As soon as it was confirmed I was going to Brussels, I knew I had to visit Bruges. I actually do not remember when I first saw or heard about Bruges, but it’s always been lodged in my head as a must-visit, like a memory from a previous life. After a week of getting over my jet lag and settling into Brussels, I took a train for an overnight stay in Bruges.
One of the things I love about Belgium is how accessible the country is – from Brussels every corner of Belgium is at most an hour away by train, so it took me no time at all to skip giddily down the medieval streets along with all the other day trippers.
Bruges, or Brugge natively, is dizzying in how pretty and uniform it is. Uniform not in the sense that all houses look alike, but it is as if everything was frozen in time, much like Siena actually. I stayed right in the heart of the city, a few steps from the Belfort, Bruges’ bell tower and symbol of medieval civic liberties. The amazing views set to the chiming bells was worth the somewhat claustrophobic climb and it allowed me to work off all the chocolate and waffles I had been consuming! I also made it a point to walk through Minnewater park – it is said if you cross the bridge, pictured above, with a loved one, you will be together forever. The Bruges Beguinage is also amazing and I picked sunrise to walk through it, before all the tourists poured in. The Beguines were female lay devotional communities spread throughout Northern Europe, especially the Low Countries, in the 13th – 16th centuries. Either way, it’s a lovely courtyard with bending trees and swans in the surrounding canals.
I would love to write a fully comprehensive travel guide for Bruges, but the best thing is to wander around the city – it’s very small, so you’ll stumble on everything in your guidebook within minutes of each other. My goal here is only to whet your appetite. 🙂
NOTE: Most things are closed on Monday, so if you’re going overnight or on a day trip, avoid Bruges on Monday!
Likewise, I tried to speak French in Bruges but more often than not, unlike Brussels, I was answered in English. A lot of this has to do with the political and cultural divisions within Belgium itself, so if you’re going north or away from France, it’s best if you use English. In Brussels it is quite the opposite, not so many people know English but French lets you get around easily.