Bruges, with its beautiful medieval architecture, cobblestone streets and picturesque canals, seems to be straight out of a fairytale. Often called “Venice of the North“, it beckons travelers to tour its grand squares as well as its tiny back alleys and discover all its wonderful charms.
While not as popular as Paris, Rome or London, I believe that Bruges, which lies just a little over 50 miles from Brussels, is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. You will fall in love with its wonderful historic buildings, quaint cobblestone streets and lovely canals. Its entire historic center has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site so you know I’m not the only one who thinks Bruges is special. Besides being beautiful, the city is known for having some of the best waffles, beer, mussels, frites and chocolate in Europe which will certainly please most every visitor.
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Hopefully, travel will return to normal soon and we will once again start to plan trips but unfortunately my husband and I won’t be traveling to Europe as usual this fall. Instead, join me on a quick virtual trip to Bruges…no planes and crowds to deal with. Let me show you some of the sights that await us as we walk along the cobblestone streets and tour the city by horse drawn carriage, when our feet need a rest. Of course, a visit to Bruges would not be complete without a boat trip on the city’s lovely canals where you are treated to magnificent views around every bend. My husband and I have toured Bruges all three ways and I would suggest you do the same if you visit on your own.
While I always enjoy discovering new destinations, I’d love to return to this picture postcard city because one visit is just not enough and it has been well over ten years since my husband and I last visited. I’m reminded of this lovely city every day because my Avatar, that tiny picture that represents me on social media as Back Road Journal, was taken in Bruges.
The Stoofstraat, or Stove Street in English, is one the Bruges narrowest streets where the walls are so close to each other you can spread out your arms and touch both sides as you see me doing in the photo. There is another photo of me on that same street as I stopped to gaze in the window of Tsjokoreeto Chocolate Shop. The beautifully decorated window displayed pralines, truffles and other kinds of chocolates to lure shoppers into the little shop. You will find shops like this on almost every corner in Bruges. Also found on the same street, Malesherbes is a tiny restaurant with just six tables so reservations are a must as it has a good reputation for the food it serves.
The historic city, circled by canals is very compact and easily walkable. The perfect place to start would be the impressive Market Square where a market has been held for over 10 centuries. The square is surrounded by beautiful step gabled old guild houses that are now cafes and small bistros. The square is dominated by the famous medieval Belfry Tower with its 47 bell carillon. If you have the strength and aren’t claustrophobic, you can climb the 366 narrow steps to the top for an impressive view over the city.
Horse drawn carriages tie up in the square waiting to take visitors for a thirty minute tour around town. The tour will stop along the Wijngaardplein near the Betuinage for the horses to rest and so you can stretch your legs . This is the only place in Bruges where the swans are fed, which is why there are so many in this spot.
The Beguinage, a walled convent inside the city center that is now the lovely home to the Benedictine sisters. You are allowed to enter the pretty grounds but it is designated a quiet zone, making it all the more lovely spot to visit.
Also be sure to visit the beautiful Burg Square with its Bishop’s Palace, Town Hall and Law Courts, now the Tourist Office and the Holy Blood Basilica.
On the Walplein Square, you will find the ancient and well loved brewery The Halve Maan, Half Moon in English. It is the only remaining original family owned brewery and many say has the best beer in Bruges. One of its beers called “Brugse Zot” is considered one of the best blonde beers in Belgium. We joined one of the brewery’s tours which even took us to the rooftop of the brewery for a fantastic view of the city. After you finish the tour, there is a tasting and afterwards you will be given a glass of your favorite beer.
Once you’ve visited this beautiful city, your thoughts will return to it time and again. Perhaps your favorite memory will be the beautiful view from the canals at Rozenhoedkaai, the Quay of the Rosary in English. It is where you can see the Belfrey Tower and the Church of Our Lady’s brick tower, the second tallest in the world. It is probably the most photographed location that you will see during your entire visit to Bruges. Be sure not to miss, especially on a lovely day.
If you have been to Bruges or it is on your list of places to visit, you probably already know that because of its size, it is possible to see all the major attractions in just one day but to really enjoy this delightful city, you need to spend a couple of leisurely days to appreciate all its charm. I believe that everyone needs to spend at least one night in Bruges because that is when it is the most beautiful and romantic as many of its wonderful historic buildings are all floodlit. With Bruges’ picture postcard setting, beautiful architecture, museums and good food, this Belguim city just oozes with charm and certainly has something to please any visitor. I do hope to be able to return to this picture postcard city as one visit is just not enough.