We had another long weekend here in France (yay for all the national holidays), so Tyler and I boarded a 1.5h train to Brussels in Belgium. I’m going to start off by saying that Brussels is not my favorite city. If you’re not into all the beers and bikes and fries (like I’m not), then you should probably pick a different place to travel. However, the boyfriend does enjoy those things, so we made a compromise and did a few day trips during our long weekend, including a stop to Bruges, about 1.5 hours by train from Brussels.
Brussels felt sparse and somewhat unalive (unfortunately our French friend said the vibe has changed since the terrorist attacks). On the other hand, Bruges has cute homes, is full of autumn colors, and has many people wandering along the cobblestone roads peeking into shops. It is definitely more like my kind of place.
As soon as we got off the train, it was apparent we had entered the Flemish-speaking part of Belgium. Both French and Dutch are the national languages of this country, with the former being more popular in the South (closer to France) and the latter more prevalent in the North. Everyone seemed to speak both languages (and some English). I find it so impressive that nearly everyone I meet in Europe speaks at least 2 languages, with many able to switch between even 3-4. I only grew up with English.
Because it’s such a charming town, it’s also full of tourists and you’ll get run over by one of the many horse-drawn carriages if you don’t watch out. This also means lots of horse poop, so watch out for that too! Bruges is so small, you can cross the entire city by foot in just under 30 minutes. Despite all the tourists, it still felt quaint and safe.
The canals are lined with nice terraces where you can grab a drink and people-watch. Tyler thoroughly enjoyed the beer selection (which was also much cheaper than beer in Paris.) We spent a nice afternoon sitting along the water reading our Kindles. And on the topic of beer, if you’re in Brussels, make sure to hit up Delirium Café, which houses over 4000 beers (highly recommended by our friend Dan).
We also found an adorable café called The Gulliver Tree, where we had a delicious rhubarb tart and hot chocolate. A friendly family of locals sat next to us and asked us what we thought about Belgium so far and gave us restaurant recommendations. Apparently if you find yourself paying more than 3 EUR for a waffle or 5 EUR for beer, it’s a tourist trap.
In case you’re wondering, yup, the chocolate is pretty darn good in Belgium. Especially drizzled on top of one of their famous waffles… We confirm that Maison Dandoy makes the best ones. The difference between regular Belgian waffles vs. Liege ones is that Liege waffles have sugar inside them and are extra sweet and caramelized. Mmm so good.
Bruges is also known for being an incredibly romantic spot. On the city map, there are little hearts drawn to indicate good places to smooch your loved one. We saw many couples, young and old, hand in hand, exploring the little town.
Overall, Bruges (along with another cute town called Gent in my next post) is very nice to visit if you happen to already be nearby, but given my preferences, I wouldn’t go out of my way to recommend the Brussels area compared to other places on my European travel list.