Bruges might just be the prettiest city in Belgium, if not all of Europe. It has architecture that's perfectly preserved from the 13th century, and the city boasts a collection of canals that could make Venice blush. Of course, beauty comes at a price. You’ll find chocolate shops advertising 20-euro boxes of bonbons and lace shops selling small pieces for 100 euros a pop. And let’s not discuss the beer we found for 24 euros. While it’s definitely difficult to visit Bruges on a budget, it’s not impossible. You just need to know where to go, and what to look for. Here's how to do it:
Where to stay: As a city that's jammed with tourists, it's no surprise that prices in Bruges can be exorbitant, with single hotel rooms easily costing a few-hundred euros per night. Because of this, we recommend staying outside of the city. Public transport into Bruges is quick and easy, and a train or bus will cost you just a few euros; plus, you'll have the experience of staying in the charming Belgian countryside. Hotel De Stokerij in the town of Oudenburg, about a 30-minute drive from Bruges' historic center, offers homey rooms for $85 per night, or you could snag a large suite with a jacuzzi for $170 per night. If you are keen on sleeping in the city center, Hotel Fevery is a solid option. It’s a 10-minute walk from Market Square — and five to the french fry museum! Rooms start at about $100 per night.
Where to eat: Bruges and cheap eats go together like peanut butter on spaghetti bolognese. That is, they don’t. Meals around the central Market Square will easily set you back about $50 per person, and the city's signature dish, Moules-Frites (steamed mussels), will cost about $35. There are two cheap Belgian staples, though: waffles and fries. The best cheap waffle is at a food stand called Chez Albert, where a waffle with melted chocolate costs $4.30 and it’s made from scratch in front of your eyes. For fries, simply head to the Belfry in Market Square. You’ll see two green food trucks. Those two trucks compete for best fries in the city. Go to both of them! Order some fries with mayo — or ketchup and mayo. They'll cost just a few euros each.
What to do: First, you’ll probably want to work off your double order of fries. To do that, climb the Belfry, a medieval tower in the center of the city -- you can’t miss it. For $10, you'll climb a dizzying, claustrophobic staircase, but the views of the Medieval architecture and the city's canals makes it worthwhile. Once you’ve taken all the necessary photos, simply stroll through the city streets. The city itself is the attraction here, and that won't cost you an extra penny. You may also want to indulge in one -- or many -- of the chocolate shops that are present on nearly every corner. Jan De Clerck chocolate (Academiestraat 19), is among the oldest and tastiest. Finally, no trip to Bruges is complete without beer. De Halve Maan (Walplein 26), although expensive and easily the most popular tourist bar in the city, offers two beers every visitor should try -- the local Straffe Hendrik and Brugse Zot. Beware: It’s often only open until 6:00 p.m.. And if you’re looking for a pub, Bierbrasserie Cambrinus (Philipstockstraat 19) serves delicious bites with their brews.