Most tourists will consume at least one of these five specialties when visiting Brugge, and you should, because they are all typical Belgian, and we are proud of it. We Belgians love chocolates, waffles, beers, fries and speculoos. But we are also picky when it comes to where and what we eat. As a tourist you should also only go for the best. Until some years ago it was quite easy for tourists to choose from which shop to buy chocolates. Apart from some exceptions, all shops selling chocolates, or pralines as we call them, only sold handmade artisanal pralines. Today every second shop in Brugge is a chocolate shop. And as you can imagine, not all of them sell handmade artisanal pralines. Many of the newcomers sell industrial pralines, made in a factory somewhere in or outside of Belgium. Many advertise lower prices, and just try to cash in on the popularity chocolates have with tourists. Most tourists never come back, so their business does not rely on return clientele, and they don’t have to worry about the disappointment some tourist might experience when they open their box of chocolates at home. But if you have never really tastes a really good praline you will have no idea if what you brought home is up to standards. We locals only buy from the best. And believe me, the price of a really good box of pralines is really not that expensive. It is something you have to savor, one at a time, and each one of them is like a little present you open, always a surprise on the inside. So to make sure you get quality for your money I will list here all the artisanal local praline shops, whom are often also a member of the Brugge chocolate Guild, ensuring the chocolates are handmade in Brugge. You can recognize members of the guild, they will have a sign saying so. The sign looks like this:
These are my favorite chocolate shops in Brugge:
Chocolate Dumon, they have three shops in Brugge, one very small one at the Eiermarkt, a few steps away from the main square, one larger shop on the Simon Stevin square and a third one close to the Walplein and the Beguinage. Dumon has very good quality for a very correct price.
The Chocolate Line, by Dominique Persoone is probably the most famous chocolatier in Brugge, but also the most expensive one. They offer a range of very exotic pralines. Fillings go from all kinds of fruit over tobacco, chili, onion, to ginger, lavender to the classic praliné filled praline. They also have chocolate to sniff or to body-paint with.
Sukerbuyc is one of the long standing chocolate shops in Brugge, the pralines are made in the atelier just behind the shop. They sell a more classic range of good quality. They have a great coffee- and tea-house just across the street: The Proeverie, with an English style decor.
V-Chocolatier by Sweertvaegher is the oldest artisanal chocolatier, making pralines since 1933. They swear by dark and milk-chocolate, white chocolate is considered not to be real chocolate here. It is a small but classy little shop close to the main square.
Spegelaere is the chocolatier where the locals go. So if you are looking for the place locals love for their chocolate, this is it. A bit away from the main tourist track but on a street with many other shops worth discovering.
Depla Pol is also a local artisanal chocolatier with good quality pralines, close to the church of Our Lady.
In the Wollestraat where every second shop is a chocolate shop look out for these three artisanal chocolatiers:
B by B by Bartholomeus, where chocolate is presented as if it where haute-couture.
Then there are some chocolatiers who are Belgian artisanal chocolatiers, but are not originally from Bruges, and whom you will also find in Brussels or Gent:
So if you buy chocolate from one of these shops you are sure to take home the real deal!!
Waffles come in different forms and sizes but only two kinds are really Belgian. The Luikse waffle (Liegois waffle) and the Brussels waffle. The first waffle is a cold or warm waffle with sugar drops. You can find them at the different stalls in Brugge often covered with chocolate, cream and strawberries. But the most traditional way to eat a Luikse waffle is just without any topping and warm so that the sugar caramelizes a bit. The toppings are an invention for the tourists. The waffle itself is so sweet that a sweet topping is actually too much sugar! You can buy these waffles also pre-packed in the supermarket, but they are a lot yummier when freshly baked or heated. My favorite is the Brussels waffle, because it is a real craft to bake them crispy at the outside and chewy on the inside. These are the waffles that are served with powdered sugar or with a sweet topping. The waffle itself is not sweet like the Luikse waffle and so it asks for a sweet topping of whipped cream and fruit, ice-cream, chocolate of just butter and sugar. Eating a Brussels waffle with butter and brown sugar is how we Belgians traditionally eat them on festive family gatherings like New Years Day. The mother or grandmother then bakes piles of waffles for all the children and grandchildren. A good place to eat a Brussels waffle is at Lizzies Waffles in Brugge where you can share the X-large waffles.
Many tourists visit Belgium for its beers. We produce more than 1600 different beers in over 200 breweries in this small country. Brugge also has two city breweries who still brew beer in the centre of the city. But there are of course more local beers to discover. The best places to try Belgian beers are one of the many traditional pubs that dot the city, this is also where we locals usually drink a beer. For us it is the perfect excuse to meet up with friends. You can buy some bottles to take home, in one of the bottle shops or just at the local supermarket, where we locals buy our beers for home use. A tour of one of the city breweries is a must for beer aficionados, you can visit Brewery the Halve Maan or Brewery Bourgogne the Flandres. If you want to taste them in a pub you can read my blog on the best pubs and tearooms in Brugge.
An then there are the Belgian Fries. They are called French fries but are in fact Belgian not French. And we now how to bake fries, crispy golden on the outside, soft on the inside. Belgium traditionally grows a specific type of potato just for fries. The best places for Belgian fries in Bruges are a bit outside of the city centre, and a bit out of the way for most tourists. But it you want to eat Belgian fries and short on time, just buy them at one of the two green stalls on the main square, many locals also buy them here after a night out. The first stall selling french fries on the main market appeared here in 1900! Most restaurants serve fries with many of their dishes, and these are usually also prepared the Belgian way. Real Belgian fries are not the thin sticks like you eat them at Mc-Donalds, but are wider, with more soft potato on the inside. The best fries I have ever eaten are served in a restaurant in Anderlecht-Brussels: Friture René. In Bruges Frituur Bosrand probably has the best fries in Bruges, but is located on one of the access roads into Brugge, so only if you come by car, you can consider to make a stop here. In the Langestraat, the road towards the windmills you have two places: Frituur Bistro ’t Bootje and Royal Frituur where you can get vegetarian and vegan dishes beside your fries. Another good place close to the Gentpoort is Frituur De Gentpoorte. Traditionally Belgians love to eat their fries with Mayonaise or Tartaar sauce ( in many places they make the Tartaar sauce freshly and has onions, pickles and fresh herbs), or they eat their fries with Flemish stew on top. The stew is usually homemade in the Frituur. Most places now serve their fries in a square carton box, but traditionally they were eaten from a cone paper bag ( in the old days they used old newspapers for this)
A typical Belgian and Bruges’ biscuit is the ‘Speculoos’. Although for us Belgians this cookie is your average biscuit served aside a cup of coffee, speculoos is totally unknown beyond Belgian borders. It is a dark biscuit flavored with a mix of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, clove, cardamom and white pepper. You can find the thicker speculoos which is soft and chewy or thinner one which is more crunchy. Speculoos is traditionally baked to celebrate ‘Sinterklaas’, a kind of Santa Claus who visits children on December the 6th every year and brings chocolate, marzipan, toys and speculoos baked in the form of the holy man. You can buy the industrial speculoos in the supermarket or go for the real deal at Maison La Confiance where they sell the handmade biscuits and where you can choose between different types of speculoos. Here you can also find ‘Kletskoppen’ which can be translated as ‘bald heads’ a biscuit of caramelized chopped almonds, also a traditional Bruges’ biscuit. The biscuit goes really well with a cup of tea. The Speculoos on the contrary is traditionally dipped in coffee. In Brugge we still have a fourth generation traditional biscuit bakery ‘Oud Huis Deman’. You can buy their typical Bruges’ biscuits: ‘Speculoos’, ‘Kletskoppen’ and ‘Brugse Beschuit’ in some specialty shops like Chocolaterie Dumon, Chocolaterie Spegelaere, Deldycke catering, Diksmuids Boterhuis and 2be (Beerwall).