I must admit, Belgium was never top of my 'must-visit' list but after seeing there was a sale on Eurostar tickets some friends and I booked a long weekend in the beautiful medieval city of Bruges. I thought I'd share a few must-sees and a few places to avoid if you ever find yourself 'In Bruges'.
- try and visit off-season. Even in the autumn certain parts of the city get very busy with tourists, and I imagine during the height of summer it's hard to find any space to breathe. October was a lovely time to go as the autumn leaves looked beautiful, and though the weather was hit and miss it was still warm enough to drink outdoors and take a boat trip along the canals.
- hire bicycles. There is a shop just off the main square where you can hire a bike for 4 hours for 8 euros, and it was such a lovely way to explore the city. Because Bruges isn't really that big you can do a circuit of the city, stopping off for a few beer breaks along the way.
- make sure you book restaurants ahead of time. Also, it can be tricky to find good veggie options in the more traditional Belgian restaurants. You may have to opt for the salad as I did - though there's always plenty of fries to go round!
- try out the immense list of beers. I am no beer expert but the choice on offer was amazing, and I enjoyed trying some fruit beers as well. There are so many bars to explore, but Bruges seemed strangely quiet at night. We did find a lively underground bar in the end though, called t'Poatersgat which I'd recommend.
- look out for the Bruges's most famous resident, the dog in the window, who briefly appears in the film (I was sad I didn't spot him, though a couple of friends did!)
- get waffles and chocolate while you're there, mmm...
- visit the Dali museum. This may be a bit controversial, but I really didn't think it justified the 10 euro entrance fee. I thought the museum would be a lot bigger inside, and found a lot of Dali's artwork not to my taste, but if you're a fan you may think otherwise!
- end up at one of the touristy restaurants because you panicked and forgot to book on a Saturday night!
- forget your umbrella - we got caught in a few heavy downpours while in the city, but this partly added to the fun!
- take Colin Farrell's word for it - Bruges is in no way a shit-hole!
- take a wheelie suitcase, most of Bruges's streets are cobbled which makes for a very bumpy journey across town
- go to Brussels. Ha. We spent a day there before heading back on the Eurostar, thinking it would be fun to explore, but were disappointed after the beauty of Bruges to find Brussels to be confusing to navigate and a bit of a building site when we came out of the train station. We spent about three hours trying to walk to to the nicer bit in the centre! My real advice would be to make sure you have a guide book and map of the city, and know where you want to end up. We did find a beautiful old square in the end, but sadly couldn't visit the Comic Strip Centre as it was shut on a Monday. (Tintin and the Smurfs are both Belgian creations so look out for them throughout the city!)