Bruges is our favorite village in Belgium. Here’s our experience over the past two years going to the beer festival.
Our flights to Brussels, the hour and a half train ride from the airport direct to Bruges, and 4-star accommodations, the Hotel Oud Huis de Peellaert, in the city center came in under $500 total both years.
2016: We booked last minute on a whim invited by our friends who wanted to go to the beer festival. Who are we to say no to a beer fest? The way there and the trip as a whole was great. The way home, however, was a bit of a nightmare, getting on the wrong train twice to the Brussels airport, having to stay overnight unexpectedly in Brussels, and train it back to Stuttgart instead of catching the only flight back. Then, issues on the train delayed it even further. Three hours of sleep and a train ride later, we made it back home to Germany and went straight to work for an even longer day. #EuropeanTravel
2017: We planned ahead this time with another friend who joined us from Germany. We got there and back smoothly with no issues other than I should have bought double the amount of chocolate that I did.
The festival was all worth it. The area it’s held is open to the public and free to get in. If you want to sample the beers (yes please) you purchase a tasting glass and tokens. One token gets you one pour. It’s a great part of the event concept because you can go in and out as you please, sampling from 70 breweries with over 300 different beers meeting like-minded people from all over the world the whole weekend.
In 2016, the fest was located in a warehouse style building within walking distance just outside the city. For around 20 Euro, you got 10 tokens and two tasting glasses. The fest was open from mid-day till evening, so when we arrived at opening time Saturday and Sunday, it was still spacious enough to walk around and hang out without a huge crowd. The food trucks outside were awesome too. It was the first time we had pulled pork in almost a year that was actually pulled pork and not a strange German version, we went back three times to the same truck over the two days- delish.
This year, the fest location moved to the city center right in market square. It was still a great event, but we preferred it being a bit outside. In the center, the crowd was of course much larger so it didn’t allow us to meet as many people or talk to the brewers as much about what they brought. There was also no music in the venue, and the space was split into three locations, tents in the center and two buildings in the square. The prices were higher this year but still a good value, 30 Euro for the 2 tasting glasses and 11 tokens. Overall it was awesome, but definitely bigger and more crowded this year. Pro tip – going Sunday at opening time is the way to go if you want to avoid the crowds.
Since our purpose for the weekend was mainly beer with a side of Liege waffles, and chocolate, we had to add in some of the history since the temperature was so much better (as in, no snow) than the first time we were here a few years ago.
The tour meets at the large square Grote Markt in the morning and afternoon and lasts a full two hours, ending in a chocolate shop near the most famous Liege waffle truck. It was a good tour overall, the guide walked us all over and pointed out details we would not have noticed, plus gave out coupons for a few local spots. There is a night version of the tour as well that our friends also went on and they liked it.
The blood of Christ,which you have to pay to see, is located in the Basilica of the Holy Blood in the same square. The hours were funny though so we did not make it there. Once per year, the town takes the blood out into a parade too, maybe we will plan to go back for that.
Going up the Belfry of Bruges (medieval bell tower) was also on the list, and again didn’t happen this time.
Shopping is great in Bruges too, the usual shops are there plus some boutiques with tea and chocolate shops worked in between. You can walk the city in a day but there is so much detail to see and sooo many photo spots.
The liege waffle man in Burg Square, straight, no toppings needed is the way to go. The liege waffle is chewy and amazing, unlike a regular crispy waffle.
Eat Moules Frites. AKA a large pot of mussels with fries. There are two top rated spots in Bruges neither of which we went to, for one because, Poules Moules was closed for renovation, and the other Breydel-De Coninck was a ways from where we were headed. In Belgium, the meat and cheese plate is a must and was of course repeated at various bars through the trip. The rest of the way we really just winged it, there were highly rated spots within walking distance everywhere.