Bruges (Dutch Brugge, French Bruges) is the city, which is incredibly lucky: it has been thriving throughout its history – at first on the account of trade and now thanks to tourism. Not least of all, the city is obliged for its current popularity to the movie In Bruges, after watching which, even the ones who didn’t even dare to think of setting for Belgium started to pack their suitcases to visit dank Flanders. It is worth considering when getting ready for your journey: even a few months prior to it a majority of hotels might have been reserved, thus, you’d better choose the accommodation well in advance.
There is no doubt that such a popular-among-tourists city is not overlooked by the hotel chains (in particular, ibis, Novotel, NH, Best Western, etc.), however, it is Bruges exactly where I would recommend you to disregard the network monsters and to stay at any small hotel in a historic building. From my perspective, in this case you will have a better chance to take the atmosphere of the medieval town in. That impression is further reinforced by the décor elements that the landlords of the local hotels use in the design of their buildings: wooden roof beams, carved ceilings, Dutch ware furnaces, home floor mats and pillows, fireplaces, hunter's trophies, and even napkins made of famous Bruges lace in places. A considerable part of local hotels is Bed&Breakfast, owned by local families, who, like anybody else, are interested in making the guests enjoy their pastime there. This is an indisputable advantage in their favor. However, in these old buildings you may face draught, creaking wooden floors and narrow steep stairs using which it will be hard to lift your luggage. You are to read comments on the booking sites thoroughly in order to stay away from all these unpleasant nuances. Having said that, if you are going to set off for Bruges in winter, special heed should be paid to the description of the heating system, because from October to April the weather in Bruges is rather dank, and the ancient buildings are poorly warmed up. You should bear in mind other points, which are important to you (breakfast, elevators, internet, etc.). A majority of problems can be solved on the spot, by asking the owners to get an additional heater or a warmer blanket, if you are freezing, or for a hotel room on the first floor, if it is a problem for you to climb up the stairs (though the latter, certainly, should be discussed while booking).
What Area is the Best to Stay in Bruges?
Bruges Railway Station Area
Bruges is organized simply enough: the Old Town is delineated with a series of channels and looks like a large oval in the map, in the South-Western part of which the railway station is located. It is worth staying near the station: 1) if you are visiting Bruges for 1-2 nights in transit and then are planning to go to Ghent and Ostend; or 2) if you are traveling by car and don’t want to waste time (and nerve sometimes) searching for a place to park in the historic downtown and are not willing to overpay for accommodation in the medieval building, considering the hotel only as a place to stay for a night. However, the station is located close enough to the downtown and it takes you only 15 minutes to get to square. Thus, if when choosing the hotel, the main challenge of yours is to cut down expenses on accommodation, then again it is the very area to stay at. A nice option in terms of any of the aforementioned purposes may be a hotel of one of the well-known chains – ibis budget Brugge Centrum Station (actually, there are no other options in close vicinity to the railway station).
Historic Centre of Bruges
It is worth staying in the Southern part of Bruges historic downtown, if you are fond of quite private locations. This district is situated a little aside from the main sightseeing attractions, at the same time they are within 10-15 minutes walking distance, and the railway station is not far from it – about 10 minutes’ walk, and you don’t have to drag your luggage through the downtown with its cobbled streets, outdoor cafes chairs and crowds of people, you can just have a stroll along the water. There are not many tourists and it is quiet at night. The beguinage on the shore of the lake is icing on the cake for the home comfort lovers. This is an idyllic place for walking and moreover some hotels overlook that place. A large number of the surrounding hotels are, in addition, surrounded by small gardens and grassplots near the water, where you can take a rest during the warm season. There is a couple of supermarkets in that district, where you can buy what you need. The disadvantages of that location are connected with a large number of mosquitoes (in summer), thus it makes sense to get a fumigator, especially if the description of the hotel does not state, that the hotel rooms are equipped with the air conditioning system. Here, I’d advise you to take a close look at such hotels as Hotel Egmond, B&B Koetshuis, B&B Den Witten Leeuw, B&B The Townhouse and ibis Brugge Centrum.
In the Western part of Bruges historic downtown there is another interesting neighborhood round St Saviour's Cathedral (Dutch Sint-Salvatorskathedraal). There are much fewer green areas than in the vicinity of beguinage, however, the houses are located so close to one another that you get the feeling of comfort and authenticity, and even romance, assonant with the spirit of Bruges. You can easily get lost in the foggy weather, however, the Cathedral lives up to its name – its saving spire is very convenient to use as a guide. The area is also attractive from the geographical point of view: it takes only a 10-minute walk to get to the railway station from there, to beguinage – 5-7 minutes, as well as to the central square of Bruges. Besides, there is one of the highways encircling Bruges, entering which you can get to the highway directing to Ghent (it takes 30 minutes to get from Bruges to Ghent). There are lots of parking lots and they usually are not free, but their numbers are greater than in the heart of the city. The cafes and restaurants can be regarded as possible disadvantages of that area, because they are on the first floors of the buildings – staying open up to the morning and producing noise. But, on the other hand, public catering establishments within reach is an advantage, and you can avoid a hotel room in a noisy place by carefully reading comments about hotels. Nice hotel options here include such places as B&B 1669, Bonobo Apart Hotel, B&B Le Foulage and B&B Huis ´T Schaep.
The central square in Bruges – Grote Markt, or simply Markt, i.e. The Market Square, is surrounded by pompous buildings, and in the center of the square Belfort bell tower lifts head. This is undoubtedly the center of all public life of the city: it is always crowded and noisy here thanks to the May Day demonstration, a show or concert, or just street musicians. On the eve of Christmas on Grote Markt the ice rink is built and festive fairs are arranged. The hotels located around can boast views of the square or the picturesque roofs of the nearby houses. It is particularly amazing when night illumination of Belfort and Church of Our Lady is turned on. The city sights are located either around the square or within a 5-10-minute walk from it (beguinage is an exception, it takes 15 minutes to reach it), the most interesting museums are (Memling, for example) also within walking distance. Here is a bulk of cafes and restaurants where you should definitely try the mussels, served in a large pot. However, popularity of that district turns out to be its drawback: due to tourists inflow, it loses a part of its charm. Besides, if you are planning to go to Bruges by car, then it is worth keeping in mind, that you are to look for a parking lot quite far from the square and then to reach the hotel on foot dragging all the suitcases along. You can be pushed off by the prices of accommodation in some local hotels: if the budget is limited, I advise you to have a closer look at such hotels as Martin's Brugge or Guest House Huyze Die Maene, but if you like to splash out your money, it is worth paying attention to Hotel De Orangerie. Other options are certainly available. A detailed list and a map of the hotels in Grote Markt district can be found here.
Finally, as for me, Green channel embankment (Groenerei) is particularly nice for accommodation in Bruges. Here we can stumble upon ivy- and moss-covered bridges and buildings and it looks like the buildings rise directly out of the water. This area is not a particularly inexpensive one, but one of the most charming. The local hotels usually have a restaurant with a terrace overlooking the water – romantique itself, but it is also an additional source of moisture, that you should take into consideration, if you want to stay at one of the hotels on the shore on the channel. To plunge into this pleasant atmosphere, you should book a hotel room with a view of the channel and swans. On the other hand, there is a chance, that every morning you will be woken up by loud-speakers of the passing tourist boats, thus to be on the safe side you’d better to take ear muffs with you. The local hotels worth considering include Die Swaene, Hotel Duc De Bourgogne and Relais Bourgondisch Cruyce.