Bruges for boomers on a budget

Beer and chocolate. Two words to capture most people’s attention, and if you can find a place that pays homage to both in almost equal measure, it’s an easy decision to make that your holiday destination.

Bruges is that place. Belgium’s second largest city has 55 chocolate shops (at last count), countless beer halls and taverns, and museums dedicated to both.

Flying in to the Belgian capital, Brussels, we headed to Bruges by bus, a two-hour journey that cost €17 (about $27) per person. We soon discovered it was easy to explore Bruges on a budget.

Image © Glen Cameron 

For starters, we booked into a hostel. We may have been the only people over 30 years old staying at St Christopher’s Bauhaus backpacker hostel, but the reception from staff and young guests alike was warm. Instead of a dorm room, we booked a one-bedroom self-contained apartment (€48 or $75 per night) that was private, comfortable and perfectly located.

Image © Glen Cameron 

Housed in a World Heritage-listed, step-gabled building, the hostel was close to one of Bruges’ four remaining medieval town gates, the Kruispoort, which dates back to 1402. Also close by are the two remaining 16th century windmills that stand along the Bruges canals (of 23 that once existed). And best of all, it was only about a 15-minute walk from the Market Square, Belfry Tower and other city centre attractions.

Image © Lee Mylne 

Bruges is compact and flat, with easy walking to explore the cobbled streets, winding canal paths and lovely stone bridges. Climb the 366 steps to the top of the Belfry for the best views in town or take a boat trip on the canals for a different perspective.

Image © Glen Cameron 

In the heart of the city, the Bruges Beer Wall on Wollestraat is worth a look just for its ‘wow’ factor. The wall, housed in the 15th century mayor’s house adjoining an open bar area, supposedly contains a glass and bottle representing ‘all the beers in Belgium’ – more than 1800 of them – displayed behind floor-to-ceiling glass. The Bruges Beer Museum covers beer history, Belgian beer types, and brewing processes.

Image © Glen Cameron

Chocolate shops abound, their window displays vying for attention. One of the most famous – for its ‘naughty but nice’ creations – is Chocoladehuisje, next to the Belfry. If you visit in winter, hot chocolate is a rich and creamy way to warm up (or maybe try a Belgian waffle from a street vendor for just a few Euros). To learn the history of chocolate-making, head to Choco-Story, the Chocolate Museum (entry is €8, or €7 for visitors over 65 years old).

Image © Lee Mylne 

Bruges is also a good base for those who want to visit Flanders Fields to see the World War I monuments and cemeteries, with day tour or self-drive options available.

Learn more at www.visitflanders.com and www.visitbruges.be


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Written by Lee Mylne

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