A hop and a skip from the Bruges’ famed Belfry, Hotel Sablon is smack in the middle of the city’s bustling historic centre.
A half-hour drive away, Ostend airport is the nearest, with flights to popular destinations in southern Europe. Brussels airport, a 90-minute drive away, is the main international hub; the hotel can arrange one-way transfers for €175.
Bruges station, a 10-minute drive away, runs frequent services to Antwerp, Ghent and Brussels – a handy connection for Eurostar trains to London.
Compact Bruges is best explored on foot, but if you’re bringing your own wheels you can stow them at Parking Zilverpand, 150m away (€8.70 for 24 hours).
Worth getting out of bed for
You needn’t stray far from Hotel Sablon to sample Bruges’ best sights: the Markt, once the bustling heart of this mediaeval wonder, is barely a five-minute walk away, and still hosts a food-and-flowers market on Wednesday mornings. Get your bearings from the top of the Belfry – the views are certainly worth the climb up 366 steps, but it’s the melodic chime of the bells at the top of the tower that will take your breath away. Put the Groeninge Museum’s Flemish art trove, ostentatious Basilica of the Holy Blood, and The Church of Our Lady’s Michelangelo sculpture on your must-see list, but leave plenty of time to get lost in Bruges’ atmospheric side streets, too.
The city may be compact, but there’s no shortage of tempting boutiques and quirky shops. Christmas enthusiasts and grinches alike should make a beeline for De Witte Pelikaan, a year-round temple to all things baubly. Boetik Ruth stocks desirable Scandinavian, French and Belgian togs. Rockstar chocolatier Dominique Persoone has made headlines with The Chocolate Line’s subversive confections, but there’s something dark, milky or pralined for every taste in Bruges’ multitude of chocolate shops. Try royal favourite Mary for classic numbers, Sweertvaegher for on-trend ruby chocolate, or Pol Depla for its impressive bean-to-bar sourcing.
For a quintessentially Belgian treat, head to Breydel de Coninc. The cheerful eatery’s plump mussels and fries are icons of the genre. Michelin-star collector Geert Van Hecke’s classy bistro Zet’ Joe is just the spot for Zeebrugge seafood and flavoursome game done right. Inventive Kok au Vin is a popular lunchtime treat, with set menus giving a starring role to farm-fresh local produce.
On the edge of the canal, sun-kissed Blackbird calls for leisurely brunches: French toast with caramel, say, or a healthier-than-thou spirulina bowl. Follow your nose to Lizzie’s Wafels – the most tempting sugar-dusted specimens in town.
Rub shoulders with locals at Vino Vino (+32 468 27 11 66), a laid-back blues bar that also runs a side hustle in creative tapas. The house brew (a head-turning Tripel) at tucked-away De Garre packs quite the malty punch, but thankfully there are hearty platters of sausage, cheese and cornichons to soften the blow. Tiny and atmospheric, Bar Jus is just right for an apéritif: charcuterie platters here come with pitch-perfect cocktails or something quaffable from the interesting wine list.