To find a bunch of hip foodie hotspots in the historical center of Bruges here in Belgium, that was my mission when I went to spend two days in the city last week.
I especially want to find some fun coffee bars as they're often great for throwing yourself into a chair and enjoying a much-needed break from exploring. I don't know about you, but I always tend to walk a lot and cover more ground than I initially planned.
I wore my FitBit on my trip to Bruges and that's how I knew that I walked about 12 km the first day and about 10 the second. Not that shabby, ay?
But I digress.
It wasn't that hard to find a bunch of coffee bars with good reviews for Bruges. The struggle seemed to be in their opening times. Lots of places were closed on Monday, Tuesday or both of those days, and of course, my trip took place on a Monday-Tuesday.
Secondly, there was the matter of the Easter Break. Several places I'd looked up were on holiday the week I was visiting and hadn't put that on their website so I only found out when I was already there and spotted the note on the door.
Luckily, there were still quite a few that were open and gladly supplied me with caffeine and sweets.
7 hotspots in Bruges, Belgium, including a fun budget accommodation option
1. Sanseveria Bagelsalon
Sanseveria Bagelsalon is named after the plants that welcome guests by the window and the bagels on its menu. When I went there for lunch, the place was pretty crowded with both locals and tourists.
Aside from bagels, you can also find quiches, salads and homemade sweets on the menu. I decided to go for what the cafe is known for and ordered a “John”, a bagel with brie, honey, thyme, walnuts, cream cheese and salad.
Even though it was busy, the waitress brought my elderflower drink pretty quickly and a while later my John arrived. Think a thick, tasty bagel stuffed so full that all the goodness comes out from the sides when you have that first bite. As it should.
Usually when I eat alone, I tend to check my phone a lot. This time, however, I decided to observe what was happening around me. I could see the waitress going from table to table to make sure everything was fine for everyone, a girl coming from the kitchen with freshly a freshly baked egg to put on a bagel and a kid's face disappear when she took a bite out of hers.
All of this in a vintage interior dominated by a green patterned wall in the back and the large windows in the front.
I paid €7.5 for my bagel and around €2.5 for my drink, which I thought was pretty reasonable for the otherwise rather expensive Bruges.
Sanseveria Bagelsalon, Predikherenstraat 11, 8000 Bruges
2. Vero Caffè
While it was packed at Sanseveria Bagelsalon, there was just one couple enjoying the sun on the terrace of Vero Caffè. Being the chilly chicken that I am, I opted for a seat inside and ordered a cappuccino. As there was no-one there, I asked the girl behind the counter if I could quickly get some shots of the place. “No problem!”, she smiled.
Later, she would ask me if the photos were for a blog. When I confirmed and handed her my card, she made my day: “Hey, I've seen you on Instagram!”. Not quite world famous yet, but getting there :D
I always go for the smallest table when I'm by myself. That's not always the best spot, so I was happy to see a couple nest themselves into the comfi-looking couches by the window while I was slurping from my cappuccino. They too preferred the certain warmth of the cafe over the still frail sun.
When I got up to pay (€3.20), I learned that Vero Caffè only accepts cash so I offered the girl to leave my ID behind while I went to withdraw some money, as I didn't have any. “That's alright,” she said, I trust you.” She smiled at me and I couldn't help but think how nice that was.
As was the coffee, by the way, which came with a small piece of cake.
Vero Caffè, Sint-Jansplein 9, 8000 Bruges
3. Li O Lait
At Li O Lait you can find colorful art on the walls, lots of coffee options on the menu and delicious sweets at the counter. I opted for a latte and a brownie which I enjoyed while watching all kinds of people go in and out. There was a family who came for sweets, a man who was joined by his dog in the cafe's inner courtyard and a guy who came for a cup of takeaway.
The latté was a good latté, but I want to talk to you about that brownie. See, a lot can go wrong with a brownie. It can be tasty but too heavy, light but too dry, rich in flavor but crumbly in texture. None of those things were going on with the brownie I had.
Its chocolate flavor caressed my tongue as my teeth sunk into that soft rectangle that flattened a bit under the pressure before bouncing up again after I'd taken my bite. It was moist without being runny, rich without feeling like a brick in my stomach after. It was the right kind of brownie.
Cost: €6.2 for the latté and brownie.
Li O Lait, Dweersstraat 30, 8000 Bruges
4. Kottee Kaffee
Kottee Kaffee was the surprise of the bunch. Located in a small street, the inconspicuous front door opens up into a spacious room with tables against the walls and magazines to read in the center.
The counter is in the back, accompanied by different pastries and breads on display. The regular menu needs to fight for attention with the large chalkboard against the wall.
This was one of two coffee bars I visited together with Stephen from Epic Gap Year, another travel blogger who happened to be in Bruges at the same time I was. When I spotted mattentaarten (a kind of pastry made with milk and almonds) on the menu, I told him it was something typically Belgian and persuaded him to try one. The man who runs the place came to my aid by mentioning that they were freshly made and still warm.
He was a chatty guy, happy to give information on the items on his menu and proud to tell the table next to us that all of his breads were made with different grains, none of which were wheat. Some contained gluten, but he had gluten-free options as well for those who needed that.
Our mattentaarten were indeed still warm when they arrived, together with Stephen's coffee and my elderflower iced tea. We also got some chocolate and biscuits on the side, something Stephen got highly excited about.
For me, it's normal. It's customary in Belgium to get a biscuit or a chocolate when you order a coffee and I always miss it when I go abroad.
We paid €14 in total, €3.5 for every item we'd ordered.
Kottee Kaffee, Korte Zilverstraat 8, 8000 Bruges
5. Hemelse Taartjes
I spotted Hemelse Taartjes when I headed to Sanseveria Bagelsalon. It was hard for me no to, with a name as “Heavenly Cakes”. I figured I'd need a proper lunch first, though, and I returned to Hemelse Taartjes at the end of the day. And the next day as well (woops).
Everything about this store screams “frosting”. The interior has lots of pink and purple, the chairs on the terrace count more curls than a poodle and the cupcakes in the window would lure in even the toughest health freak.
When I walked in, I was in serious need of a cup of tea and so you can imagine how happy I was when the guy brought me not a cup, but a teapot with enough for two cups of Earl Grey, accompanied by some biscuits and chocolates as well as the cupcake I'd ordered. Now this cupcake didn't just have frosting on top, it also had a bit on the inside. Yum!
I went back the next day to grab lunch before leaving town and ordered a “Jasmine”, a sandwich with brie, jam, almonds, and salad. I also had another teapot of Earl Grey, obviously.
The Earl Grey + cupcake was €5.5 while the Earl Grey with a sandwich was €7.5.
Hemelse Taartjes, Langestraat 29, 8000 Bruges
GingerBread was the first cafe I visited together with Stephen. We were actually on our way to Kottee Kaffee when we walked past this place and I was like “Oh!” because it looked so cute and, well, it was called GingerBread :D
We went in for a coffee (Stephen) and tea (me) but decided to pass on the waffles, pancakes, and bagels they also had on the menu. I was happy with their wide selection of teas and the one I got was a combination of Earl Grey and black Belgian chocolate!
When it arrived, the scent of chocolate filled up my nostrils but you couldn't taste the chocolate as strongly as you could smell it.
It wasn't the first time I had chocolate in my tea. I'd tried it with green tea before and can say that both combinations are tasty!
GingerBread was decorated for Easter and so instead of a cookie, we got small soft chocolate easter eggs with ur drinks. Even better was that we could get some more when we paid :-)
Cost: €6.9 for the cappuccino and the tea.
GingerBread, Sint-Amandsstraat 29, 8000 Bruges
7. The Bauhaus Bar
The Bauhaus Bar at the St Christopher's Inn Hostel and Apartments isn't a typical coffee spot – though you can definitely get coffee here – but it deserves a mention as it's most certainly hip. The dark wooden interior makes you feel like anything goes no matter the time of day but the large mirrors on the wall make sure you keep things in check at least a little.
There's a massive clock begging to be photographed (I obliged) and those with sensitive noses can still smell last night's party.
This is a place for the budget-minded, with beers selling at less than €2 and a spirits happy hour from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. Not kidding.
Sports fans can watch their favorite team on one of the international channels while travelers from around the world share stories with each other.
The Bauhaus Bar
Where to stay in Bruges: St Christopher's Inn Hostel and Apartments
At the same time, St Christopher's Hostel offers some of the cheapest accommodation in Bruges with dorms rooms of 4 to 16 beds and private apartments sleeping from 2 to 4 people.
I'm not a dorm person, so I stayed at one of the apartments which are located a couple of houses down from the bar. My apartment had a living room, kitchen, separate bedroom space and large bathroom. Have a look:
Prices for a two- to four-person apartment range from €240 to €285 for the weekend and come with free breakfast at the bar included if you book directly on the Bauhaus website.
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I was invited to spend a night at St Christopher's Inn Bruges. I was completely free to choose what I'd write about and how.