In spite of its size and relative obscurity on the tourism world stage, Bruges in Belgium is packed with bars, pubs and breweries. It’s because Belgians are mad about beer. So here’s where to have a real Belgian beer in this pretty little town.
Beer is at the heart of Belgian culture and history. In fact since November 2016 Trappist beer – the truest form of Belgian beer – is a UNESCO-protected piece of World Heritage.
In Bruges, a town only 2km long and 1km wide, had around 1,600 bars and breweries. Trappist monks spent their lifetimes perfecting the brewing process – a life well-spent in my books!
This all stopped, and breweries disbanded in the French Revolution, which got rid of Christian institutions like the monasteries. Still, 54 professional breweries remained until the start of 20th Century, when their copper brewing kettles were claimed for the war efforts to make bombshells.
Now only seven remain in Bruges, but beer still continues to be a central feature of life here.
Our recent visit to the beautiful city of Bruges found us exploring the many bars, taverns and restaurants around town. With the help of our excellent bed-and-breakfast host Landers of Triple B (beer, bed and brekky), we’ve pulled together a list of 12 pubs worth a visit when you’re in Bruges.
12 Belgian beer bars in Bruges
A fun and albeit touristy place to start your beer sampling, this place is justly named the Beerwall thanks to its impressive display of bottles completely covering one side of the entranceway.
Extensive beer menus hang from the ceiling by elastic and be ready to order when you get to the bar. The queue behind you gets impatient fast!
Food options are limited here, though it’s worth ordering the sausage just to see the special sausage washer they have here. The bartender clamps the dry-cured meat between metal spikes and turns the water bubbler-like jets on it. Very odd.
The oldest bar in town, the Vlissinge turned 500 in 2015. And their last full interior renovation was in the mid-19th Century!
The ancient wooden bar, which looks more like a sedan chair or a Punch and Judy kiosk, serves a few tap beers but plenty of top Belgian and Trappist brews in bottles.
Best of all, the history to this fascinating inn is all around you. A portrait of the original owners – Old Teunis and his wife – hangs next to the fireplace. Legend has it they lived until they were 100 years old and died the same day. Who said owning a pub shortens your life and kills romance?
Set on three levels of a medieval house next to the Bruges Belfry, the Café de Garre is a cosy bar packed with character. There’s not much space here, but climbing up the turning staircases will find you a table eventually.
This place has around 130 different beers on its menu, but also has its own beer – a tripel – on tap. It’s very smooth and worth a glass, but be mindful it’s made to 11%. This isn’t strange in Bruges by the way. Anything below 8% isn’t considered a beer here.
The good thing is beer is served and enjoyed more like wine. It comes in smaller glasses and people sip rather than slug.
Offering over 300 beers with six on tap, t’ Brugs Beertje has pretty much every Belgian beer style available to try, plus everything else from stouts to sours.
And if you were wondering, t’ Brugs Beertje is Flemish for ‘the little bear of Bruges’.
So named the Café Rose Red for its impressive display of roses across the dining room ceiling and in the courtyard, this bar has a cosy and somewhat romantic atmosphere.
Specialising in Trappist beers, the Rose Red is a good place to come if you want to sample the treasured beers protected by UNESCO. The recipes for Trappist beers are a much-guarded secret.
The tasting paddle here is good value – though once again remember the high alcohol content on Belgian beers.
6. Le Trappiste
Set in the subterranean cellar of an 800-year-old building, this specialist beer bar is packed with personality. Its brick archways and catacomb-like ceilings make for a unique atmosphere as you peruse the 20 taps and hundred or so bottles on the menu.
You can work your way through five-beer tasters for €12 and get a real taste of true Belgian beers. Alternatively, Le Trappiste features an international beer list with unique brews from Europe and across the globe.
7. Visit Predikherenrei
Although the little pedestrianised section at the northern end of Predikherenrei – a road that runs alongside the Coupure Canal – is touristy it’s ideal for a beer and some people-watching.
You won’t find the same wealth of rare or unusual Trappist brews on the menus of these cafés and bars, which are aimed at the more commercial tourist crowd, you’ll still find a Brugse Zot to enjoy while you watch the boats float past.
Again, not one of the beer institutions we’ve listed here, but one of the few al fresco options by a canal that doesn’t feel too touristy.
With tables and chairs sharing Jan van Eyck Square with a statue of the historic painter, Restaurant Spinola offers superb people-watching, good service and a reasonable albeit fairly mainstream beer menu.
On the other hand, the food and wine menus here are far from ordinary should you be looking for a fine-dining option on your trip to Bruges.
A very local spot and more of a beer shop than a bar, Bierboom also has a range of beers for aficionados to come in and try. You’ll definintely feel like a local here, but don’t be afraid to ask the staff for recommendations.
A ‘bierboom’, by the way, is like a yoke for carrying beer barrels. Two people at either end of the long wooden pole lift a barrel slung between them across their shoulders.
More focused on food than beer, the Brugge die Scone still has a very decent beer menu. And with an outdoor patio overlooking one of the most famous parts of Bruges and the Belfry in the skyline, it’s hard to go past this spot.
Ideal for a drink later in the evening when the day-trip crowds have dwindled, The Brasserie Brugge die Scone is a great spot for a glass of Trappist in summer.
Beer shop, brewery and tasting room, this one has every angle covered when it comes to a righteous glass of the good stuff. Not only do these guys have their own brews for you to buy and try, they also have a remarkable range of peculiar and specialty beers on offer.
With eight taps on the go, there’s plenty to try here, From IPAs with a massive 287 IBU and 21% smoked beers stored in peated single malt barrels to dry hopped German saissons and Belgian Dubbels from Japan, this is a special place.
12. Keep your eye open for pop-ups
Here one day gone the next, there are always interesting little projects appearing like beer-based mushrooms around Bruges. We found a little bar on the baroque steps of the city theatre – Stadsschouwburg – built up like a stage.
Companies like URB EGG Café do fun activations like this all around Bruges – especially in the summer.
5 places to buy takeaway Belgian beers
Along with pubs and bars in Bruges, there are hundreds of shops selling beers to take home (or just drink as soon as possible – no judgements!) all over the place.
Here are five that we’ve either been to or our friend Landers from Bruges recommends:
A double whammy of chocolate and beer for sale here. If one doesn’t tempt you, the other will!
This place sells a wide range of different beers from the biggest breweries in Belgium plus a selection of local ones. Prices here tend to be a little high.
Also selling beer (and washed sausage) we mentioned earlier, this place has an underground beer shop for takeaway options. Prices here are also a little high.
4. The Bierboom
Offering a much smaller range of hard-to-find catches, the Bierboom is the connoisseur’s choice and at a far fairer price.
The Struise has a superb offer of national and international speciality beers, and don’t forget to try the draft beers Bart puts on. He has some belters there!
While you’re in Bruges, don’t forget to try the waffles – they’re amazing. Here’s our story on true Belgian waffles.
Wherever you go in Bruges – and Belgium for that matter, you’re bound to find delicious things to eat and drink. I don’t think the Belgians know any other way!