To finish out our two-week European trip back in September, we spent a short amount of time in both Amsterdam and Bruges. We had two nights in each city, and really only about a day and a half total with each one. We probably could have used a little more time in Amsterdam, but Bruges we were able to max out with the time we had. Although they were very short visits, I’m glad we squeezed them in during our trip.
Amsterdam was pretty unique compared to other cities I’ve visited, and I was obsessed with their bike culture. When I was in college, biking was my main source of transportation in Philadelphia and I loved it. I wish more American cities could be closer to the biking level of Amsterdam. Their bike lanes are bigger than the sidewalks and they have their own traffic lights. It was fascinating. Being able to rent bikes while we were there meant we were able to see more of the city in our short amount of time, so that was great. We did a 24-hour day rate for our rentals and just kept them overnight. On our second morning we rode across town to our breakfast place, and it was so cool to be part of the morning bike commute with all of the locals (even though I’m sure they got annoyed with us a few times for being newbs).
In Amsterdam we did our only real museum visit of our trip, which was to the Van Gogh museum. It worked out perfectly because it was pouring rain while we were in there and had cleared up by the time we left. We opted for the audio tour (only costing about 5 euro each), and we feel like we got 1000% more out of the museum by doing that. I’m so glad we did it. Other than that, our only other non-eating adventures in Amsterdam were biking around and then walking through the Red Light District like the tourists we were. We also visited a cute little shop with a lot of plants, called Wildernis.
Bruges was also great, but surprisingly was the most expensive city on our trip. Although perhaps it should not have been surprising because it’s such a touristy town. It’s one of those places where they will charge you a lot for every meal, but not all meals are even close to being worth the money. It took us forever to pick a restaurant the first night, but I think we ended up with a great choice. We were excited to visit this “fairytale town” because we are both fans of the movie “In Bruges,” which we obviously re-watched shortly before our trip.
The town is tiny (the heart of the city is only 1.5-2 miles wide) and cute as hell. Bruges reminded us a lot of St. Malo from our honeymoon with its narrow cobbled streets, plus the way we just wandered around all day, eating stuff and often walking down the same street twice. Despite how tiny it is, we logged about 7 or 8 miles in total on our last day just by walking around. We also ventured to the top of the Belfry, which is a necessary activity if you’re visiting Bruges.
By the way, our Airbnb in Bruges was probably our favorite. It was technically a “private room,” but it was really like having a beautiful hotel room in a guest house. The owner had an office on the lower floor of the house, but the rest of the floors had rooms all made up as “private room” Airbnbs. There was a communal kitchen and dining room plus an extra bathroom on the first floor. But this place was awesome because you only needed a code to get in the front door, and then when you got there your room key was IN the door, so you let yourself in and then just leave the key in the door again when you check out. We never even had to interact with the owner. We had a nice big bed, and the bathroom had a shower PLUS a bathtub that had a little skylight over it. It was gorgeous! And it cost us like $80/night. So cool. This was one of our biggest lessons from this trip: Don’t overlook the private rooms on Airbnb – just make sure it has a “private bathroom” and you’re basically booking yourself a hotel room. If you’re going and you’d like to know exactly which one we stayed at, just shoot me an email for more info.
What I drank: Strawberry Bloom (Bloom gin, east imperial tonic, strawberries and basil leaves)
What we ate: Big Fat Veggie Burger (carrot, cucumber sweet sour mayo, fries) + Woodyburger (cheddar cheese, rum sauce, French fries, homemade mayo – excluded jalapeños and added bacon)
Our friend Laura suggested this place to us and I was delighted to discover that it was only half a block from our Airbnb apartment. We arrived in Amsterdam around dinner time, so this was an easy choice for our first meal in the city. Walter’s is known for their gin and tonics and I had been coming around to them on this trip, so I went for that lovely strawberry/basil version (a great choice). My veggie burger was SO GOOD – I never thought I’d eat a carrot burger but holy crap was it good. And that pickle-y mayo? Omg.
What we drank: green juice (celery, apple, cucumber, lime, mint), orange juice (carrot, orange, ginger, goji berries, cinnamon)
What we ate: The “New York” (buttermilk pancakes, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, banana, honeycomb butter), + The Sweet BLT (bacon, sweet bacon syrup, lettuce tomato, mayo, brown bread, added avocado)
This was a pleasant breakfast spot and allowed us to do our fav of ordering a sweet (pancakes) and a salty (BLT) option for breakfast and then go “halvsies.” The pancakes were a real standout here – especially with that honeycomb butter. I think all butter should be honeycomb butter.
What we drank: chai latte + a cappuccino
What I ate: a brownie (NOT a pot brownie hahaha)
This cafe was exactly the kind of place I’d love to open one day, if I ever get the chance: bright, airy and friendly with just a few REALLY good drinks, and some pastries available for sale. The cappuccino I had was the best I’ve ever had in my life. Considering I was really looking forward to sitting in a pretty Amsterdam cafe for a late morning coffee and pastry (my favorite part of the day), this one hit it out of the park.
What we drank: True Blue Kiwi Mojito (kiwi/blueberry)
What we ate: classic chicken and waffles (Southern style fried chicken and cheddar waffle with apple/celery slaw, drizzled with maple syrup)
This place was super cool: It’s a bar AND barber shop in a really old building where they serve New Zealand-inspired brunch. It was the first installment of our “appetizing” our way through the afternoon and evening, so we just split the chicken and waffles, which were AMAZING. (So was the mojito.) It was so delicious it was probably one of my favorite meals of the trip. And the location was so interesting, I’d highly suggest popping in for at least a drink at the bar (I hear they also have really good coffee) if you’re visiting the area.
Robert’s pancake: apple crumble, vanilla ice cream, cinnamon
My pancake: grated Dutch cheese or Camembert, lemon honey, raspberry sauce
This place was also recommended to us, this time by my brother and his girlfriend who had been there. These Dutch style pancakes were more like crepes – the size of a dinner plate and very thin. Robert’s was basically like apple pie, and mine was like a cheese plate in a pancake. So good!
What we ate: Formaggio di Capra Pizza (mozzarella, goat cheese, roasted sweet potato, thyme oil, balsamic onions), codfish (with corn, cabbage lettuce, langoustine gravy)
What we drank: frozen mango (ketel one vodka, mango, lime and honey), frozen strawberry margarita
We discovered this place because it was about a block from our Airbnb apartment. It looked really interesting and inviting so we decided to do a late dinner there. The inside is very lush with a tropical feeling – lots of rich upholstery, dark greens and huge plants. I wasn’t blown away by the food but I would recommend popping in at least for a drink so you can hang out in there for a little while.
What I drank: coconut coffee (double espresso shot, coconut milk, agave and ice)
What we ate: french toast (brioche soaked in organic eggs, fried up with seasonal fruit, ricotta, almonds, lavender, honey and basil), scrambled eggs avo (served on sourdough with miso paste, crumbled feta cheese, avocado, drizzled with olive oil – omitted the olives)
This was where we biked to for breakfast on our second morning. I loved my coconut coffee drink and the french toast was soooooo delicious and interesting. If anything has ricotta, lavender, honey and basil in the description, I’ll probably order it. This place was also just really unique with multiple floors. It was formerly a cinema built in the 1920s, and now it’s a super cute coffee shop that makes you feel like you’re in California or Hawaii (lots of surf vibes).
This is just a little PSA – if you’re looking for a cute grocery to buy some light lunch food or if you have a place to cook while you’re in town, these Marqt places are great. They remind me of a small-scale Whole Foods kind of place. It’s full of fancy groceries and snacks, and of course I had to pick up a few things. I bought some snack bars for our upcoming flights, a chocolate bar, and a ginger shot from their fresh juice section.
What we ate: Rijst taart
We were taking forever to pick a place for dinner, so we decided to buy a pastry to tide us over until we could make a decision. (Well … I decided.) This bakery was nearby and looked delicious, but I think they were about to close because they were almost out of everything. The lady behind the counter was very sweet, and even though she didn’t speak a ton of English (and we definitely had no skills in Dutch), she was able to recommend this pastry to us. They had a handful of mini pies left, but this was the only one of its kind left (so it must have been popular) and it looked interesting, so it seemed like a good option. Like I said, we were having some communication issues, so we really had no idea what it was. Once we started eating it we realized it was basically just a pie with rice pudding baked in the middle of it. (Ummm okay! Yes please!) Thankfully a friend of mine knew what it was and identified it on my Instagram post as a “rijst taart,” aka rice pie or a rice tart. Writing this post led me down a google search, and the best recipe I could find online that seemed most like it is this one. It was delicious so I definitely want to try making it sometime, and I know my rice pudding-obsessed Dad would love to try it. (With this photo I continued my #pastriesonthestreet series.)
What I drank: gin & tonic (I think it was served with lemon tonic and mint?)
What we ate: Flemish beef stew with salad and fries, duck a l’orange with croquettes and salad
We finally settled on this place for dinner. It was a bit pricey (like I mentioned earlier, Bruges is kind of expensive), but based on reviews it seemed like it might actually be worth the money. We were very happy with it, and the atmosphere was lovely. All of the buildings in that town are super old, and this one was no exception. Beautiful high ceilings, stain-glassed windows, mood lighting, etc. My Flemish stew was so hearty and delicious, and it felt like exactly the right thing to eat for dinner on my first night in Bruges. Plus, I love any meal that comes with fries.
What we drank: a flight of 5 beers: Belle-Vue Kriek (cherry lambic), La Chouffe (special blond), Rodenbach (old Flemish brown), Gulden Draak (strong dark), Waterloo Recolte (Saison)
If you’re going to be in Bruges, you HAVE to go to this bar. It’s in a cellar from the 13th century and has exposed vaulted brick arches. They have over 100 beers available from all over. We were warned that Belgian beers are stronger than American beers, and our flight kind of proved that point. I don’t even think we finished it and we were definitely feeling a buzz. My favorite was the cherry lambic because it reminded me of kombucha. (I’m not a beer lover, in case you can’t tell.) Weirdly enough, there were a ton of other Americans in this bar when we were there. Apparently that’s where we all hang out.
What I drank: iced caramel latte with whipped cream
What we ate: bagel sandwich with bacon, egg, cheese and sundried tomato; “best dressed chicken” (roasted chicken, sundried tomato pesto, apple, lettuce) on toasted bagel
This is where I had the best iced latte of my life! It was kind of on the smaller side, which I think resulted in a smaller amount of milk compared to the espresso, and it was perfection. Sometimes lattes are too milky for me, but this one was excellent and the caramel really brought it home. I wish I could drink that thing every day. Our bagel sandwiches were also great, and we sat by the window looking out onto the cute city of Bruges. Wonderful spot!
What I bought: an assortment of chocolates by weight
Bruges is littered with chocolate stores, which means I was destined to visit this city at some point in my life. I don’t understand how they all do enough business (although I guess Bruges does get hit with a ton of tourists) – we even stumbled upon one on a tiny little alley street. I mean, how does that one get enough business? It baffles me. I randomly settled on this one to purchase some goodies, and I kept them in my backpack for snacking. I can’t really compare it to the other ones, but I was certainly happy with the chocolates I chose.
What we drank: Bruges Zot Blond
In the afternoon we wanted to grab a beer at one of the bars, so we picked this one. In the moment we completely forgot our many warnings about how strong Belgian beer is, and we ordered a pint. The bartender was a little surprised, but we insisted, confusedly. Later on we realized why – the Belgian pints are larger than American ones (20oz versus 16oz), and we were getting drunk halfway through a beer we were SHARING. Then we remembered (haha). Oh well – what is vacation for but for getting accidentally drunk in the afternoon?
What Robert drank: Brugs white (wheat) beer
What we ate: Cheese-O-Naise (egg based mayo, old Bruges cheese, chives), Old Bruges Topping (old Bruges cheese, mustard cress, bacon)
Belgium is known for its french fries, so we knew it had to be on the menu at some point during our stay. We found this bar that only really serves fries, so this was kind of our lunch. The baskets of fries were quite filling, so in retrospect we probably should have ordered one to share. We enjoyed the fries here, but they were fairly close to ones we’re used to here in the states. I was hoping they’d be a bit more “Belgian-ish.” But tasty and fun, nonetheless!
What we drank: dirty chai latte, vanilla chai latte
We went here for an afternoon pick-me-up. After our chai latte experience in Wales, we were encouraged to try other ones to see how they compared. We’re discovering that chai lattes vary wildly from place to place, and it’s hard to find one you like, especially after having the best one in the world in Wales. We weren’t huge fans of these ones, is what I’m trying to say. However, the place seemed really cool and I bet I would have loved their other espresso-based drinks.
What we ate: waffle with milk chocolate sauce, caramel sauce and whipped cream
Since we had officially eaten fries in Belgium, we had to move on to Belgian waffles. LIFE CHANGING!!!! We obviously expected them to be good because we were smelling them constantly as we walked around, but we didn’t realize what we were walking into. Turns out we’d never had a true Belgian waffle (aka Liege waffles), which is not something you can get at your local IHOP. It’s a whole different animal – essentially caramelized brioche dough with sugar pearls in them. These waffles are a pastry all on their own. I have yet to make them myself, but that WILL be happening. (I’ve bookmarked recipes from Smitten Kitchen, Food and Wine, etc.) We stood on the sidewalk and ate this in a stupor (much like our experience with the kouign amann in London) and then immediately kicked ourselves for not eating them earlier in the day. Had we started with waffles earlier, we surely would have made a point to eat more throughout the day.
What we drank: strawberry mojitos
What we ate: potato wedges with mayo
We were wandering around, trying to find somewhere to hang out and get some small bites to eat for “dinner,” when we stumbled on this pop up bar. It looked so cozy with its twinkly string lights and outdoor seating. We went to check it out and it turned out to be a great way to end our night in Bruges and our trip overall. Since we were at the true “yolo” point of our trip, we had more fries and mojitos for dinner. (“When in Bruges …”) These “fries” were actually enormous and perfectly crunchy potato wedges … aka probably the most glorious form of potato I’ve ever eaten. The mojitos lived up to our high mojito standards and reminded us of our honeymoon, which was chock-full of strawberry mojitos.
What we ate: a plain waffle
After our waffle experience from earlier, I knew I had to get another waffle before the day was out, and I knew I had to eat it plain. I could tell from before that those things needed no adornment, and I wanted to taste one in its truest form. I definitely did NOT need to eat at this point of the day, but I also knew I couldn’t go to bed on my one full day in Bruges and then leave town at 5am the next morning without getting another one of those waffles in my body. (If I could have had access to them at 5am, I would have gotten several on our last morning.) Eating a plain Belgian (Liege) waffle while walking through the streets of Bruges is a religious experience. You should do it if you ever get the chance.
So that wraps up our wild European trip from back in September. Amsterdam and Bruges were a great way to end it. In case you couldn’t come to this conclusion on your own, I felt like total crap the morning we left as a result our final-day-diet of booze, chocolate, caffeine, waffles and french fries. BUT …. no regrets. Thanks for following along!
Illustration at top created with Photoshop.
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