Where to stay: I have never stayed in Bruges overnight because there really isn’t a need to unless you want a nice relaxing weekend of wandering around. If you do want to stay overnight, though, I would go with an Airbnb rental, as most of the hostels are close in price to Airbnb anyway, and their ratings aren’t that great. Bruges has a lovely old center, and you’ll definitely want to be staying in that part of the city. The streets are cobblestones, and there are tons of chocolate shops, restaurants, and cafes to give you plenty to do when you’re staying in the middle of it all.
Where to eat: If you’re in Bruges in the summer (July-September ish), and you like seafood, you really need to try Moules Frites. This dish is fairly common all along the coast in Normandy and Belgium, and it’s certainly a specialty of that region of the world. The dish consists of a bucket of mussels in some sort of sauce (white wine, garlic, etc.) and a basket of french fries. It seems basic enough, but you can’t walk the streets of Bruges without seeing the outdoor cafés full of orders of these! As far as snack foods go, you’ll definitely want to try some chocolate. Bruges chocolate is unlike any other I’ve ever had (and that’s a pretty significant statement!), so you should absolutely head into a chocolatier shop to pick some up. Godiva is actually a Belgian chocolate brand, but try going to a more local shop- this way you’re trying something that you can only really get there. I personally liked the chocolate shop Dumon. It’s in a big square, and has a ton of different options in terms of flavors and combinations, and the prices aren’t too bad! The other snack specialty is the Belgian waffle, so make sure to hit up a snack stand for one of those tasty treats!
What to do: One of the best things about Bruges is that there aren’t a thousand and one places that you might feel “required” to see while you’re there. The biggest claim to fame for this town is the Bruges Madonna, a statue carved by Michelangelo in the cathedral, which has been recently featured in The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel. Aside from this one attraction, there are several museums in Bruges, but the real attraction is the beauty of the city. There are many canals running through the city center which serve no purpose in modern times other than to escort tourists around on boats. Although this does sound like a fairly tourist-y thing to do, it’s certainly worth doing on a beautiful day because you’re able to get some amazing views of the city’s architecture from a unique perspective on the water. There is also the Bruges Belfry, which is a tall tower right in the main square of the town. You’re able to climb this tower, and it will provide you with spectacular views of the city. Just choose when you decide to go carefully, as the lines can get pretty long and there is only room for a fairly small number of people at the top of the tower.
Overall Opinion: Bruges is a really gorgeous city, and it’s definitely worth a stop if you’re headed through or near Belgium. It has fairly easy access from both France and Holland, so it could make a good day trip from many places. Although the city itself is a bit touristy, if you’re looking for a completely picturesque small village to explore, this one will more than likely fit the bill!