Bruges on a budget
The setting for an award-winning comedy movie, “In Bruges,” and sometimes called the Venice of the North, Bruges is the hidden gem of Belgium. An hour train ride away from Brussels, Bruges is admired for its historic city center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and architecture which sharply contrasts Brussels’ modern landscape. If you’re undecided on your next weekend trip, I recommend you look into Bruges.
However, in a country like Belgium where the standard of living is high, vacationing is not cheap. This is especially true in a small town like Bruges, which depends on tourism. But this doesn’t mean the trip has to be expensive. Take a tip or two from this guide, and you’ll leave Bruges happy knowing you got the best of the city for the lowest prices.
Bruges has plenty of hostels and hotels, some much more expensive than others. You could stay at Duke’s Palace, a former residence of Bruges’ aristocracy, for 150 euros a night, but that isn’t necessary for a good night’s sleep. Luckily, the city has budget accommodations for everyone. For solo travelers, I suggest the Snuffel Hostel. It has one of the cleanest dorms I have ever been to and lockers are provided for free. The staff of locals can help you find cheap eats and good bars. For 22 euros a night, it’s hard to beat, especially if you consider the free breakfast. B&B Fort Lapin is a budget hotel offering private rooms for 45 euros a night, perfect for couples or families. They also offer free breakfast, and the establishment is known to provide good value for its price.
Eating out in Bruges is the most expensive part of the trip. Meal prices ranges from 15 to 20 euros, more if you eat in the city center. There are, however, some local establishments that have good dishes for the budget traveler willing to walk five minutes from the square.
One such place is the Bruges Chicken House. For 10 euros, you can get a plate of fries, salad and half a chicken. While it doesn’t sound like a lot, the generous portions left me and my companion with little room for dessert. Another budget-friendly place, recommended by the Snuffel Hostel staff, is Minnewater. The restaurant offers authentic Belgian food for reasonable prices, a rarity in Bruges. The staff is friendly, and the drinks aren’t too expensive. However, this restaurant is slightly expensive, so if the prices don’t match your taste, look into Brasserie Medard. This bistro offers a small portion of spaghetti for only 3 euros, a value deal. The rest of the menu, various Italian dishes and local drinks are priced at extremely fair rates. The establishment is a must for the low-budget traveler.
If you’re in Belgium, buying chocolates is a given. Thankfully, Bruges has plenty of chocolate shops. While you can buy the more expensive artisan chocolate with its hefty price tags, I found that many of the local shops have comparable goods for cheaper prices. Two places you should check out are Chocoholic and the Chocolate Line. Chocoholic is a local chocolate shop with three branches in Bruges. The chocolate is amazing for the price, and the stores are definitely popular. Chocolate Line, unlike the Leonidas and Godiva shops that dot the city, offers a unique experience for visitors. Their chocolates come in interesting tastes and shapes; flavors such as sake, earl grey, hot lips and poppy can be found in the shop, and chocolate lip stick or balms are also offered. The prices are also pretty reasonable — a bar of Belgian chocolate costs about 4 euros.
With so many sites and museums to visit, the Bruges Card offers quite the value for the budget traveler. The card grants free access to many places of interests, such as the Historium, where you can learn about the history of Bruges with an intriguing, interactive audio/movie tour, or the Belfry, the city’s most recognizable tower.
It also includes a brewery tour and free sample at the De Halve Maan, a local brewery known for producing delicious beer, and entrance to Choco-Story, a chocolate museum where you learn about the history of chocolate and see a live demonstration. The card also gives discounts on various things, such as bicycle rentals and different attractions. The tourist office in the central station sells the Bruges Card. It comes in two or three-day passes costing 47 and 53 euros respectively, a great deal because museums and attraction entrance fees quickly add up.