After spending a heavy couple of days in Brussels, we were totally ready for Bruges. One of the most walkable European cities I’ve ever been to and by the far the most enchantingly beautiful. We’d stepped over from French Brussels to Dutch Bruges and we subsequently stepped back in time. You can can also read all about my guide to beer in Belgium which includes Bruges and Brussels and my post on two days and nights in Brussels.
We travelled from Brussels to Bruges by train as they’re only 1 hour apart through Ghent. From the train station, we got on a bus that goes right to the Central Markt square. Incidentally, where our hotel was. It wasn’t a fantastic hotel, but we were upgraded to a deluxe room which gave us the best view of the city. The Central Markt and view of the famous Belfry!
Belfry/Belfort in the Square
The first thing we did on our first morning in Bruges was to head up to the top of the Belfry to avoid the queues (only 70 people up there at a time!). Make a mental note: The tourist information office, and basically all of the attractions, including the Belfry, don’t open until 10am. So even if you get up bright and early, not much will be open. And the Belfry also closes about 4pm so you really need to watch your timing.
The stairs going up to the top become as narrow as they say. By the end it’s practically a ladder. You do get fantastic views at the top and I’m really pleased that my lens could poke through the safety mesh so I didn’t have to precariously hold my phone out of a window.
I’ve heard Bruges be called the Venice of the North. Though isn’t that Stockholm? Belgium isn’t that far north! And why is there a Venice of everywhere? Anyway, I digress… It’s because of all Bruges’ beautiful canals. I would definitely recommend taking a Canal tour. There are many different pick up points, but I’m fairly certain they all cover the same stretch of water. Your driver acts as a guide and they will translate everything in Dutch and English. It certainly is great being an English-speaker for times like this, despite how ignorant that makes us…
Whilst in Belgium we had to visit a chocolate museum. The Choco-story in Bruges was much more highly rated than any of the museums in Brussels so we decided on this one. I believe it’s actually a chain of chocolate museums as Iola said she’d been to one in Germany, but they tailored this one specifically to Belgium so it was still relevant.
It wasn’t one of the best things we did on the trip, but you simply cannot go to Belgium and not find out more about it’s chocolate history, can you? You also get a free chocolate bar on arrival and a chocolate making demonstration. The chocolate is an ultra-fresh praline which is what the Belgian’s are particularly famous for, chocolate-wise.
We also went to an art museum called Groeningmuseum which is Bruges’ most celebrated art gallery. It was nice, but not an absolute must-see in my opinion. Though it got to our second day and we were actually stuck for things to do.
We did bump into Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child outside the Our Lady church. Though, I did take pictures of two other similar statues because I thought ‘that might be it’. The hoards of tourists around the below statue tell me it’s the right one.
Also whilst you’re walking around the Central Markt, it’s worth a very quick walk to the Burg. This is another square which has a beautiful building that for more than five centuries housed the Count of Flanders.
We ate at a really lovely little spot on our first night in Bruges. It was in my Lonely Planet guide book and was a place called ‘t Ganzespel which means something like Goose or Geese in Dutch. It was rather an odd place, it opens at 6:30pm and was an absolute bitch to find. I must have apologised to Iola about 4 times with a “Oh, sorry, we’re going the wrong way again.” Had there not already been 3 tourists waiting outside, I think we would have walked right passed it. It’s only open Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings and the owner ushered us in to sit anywhere.
The menu wasn’t bad for veggies. I had a vegetarian lasagne and Iola chose fish. Bruges is a great place to get fresh fish from the menu of the day. We randomly also had vegetable soup at the start of our meal too. I had my first ever Crème Brulee (what have I been missing?!) and despite the three course meal it was really reasonably priced. The décor was the winner though with pictures and statues of geese everywhere. Definitely on the right side of quirky.
Waffles, Chocolate, Ice-Cream, oh my!
We didn’t really fancy anymore fries and waffles and the weather was fairly warm so we went to Da Vinci, an Ice Cream parlour as recommended by Lonely Planet. They might not have every flavour available on any given day day, but they will happily give you tasters if you can’t make up your mind. Iola was pretty happy.
Bruges is definitely a city break that you could do over a bank holiday weekend to save on some annual leave. And don’t write it off as a really quiet, pensioners sort of holiday. There were tourists there of all ages and plenty of shopping, museums, tea rooms and fabulous restaurants. Yes, some were a bit pricey so I would do a bit of research on places to eat, but it’s doable. What’s more, is it’s such a safe city. Not once did I ever feel like there were pickpockets about or that there were ever ‘too’ many people. And what’s more relaxing than that?!
If you’ve ever been to Bruges I’d love to know where you went and what you did!