After visiting our friend Sam in Copenhagen we had three days before meeting up with my best friend in Paris. We researched the countries adjacent to Denmark and discovered a visit to Bruges, Belgium would be the perfect destination for a long weekend before continuing on to meet our friends in France.
As we drove into the historical center of Bruges, we were instantly charmed by the medieval homes and tree-lined canals glistening beneath the warm September sun. Bruges is the capital of West Flanders in the Flemish region of Belgium, and famous Flemish painters such as Hans Memling and Jan Van Eyek called Bruges home in the 15th century. The city center is a UNESCO world heritage site and the main square (called Markt) hosts festivities throughout the year, including a legendary Christmas market.
We stayed at Hotel Heritage, a beautiful family-owned property near the center that is best described as a jewel box, with richly painted doors and moulding, and chandeliers gracing every room – even the bedrooms. I truly felt like a princess during our stay, both due to the beautiful surroundings and the incredibly gracious hospitality of the staff, who made us feel like Hotel Heritage was our home. Be sure not to miss the sundeck on the top floor for incredible views and photos of Bruges’s signature stepped roof lines.
So many friends were ready with recommendations for Bruges – Chocolate! Waffles! Pommes Frites! Beer! – and we wished we could have stayed longer to try them all. Topping the list were beers at De Garre, where they have a delicious (albeit strong) house brew and over 100 other beers, mostly Belgian, and Cambrinus which has an even broader selection to choose from. You have to love a city where french fries at every meal are practically compulsory. We also realized that we hadn’t had properly prepared mussels until we tried them at Bistro de Pompe, a local restaurant with charming red and white checkered decor. I still dream about those moules frites! (Order the chef’s recommended preparation for the night, you won’t be disappointed.) While the city has entire museums dedicated to it’s most revered culinary traditions (french fries and chocolate) we preferred sampling them ourselves as we wandered the charming streets and footbridges of Bruges. Both days of our stay we’d start with waffles at our hotel, then snacked our way through town until dinner. It seems many people choose to make Bruges a day trip from Brussels, but I highly recommend spending the night as there is something so beautiful about the light in evenings – illuminating tiny canals and major landmarks like the Belfort Van Brugges alike.
If you’ve been following along with our trip for a while, you know how much we love Relais & Chateaux properties, both for their charm and amazing food – and we enjoyed an indulgent 4 course dinner at Hotel Heritage’s restaurant, Le Mystique, on our last night in town. It was the prefect way to top off our visit, and while you’ll have to visit in person for the food, I took down the names of the wine pairings to share with you because they were so wonderful! (Do try Noble Hill’s 2013 Merlot and Domaine Sol Payre’s Rivesaltes Grenat if you can find them!)
Bruges is almost too good to be true, and I can only imagine how magical it must be when they open their Christmas market later this year! I hope we are lucky enough to return someday soon!
All photos by David and Stacie Flinner for stacieflinner.com