Last month Russell and I enjoyed a last minuet long weekend in Bruges after I surprisingly won Eurostar tickets in a Twitter competition.
We've always wanted to visit Bruges due to its stunning scenery and notorious foodie scene and we were both desperate for a break, so the opportunity came at just the right time.
Hoping on the Eurostar to Brussels was a piece of cake. Once you get to the capital you're required to change onto an overhead train which takes about an hour to Bruges - your Eurostar ticket is valid on these trains so you can hop straight on (ask at information which train is the fastest, as some of the trains can take twice as long!).
The city is tiny (you can walk from one side to the other within half an hour) so we wheeled our bags noisily across the cobbles to our hotel near the main square. What hit us straight off the train was how beautiful the city is, even down the residential roads. Every single street is lined with beautiful buildings that are impeccably looked after - it's every photographers dream!
On our first morning we climbed to the top of the Belfort which is located in the main square (also known as the Markt). With 366 steps that spiral up 82 meters this was a real experience as the stairwell is rather narrow at parts and the steps aren't even - comfortable flat shoes are a must! Once we reached the top (after a few pit stops to catch our breath) we were awarded with stunning views of the city.
A 'must do' trip during your stay is the canal tour. There's many places across the city which offer the trips and they're all priced at €8 for half an hour. I believe only 20 boats are allowed on the water at the same time so I'd suggest going on a week day as we saw large queues forming on Saturday and Sunday.
The tour itself was great as we had an older skipper who had been doing it for years; he gave a brief overview of the sites and there were lots of photo opps - just make sure you bag yourself a good seat as they cram you in like sardines!
Looking back we should have done this on our first day as it gave a great overview of the city and showed us a few sites that weren't mentioned in our tour guides.
We discovered it was pretty hard to find good value and great tasting meals in the city, so decided to focus on the great snacks Belgium is famous for.
There's lots of cafes offering hot and cold macchiatos and we came across Li O Lait after reading another bloggers post. It offers a relaxing hub in the centre of town with free wifi and cheap snacks.
I'm not a massive beer fan, but the dark beer in Bruges is addictive when served with a pot of Bruges cheese and a mild mustard dip.
If you're not a beer expert check out De Zandloper TapHouse, which has 18 beers on tap, super friendly staff and an outside seating area that is a sun trap all day long.
A visit to De Halve Maan Brewery (the only brewery left in the city of Brugues) was also a highlight of our trip. We learnt how beer is made and had a great tour which taught us not only about the drink but also the history of the city. The beer is pretty good too!
Although Godiva can be found in other cities, there's nothing like visiting the shop in its home town. Their hot chocolate is heavenly and you'll spot their chocolate strawberries being eaten around the main square and won't be able to resist giving them a visit. If you're looking to buy chocolate, head to the shops near the Frite museum as these are half the price compared to those in the centre.
The best waffle we had was from Oyya, another blogger recommendation. Topped with a classic cherry ice cream, I wish we had visited sooner so we could have squeezed in another trip before we left.
We both spent a ridiculous amount of money in search for the the perfect Flemish stew with apple sauce, Belgian fries, eels in a cream sauce and north sea mussels, only to be disappointed every time.
Our best find? Chez Vincent - the service is rude and it's basically a fast food restaurant, but you can order stew, fries and croquettes for a fraction of the price and the food is just as good as the fancy restaurants rated within the top ten on Trip Advisor.
All in all, Bruges is THE most beautiful city I have visited to date - it has a relaxed atmosphere and has just enough to see and do over a long weekend so you're not bored but don't feel rushed either.
Just stay away from the fancy restaurants and focus on the smaller, niche vendors for small plates throughout your day.