I wanted to visit Bruges ever since I saw the movie ‘In Bruges’ with Colin Farrell. Since then, a few friends had visited it and came back with high praises for the place. I knew I had to go and finally I did!
Well, let’s begin with my impressions. I can safely say that Bruges is, so far, the most beautiful place I have been to. It’s like a town built from a fairy-tale and it feels like it the more you explore it. It’s a place where time seems to stop. You don’t feel that you are in a place where people work and study, because there is simply no rush hour, no hectic life, no sense of urgency. You feel relaxed simply by being there.
Having talked to an American lady who has been living there for the past 10 years and is married to a local, it is also one of the best places to raise a family. There is virtually zero crime. In fact, people leave their bicycles outside their home at night and you can walk through the parks at night without fear.
As for food and drink…well, what can I say! There are thousands of specialist chocolatiers spread around, each competing to sell the most amazing and REAL chocolates you will ever taste. By ‘real’ I mean proper chocolate, not the sugar coated ones you get from the likes of Nestle, Cadbury’s, Thornton’s, etc.
Anyway, time to show you in more detail what I saw and what I sampled, with plenty of photos to make you book your flight on the spot! To enlarge any of the photos below just click on them.
History and Facts
Bruges is the capital of West Flanders, one of Belgium’s 11 provinces. Its egg shaped historic centre is contained by a 7 km long ring canal, which traces the route of the former defensive outer rampants. A ring road follows the perimeter boundary and keeps most traffic well away from the centre, which has a traffic management system designed to discourage motorists.
Bruges’ population is just 20,000 (170,000 if you include the suburbs and villages).
The city grew up from a Gallo-Roman settlement on the banks of the rivers Dijver and Reie. It is first mentioned by name in 864 AD, when the name Bruggia (meaning ‘landing stage’ or ‘port’) appears on coins.
By the 11th century the development of the cloth industry had made the city an international trading hub. Silting closed access by the end of the century but a new channel (the Zwin) was created in 1134 AD. This channel re-opened a sea route and became the city’s commercial outpost.
It silted again in the early 16th century, sealing the end of the city’s golden age. The remaining canal network cemented Bruges’ reputation and explains the title ‘Venice of the North’.
The advent of the railway reversed the poverty stricken town’s fortunes, as visitors en route to visit the Waterloo battlefields discovered a city preserved in time. Nowadays Bruges is a pocket-sized museum piece, peopled with camera-wielding visitors.
What I Saw
The Minnewater Park
The park is dominated by the Lake of Love (see photo below) and the Kasteel Minnewater, a chateau style restaurant with a scenic waterside terrace.
Begijnhof De Wijngaarde
The enclosure of Begijnhof is a tree-shaded courtyard surrounded by white-washed houses that were once occupied by women (beguines) who renounced wealth but did not take holy orders.
The last beguine left in 1927 and the site is now owned by a Benedictine convent whose nuns wear habits similar to those worn by the beguines.
The site is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The site’s museum (see below) is a small house that gives a glimpse into the life of a beguine in the 17th century.
The Church of Our Lady
The Church of Our Lady (Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk) once served as a kind of inland lighthouse for ships on their way to Bruges. Its vast brick tower is the second highest in Belgium.
The square has been the hub of daily life in Bruges for over 1000 years, having served as a marketplace since 958 AD. It is still the focal point of commercial activity and hosts markets, festivities and street entertainment.
Dominating the square is the 13th century brick complex of the Belfort-Hallen (see photo above), the Belfry from which a carillon chimes every quarter hour. The Belfry is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.
You can climb to the top of the tower for great views of the city (see photos below) if you are brave (and fit) enough to climb all of its 370 stairs.
The complex at the base of the tower also houses the Salvador Dali museum. Being one of my favourite artists, I had to pay a visit (see photos below).
On the east side of the square stands the neo-Gothic Provinciaal Hof (see below), the seat of the provincial government of West Flanders.
On the same side of the square is also the city’s main post office (see below)
The statue at the centre of the square honours two heroes of the Flemish rebellion against the French at the Battle of the Golden Spurs in 1302, named Jan Breydel and Pieter De Coninck.
The west side of the square houses two remarkable buildings (see photo below). The 15th century ‘Maison Bouchoute’ (the square one which is hidden behind the street lamp in the photo) and the ‘Craenenburg House’ (the one hidden by the flags) in which Maximilian of Austria was held prisoner by town rebels in 1488.
The north side of the square is full of buildings with corbie-stepped gables (see below). These were originally guildhalls and nowadays are restaurants in the square.
Next to the Markt is the burg, the most historic square in Bruges. It was the centre of civic and religious life, leaving the business of commerce to the Markt. It takes its name from the fortress (or ‘burg’) that was built here in 865 as a defence against Norman invasion.
Pride of the square is the triple turreted gothic Stadhuis, the City Hall (see above). This late 14th century building was built on the site of a prison.
Next to it is the Oude Griffie (see below), the old county records office which now is occupied by law courts. It is built in the Flemish-Renaissance style. The carved stonework was replaced after destruction in 1792.
Another building in the square is the Liberty of Bruges Palace (Paleis van Het Brugse Vrije), seen in the photo below. It was rebuilt in the 18th century on the site of the 1520s original, parts of which can be seen from the canal site of the building.
In the southwest corner of the square is the Basilica of the Holy Blood (Heilig Bloed-Basiliek), two chapels one atop of the other, built in honour of a sacred relic: a phial alleged to contain Christ’s blood.
The lower chapel was built in the 12th century to house the relics of St Basil the Great. It’s the oldest in the city.
The ‘Pieta’ (above) was carved by De Wispelaere of Bruges so as to allow drapes to be changed. It portrays the mother of Jesus with his lifeless body across her knees.
The ‘Ecce Homo’ (above) is a sacred theme carved in pinewood around 1900. Popularly known as ‘Jesus on the cold stone’, the paint surface on the knees has been worn out by the devout fingers of the faithful.
The second chapel was built above the lower chapel in the same style. It was destroyed twice and rebuilt in 1829 in the neo-gothic style (see below)
One last building in the square is the Prevote (see below), a baroque style building which was once the seat of provosts of the no longer existing St Donation cathedral.
Jan Van Eyckplein
During the Middle Ages the ‘Jan Van Eyck Square’ was a very busy place. On the west side of the square is the Burghers’ Lodge (Poortersloge) (see photo below). It was something of an elite gentlemen’s club in the 15th century and now is home to the town archives.
On the north side of the square is the Customs House (Oud Tolhuis) (see below) where taxes were levied on imported goods. Next to it is the tiny Porters Lodge (Pijnders). The two buildings are now part of the provincial library and house hundreds of gothic manuscripts.
The Rode Steen house on the east of the square (see below) dates from the 13th century. It was the first house in Bruges to win renovation funding in the 19th century, marking the start of efforts to preserve the city’s medieval character.
In the middle of the square is the statue of Jan Van Eyck (see below). He was an innovator in the field of painting technique and the father of the Flemish school of painting.
The two quays flanking the canal (see below) were used as mooring points for boats arriving in the city and mansions were built to house merchants and courtiers from other trading nations.
Stock Exchange Square
La Place de la Bourse owes its name to a certain patrician merchant, Van de Beurse, who became established here in the 13th century. Foreign merchants came to keep a check on the market. International trade was carried out and Bruges became a model for European stock exchanges, a centre for bankers and financiers from Venice, Florence and Genoa.
The Huis Ter Beurze house (see below) used to be an inn and money changing operation run by the Van de Beurse family. It is from this that the word ‘Bourse’, the common international name for a stock exchange, comes.
Opposite this building is the Genoese Lodge (Genuese Loge) (see below) which has the city’s coat of arms above the side door. It now houses the Friet Museum.
‘Our Lady of the Pottery’ (see below), built in 1276 as a women’s hospital with a nursing staff of Augustine nuns, took its name from a potters’ chapel formerly on the site.
The streets around the church of St Anne (see below) were rediscovered by artists and later on by young professionals, who restored the rows of terraced houses. There are few shops in this tranquil neighbourhood which has something of a village atmosphere.
The Church of St Anne (see below) is a 1624 baroque replacement for the gothic church that was demolished in 1561.
The Jerusalem Church (Jeruzalemkerk) (see below) was built in 1428 by a wealthy Bruges family and is modelled on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. It is still privately owned.
Towards the canal surrounding the city there are 4 wooden-stilt windmills (see below), which remain from the 29 mills that once surrounded Bruges.
Nearby are the homes of two exclusive sporting clubs dating from the 16th century, the St George and the St Sebastian Archers’ Guilds. In the photo below you can see the St George Archers Guild (Schuttersgilde Sint-Joris).
The English Convent (Engels Klooster) (see below) was one of the focal points of the English Colony, which in the 1860s number 1200 colonists.
The baroque church and college of the Episcopal Seminary (Groot Seminarie) (see below) occupies the former Abbey of the Dunes (Duinen Abdij)
The Princes’ Court (Prinsenhof) (see below) was built for the dukes of Burgundy. What survives nowadays from the vast original palace has been largely rebuilt. It is now a hotel (the Kempinski Dukes’ Palace Hotel).
The Holy Saviour’s Cathedral (Sint-Salvatorskathedraal) (see below) was the oldest parish church in Bruges, dating from the 9th century. It became a cathedral in 1834, as a replacement seat for the Bishop of Bruges, after the French demolished St Donatian’s cathedral in the Burg.
Major transformations in the ‘t Zand square have given it a new burst of life. The square now hosts funfairs, a Saturday market and is lined with cafes and brasseries frequented more by locals than tourists.
Below are photos of the large fountain in the square
The ‘Rozenhoedkaai’ (Rosary Quay) (see below) gives a great view over the canal opposite, as it follows the line of the river Dijver, the old waterside houses and the Belfry.
The Relais Bourgondison Croyce Hotel (below) which is the hotel the two hitmen stayed at the movie ‘In Bruges’.
The Gruuthuse Museum (see below) used to be a lavish 15th century palace, built by a family who had a lucrative monopoly on the sale of gruut (a mixture of herbs for improving the flavour of beer). It contains a wealth of decorative arts, recalling life in Bruges from the 13th to the 19th century.
Bruges is a very small place. You can reach each end of the town from the centre within a 20 minute walk. It is worth it because you can simply lose yourself in the small, narrow cobble streets, the beautiful houses, the romantic canals, the relaxing parks and the numerous cafes and brasseries. However, you can also see the town by bicycle, by hiring a horse carriage or by boat.
To give you an idea of the beauty of this place, I let the photos below speak for themselves. The first few photos show statues of the Holy Mary, which can be spotted on the walls of many street corners.
It is well known fact that when it comes to food (and especially eating out) I am looking for a fine balance between quality and quantity. I want quality in the form of fresh ingredients and taste, with enough quantity to keep my stomach full for a few hours. In other words, I dislike the kind of places where you pay loads for portions that may taste nice but belong to a museum of art rather than a place of hanger satisfaction. In the same way, I also dislike places where portions may be huge or the price right, but the taste is not good enough even for a dog.
I am glad to say that Bruges is a great place to eat! Everywhere who had a meal it came in large portions but, above all, it was fresh and delicious. Even the equivalent of student eateries or a pub chain, served really tasty food. Prices vary. My tip would be to skip starters, not only because they were usually not good value for money but also because the main dishes were of great proportions (and left just about enough space for dessert).
In general, prices are slightly higher than those in the UK, however not only you get better value for money but each place has a special touch to what it offers. For example, coffees and teas are served escorted with small pieces of chocolate or some cookies to go with it, so you may pay a little bit more for a coffee than in the UK but the coffee will taste a lot better and you get chocolate and biscuits to accompany it.
Below I give you a list of the places we liked during our stay:
De Wijngaert (website here)
A really nice, cosy restaurant with an open fire grill in the middle where you can watch the owner cook your order. The staff is also very laid back and seems to be enjoying their work, which is always a good sign. The music played was some traditional Flemish one and at some point a really catchy song came up and we could hear the whole kitchen staff singing to it!
We tried a traditional Flemish starter, garnaalkroketten (shrimp croquettes). Not really my cup of tea, but in general I don’t really like croquettes.
However, the main dishes were delicious! We tried another Flemish tradition, grilled rabbit in some special sauce and also the mixed grill, a large plate full of various cuts of pork, lamb, chicken, sausages and beef. All served with salad, various sauces and dips and chips.
Miss Ellie (address: Dweersstraat 15)
A nice little café to re-energise after a long walk in the city. We had two portions of eggs & bacon (although they were served in the form of omelette and chopped bacon) and two large coffees, all very nice indeed.
De Proererie tea room (website here)
Its hot chocolate is served as a mug of milk, with a saucer of melted chocolate and fresh cream to mix. A portion of cake consists of 2 slices and its selection of desserts, cakes and all things sweet is to die for.
Very popular with the older generation of locals and ex pats. We tried the hot chocolate, the vanilla cake and a ‘Memlinck’, a chocolate dessert with fresh apricots and berries.
Patisserie & team room ‘St Salvator’ (address: Zuidzandstraat 10)
The minute you pass outside the window of this small, busy patisserie the fresh tarts and pastries on display drag you in with no mush effort from you. They look heavenly and they are devilishly tasty!!
We tried 2 slices of the apricot tart and all I can say is 'Well worth the sugar rush!!'
Grand Café De Passage (website here)
The best cheap eat (but not cheap taste by any means) in town. Long brown café packed with tables, seats covered in cushions, lamps and all sorts of eclectic decorations. Locals love it and there is a youth hostel upstairs, so an atmosphere is guaranteed every night.
We tried rich beef stew cooked in beer and a massive portion of ribs. Together with 4 beers and a portion of pancakes for dessert, €40 (£33) seems a very good price indeed.
Note that in the photos below the dishes do not look that appetising. This is simply because the place was dark and the photos are not clear.
De Stoepa (website here)
This pub/brasserie was very close to our hotel and we kept on passing it by every night we were returning to our room. We decided to have dinner there because it seemed to be packed even late at night, when other restaurants were empty or had already closed. And I am glad we did.
This is a place where locals go for some tasty and inexpensive meal and stay over to enjoy drinks after hours. The staff is very friendly and can help you with the translation of the non-English menu, or to choose which beer is best. Although the menu is a no-thrills selection of pasta dishes, soups, wraps, salads and a few stir fries, the portions are huge. Not only that, but they are full of the ingredients they are supposed to have. For example, my chicken/prawn/noodle stir fry was full of chunks of meat, tiger prawns and a few noodles, rather than tons of noodles with a couple of forgotten pieces of meat in the middle.
The same with the fish soup my girlfriend had, which was full of chunks of fish.
‘T Oost (website here)
By far our favourite place to have breakfast. It’s the little extra touches that make the difference and this place has plenty of it! A sunny outdoor space at the back to enjoy your breakfast, delicious jams, massive portions of fresh food and a friendly owner.
We loved the way the menu is set up and the various options it offers.
The ‘Healthy Breakfast’ consists of a massive bowl of muesli, mixed with yogurt and pieces of fresh fruit (ours had bananas, strawberries, apples, apricots and kiwis), a basket of sliced brown bread (not the crap supermarket one but nice, heavy, homemade style one), a big slice of ginger bread and a selection of two jams, butter and honey (the jams are served in shooter glasses which make the whole arrangement very colourful).
The ‘Extra Breakfast’ came with two fried eggs and bacon, instead of the muesli and a croissant instead of the gingerbread. As you can see below, breakfast was a massive affair!
Bauhaus (address: Langestraat 135-137)
A laid back bar/brasserie attached to a youth hostel. It’s populated by young people from all over the world and come here for the large beer selection, the good priced food and the live music on weekends.
The fish stew and the lasagne we tried were delicious.
Belgium is well known around the world for the quality of its beer. There are numerous national and local breweries, producing around 4,000 different beers. To a true beer lover, Belgium is paradise. If you have not been to Belgium, then I suggest you forget the type of commercial beer you are currently used to. Forget Bud, forget Heineken, Carlsberg, Coors and all that hyped up tasteless liquid you have been told is the best in the world.
To my American friends, the minute you try a Belgian beer you realise that Bud is the King of Carbonated Flavoured Water, rather than the King of Beers. To my British friends, Belgian beers are strong (between 6% and 12% ABV) unlike the watered down weak beers you get in the UK, where a 5% ABV is considered strong.
So, being in Bruges gave me the opportunity to sample a few of them. Although I am not a regular beer drinker, I have to admit that most of the ones I tried made me change my opinion of beer in general. In fact, while in Bruges, I could not wait to taste the next one!
Obviously, with such a high alcohol content you have to be a sensible drinker. Drink it slowly, appreciate the taste, eat something with it and do not drink a lot! Every place serving beer had selections of nibbles to go with your beer and also served platters of cheese and cold meats (see below) to complement the beer.
One other interesting point is that each beer is served in its own, special glass. This means that, if a pub serves a variety of 100 beers, it will have to keep around 100 different type of glasses to serve them in. I guess it’s great if you are collecting glasses.
Below is a list of all the beers we sampled while in Bruges. Next to the title I put the alcohol content and I also give a few comments from experienced drinkers, which agree with my opinion. My own opinion comes at the end of those comments. Let’s start!
Pauwel Kwak (8.4%)
"Banana nectar and fresh cut oak bust out in the aroma riding a wave of cakey yeast. These characteristics carry over well into the taste, taking full bloom. The banana hits first, immediately followed by some almond, then the yeast, smooth, silky, very lightly musty yet not spicy pushes it all through, with the subtle afterburn of warm alcohol in its wake. A fruity - peach or maybe pear - nectary flavour and feel throughout as well. Rather full-bodied feel, similar to a barley wine."
This beer is my favourite of the lot! Served in its special wooden stand, it attracts attention immediately. But the aroma and the taste are sublime! Very easy to drink, feels nothing like an 8.4% but after the second glass you feel the effect. Kwak is officialy my favourite beer now!
Tripel Van De Garre (11.5%)
"This beer is, in short, the closest thing to heaven most of us will ever know. I could go and run through the appearance, taste, etc., but really I'd just be wasting both my time and yours. The singular fact remains, if you like beer, you will love Du Garre. If you haven't had it yet, add it to your life's goals to visit Bruges--just to enjoy this beer."
"It is poured into a large snifter glass with a gigantic, billowing, mushroom cloud-like head. Right away, the golden colour and lace tells you that this is going to be one tasty brew. Smell is subtle but you can detect slight hops, spiciness, and some sweetness, akin to melon. The first sip affirms your trip to Bruges, and Belgium in general. Incredibly smooth for a tripel, doesn't offend with the kick-your-ass spiciness you can sometimes get from the style, and finishes sweetly. The mouth feel is creamy and oh-so-inviting. I usually had to have a hat trick of these before I was done. Simply magnificent, and a tribute to the Belgians and their art."
I must also admit that this is a real gem of a beer. In fact, it was my girlfriend’s favourite. The only reason it’s my 2nd favourite behind Kwak is its strength. After one glass you really find yourself sliding down the chair and philosophising.
The only place serving it is a little pub called “Staminee De Garre”, tucked in a very narrow alley between The Markt and The Burg (see below). The atmosphere in the place was that of locals and tourist mixing together, sharing tables and having a good time, helped obviously by this fantastic beer.
Westmalle Trappist Tripel (9.5%)
"A burnt golden yellow body. It has a large pearl white head with incredible lacing. Beautiful fruity aroma with some floral notes. It is rounded out with a slight pepper and alcohol warmth. Very light complex and refreshing on the nose. Incredibly crisp on the front and opens into fruits galore. I will let you explore this one for individual fruits because there is a ton there. For being so crisp on the front it is medium bodied and surprisingly creamy in the mouth."
This was my 3rd favourite beer (and 3rd favourite for my girlfriend too). Very refreshing, full bodied and complex in the pallet and a joy to drink.
Brugse Zot Blond (6%)
"A golden blond beer with a fruity palate and spicy aroma of hop. The taste is dry, slightly bitter with a complex character and hints of citrus. The beer has won several prices in international competitions, with for example gold in the World Beer Cup."
It was my girlfriend’s 2nd favourite beer, but unfortunately did not strike the right notes for me, maybe because it was a bit too dry for my liking, with quite a bitter aftertaste. The first time we had it was in the actual brewery, which is the only remaining brewery in Bruges, “De Halve Maan”. The brewery is also a museum and a bar, so you can enjoy all aspects of the beer (see photos below from the pub).
Brugse Zot Dubbel (7.5%)
"It has a ruby red brown colour and a rich aroma composed of bitter notes. The beer is made out of a unique selection of special malt and worldly renowned Tcheque Saaz hop from Zatec. It’s an exclusive, full and stronger beer."
"More alcohol is registering on this one versus their "regular". Less interesting as this masks any other aromas--like the darker malts. I cannot find any hops. Quite sweet, but the alcohol is still the strongest element to the beer. Good mouth feel--on the richer side. Good carbonation."
Another beer produced by the local brewery, but not as good as the blond version.
Straffe Hendrik Tripel (9%)
"A slightly hazy, dark golden colour, thick frothy head which lasts for a long time. Well carbonated, plenty of bubbles rising through the beer. The first sensation is the acidity coming from the high carbonation followed by a Grassy, sweet which gives way to a slight bitterness and taste of alcohol on the finish. Personally I find the high carbonation a little off-putting as it masks a lot of the initial taste but that is to be expected with this style of beer so it's more of a personal opinion."
Personally not a huge fan of this beer. Drinkable but there are much better ones at the 9% Tripel range.
Straffe Hendrik Quadrupel (11%)
"The taste is not quite there; I wasn't sure how this was going to go down, given the unusual specificities of the aroma, but it is a let-down overall. The alcohol is way too strong here; it’s as if someone poured vodka into a Grimbergen or Corsendonk brown. As for the nuances, there is some medium and dark fruity notes (not enough), and a lot of pale malt minerality."
Same opinion as above. I’ve tried a few 11% ones but on this one you could taste the alcohol. A bit off putting in a beer.
Delirium Tremens (8.5%)
"Voted “Best Beer in the World” in Chicago’s 1998 World Beer Championship. The award, as well as its ceramic-painted bottle, blue foil wrapping, and other various idiosyncrasies, instantly catch the eye.
Pours straw yellow, slightly hazy, with a small white head, and some noticeable carbonation. Yeast and some light fruits in the nose. Light fruits on the palate, with grassy hops in the background leaving a little bitter aftertaste. Pretty light mouth feel, but not too crisp."
Drinkable, but not something I prefer when other options are available.
Corsendonk Agnus (7.5%)
"It has a very big head indeed - pour it gently - and a very clean palate, beginning with a dry, lightly citric fruitiness, and finishing with a distinctive and delicate, perfumy, hop character. Very light and fluffy in texture, giving little hint of its strength."
Not one of the best I tasted during the trip, although not bad either.
Orval Trappist (6.2%)
"It was first made in 1931, and has a complex and unusual flavour and aroma produced by a unique strain of yeast. The beer is light in colour, slightly cloudy, and has a large, foamy head. There is a complex aroma of leather, spice, and many other earthy components. As with all other Trappist breweries, the beer is only sold in order to financially support the monastery and some other good causes. All of the profits from the sale of the beer are distributed to charities and for community development around the region."
"Its very distinctive taste is largely attributed to two parts of the brewing process. One of these is the use of dry hopping, in which large meshed bags of hops infuse the beer during the three week maturation period. The other is the use of Brettanomyces yeast during this same maturation, which is a local wild yeast."
I found it quite refreshing, but with a slight bitter aftertaste.
St. Bernardus Abt 12 (10%)
"Pours a deep brown some light foam that sticks around. Nose of dark fruit, fig and raisin bread. Tastes amazing; rich dark fruit, plum, raisin, toffee, some booze. Mouth feel is nice, both creamy and crisp. Close to the perfect beer. A must try."
"A luxurious, warming, boozy, sweet concoction. Brown sugar and some dark fruits, but nothing extreme. This one maintains a buoyancy. Incredibly smooth mouth feel, despite the *overflowing* carbonation. Insanely drinkable. This is a lovely brew. Delicate, powerful, rich, buoyant, elegant, and approachable. Just lovely."
My own opinion is that this beer was like sweet nectar, extremely tasty and drinkable. At 10% it demands respect and sensible drinking.
Steenbrugge Dubbel Bruin (6.5%)
"Fruity, sweet taste, but thin in malt flavour as well as texture. It is also really straightforward, lacking the complexity of a good Dubbel. The more I drink of this, the less enamoured I am with it. The mouth feel does it no favours, lacking effervescence and beefy malt texture."
I also did not think much of this beer. Not enough flavour. Easily forgettable.
Belle-Vue Gueuze (5.5%)
"Gueuze is a type of a wild beer, many of which have a sour, apple like taste, and which is made by blending very young lambic beers (fruity beers) for a second time in a corked bottle. These beers have an almost cidery flavour."
On this particular one, peach cobbler is the base. Apple and cinnamon come in and out, but some brown sugar also. Finishes again with a very peachy character. A nice refreshing beer, it would suit best to people who like cider.
Poperings Hommel Bier (7.5%)
"The flavour matches the aroma exactly. Sour malt base with a yeasty bite with a light bittering hop. Interestingly, there isn't much hop in the aftertaste; again, it's mostly sour. The body tilts to the thinner side, but there's also a lighter than usual carbonation."
Nothing special in my opinion, too much malty taste for my liking.
Westmalle Trappist Dubbel (7%)
"The smell is slightly caramel, a hint of candy and the smell of a homebrew that has too much refined sugar added to it, resulting in extra alcohol. However, it's not a bad smell by any means. Mouth feel is very smooth and creamy. The taste is almost sweet, but not too sugar sweet or malty, just right. It has a slight chocolate and caramel taste, then ends with the hops making an appearance."
I found that beer to have great aroma, a sweet taste and a hint of banana flavour in the aftertaste, although I know no bananas were involved in its making. During the trip I came to like every beer the Westmalle brewery had to offer.
Chimay Blue (9%)
"The pour was not as lively as I had hoped. There’s a good strong thick foam, but nothing to be too cautious about. The body is much darker than I would have expected, something of a dark brown or mahogany, and pretty thick with some cloudiness caused by the yeast. The carbonation is lively, rushing up towards a beige creamy foam. Overall the appearance is something of a cross between an oatmeal stout and a brown ale. This beer is excellent in its complexity, and difficult to compare due to its uniqueness. It makes for a fascinating drinking experience for any fan of real ale. At the same time it’s certainly not for novices, the unadventurous or narrow-minded."
I found this beer to be a bit of a puzzle. It looks and tastes a bit flat, like a British real ale, although this one is served cold. However, it does pack a lot of taste.
Grimbergen Dubbel (6.5%)
"Poured root beer brown with glistening red and gold. Decent head that didn't linger much. Fruity nose with alcohol evident. Tastes bubbly, yeasty and like dried figs and dates. Good vibrant carbonation, and not as creamy as some other dubbels. Dry finish. Very enjoyable."
"While the aroma is slightly muted it comes across as exceedingly pleasant. The taste is absolutely delicious full of wonderful grain and fruit characteristics, and sweet without too much of the Belgian Funk."
My notes say that I found this beer to be dark, with a fizz, but very smooth and tasty. Grimbergen was also one of my favourite breweries that emerged during the trip.
Grimbergen Blonde (6.7%)
"A bright golden colour with good carbonation; once it settles a column of fine bubbles rises from the centre of the glass. A large foamy white head tops it off; this slowly reduces to leave a thin covering of foam. A strong sweet aroma with hints of fruit and alcohol - complex and interesting."
"A sweet malty taste with an element of sourness as you swallow. Notes of yeast, esters and fruit; no bitterness to speak of. Alcohol becomes more obvious as the liquid warms, unbalancing the flavour somewhat. Mouth feel is smooth but astringent, leaving a dry sensation. This is highly drinkable, and goes down nicely. The flavour is more involved than many beers, but not overwhelming. Worth seeking out to try."
A powerful beer, very drinkable, very enjoyable and one of the best of the trip.
Palm Speciale (5.4%)
"Pours a clean and clear golden amber colour, minimal cap of white head, little retention or bready qualities hidden behind a lightly sweet pale malt and musty hops nose. Taste is quite clean, lightly sweet with a touch of musty earthiness coming from the hops, very light vegital like taste. Medium bodied, some slick oiliness to it. Lower in carbonation, lightly dry. Not really something to seek out if you’re looking for a Belgian style beer."
I agree with the above. At 5.4% it was one of the lightest of the beers I tasted on the trip and you could feel its lack of power compared to the other, stronger beers available. Not enough aroma or flavour to make it stand out.
Trappistes Rochefort 10 (11.3%)
"The beer pours a dark reddish brown with a finger of off white foamy head that laces and retains very well. The aroma is strong with figs and caramel sweetness. The taste has some hints of grapes, figs, caramel and spices and finishes clean. The mouth feel is nice and velvety with a good balance of carbonation. Overall a great Belgian ale."
I have to admit that, although a nice, velvety feel to it, I was expecting much more from this beer. Maybe it was because I had already tried the fantastic De Garre at 11.5% and assumed that this very strong beer would be of similar characteristics. Don’t get me wrong, I liked it, it went down really well, its strength engulfed you slowly but powerfully, but not in the same league as De Garre.
Kasteel Bruin (11%)
"Slight oaky smell. Sweetness is there at first, and all the way through. No bitterness at all. At the right temperature, sort of reminds me of a "flat" coke. In a good way! So smooth, rich and full. Very sweet and rich. Very drinkable with a wonderful mouth feel."
This beer should be better enjoyed in the winter, as you can really feel the alcohol content in it. It’s like sipping a strong ale but with much more complex aromas and texture.
Blanche De Namur (4.5%)
"Pours a bubbly honey gold lots of carbonation...The aroma is sweet but complex, immediately I get lots of champagne yeast, orange peel, sugar, and sweet liquorice as if it was a spice not candyish. The liquorice has a very medicinal quality to it, but in a nice way, it’s really refreshing...The taste is a little blah, the flavours don't really come through as much, it’s a lightly sweet to start then a bit of bitter on the back."
I ordered this beer as it won the award for World’s Best Wheat Beer in 2009. I was disappointed as it did not do much for me. Personally, Hoogarden Grand Cru is still my favourite wheat beer. This one had neither the taste, nor the power to match. It was like drinking an over-carbonated alcopop.
Gulden Draak (10.5%)
"Aromas of toffee and sourdough bread. Tastes slightly sweet, caramel, biscuity malt. Finish is slightly herbal and boozy. Smooth mouth feel, medium body. Carbonation enough to tingle. Overall very solid the alcohol is well hidden and the flavour is nice and well balanced. Overall you could easily enjoy a lot of these."
A very good beer to enjoy on a sunny day, very deceptive because it tastes light and fruity but is very strong.
As you know, I do love my chocolate. Not the sugar sticks you get by Nestle, Cadburys or Thornton’s, but proper, high quality chocolate. And Bruges was full of chocolatiers. In fact, you could easily find a chocolate shop in every corner, each one competing for the best window arrangement. I will let the photos below speak for themselves, as this is how a proper chocolate shop should look like. PEOPLE ON DIET SHOULD LOOK AWAY NOW!!
Bruges is mainly free from all the big multinational names you find in the High Street. This makes shopping even more exciting, as you can spend hours looking around the numerous shops that sell a variety of things.
I will not bore you with these, but I have decided to specifically mention two shops, because it was one of the few times I got exciting with shopping. They both sell Xmas toys and gifts. Not only you can spend hours admiring them but it brings you back to the days when there were no electronics and kids were happy with hand-made wooden toys.
The first shop is actually part of a German (I think) chain, called “Kathe Wohlfahrt” (see website here)
The second shop, “De Witte Pelikaan”, is a local shop at Vlamingstraat 23 and does not even have a website. However it is a Xmas paradise for kids and adults alike.
Bruges is an amazing place. Whether you want to have a stress free holiday, a cultural holiday, a chocolate tasting one, a beer sampling one, or something in between, Bruges has plenty of. Above all, it is the safest place I have ever been.
Once you have sampled the quality of life in this beautiful town, you sit back and wonder how much you have been missing from your own home town/city.