A Local’s Guide with Dominique Persoone
Bruges-born chocolatier Dominique Persoone is known as the bad boy of the chocolate world, in his own words, a ‘shock-o-latier’. Together with his wife Fabienne, he runs the The Chocolate Line brand of chocolate shops in Bruges and Antwerp, as well as a chocolate factory in Bruges.
The Chocolate Line’s approach to chocolate-making has always been more rock ‘n roll than rolling pin. Most famously, Persoone created a chocolate-shooter (a sniffing machine for chocolate) for a Rolling Stones birthday party, a fully edible chocolate lipstick and recently produced a tequila-shot praline, pipette with tequila included. Inside his Bruges shop, the shelves brim with medicine bottles filled with “chocolate pills” as well as huge slabs of globally sourced chocolate. His current chocolate collection includes eighty personal creations inspired by classic ingredients with a hint of the exotic.
Dominique recently took time out from his busy schedule to share his insider’s guide to Belgium’s chocolate box city with Into the Blue:
“When friends visit me in Bruges, the first place I take them to is the terrace of one of the smallest pubs in Bruges, called Little Venice (Klein Venetië) on the Rozenhoedkaai. You can admire the view of one of the most beautiful canals, and have one of those world famous Belgian beers in the sun, only a few steps away from the market place, the fish market and the Burg, the real hot spots of the town.
Spring and summer are the best times of the year to visit Bruges because the good weather means you can wander around endlessly. During the day-time you can see the town with its old town walls and trees in full bloom, while after dark, you can’t help but be enchanted by the way the historical buildings and monuments are lit up at night.
You get the best view of Bruges from the top of the belfry if you don’t mind climbing 300 steps. Alternatively, you can take the elevator which brings you to the roof of the concert hall. You can see the whole town from above, and if the weather isn’t cloudy you can even see the North Sea.
The canal boat tour (or horse and carriage if you want to spend more) is the best way to get around Bruges because it’s a very special experience. You can enjoy a professional tour and from the canals you’ll get a view of the most important historical buildings from a different angle.
Patisserie Van Mullem at the theatre place, is my favourite breakfast spot in Bruges because of their wonderful croissants and pastry rolls.
A good place to enjoy a coffee is The Chocolate Jungle Bar where they not only serve exceptional chocolate drinks but also a choice of high quality coffees with home-made brownies.
Restaurant Quatre Mains in the Fillipstockstraat is my favourite place for lunch in Bruges, I always order the tapas menu.
De Rockfort at the Langestraat is a great spot for dinner in Bruges because they serve good-quality food in a trendy ambiance. If budget is not a problem there a number of 3 star michelin restaurants that are worth a visit including Hertog Jan, De Karmeliet and the remarkable two star restaurant De Jonkman, all within an acceptable driving distance from the centre.
People think Bruges is like a sleepy old town but apart from its historical attractions and museums, it’s actually a dynamic tourist centre with a young vibrant atmosphere, wonderful shops, many terraces “with a view” and one of the biggest concentrations of good restaurants in Belgium, all within a short walking distance.
Before you come to Bruges you should read something about its history and why it was considered one of the most important towns in Western Europe during the early middle ages. Watch the movie In Bruges with Colin Farrell – you’ll get an idea of the atmosphere of the medieval town centre.
Belgium has an excellent rail network. Trains between Bruges and Brussels are frequent and depart every half hour. The journey time from Brussels to Bruges takes about 50 minutes.
- Fiona Hilliard