Bruges. It’s in Belgium and it’s a fairy-tale. Arguably Europe’s most picturesque city is a packed to the rafters this time of year with tourists in search of festive relaxation before the mad Christmas rush. But once you’ve strolled down the cobbled lanes and past the meandering canals (and eaten your weight in waffles), chances are you’re going to want to sample some of Belgium’s famed brews. So with that in mind, here’s what we think are the best bars/pubs in Brugge, whether you’re after authentic beer or something more…

7 Best Bars to Visit in Bruges

‘t Poatersgat

Address: Vlamingstraat 82

Probably the city’s most famous drinking haunt, ‘t Poatersgat may just be Bruges’ best too. But it can also be tricky to find. Hidden in the basement of a historic building, you’ll need to look for the concealed hole in the wall and follow the staircase down into this cross-vaulted cellar bar which is lit up by flickering candles. There’s 120 Belgian beers on the menu, including a great selection of Trappist beers, and the music is also usually spot on. It’s one of the bigger bars in the city but things can get fairly lively in the evening as it’s a firm favourite among the Belgian youth. Regardless of your age, this is a must on any traveller’s Bruges checklist.

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Cafe Red Rose

Address: Cordoeaniersstraat 16

With a whopping 200 beers on the menu – some of them vintage – Cafe Red Rose is a nirvana for beer-lovers and a great place to spend a rainy afternoon (as we did). A stone’s throw away from the market, it’s located down a quiet alley and is characterised by its array of red roses dangling from the ceiling. It feels classy without ever straying into pretentious. That said, it does fill up fairly quickly thanks to its modest size and stellar reputation, so we’d recommend it more for couples and small groups. But if you manage to get squeezed in, try the Cafe’s ever-evolving beer sampling flight and order some cheese and charcuterie to partner it!

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Le Trappiste

Address: 33, Kuipersstraat

Another crypt-like setting, Le Trappiste is a 13th Century cellar bar which comes complete with exposed vaulted brick arches. But despite its medieval setting, the bar doesn’t just serve Abbey Beers and there’s a good range of contemporary crafts too, all reasonably priced. Livelier in the evening, we’d recommend heading in the afternoon when you can relax and soak up the atmospheric setting. If you get the chance, Le Trappiste has also been known to host jazz gigs.

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Cuvee Wine Bar/Wine Shop

Address: Philipstockstraat 41

But if you’re a little hopped out and need a glass of red, Cuvee is the place for you. This Wine Bar serves wines by the glass in a casual setting behind the shop. The winemakers represented here are all artisan and as natural as possible, which means there’s no intervention during vinification and no artificial aromas. Just pure wines. As well as being able to try wines before taking home a bottle for later, Cuvee also serves local cheeses and charcuterie all day long, alongside some homemade tapas and homemade bread.

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‘t Brugsch Bieratelier

Address: Wijngaardstraat 13

If you’re looking for a cosy way to wind down in the evening, we’d recommend ‘t Brugsch Bieratelier. It may be small but it’s off the beaten tourist track and benefits from a warm atmosphere created by a mix of locals and those in search of one of best beer sampling boards in town. The flight features 12 beers with bar staff running you through it before you tuck in. The music here is always of the highest order too. Nearby Beers Yesterday’s World is also well worth a visit.

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Bauhaus Bar

Address: Langestraat 135

Bauhaus may technically be a hostel bar but really it’s much more than that. A great mix of young travellers and locals popping in for an after work drink, Bauhaus is usually one of the busier places in Bruges but if you find a seat you can sample some stunning local beers, as well as some crafts from around the world, and order some pizza for just €5. This is also the place to be if you want to learn everything about Belgian beer. For just €12.50, every night a guide will take you on a tasting experience where you’ll learn the difference between Trappist beers, Abbey beers and Tripels.

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volkscafé Sint-Jakobs

Address: Sint-Jakobsstraat 60

One of the most authentic neighbourhood bars in Bruges, very few places you’ll visit will be more welcoming than volkscafé Sint-Jakobs. The very best in Flemish hospitality is fused with a good line-up of Belgian beers, a great playlist and even better ambience. It’s also one of the few bars in Bruges which has a higher ratio of locals to tourists, which is always a good sign. Sint-Jakobs will be your new home away from home.

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So there we have it; the best bars in Bruges. As you’re probably fully aware, Belgian beers are generally strong. Some very strong. But while you’re almost certainly going to need it during a session, Belgian bars don’t offer tap/table water, so don’t bother asking and just pay for some bottled. The vast majority of bars are also table service and despite being incredibly knowledgeable and friendly, waiters aren’t the quickest. So our main tip would be savour your beer and take things at a leisurely place – your drinking experience in Bruges will be all the more pleasurable for it!

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If you’re looking to relax before the Christmas rush or even want to get into the festive mood, here’s what we think are the Best Winter Weekend City Breaks in Europe.

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