[by Marjolein] Bruges – or Brugge – is bustling with activity and an important member of the Belgium Big Five, the countries’ most important historical cities.
On invitation of Visit Bruges I walk and cycle around beautiful medieval Bruges. Keeping Karin’s article on Mechelen in mind (‘no need to pack those 14 inch Loubies’), my New Balance sneakers keep me going on those cobblestones.
In Bruges everything centers around the market place with its imposing Belfort (83 meters high bell tower) and city hall. This is where the crowds gather, but there is much more to this city than the classical highlights.
I decide to go a little more off the beaten track and discover the City of Inspiring Makers.
City of inspiring makers
It all started back in the 15th century with the river Reie which brought Bruges trade and wealth. And still today, Bruges turns out to be the city of contemporary craftsmanship. Inspiring makers, in short.
Most famous of them all is Brody Neuenschwander, American in Bruges and world-renowned for his calligraphy. British film maker Peter Greenaway (of ’the Cook, the thief his wife and her lover’ fame) asked him to design the calligraphy for his later films Prospero’s Books and The Pillow Book.
With the aid of the user-friendly Hand made in Brugge map and the Xplore Bruges app nothing can go wrong. There are 28 addresses free to visit and another 20 by appointment only via the City of inspiring makers program. OK, I’m ready to meet some of the artisans in person:
- Maud Bekaert – born & bred in Bruges – does calligraphy (and free work) in stone. This power girl works her tools as if they are weightless (they are not, I can tell you first hand) and I’m happy I cycled to the quiet corner of Bruges where her shop is.
- Peter Quijo – despite his exotic name, also born & bred in Bruges – is the designer of a unique diamond: Qui-Shape. With my background in diamonds & gemstones, I really anticipated this visit. To celebrate 50 – there’s no such thing as coincidence at Chapter Fifty – years of his family business, he developed this special diamond shape. Peter is inspired by the famous cobblestones of Bruges, so the diamond has the shape of a square with curved sides and right angles. His daughter Jade has joined the business and shows me a special cuff bracelet completely set with Qui-Shapes. Me want.
- Didier Abbeloos – This eclectic and quirky antique & collectables house is a must visit for all interior decorating fans. The 15 intimate rooms of the house, which looks like a private museum, display the items for sale in context. That way you immediately have an idea how the antique pieces will fit in your home. I just love the way it smells in here!
Where to b&b in Bruges?
There are nice locations and there are super locations. Hotel De Tuilerieën is certainly in the latter category. This 4*Luxe hotel is smack in the middle of historic Bruges. And the best news about it? At night it is as quiet as can be. Not a sound to be heard from our classical executive room at the backside of the building.
I adore the four-poster bed with curtains and the slightly squeaky wooden floors. I forgot to pack a bikini so we could not try the pool. But the super charming bar – with Chinese wall paper and chandeliers – makes up for not having a swim.
The hotel breakfast at De Tuilerieën is more than excellent: sumptuous (freshly sliced fruits, breads, chocolate, cheeses and much more) and served in an elegant room with green wallpaper overlooking the canal. I love such an easy start of the day.
Where to eat what in Bruges?
Food is everywhere with a suitable culinary spot for every time of the day:
- Coffee and cakes at Patisserie Academie One of the names on the Hand Made in Brugge map is Patisserie Academie. The photos say it all: I’m in heaven here. Thank God nobody bats an eyelid when I order two pieces of cake. After all the cycling & sightseeing that’s exactly what I need.
- Lunch at De Visscherie Those Bruges people certainly know where to eat well. Our lunch at De Visscherie is the best I’ve had in a long, long time. Smack on the Fish Market – which has been around since the 1500s – this classic fish restaurant knows how to take care of you. Maître Marc serves a three course lunch of smoked eel & figs, sea wolf celeriac as main and a coconut, white chocolate & mango dream for desert. This is not a restaurant where the food looks better than it tastes: it tastes even better than it looks!
- Dinner at La Tâche On the outskirts of the city, we are invited for dinner at La Tâche. Think Belgian 1950s villa turned restaurant. We enjoy dinner (and more wine) at the formal restaurant, but there’s also the hipper option of the Teasers (snack-sized dishes) side of the villa with its white modern furniture and funky bar. This is where the locals go; always a good sign.
- Drinks at Blend wine bar & shop Time for wine. We go to the brand new wine bar & wine shop Blend at Kuipersstraat 6. The staff is super friendly, the plates with cheeses and all sorts of cold meats look delish. We have dinner plans so these will have to wait for a future visit. The vibes at Blend are lively & fun.
Bruges is about one hour drive from Brussels or 1 ½ hours from Antwerp. This historic city is best discovered by foot or follow my – very Dutch – example: rent a bike. And if you think Bruges is charming by day, wait until it’s get dark. Medieval Magic.
My stay in Bruges was by invitation of Visit Bruges on behalf of Chapter Fifty. Chapter Fifty only accepts items or collaborations that answer positive to the question: “does it match our lifestyle?”. We will not promote anything that we would not wear, where we would not eat, sleep or see ourselves. Authenticity is very important to us. Words, photos and opinions are our own.