everyone they’ve ever met to t’Zand and the countdown starts. It’s a brilliant atmosphere to share New Year wishes with people in all different languages and different lifestyles. There’s a massive fireworks display which goes on for 20 minutes or so, and families start to leave pretty much straight away. Don’t worry though, the karaoke carries on and the music and partying goes on well in Nieuwjaarsdag (New Year’s Day)- think 2-3am, and even then there are bars which stay open until breakfast. This won’t be advertised, it’s something you just have to stumble upon I’m afraid. It probably depends on what sort of atmosphere they have, what sort of mood the owner’s in and how intoxicated they really are. Even the walk home is great- whether you leave at 12.15 or 2.15, there’ll be loads of people around wishing you happy new year, singing, cheering and generally having a good time.

Beware of people letting off fireworks in the street, something we’ve come across in a few Belgian cities on NYE. There always seems to be one or two people doing it, and they seem to have little consideration for others around them. If you hear random fireworks going off, just stay away. I have always felt 100% safe in Bruges, no matter how crowded it is, but being used to the strict rules surrounding fireworks in the UK they do scare me.

New Year’s Day

Most big shops are closed on Nieuwjaarsdag, but there are always a few touristy shops and cafes open. Museums are shut; bars and restaurants are not. The same goes for 2nd January too unless it’s a Saturday- some places may even stay closed until the following weekend. But after a big night out the night before, it’s the perfect day to just aimlessly wander the streets of Bruges, sipping a beer in whichever open bar you find and having a coffee and waffle. A lot of the tourists seem to leave immediately on 1st January, as the city seems completely dead… or maybe it just feels that way in comparison to the huge crowds of the night before. Once the weekend is over everywhere returns to normal, but it’s worth checking which places are open on 1st and 2nd January if you have to leave soon, otherwise you may end up missing out on that lovely restaurant you’d decided to go to on your last night.

Things to do: Summer Attractions in Bruges

There are lots of things to do in Bruges throughout the year- here are a selection of things unique to the summer season that are waiting for you to try!

Cactus Festival

Outdoor music

bruges music

On the second weekend of July, Minnewaterpark is taken over by a variety of international music groups for three days of live music from a mix of genres. Past acts have included Mogwai, Kate Bush and KT Tunstall as well as local performers. Tickets in 2015 cost 55 euros for one day, with an extra 13 euros if you want to camp at a venue just over a mile away with buses running between the campsite and festival. As the venue is fairly small for a festival, there is only one stage- meaning no overlaps! But at the same time if you don’t like what’s on stage there are stalls, food as well as local acts playing just for the honour of getting their music out there.

More information (you’ll need to google translate!) can be found on http://cactusfestival.be/

Assumption Day

Annual Religious Procession

15th August is a Bank Holiday in Belgium, celebrating the Catholic holiday Assumption Day: commemorating the Virgin Mary’s assumption into heaven. In Bruges every year the Brugse Belofte procession (translated as Bruges’ Promise). This has happened every year for over 700 years. The procession features actors portraying different religious scenes, and a special candle which is carried from Our Lady of Blindekenskapel at 9.30am through t’Zand,Vlamingstraat, Jan vanEyckplein to the Lady of Our Potterie Church, arriving there at 11am. There is then a church service before the procession returns back the same route.


Old style music

Short for the Musica Antiqua festival and part of the annual Festival of Flanders, the MAfestival is a celebration of ancient music which has been running for over 50 years. Each year the ten-day festival features attractions including both free and paid concerts, master classes, conferences, exhibitions and competitions.

For the last couple of years, a particular highlight of the MAfestival has been the Velo Baroque, which takes place on one Sunday (2015 date was 9th August, the concluding day of the festival).Velo Baroque is a 30 kilometer (18.5 miles) round-trip bike ride starting from Bruges and following a trail to Damme, Meetkerke and Zuienkerke through wetland and woodland to watch various muisc concerts at different venues along the way.

In 2015 the MAfestival runs from 31st July until 9th August, with annual dates being around the same time each year. The epicenter of the festival is t’Zand Concert Hall.

More information can be found at http://www.mafestival.be/EN/home and http://www.velobaroque.be/EN/Velobaroque

Triennial Bruges

Contemporary art

Triennial Bruges is a Contemporary Art and Architecture exhibition event, brought back to Bruges for the first time since 1974 in 2015, with aspirations to establish it as an annual event. The broad idea is that a concept is selected, and a variety of indoor and outdoor venues are taken over with different peoples’ explorations of the concept.

In 2015 Triennial Bruges runs from 20th May until 18th October, with 3 indoor (set opening times) and 14 outdoor installations (open 24/7) and 40+ international artists, architects and scientists exploring the theme of Bruges as a “megacity”. It asks the question what if the 5,000,000+ tourists who visit Brugges each year just decided to stay? More information can be found at http://www.triennalebrugge.be/en

Watch the world go by

Relaxing activity

bruges beer

Find a nice bar, order a beer, sit back and watch the world go by. Bustling Bruges, with it’s 5 million plus annual tourists, is the perfect place to relax and take in your beautiful surroundings. And the summer time is the perfect time of year to do this, when the weather’s warm enough to sit outside- but not too hot to really relax as in other worldwide cities. With Belgium’s perfect selection of homegrown beers too you can’t find a better location. Order some “tapas” nibbles from the menu if you’re feeling peckish: go local and enjoy some cheese with mustard. Just don’t have one too many and peak too early, meaning your whole evening is wasted!

There are nice but typically expensive bars in all main squares in Bruges, but some of my favourites are in the smaller squares and streets such as treelined Simon Stevinplein and canalside Huidenvettersplein (Tanners’ Square) where you’ll find slightly cheaper prices.

Klinkende Kroegen

Bar/pub Music

Roughly translated as Sounding Bars, Klinkende Kroegen is a summer music schedule running every Wednesday throughout July and August. Each week a free live performance is arranged by a different band in a different bar between 8pm and midnight. Performances range from songwriters to cover artists, and every genre from Soul to House. The program is published on brugge.be, but the translate function of google may be required.


Free music events

A fairly young event, Moods is another celebration of music in Bruges started in 2014, centering around Burg square. In 2015, there is a free concert in Burg square every Friday and Saturday, and a paid concert (costing 13 euro for presale tickets) in Binnenplein Belfort from 24th July until 6th August.

More information including ticket sales for paid events can be found at http://www.moodsbrugge.be/2015/programma_en.asp

Brugge Belfort


Although open year-round, the views of the Belfry have to be best with the clear skies and warm weather of the summer. Climb the 366 steep steps to the top at 83 meters and then BREATHE and take in the stunning panoramic view. It’s not the worst climb I’ve done, but not the easiest either, and there are a few very narrow points. During summer months the queues will get very long, as only 70 people are allowed up at once, so go early or late in the day to avoid. When we visited the bells very suddenly started playing, making me jump out of my skin! 2015 prices are around 8 euros per person, but are you can get in free if you get a City Card or Museum pass.

More info at https://bezoekers.brugge.be/en/belfort-belfry


Cycle ride

Bicycle hire is a big business in Bruges, and one of the first things recommended to us the first time we went to Bruges by a regular tourist was cycling to Damme (I’ll never forget him trying to talk to a local woman about it and loudly saying “you know, Dammmnnn- beautiful” in a typical British manner. The local woman had no idea what he was going on about and this lasted for a good few minutes until she finally got it and went “OOohhh, Dah-muh, yes beauuutifuulll little village”. Pronunciation, we learnt, is everything).

Start off by making your way to and cycling the vesten- the lovely green outer ringroad which will probably take you past some windmills. This will take you to Dampoort. Follow the signs for traffic to Damme and you’ll find a brilliant flat cyclepath along the canal which will take you straight to Damme. This road is around 4 miles long and on bike should take around 30 minutes to get there. Look out for the trees lining the road, all of which have been bent in exactly the same spot by the wind, then look out for the white Hoeke Windmill- the signal that you’ve arrived!

In Damme there are a few small attractions including the Our Lady of Damme church, the town hall or Stadhuis on Kerkstraat with 2 “stones of justice” hung on the wall outside- a punishment tied to the feet or neck of convicted women to carry around the village, and a few nice little bars and restaurants.

Once you’ve had lunch and a lovely wander through the pretty streets, take your time to cycle back along the same path back to Bruges.

There is also a boat which runs along the canal from Bruges to Damme in around the same time if you’re feeling less energetic, but the cycle ride has to be the best way to get there! A day’s bike hire costs around 10 euros for adults, whereas an adult’s return boat trip costs 10,50 euros. Bicycles are even allowed on the boat so a happy compromise would be to buy a single ticket at 7,50 euros and then cycle back! This, of course, leads me on to what is widely regarded as the must-do tour of Bruges…

Bruges boat tour


bruges boat

Boat tours in Bruges run from Spring until Autumn, so was something we didn’t get to do on our first couple of visits until we finally went during the summer.

Four around 7 euros, you’ll get a lovely relaxing boat cruise around the famous canals of Bruges- “the Venice of the North” (being a Brummie- the city claiming to have more canals than Venice, I actively seek canal trips on all holidays. Okay, that probably has nothing to do with me coming from Birmingham, I just like canals and rivers). The cruise includes a multi-lingual commentary from a live tour guide who points out all of the wonderful sights of the medieval city which can’t be seen from any other means of transport, including the most photographed dog in the world, Fidel (don’t google him, go on the tour and take your own photo!). Definitely worth the fee.


That’s all of the summer-exclusive attractions of Bruges that I can think of. Let me know if you have heard of others or discover any of your own and I’ll feature them in the article!