Looking for the best things to do in Bruges with kids?
Last week, Flea and I were invited to join the Eurostar Explorers, a group of 300 Europeans who were challenged to explore a new city via Eurostar.
This meant we were invited to travel by Eurostar to the fairy tale Belgian city of Bruges. It’s very easy to get here via train. If you buy a ticket to a Eurostar destination, the ticket price includes an onward connection to any other station in France, Belgium or the Netherlands.
Getting to Bruges on Eurostar
The Eurostar took us to Brussels in an amazingly short time. There was a quick change of platform and another hour’s journey took us to Bruges. The journey was easy to complete in a day, and the train provided endless entertainment for an excited five year old. There was plenty to look at in the station, and on the trains there were comfortable seats, tables and plenty of room for luggage.
Best Things to do in Bruges
There are some (frankly) half-hearted ‘child-friendly’ attractions in Brugges, but they’re completely unnecessary. The city itself is exciting to children. There are old buildings, peaceful courtyards and amazing scenic views. It’s like walking into a fairy story.
Bruges is a medieval city with its own canal system. Virtually every building is hundreds of years old and there are quirky bridges, passages and squares around every corner. Flea had a ball just running around, exploring, taking photographs and being amazed by how old everything is: “But HOW can a building be a thousand years old, Mummy?”
What are our top tips for places not to miss in Bruges? Top of my list would be the Lake of Love which leads to the Beguinage with its old almshouses. These were originally built by the city’s wealthy for ‘abandoned’ women. Today, the buildings are still occupied by the local poor, along with a community of Benedictine nuns. A short walk away you’ll find the Minnewater canal and the Markt and Burg squares. This part of the city is seriously beautiful. The people watching is brilliant, too. Flea spent an hour watching the locals play a fiercely competitive game of boules.
Where to eat in Bruges with Kids
If you go to Bruges, the food is great, especially for kids.
I’ve taken Flea to lots of places where the local cuisine has been a bit intimidating for a small person. My five year old isn’t a great one for trying new foods. But Bruges is jam-packed with picturesque pavement cafes and tea houses, serving waffles, omelettes, toasted sandwiches and other child-friendly fare. If you’re looking to warm up on a winter’s day, the Flemish stew is pretty good, too.
Carpe Diem, a beautiful tea house tucked down an alleyway in an 17th Century building, is great for breakfast. You can feast on a basket of Belgian bread rolls, baked on the premises, served with ham and cheese, boiled eggs and a pot of coffee for just 8 Euros.
They’re pretty big on chocolate in Bruges. You can’t walk more than 20 paces without passing a chocolate shop. Even the kids’ breakfast buffet at the hotel included chocolate spread, chocolate biscuits, chocolate cereal and Smarties to sprinkle on your cereal, on the off-chance you’re not yet in a sugar coma. All served with hot chocolate, of course. If you want the absolute best, then I can whole-heartedly recommend Dumon, tucked down Oostendestraat.
Getting Around in Bruges
When in Bruges, I’m pretty sure there’s a law that you have to take the 30-minute horse and carriage ride around the city (36 Euros for the carriage). After your horse-drawn carriage ride, take a boat trip around the city’s canals (6 Euros for adults, 4 Euros for children). The drivers of the horse carriages, in particular, really know their local history and told us heaps about all the buildings and bridges as we travelled. Flea was enchanted by the constant backdrop of horses’ hooves on the cobbled streets around the city: “It’s like music, Mummy!”
Shopping in Bruges
Finally, Bruges is a great city for shopping.
Our favourite finds were Bubbles at Home, which sells a mind-blowing assortment of hand-made, organic soaps; Callebert, a fantastic contemporary design store which sells some adorable kids’ interiors and gifts for babies and toddlers, the Kathe Wohlfahrt store, where you can buy just about any sort of wooden Christmas Tree ornament or advent calendar you can imagine, alongside hand-made Cuckoo Clocks, and La Cure Gourmande, possibly the cutest, most colourful sweet shop in the world, where you can pick up five ginormous lollies in virtually any flavour imaginable for a couple of Euros.
[All travel and accomodation costs met by Eurostar. We travelled from Kings Cross St Pancras to Brussels with Eurostar, fares from £140 for adult flexible tickets. We stayed at the Novotel Brugges Centrum, rooms from 155 Euros per night]