Brugge, where everyone is desperate to visit
The picture-perfect Bruges is made for weekends but if you have only one day, that’s also fine, as the canal-laced city is a short train ride from Brussels. You can take a misty stroll around the brick streets brimming with cute boutiques and chocolate shops packaged in authentic gingerbread-style houses.
The best way to see the sights is on foot. Exploring the picturesque town and bumping into wonderful details here and there is one of the greatest things to do when in Bruges. Part of the city’s charm is its small scale, even when you get lost, there’s always an easy and quick way back; getting from the Minnewaterpark to the Baron Ruzette Park on opposite sides of the center takes half an hour on foot.
The heart of Bruges is its Markt, or market place, where 19th century gabled buildings edge three sides of it. The square is surrounded by the Provincial Court as well as the medieval brick belfry dating back to 1240. The Belfry has fallen victim to fire three times and takes about climbing 366 steps to reach the top of the 83 metre tall bell tower. Even these panoramic views or the shows I came across didn’t boost my mood after all the time loss in the queue. Try queuing up while everyone else isn’t it, like lunch time!
Highlights of the Brugge include the grand Brugse Vrije, the city’s medieval control centre, and the Stadhuis, with its dazzling Gothic Hall. At the western end of the Stadhuis is the Heilig-Bloedbasiliek, the Basilica of the Holy Blood, which houses a phial believed to contain Christ’s blood, as well as a lavish treasury.
Brugge_Vrije & Stadthuis
Church of Our Lady is a church / museum where you’ll find a white marble statue of the Madonna and Child by Michelangelo around 1504. It was the only sculpture by Michelangelo to leave Italy during his lifetime.
Begijnhof, a respectable shelter for unmarried women is a grassy garden complex surrounded by 13th-century whitewashed cottages, and still preserves an air of tranquility and contemplation.
You must have heard of the fame of the Belgians for chocolate. Bruges has museums dedicated to chocolate as well as fries: Choco-Story and the Museum of the Frite.
Beer is to the Belgians what wine is to the French, and there are reckoned to be 100 varieties brewed nationwide. Visit either the 500-year-old Herberg Vlissinghe or the De Halve Maan brewery established in 1564 famous for Straffe Hendrick beer. Legend has it the name of the local beer, Brugse Zot, came from a visit of Maximilian of Austria to the town, when the people of Bruges organised a colourful parade of merrymakers and fools. When they asked him at the end of the day to provide money for a new madhouse he replied: "Today I have seen nothing but fools. Bruges is already one large madhouse." Since then the Bruges residents are called "Brugse Zotten" (Fools of Bruges).
A canal tour with so many waterways crisscrossing the city is a great way to explore. However, be prepared for the canal tour to be too fast to remember rather than romantic.
Horse coach rides in the Bruges city center are very popular. All tours pass alongside the horse fountain on the way, just past the bridge of the Beguinage, close to Minnewater Park, making sure the horses are able to drink.
Begijnhof is not the only common point with Amsterdam, windmills as well! Take a bus or pedal to the northeastern end of the old town which is surrounded by 4 windmills dating from the 18th century. The Koeleweimolen and Sint-Janshuismolen mills are an important part of the city’s heritage and both are still actively grinding grain.
- Visit Venice of the North in wintertime if you can’t stand crowds.
- Keep in mind that the maximum tempareture in Bruges is 21°C, so be prepared to quite changeable, cold and unexpectedly rainy weather.
BEST OF THE REST
- Watch the 2008 Colin Farrell movie “In Bruges”, a black comedy about two Irish hitmen, before your visit, to have a glimspe of the iconic sites of the town.
- Bruges is no stranger to festivals of all shapes and sizes, including a citywide photography festival, an annual Cactus Music Festival in July, Procession of the Holy Blood in May and the Bruges Triennial, a contemporary art festival from May to Octover with light sculptures and treehouses.
- Homey restaurants such as Den Amand, Den Huzaar, Ganzespel, and Gran Kaffee de Passage serve top-notch comfort food of the Flemish kind.
- Café Rose Red, a charming little dwelling where roses dangle from the ceiling and many lovebirds emerge newly engaged.
- Lace & diamond lovers will find something for their taste, I’m sure.
- Don’t miss Sorbetiere De Medici’s fresh-baked Belgian waffles topped with whipped cream and chocolate sauce.
- For a pleasant day trip, take a paddleboat along the Damse Vaart canal to Damme, a picturesque village near the Dutch border.
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