Travel: in search of trendy Bruges in autumn

It’s famous around the world! On the intercity train from Ghent, I got talking to two guys from Portland, Oregon who couldn’t believe that we Europeans think America is so cool. We can delight in our cultural heritage every day and they look up at skyscrapers. Ok, bully for you Yanks, but I also want something cool alongside the old-fashioned beauty. Old people like to look around churches. I want the cool stuff!

That’s right. Bruges wants that too. It wants more than hordes of tourists all scrambling to Markt to take selfies in front of the Belfry. Or sailing around in little boats on a sunny day.

So, let’s get straight to the point. Where should we go when we’re in Bruges?

Just start at the Markt. This is somewhere you should have been to already, as it really is a nice place. However, then you should leave the tourist trap immediately and go to Hoogstraat. Walk along Langestraat until you reach Kruispoort. There are several hidden gems nestling in this part of the city.

Beers at De Kelk

After visiting the cabinet of curiosities at Depot d’O, I like to visit 30/Highstreet Art Gallery and then get my obligatory daily fix of cappuccino at Hermanus. This is a cafe that has gleaming motor bikes, both outside and inside. You can not only drink a delicious coffee here, but also buy an old-school café racer including a shiny helmet and gloves. Fortunately, I don’t have my motor cyclist’s licence because after a couple of beers at the neighbouring De Kelk I am definitely be incapable of riding a motor bike.

Then check out Sint Jakobsstraat and Ezelstraat. This main road is full of creative young entrepreneurs who have opened cool little shops and bars. Take a look in the MakersRepubliek where you can buy local products made by hand or Gouts et Couleurs where they have absolutely crazy gifts. One more tip, and you really MUST follow this one, is to go to Chocolaterie and Biscuiterie Spegelaere (doesn’t the name alone make your mouth water?). Here you should try the “Zoenen” (marshmallow tea cakes, “kisses” in English). Don't try the regular ones, but the ones with hazelnuts in. Yes, they are a kind of “negerzoen” (chocolate-covered tea cake), but they're absolutely delicious. I even went back into the shop to thank the good man who had sold this to me.

Zoenen (Kisses)!

This is a perfect segue to the other side of Burgundian gastronomy. If you want a top-class dinner, then walk in and make a reservation at Bonte B. Splendid dishes, delicious wine and pure enjoyment. A good place for lunch is Bistro Bruut, where the “patron” has new dishes on the menu every day. He finds his daily inspiration at the market and comes back with explosive tastes. Drink a beer or two at Cafe des Amis, and then get some rest at the relaxing and modern hotel Monsieur Maurice!

Bruges, I have discovered your coolness. Next time I’ll bring my girlfriend with me and I’ll discover your romantic side too. The smell of the autumn breeze, leaves falling from trees, the medieval canals, the swans, the winding streets and cobbled squares. Are you going to invite me again?