Turns out my favourite singer was going to do a festival gig in Belgium on the 4th of July and my girls wanted to go, would I come too? Sure! And while I’m in Belgium why not visit a few places, I said to myself. I had a few free days anyway, so I decided to spend two in Bruges, a place that was described by many friends as a magic small town.
So there I was, on the hottest train ever, getting into Bruges station. And for once, and this was probably a first, I didn’t have a clue what to do and see in this quaint little town in the north of Belgium. All I had was a small map printed from google with the location of my hotel, the Novotel Brugge Centrum. Me and my trolley suitcase exited the station building, crossed the street and then it started… the cobbled streets, the picturesque alleys, the medieval atmosphere. Only by walking from the station to the hotel I already saw so many beautiful places to fill a whole photo album! As it was a felt 40 degrees Celsius, I was really sticky and feeling dirty from the train journey and my suitcase wasn’t exactly light, I rushed to the hotel, knowing that I would have enough time to come back the following day. It was late afternoon, so I took a quick shower, asked the receptionist for a town map and went out exploring. Here’s a list of what you should do when in Bruges…
People watching on the Grote Markt
This is the main square right in the centre of town. All around it there are some beautiful and well preserved old buildings. Belfort Tower is on this place too and I hear the view from the top is stunning, but 388 steps? Not for me when it’s scorching hot! Horse carriage tours start on this square too. In the little streets around the Markt you can find a lot of nice shops and restaurants. I ate lunch and dinner on this square, it was bustling with people and an excellent spot for people watching. I had a tasty salad for lunch in the Brasserie Craenenburg, and while I didn’t mind eating alone at a restaurant for lunch I felt a bit more self conscious at dinner time, so I opted for some take away fries from the green carts on the square, I ate them sitting on the steps under the big statue in the middle of the square. Did you know that French Fries were actually “invented” in Belgium? Bruges even has a museum dedicated to fries. The ones I got from the green carts were delicious by the way, I read somewhere that they bake them twice to make them more crispy and you can chose from about 15 different sauces. Yum!
Staring in awe at the magnificent buildings in Burg Square
Just next to the Grote Markt you will find the Burg Square, another great place with beautiful buildings all around it, but this one is much less crowded maybe because it’s mainly official buildings and there are nearly no shops and restaurants on it. On this square you can find the town hall and the Basilica of the Holy Blood.
Relaxing around Minnewater Lake
This small lake in the middle of a nice park is an excellent spot for relaxing when you’re tired of walking around the busy town. Watch the many swans and ducks and maybe even have a picnic. Around the park there are also some nice buildings that are worth visiting.
Learn more about beguines in Begijnhof
You enter Begijnhof passing over a bridge and then suddenly find yourself in a world of its own. It’s really quiet there, despite the many tourists visiting. There are about 30 white painted houses built around a big central yard lined with trees. There’s a church and a museum too.
Take tons of pictures at Rozenhoedkaai
This is possibly the nicest looking spot in Bruges. The canal bending and in the corner all the charming ancient historic buildings. And in the back the Belfort tower.
Cruise the canals
You can board one of the many boats that take you on a canal cruise pretty much everywhere. I did so near Sint Janshospital, at the Stael NV. I loved the 30-minute cruise, it was informative and I learned a few interesting things on the town. Also, I find traveling by boat relaxing and it’s always good to rest your feet for a little while.
Don’t miss Sint Janshospitaal
I didn’t visit the museum, but even from the outside this 800 years old hospital is just beautiful. In the inner courtyard you can find the access to the chapel and the pharmacy, that unfortunately was always closed when I wanted to visit.
Have dinner on Simon Stevinplein
I didn’t, but that’s only because I discovered this cute little square too late to do so. I liked its atmosphere and some of the restaurants on it looked really interesting. I’ll keep it in mind for my next visit ;)
Stuff yourself with sweets
Whether you prefer waffles, chocolate or other sweets… you don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to shop in one, two, three or even four sweet shops in Bruges. I live in Switzerland, and we have quite a lot of chocolate shops too, but Bruges is something else, every second shop sells something sweet! I passed on the chocolate as our own is excellent too, but indulged in some marzipan and nougat, oh, and of course I just had to have some waffles too, with chocolate and strawberries.
Walk, walk, walk
… until you have walked down all the different little alleys in the historic part of town. Each one has its own little treasure to discover, be it a particularly nice building, a little shop selling the cutest tiny chocolate figurines or a charming café. The town is really compact so you can walk everywhere, and when you’re tired just sit on one of the walls on the canal and contemplate the boats, maybe while eating some sweets you just bought.
I spent about a day and a half in Bruges and I think I got to see the main sights, if you want to visit the museums too you should spend a little more time in town.