Definitely one of those cities that you can’t help reminisce about with a little sigh, a comma and its name. Oh, Bruges… (yes, feel free to add an ellipsis as well, for extra drama.)
Romantic European getaway, relaxing and unusual hen-do destination, family friendly location or lone traveller’s mind-clearing retreat, this Belgian gem of a city needs to be experienced at least once in a lifetime. First of all, it’s the perfect city to see in a two-days weekend (even better if you have three days, of course). Really, you don’t need more time than that to soak up all Bruges’ beauty. Choose springtime, because of the good weather and because it tends to be packed with tourists in high season.
Bruges oozes with character. Think of Venice meets Siena, with bold brushes of colour and a lot of chocolate. Tons of chocolate.
From London St. Pancras, Eurostar trains take you to Brussels (so, if you have time, you can combine these two very different cities in the same holiday and it’ll be totally worth it!); from there you can continue your journey on a national train and it’s only 40 minutes more. Although Bruges is not exactly cheap, visiting on a budget is still possible, taking advantage of the Ibis Budget Hotel (located just outside the station, a short walk to the city centre and a good abundant morning breakfast!) or opting for an Air BnB dig.
What to see – Everything! Just walk and lose yourself, you’ll always find your way to beautiful views. One of the two main squares is Markt (Market Square), famous for its unique and colourful pointy roofed buildings and for the Historium, museum that offers virtual historical tours and a wonderful view from its rooftop. Burg, the other one, is more tucked away, but it’s home to the magnificent gothic City Town Hall. You probably have seen a place called Rozenhoedkaai in the pictures of all your friends who visited Bruges before: this famous photo-spot overlooking the canal, with a suggestive weeping willow and typical architecture as background, is the main area for cafes and restaurants, you are really spoilt for choice. You can also visit Saint-Janshospital, which is one of the oldest hospitals in Europe, with its own museum of artifacts not for the faint hearted. In the late afternoon (or at any time, really) don’t forget to have a long and relaxing stroll across Minnewater Park: expanding around what is known as the “Lake of Love”, this beautiful park will soothe your eyes and make you want to kiss a stranger on a bridge. Well, don’t. (Joking, follow your heart, sweetie).
What to eat – You definitely should try the Flemish Stew (or Carbonnade Flamande), a stew of succulent beef chops slow cooked in dark beer and onions, served with crispy fries. Oh, so good. Or the famous Moules-Frites, delicious mussels cooked in wine, beer or cream and paired again with a rich side of fries. Fries and potatoes in general are massively present in Belgian cuisine, and you can try different kinds of mash as well as an alternative to the crispy sticks. Of course, being in Belgium, you have to indulge in the wonderful chocolate creations that this country provides. Go to Neuhaus (or to Elisabeth if you have time to kill when you’re in Brussels) and stock on the gorgeous assortment of lush pralines, truffles and bonbons that combine the finest Belgian chocolate with creams, fruit and nuts beyond your imagination. It’s pure sex. Another unmissable dessert in Bruges is Belgian waffles, fresh from the iron cast and topped with voluptuous mountains of cream, ice cream, fruit and/or flooded with thick melted chocolate. Delicious and quite filling. You can’t leave the Belgian border without having experienced a food baby from waffles. And of course be adventurous with the selection of crafted Belgian beers from the many beer bars in Bruges. I went for wine. I know: “Italians”.
What activities to do – Visit the many museums that Bruges offers! At the moment two big exhibitions of Picasso and Salvador Dali are snatching all the attention, but if you’re bored with Art you can find an Archeological Museum, a Chocolate Museum and even a Fries Museum! Pay a visit to the Brugs Biermuseum if you are fascinated by the whole process of creation of beer (and go wild on the sample tasting area!). Boat tours along the many canals in Bruges are another option that allow you to embrace the spirit of this lovely city. Or you can venture just outside the city centre and visit the windmills of Bruges, some of them still working and open to the public after three centuries.
What’s Instagrammable – Basically the whole city. But if we want to point out some highlights from Bruges let’s say that your Instagram feed can’t do without
- the doors and the houses (with infinite colour combinations and quirky decorations);
- weeping willows (really, they are so poetic);
- strawberries dipped in chocolate;
- the thousand small statues that you can spot on corners of buildings;
- Tintin memorabilia;
- waffles, waffles, waffles like there’s no tomorrow;
- you on a bridge. And of course you and your loved one with the backdrop of Rozenhoedkaai (not going to share that one with you, hope you don’t mind 😀
I hope this post and my photodiary enticed you into visiting and discovering this precious city, that surely will stay in your heart much, much longer after the chocolate praline box from Neuhaus is finished. (Which usually happens on the way back to the hotel, it rarely survives one day. Mine didn’t, ça va sans dire.)
Have you been to Bruges? What did you love the most?