Got a weekend to kill? Hop on an £80 Eurostar and spend it in Bruges. Here's how to do a short break in the Belgian city. Travel editor Pamela Goodman's found you an apartment created by and interior designer, an unusual bistro tempting shops and more. Aren't you lucky...
Where to Stay
Simple and elegant apartments
Natalie Haegeman's collection of small, exquisitely decorated in the heart of Bruges has recently doubled in size. First came the two-bedroom Apartment Groeninghe (above) - something of a misnomer as it's actually a whole house - and Apartment Dijver, a two-bedroom maisonette above an antiques shop. Now there are Apartments Katelijne and Odevaere (one and two bedrooms respectively), which are above Natalie's new showroom on Katelijnestraat. As a well-established Belgian interior designer, Natalie has made a smart move into the guest-house business, and her properties are beautiful in a simple, elegantly rustic way. Her palette is predominantly pastel and her favoured fabric linen - wonderful, heavy linen that covers sofas, cushions and headboards, and hangs in voluminous folds across windows and doorways. There are decorative lamps with linen shades, antique furniture, wide oak floorboards, narrow, spindly staircases, books and framed pictures, which make you never want to leave. Clearly, Natalie has no concern for thieving fingers or perhaps, praise be, she has the sort of clientele who would never sink so low. Having warmed a croissant in the Aga for my breakfast at Groeninghe and breweda cup of fresh leaf tea, I closed the door on my perfect little home and set off to explore. Apartment Groeninghe sleeps four people and costs from about €500 for a minimum two-night stay.
Where to eat
Bruno Timperman is no ordinary chef and no ordinary restaurant. For starters, it's closed at weekends, which might seem like an odd decision in a city that thrives on the weekend-break market. But Bruno is adamant that his family comes first. He also believes in cooking for genuine food lovers - the type of people, he says, who aren't generally 'weekenders'. To prove his point, he tells me that Monday is his busiest day. Born and raised in Bruges, Bruno opened his tiny restaurant two years ago with his cousin, Bas, and it's since become the hottest table in town. Perfectly located beside the Meestraat Bridge, one of the oldest bridges in Bruges, Bistro Bruut is all about 'spontaneous cooking'. In fact, there's no menu at all. At lunch there are three courses (starter, main and pudding) but no obligation to have more than one; at dinner, there are a possible five courses. Each morning, Bruno shops for the day and devises his menu according to the best produce he can source. Lucky, therefore, that the sea is so close and no wonder my scallop carpaccio on a drift of cauliflower cream was so delicious. If the style of cooking is so of-the-moment, so too is the bistro's interior - a high-ceilinged room with a small bar at one end, black and white floor tiles, rough wooden tables, vintage chairs and enough seating for 22 lucky diners. A three-course lunch costs €40 per head; a five-course dinner €65, excluding drinks. Booking is essential.
Where to shop
In between wanderings among the medieval splendours of Bruges, I was sent by Natalie to , a small antiques shop on Hoogstraat where, had I had the space, I would have popped an oak dining table into my bag. Bruno sent me to chic chocolatier on Markt - truffles proved a lot easier to carry home.
Ways and means
Pamela Goodman travelled with and ; return tickets from £80.
Taken from the April 2016 issue of House & Garden.