Bruges is known for its beer, chocolate, and soaring bell tower, which were reasons enough for us to hop on the Ouibus and spend a couple days there.
Looking into what to do in Bruges made it pretty clear that I'm going to drive myself crazy if I try to scour the internet before every trip we take. Guidebooks are one thing, but the amount of info on the internet has created a different kind of FOMO for traveling. It's the fear of not seeing everything you're 'supposed to see' at a city or not eating the number one, all-time best rated thing.
How many times have you gone to a place and afterwards only remembered what you didn't see or didn't do? Probably not that often, because you remember your actual experience. That's the case for me at least, so as we continue our travels, I'm going to try to not have FOMO be a dominating factor in our plans.
That being said, I did look up some of the 'best' places to get beer and chocolate ahead of our trip, but I almost wish I hadn't. I still would have found both, and I doubt I would have been disappointed.
Now to the good stuff. The quality and variety of the Belgian beer available was very impressive. I unknowingly ordered beer at 2 different places that had guys with big noses on the bottles. I guess I have a thing for big noses?
Neither beer is one that I would pick out if I had had a better idea of what they actually were (a saison and a brown sour - not my typical go-tos), but I liked them both. So, if you go to a beer-hopping city in Europe or elsewhere, try to resist the urge to look up all the names on the menu. At some of these places, you'd be there all day because they have hundreds available. Whether you ask for a recommendation, choose one based on a coaster or cool sign in the bar, or pick blindly, you can use the time you would have spent doing research on your phone to try another one. Watch out, though - the ABV in these suckers is no joke (e.g. the Belgian tripels were 9-11%).
It's also usually a good idea to try the local brew. In Bruges it's the Brugse Zot Blond, and it's a nod how the people of Bruges got the nickname "Bruges fools." Here are some of the 'top' beer places we went to: 't Poatersgat, Cambrinus, ‘t Brugs Beertje, De Garre
The chocolate is also melt-in-your-mouth delicious. We went on a walking tour and the guide recommended this place. We also stopped in a couple others that seemed more local, but honestly, it would be hard for me to have chocolate and not be happy about it. Same with waffles. When you walk around Bruges and other cities in Belgium, you're greeted with the sweet, sweet smell of waffles on the streets. Don't fight it, just have one. Heck, have one with whipped cream or fruit or chocolate or all of the above.
In our podcast you can hear more about the bits of history we learned on the walking tour, including why there are swans in Bruges and a lovely area where nuns and other single women live. As an added bonus, you get to hear us botch the Flemish/Dutch language.
We also learned about the gorgeous bell tower, or belfry, the base of which was a cloth hall in the main square, Markt. In Bruges' heyday, the tower was used as a treasury and to keep watch for any incoming threats.
I loved hearing the bells chime throughout the day, and they were even more magical at night.
The city hall is also ornate and beautiful, as are the churches, and the streets and canals are lined with fantastic facades. We had almost 2 days of full sunshine, so we lucked out, but I didn't hate running back to our Airbnb in the rain at night or walking through the market in the morning mist. There's something about the way rain looks on cobblestone roads or maybe that's why they call it a fairy tale city...