Rather than providing a list of other people’s choices for the best restaurants in Bruges, I’ll present tips to help you choose the best restaurants for you. You can use this concept when visiting most other northern European cities.
The Storybook Town of Bruges
Bruges (spelled “Brugge” in Flemish, one of the languages in Belgium) has dozens of restaurant choices line the main streets in the medieval heart of the city, radiating from the central market, known as Markt. It is captivating, filled with wonderfully authentic things to do.
Its exceptionally well-preserved ancient architecture from the 15th to 17th centuries makes it the town pictured in the imagination whenever a storybook or fairy tale is told.
The old city is an island surrounded by canals connecting it to the North Sea, navigable rivers, and a canal system leading into France. It’s possible to take a canal tour from Brugge to Paris, but that’s a story for another day.
One lovely walk is Breidelstraat, which connects the city hall complex with Belfort, the Belfry. This is the tallest municipally-owned bell tower in the world. With over 360 steps to the top, it’s open daily for overviews of medieval Brugge.
The native language in Brugge and most of Flanders is Dutch. My carriage tour guide told me that Brugge heroes fought off the French when they tried to take the city and impose the language. As a result, the principality (at that time) chose Dutch as its language. Most people speak fluent English, but many prefer not to speak French in deference to winning the battle in 1302.
Brugge is under an hour by train from Brussels, spelled Bruxelles in Flemish, with more than 70 daily departures.
Brugge, like most holiday destinations (in nearly all countries except the United States, “vacation” means “holiday”), has a wide variety of restaurants. Even in the heart of Bruges, it includes American standards McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC, and Dunkin—although each is nestled into medieval buildings.
For the foodie, there are many options, from grab-and-go patisseries to extraordinary, for a special occasion Michelin top-rated dining room choices. That means budgets of economical (€ and €€, $ and $$) to budget-straining (€€€€, $$$$).
Cuisines include standard global fare, like hamburgers and fries (don’t call them French fries in Europe) to country and traditional Belgian fare, such as Flemish beef stew, to classic French. International foods include Mediterranean, Italian, Indian, and even Thai options. Spanish tapas are also popular. Then there’s the Brugge ice cream. It’s so delicious (but I have to say Cornish ice cream is a tad creamier). Whenever you’re in the mood, something is appealing nearby.
With its proximity to the North and Baltic seas and the Atlantic Ocean, Brugge has many seafood restaurants with fish not common to the U.S. or varieties of similar fish different from the typical North American fare. Scottish salmon, a Baltic white fish, and mussels were quite good.
Everywhere, friendly service is what’s found at restaurants of all genres. Nearly all menus are in English.
How Much Does a Restaurant Meal Cost in Brugge?
When budgeting for meals, remember that the value of a dollar fluctuates against the Euro.
In late 2023, one Euro was equal to US$1.07. In November 2022, US$1 was only €0.97, and when I was in Brugge, €1 was US$1.12. Due to a lucky purchase tip, I had a 10 percent bonus when spending those Euros.
When planning a European trip, start tracking Euros and buy some at a local bank when the exchange rate is close to even.
Fast Casual Dining in Brugge
While a restaurant typically means fine dining—and if a descriptor is absent in the establishment’s name, it’s likely a restaurant. It’s good to know the descriptors:
- Café: Primarily, a café is a coffee house featuring drinks—sometimes including beer and wine—and light dining or snacks.
- Bistro: Serving simple, traditional local dishes, a bistro is a relaxed, cozy atmosphere. Many local restaurants have the bistro flair. Some bistros may even host a wine bar.
- Brasserie: More like a formal restaurant, although the settings can be informal, a brasserie has a broader menu offering, offers beer, wine, and drinks, and may serve brunch, lunch, and dinner.
- Patisserie: Baking fresh pastries, muffins, and sweet treats, many patisseries have seating and offer sandwiches or picnic meals. A patisserie, however, does not bake its bread.
- Boulangerie: The bread bakers are in the boulangeries. They may also sell sandwiches, coffee, and drinks and bake pastries and sweets, but to be called a boulangerie, they must bake their own bread.
These Go on the ‘Must-Try’ List
Ask for a local, craft Belgian beer instead of an ordinary commercial label. After the first few swallows, it will be evident that Colorado’s Blue Moon “Belgian” ale is inspired by but definitely not a Belgian-crafted beer. The Westmalle beers are rich in taste and quenching, particularly the Tripel, first brewed in 1934. There are so many others.
Many U.S. products advertise Belgian chocolate. One taste and the reason is unmistakable. The chocolates in Bruges are decadent, not too sweet, and the combinations seem infinite. Neuhaus Chocolates, available in the U.S. at Macy’s, on Steenstraat west of Markt, is one of the many confectionaries in the town.
First introduced into the United States at the 1964 New York World’s Fair, Belgian waffles are far different from a waffle with a deep pocket. Belgian waffles are made with extra eggs, even more butter, and raised with yeast rather than baking powder.
They are a crunch treat at places like the House of Waffles or Waffle Atelier. They’re served for eating on the go or standing at a counter In most waffleterias. Powdered sugar, heaps of fresh fruit, and compote, Belgian waffles are not drowned in syrup in Bruges. The flavors are extraordinary.
Dining places and outdoor restaurants are all over the old city. Wandering from the northwest corner of Markt down Sint-Amandsstraat takes you past ten dining experiences.
More than a dozen places to eat with large outdoor dining areas surround the Belfort (Belfry) and encircle Markt.
West of the city center, across the Kapucijnenrei canal, ‘T Zand—a town square; the location of the performance center and the park also features a selection of dining places.
Some hidden gems are scattered in the old town. Chez Albert Breidelstraat is located on the stretch of Sint-Amandsstraat between the Belfry and City Hall.
Wander north of Markt into the narrow streets of the oldest parts of Brugge, and Le Mystique is quietly set away from the crowds on Niklaas Desparsstraat.
Set away from the side-by-side places to dine, the Belgian Pigeon House in Sint-Jansstraat is close to various historic and boutique hotels.
Finding the independently-rated top restaurants means using the Michelin Travel Guide.
Michelin, the tire company, created its restaurant guide to promote traveling to restaurants with such an exceptional dining experience that they are worthy driving destinations. The company was hoping to encourage vehicle use and selling their tires.
It has only three grades, a listing, and one or two stars. Nearly all Michelin-starred restaurants anywhere are très cher ($$$$ or €€€€), very expensive but worth the cost. Two stars mean the restaurant is at the top of the fine dining scale and a definite destination for top-flight dining no matter how far. One star means it’s well worth the trip.
Bib Gourmand’s recommendations mean the restaurant offers excellent dining at a lesser cost than the starred restaurants. A recommendation means the restaurant is worthy of seeking out.
Brugge has two 2-star Michelin dining establishments, DeJonkman and Bartholomeus, and 12 with one-star. Three rate Bib Gourmand recognition. Another 70 or so dining places make the recommendation list.
The Michelin Recognized Restaurants
- De Jonkman
- Sans Cravate
- De Zuidkant
- Bar Bulot
- Kok Sur Mer
- Sel Gris
- Boo Raan
- Willem Hiele
- Plat préféré
- Bib Gourmand
- Locàle by Kok au Vin
- Den Duyventooren