Bruges is a city of superlatives – the best preserved medieval old town, the most gorgeous gothic architecture, the most romantic city. But there will come a time when you’ve seen enough, and fancy a drink and a sit down in one of the many bars. Here are the best three bars in Bruges, in no particular order.
Café Rose Red (Cordoeaniersstraat 16, website)
The first thing you notice after stepping off the street into Café Rose Red is its intimate décor. There are red roses dangling from exposed wooden beams on the ceiling, wooden floorboards and heavy wooden tables with candles and more red roses in pots.
Can a bar that specialises in strong Trappist beers be described as romantic? Well, this one is.
Like most bars in Belgium, it has a massive menu of beers which are then categorised into Trappist, Abbey, Fruit and Belgian Speciality. Drinking here is so different to drinking in the UK, where you may have a choice of four or five beers if you’re lucky.
The service is excellent, as the staff have an encyclopaedic knowledge of Belgian beer so can make recommendations if you’re stuck. When they bring your beer to the table, you can see their passion as they tilt the glass and pour from the bottle slowly to perfection.
I particularly enjoyed the Liefmans Kriek Cuveé Brut cherry beer – this 6% concoction comes in champagne-style bottles with popping corks and wrapped in paper. Kat, not a massive beer lover, raved over the Cava and said the wine was pretty good too.
There are hotel rooms upstairs, so the bar closes at midnight. Last orders are called at 11.30 when barstaff approach every table to ask if you’d like one final beer – I challenge anyone who drinks here to turn that offer down.
And if you’re wondering, the name comes from a Stephen King TV series.
Wijnbar Est (Brambergstraat 7, website)
Belgium may be known for its beer, but who knew the country also produces wine?
The tiny Wijnbar Est, near the fish market, is a great place to try reds and whites from all over the world. I tried a glass of very palatable, if a bit thin, Belgian red while Kat went for a glass of Cava.
I shouldn’t have been so surprised, as Belgium shares borders with the world’s number 1 (France) and number 10 (Germany) wine producing countries.
The bar is in a traditional house with two floors separated by a dangerously steep looking staircase. We were lucky to get the last remaining table downstairs, and took our time as we enjoyed the wine, warmth and candlelight before we left to Bruges’ November rain. I can’t think of many other bars that so perfectly suit the word “cosy”.
‘t Brugs Beertje (Kemelstraat 5, website)
A Bruges institution, and recommended in every guide book, “Bruges’ Little Bear” is on a side-street off Steenstraat, the main shopping street. If you walk down Steenstraat from the Markt it is on your right after about 200 metres – just look out for the bar’s sign of a bear hugging a huge beer glass with the letters BB on it.
It’s a fantastic place to sit and enjoy a few delicious Belgian beers – there are over 300 different beers, and while we didn’t try them all, we made a sizeable dent in the menu in our two afternoon visits.
The bar only opens at 4pm, but by 4.30 it’s heaving so get here early if you want a seat. At weekends, they open up an extra room at the back. The décor is old-fashioned but homely – it’s like boozing in your gran’s front room.
There are beige tiles on the floor and the smoke-stained brown wallpaper is covered with Belgian beer signs and posters. You wouldn’t have fancied sitting in here before the smoking ban was brought in – I doubt if you’d have been able to see the other side of the room.
There’s a good mix of tourists of all ages and nationalities, and a few locals too, but this being Bruges you will find mainly tourists. There are cheese and salami nibbles on the menu, but let’s face it – you only come here for the beer!