THE BLOG

A Weekend in Bruges

15/01/2013 13:55 GMT | Updated 14/03/2013 09:12 GMT

One of the downsides of traveling is the fairly painful experience of most airports, that's why anywhere that you can reach by train instantly gets bonus points from me.

Bruges is easily accessible from London via the fast and efficient Eurostar train service. They offer a 'Belgium - Any Station' ticket which includes the connecting journey from Brussels.

The train station at Bruges is nearly close enough to walk into town. Most people take the bus. The foolish (or so I felt) wait in the cold for taxis that, on the day of my arrival, were few and far between.

I was staying at the Hotel Jacobs - a low-cost option that I'd sourced online from www.lastminute.com. On first impressions this was a fairly underwhelming and uninspiring hotel, but on the upside its location was pretty good and I could walk to everywhere that I wanted to go. Definitely not the worst hotel that I've ever stayed in, although I have stayed in some really awful hotels.

Bruges is undoubtedly a pretty town - ticking all the boxes that non-Europeans envisage all cities in Europe to embody: Cobbled streets; stone houses; canals and waterways; historic churches; and years of history so old that most of it is forgotten.

This probably isn't a city to visit if you're on a diet - Belgium is renowned for its chocolate, its beer, its fries, and its waffles. Bruges dishes all of these national foodstuffs with pride and in spades.

I was visiting just before Christmas, and (like most European cities at this time of year) the main square was given over to a bustling Christmas market and ice-skating rink. It was impossible to walk past the stand selling mini-waffles, fresh and hot off the griddle the small sweet mouthfuls of fried buttery batter were a real treat.

My other waffle indulgence was at the cafe Prestige Brugge - a full-sized waffle, dusted with icing sugar, served with a big pot of piping hot chocolate. This was one of the few cafes in Bruges that offered free wifi, so I became a frequent visitor.

One of my favorite meals was at the restaurant Jan van Eyck - overlooking the square and the statue all celebrating the famous Flemish painter. I had a cheese croquette (essentially a deep fried ball of cheese) followed by steak and all washed down with some Leffe blond beer. Very good.

The best bar that I found was Bar des Amis in the centre of town. A small space on a dark street corner, I squeezed into a space at the bar and tucked into the local blond beer. The atmosphere was warm and the lighting was low and flattering.

If I was designing a postcard to advertise the beauty of old Europe to visitors around the world, then the city of Bruges would be front and centre.