Belgian Beer Breaks: Bruges & Beyond

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Bruges

Historic and very pretty, Bruges is famous for its old-world charm. With lots of great attractions and museums, sights to see and things to do, it’s no wonder that it’s one of our most popular destinations, both on the Eurostar and on our mini-cruise packages. Although Bruges is more closely associated with chocolate (of which it produces 170,000 tonnes annually), the sweet and distinctive Belgian Beers of the region are as much of a draw to this beautiful part of the world. Home to the internationally-renowned Bruges Beer Festival each February, this cultural hub is great for a short break all year round.

Bruges: The Perfect Place for a Beer Break?

As I’m sure you can imagine, Bruges is simply full of great bars and watering holes, and as one of our most popular short break destinations, we’ve had lots of personal recommendations over the years. There are three city beers, all well worth trying, and each with its own unique taste – don’t leave without trying Brugse Zot, Straffe Hendrik and Bourgogne de Flandres. Such a walkable city, the bars of Bruges are primed for exploration and are waiting to be discovered, but as a starting point, here are a couple of my favourites.

Burges-Duvel-Bar

For the sheer range of ales, over 300 different Belgian beers, a warm atmosphere and helpful bar staff on hand to offer their own recommendations, ‘t Brugs Beertje on Kemelstraat can’t be beaten. It’s an incredibly welcoming place, and a favourite of tourists wanting an authentic experience – there’s something about the place which makes it feel like a carefully-guarded secret passed down from traveller to traveller. All the more mainstream, and impeccably trendy, the Duvel Bar at the city’s Historium Museum is a very different kind of experience. It has a lovely vantage point over the picturesque Grote Markt square, and a range of light and fruity beers sure to tickle the taste buds; the museum itself is genuinely fascinating too, and if you’re travelling with kids it’s a great way for them to pass the time while you enjoy the bar!

Bruges, and Flanders more widely, has a proud beer-brewing heritage, but many of the city’s own breweries have left town in recent years. One of the few remaining is the wonderful, family-run De Halve Maan Brewery south of the centre – open for tours daily, arrange a tasting and stay for lunch and dine out on the charming terrace. Naturally enough for a city with both a Chocolate Museum and a Chip Museum, there’s also the Bruges Beer Museum; a fun and innovative way to learn about beer production, Trappists, and the different kinds of beer, it’s a more interactive alternative to a brewery tour.

Beyond Bruges: Beer around Belgium

Beginning to rival Bruges as the top destinations in Belgium, our Eurostar breaks to Brussels are becoming increasingly popular. The terrific art museums and world-class restaurants aren’t the only draw; the countless cafes are great for sampling the product from the capital’s two traditional breweries – Cantillon and the Zenne Brewery, both highly-regarded.  Arguably however it’s Leuven, about 20 miles to the east of Brussels, that’s the capital of beer-brewing in the country. The Leuven Beer Weekend is the biggest Belgian beer festival in the world and, whilst it’s most famous export comes from the Stella Artois Brewery, there are lots of smaller, artisanal breweries to visit too.

Brussels-Antwerp-Ghent-Ostend

Antwerp’s most famous beer is the amber ale Bolleke Koninck, and Belgium’s most populated city is both vibrant and cosmopolitan. The light and foamy Duvel is also widely drunk here, and it’s perfectly socially acceptable to start drinking this pale beer as early as 9 a.m. in the local cafeterias. An up-and-coming short break destination, Ghent in East Flanders is also popular with beer tours; their speciality is the use of beer as an ingredient in gourmet dishes, and no trip to this part of the world is complete without sampling the Ghent Holy Trinity of beers – Augustijn, Delirium Tremens and the delicious Tripel Karmeliet.

Focus Flanders organise a number of fantastic guided tours around Bruges, Antwerp and Ghent – on foot, by bike or even by horse-drawn carriage, discover the wonderful bars and breweries of these fantastic cities under expert guidance. However you choose to explore these popular cities, there’s no nicer way to get a taste of Belgium than on a beer-tasting short break!

Planning a trip to Belgium this year? Tell us about it in the comments section below!