While our International Ground Guide is undergoing some maintenance, we thought we’d provide our usual service of advice and information for travelling supporters in brief blog form.
Once up and running again our ground guide will cover all manner of information from travel options to hotel advice, eating and drinking suggestions to practical tips on getting around, along with safety and security advice and anything else we think will be of use to travelling supporters.
In the meantime, while the below might not necessarily have all the information you’ll be after if you’re heading out to Belgium this week, we’re always available to help – just drop us an email if you have any questions.
We’ll do our best to find out what you need to know, either from our own vast experience in covering England and Wales games abroad, or from our friends at Football Supporters Europe.
The Jan Breydel Stadion was built in 1975, although it underwent significant improvements ahead of Euro 2000 which Belgium co-hosted with Holland. It is home to both Club Brugge and their smaller city neighbours Cercle Brugge. Prior to the Euros it was known simply as Olympiastadion. Its capacity is just over 29,000 all seated, most of which (ie apart from the corners) are covered.
The stadium is located in Sint Andries, which is around 2 miles to the south-east of the main city centre (although it is only around a mile from the main train station).
The ground will typically open to fans from two hours before kick-off. The away fans will be located in the south east corner of the ground, which contains some covered but mostly uncovered seats. Most of the sightlines in the away end are good, but those seats close to the segregation fencing suffer from restricted views.
Fans will be searched by police before entering the away sector, and the list of banned items is the same as at all Uefa matches.
As you might have guessed, Zulte don’t have the greatest of European pedigrees. This will be their second campaign after reaching the last 32 of the Uefa Cup in 2007 (ultimately falling against Newcastle United). They made the qualifying rounds of this year’s Champions League following their runners-up finish in the Belgian league in 2012-13, which was their highest ever league finish, but lost 5-0 to PSV Eindhoven and so were parachuted into the Europa League group stage.
Premier League fans may be familiar with Nikica Jelavic among their former players – the Everton man spent a largely unsuccesful year at Zulte, scoring just 3 times in 23 games in 2007.
Zulte don’t play their home fixtures in the small town of Waregem, because their ground is not up to Uefa standards, and so Wigan fans will have to travel to Bruges instead.
There are two ways to see Bruges – by foot, or by water. We’d recommend taking a guided trip along the canals, whose multi-lingual guides will give you a potted history of the city along while you sit back and relax. Having done that, it’s time to get your walking boots on, to wander the picturesque backstreets and many squares.
Starting off at the market square is usually a good idea, and for a great view of the city you can climb the Belfry. It’s over 350 steps (and €8) to get to the top, but the views from 80 meters above the city more than make up for the exertions.
Once you’ve ticked those two off your list, we’d recommend simply wandering without aim or direction. There are a number of churches and museums that you’re likely to come across on your way, but to get the best feel for the city simply stroll through its streets, and stop off at the occasional bar or cafe for a quick drink.
If you’re a foodie, perhaps the Choco-Story Museum will interest you – for €6 you can nab yourself a history lesson, and a few free samples at the end to boot. If that’s not enough, Bruges is also home to the Friet Museum – a museum dedicated entirely to the humble chip.
If you make your way to the Burg Square, you’ll be sure to note the Basilica of the Holy Blood (Heilige Bloed Basiliek) – a striking Gothic church which claims to have a vial of blood that belonged to Jesus.
Eating and Drinking
If you’re a beer lover, then in Belgium you’re spoiled for choice. It’s not uncommon to walk into a pub and be greeted with dozens of varieties of beer – indeed, the list in some places resembles more of a phonebook than a menu as the options run into the hundreds. Unfortunately for the gastronomes the Belgian cuisine hasn’t quite kept pace with its brewing, although you will find some seafood on offer throughout the city. If you’re a fan of mussels (moules, or mosselen in Flemish) then you’re quids in.
When it comes to eating or drinking, however, we’d offer the same advice: stay away from the central market square or the Burg square if you don’t want to pay through the nose for what you consume. Bars and restaurants 50-100m away from the tourist traps on the main squares can often be more than 25% cheaper for the same food and drink.
Belgians love chocolate almost as much as they love beer – which is to say a lot. And it’s not just any old chocolate: the Belgians are proud of quality and innovation. Hidden away in the Ziverpand shopping courtyard is the contemporary café Bar Choc – a chocoholic heaven, offering 44 different hot/cold chocolate drinks as well chocolate fondue, pancakes and even rabbit in beer and chocolate sauce!
For a list of different types of bars, including reviews, check out this handy list from Virtual Tourist.
For more information check out Bruges’ official tourism website.
Quite why you’d want to drink over-priced Guinness rather than sample the local brews we don’t know, but it takes all sorts. Even in the home of beer you’ll find Irish pubs to sate your desires. ‘Boru‘, located just off the Burg Square, has that home away from home feeling, with pub grub, live music and wifi on offer (as well as the usual pints of the black stuff). ‘The Druid’s Cellar’ is your other option, this time located just off the main market square beneath a Chinese restaurant.