It was coming up to Valentine's day and we decided to visit Bruges, we booked the P&0 mini cruise plus an extra night which gave us two days and one night in Bruges. We booked the mini cruise while it was on two for one so it cost us the bargain price of £99 for both of us return!
You can also reach Bruges via Plane (Brussels, and then get the train from there) or even by eurostar but I feel that the P&O mini cruise are the best value for money with transfers from the ferry port direct to Bruges centre.
We booked one of the more expensive hotels in Bruges and that was probably the best decision we have ever made. The hotel was called the Nuit Blanche and it was a medieval style hotel owned by a local artist David who was the most amazing host I had ever come across. There are numerous hotels all around Bruges that will accommodate everyone's budget. I use Booking.com to find the best hotels.
When we first reached the city centre of Bruges and I began wondering the streets I could believe what a perfect city this was - literally in every way.
Firstly there are hardly any cars, Bruges does not have traffic lights, road markings or road signs, and maybe this is because its main traffic supply is Horse and Carriage. From the minute you wake up until the minute you got to sleep you can hear the hooves of the horses clocking against the cobbles, it is just like stepping back in time.
I knew the moment we got there we would for sure be taking a ride through the city by Horse and Cart...how romantic? There was so much to explore and every inch of Bruges amazed me. The people were so friendly, the chocolate shops on every corner, the ales, the list is just endless.
As you will probably know Bruges is famous for its Beer and I myself am a wine drinker so didn't think I would take advantage of this but I knew I had to give it a try. There are Ale shops everywhere you look with a range of over 500 different ales, the strawberry and cream beer was my favourite.
The city is one of the most picturesque I have ever been too, but it's magnificent in every other way. We found a little Tea Room/Chocolate shop on our first day and stopped for an afternoon snack, it was so lovely. It was very similar to Bettys Tea room but without the cost! Only 18 euros for a large selection of various cakes and a large hot chocolate each.
There are chocolate shops every couple of yards in Bruges and this is perfect for chocolate lovers, the chocolate is also reasonably priced as I found out when I selected many chocolates and a huge bag cost me 5 euros.
You can just wonder around all of the beautiful cobbled streets and explore all the museums that Bruges has to offer. If you are a lover of museums like myself then Bruges sell a museum pass which can be purchased at any museum across the city and costs just 15 euros or cheaper if you are under 25 or a student, roughly 5 euros.
Included in the museum pass is the trip up the Belfry Tower, the belfry tower is the highlight of Bruges, it is situated in the market square and you have to climb 366 steps to reach the top - worth every breath of air in my opinion. The views from the top are out of this world.
We also took a Horse and Carriage ride around the city, it was an experience that will stay with me for a lifetime and I would recommend to anyone visiting Bruges. It was slightly expensive at 39 euros plus 10 euros tip but for half an hour I didn't think that was too bad and worth every penny. There is a stop for the horse to rest for 5 minutes but we just looked around some of the houses near to where we had pulled up and its reassuring that the horse is well looked after.
Before our departure of Bruges we headed towards lovers lake which is another famous spot in Bruges, it was beautiful and the people of Bruges believe if you throw money into the lake you will have everlasting love, how true this is I'm unsure but it is worth losing a penny to try?
Bruges being in Europe and having the Euro currency I expected it to be rather expensive but it was a lot cheaper than I expected. I would say it is cheaper than Britain's main city prices and this can easily be done on a budget, me and my partner took £500 between us and £140 of that was for the hotel, we then had all our drinks, our museum passes, the horse and carriage ride, boat trips and so much more and came back with £60 so it can be done!
I fell in Love with Bruges, an amazing city with so much to offer and such a lovely place I hope everyone gets to visit at least once in their life.
Bruges was never a place high on my list of 'places to visit'. I had never seen the film In Bruges and had no interest in seeing it. I don't drink beer and quite frankly, Belgium sounded a bit sterile. I had heard a few people rave about how beautiful Bruges was but I like being kept busy with things to do and look at and it sounded to me like beauty was all it had in its favour. Not for me, I thought to myself. My boyfriend, however, had other ideas. He loves Medieval history and the idea of visiting a Medieval city really appealed to him. He also loves beer, especially Belgian beer and I'm sure that had something to do with his interest in visiting! He convinced me that being surrounded by Belgian chocolate for a week could surely never be a bad thing and that was it, I was straight online to do a bit of booking for Bruges! The whole of Bruges is a UNESCO World Heritage site, so that gives you an idea of just how special it is.
Considering that it is a relatively popular place to visit, I thought getting there would be easy but alas, I was wrong. There are plenty of deals available where you go by bus to the ferry terminal, spend a day in Bruges and then get back on the ferry home but we wanted to spend a bit longer than a day. I'm sure we could have travelled to the ferry ourselves and made our own arrangements but since neither of us drive, flights were more convenient (and cheaper). There isn't an airport particularly near Bruges, however so we decided to just book flights to Brussels and get a train out from there. We also decided that this would give us a bit more freedom. If we arrived in Brussels and really like it and wanted to see more, we could spend our first day wandering around Brussels and then get the train to Bruges at night, or we could leave Bruges early on the last day there and travel to Brussels to see more of it if we wished. On arrival in Brussels, we weren't impressed, so we found our way to our hotel and in the morning found our way to the train station (using trams and the metro, if I remember right) and getting lost more than we really should have!
The train station was also a bit of a maze but luckily trains to Bruges are frequent so it wasn't a panicked case of trying to catch the only train that ran per day. After walking around looking lost, looking at signs and finally finding the ticket office, we managed to get our train tickets. I can't remember how much exactly they cost but I am extremely stingy and would have definately have remembered if they were expensive! So I reckon it probably cost about 10 euros each each way. We found our platform after again, more time spent being lost and got on our train, not entirely convinced that we were on the right one! The train was extremely comfortable and the journey to Bruges only took about an hour.
At the other side we walked out the wrong exit to the station and had to double back on ourselves to find the right one (if you haven't gathered this yet, we are a tad navigationally challenged). By this time we were both a bit exhausted with the constant getting lost and I convinced him that we should just get a taxi to the hotel. Bruges is a small place but we didn't know our bearings yet, so the taxi was the easiest option. Ten minutes later and we were at our hotel.
We spent a week in Bruges so we managed to see pretty much everything that was on offer, apart from a couple of things.
The Museums: Both me and the boyfriend love a good museum and so one of the first things we did was purchase a museum pass. As a student, I got mine for very little. My boyfriend had to pay more, of course. I think his cost around 15 euros and mine cost 5 euros. This got us into most of the museums. I'll give a little info on each below:
-The Groeninge Museum: This is really an art gallery rather than a museum, displaying the works of Flemish painters. I'm not a huge art fan at the best of times, although will wander round a gallery if there is one. My boyfriend loves art but particularly that of the Italian Renaissance. I always find Flemish painting a bit dark and depressing, so although we took a wander round here, neither of us found it very exciting. It is also, like all the museums in Bruges, quite small. I suppose it really makes sense considering Bruges is a small place and you can't expect to find something the size of the Louvre in a tiny place.
-Gruuthuse Museum: You can find antiques and art here and it is one of the main museums in Bruges. Again, it wasn't really to our tastes but that's probably just us.
-The Archaeological Museum: I was very excited by this as I studied Archaeology for 2 years during my degree and excavate as a volunteer every summer at different sites but it was a huge disappointment. When we went inside it was clearly aimed towards kids but I thought that it still would be fun (as I'm a big kid at heart!) but it didn't really tell you or show you anything and neither was in very interactive. I don't think either kids or adults would be impressed but at least entry was included in our pass for us so we didn't waste money.
-St. Salvator Cathedral: A Cathedral with free entry that also houses a small museum. Entry to the museum is included in the museum pass.
-St. Janshospitaal en Memling Museum: Originally a hospital, it now houses 15th century art.
There are also private museums, not included in the museum pass. These include:
-The Choco Story: This was high on my 'hit-list'. It tells you the history of chocolate and then you go downstairs to admire some chocolate sculptures and get a demonstration of how to make praline (with a free trial of a praline)!
-The Diamond Museum: Neither of us wanted to go here and only went because we had nothing to do on our last day and walked past and thought that we may as well go inside. The museum tells you everything you could ever need to know about diamonds but the really interesting bit is the diamond demonstration where you are shown the techniques used to cut, shape and polish a real diamond. Was well worth a visit in the end!
-Half Moon Brewery: Not really a museum, per se, but a brewery with a cafe that also runs brewery tours.
Of course, we can't forget the Belfrey tower and the Markt, the square that it is in. Our hotel was right behind this but as my boyfriend is afraid of heights, we didn't go up it.
The city itself is truly picturesque so walking around it is nice in and of itself (we walked round the city outer limits one evening, too, which was nice). Canal boat tours run for which the cost is set by the City so you can't get ripped off (every tour company has to charge the same price) and you can also pay for horse and cart tours although these are quite pricey. When we were there, the canal tours cost, I think 6.90 and lasted about 40 minutes with a multi-lingual guide.
I'm religious and love visiting churches and although my boyfriend isn't religious, he does love church architecture so we visited a lot of churches while we were there. I've already mentioned St. Salvators but we also visited the Church of the Holy Blood which is in the Burg. If you have seen In Bruges (which I watched on my return), they state that they are in the Church of the Holy Blood at one point in the movie. In actual fact, they are in Jeruzalemkerk (another church in the city) as the Church of the Holy Blood wouldn't allow them to film. The Church of the Holy Blood holds a relic of a vial meant to contain some of Christ's blood and they have a festival of the Holy Blood once a year which includes a procession through the city. At certain times of the year, they bring the blood out for pilgrims to view. I'm not Catholic and believe that most religious relics are far from genuine (not that I'm suggesting that the churches that own them are deliberately trying to fool people as I believe many of these churches genuinely believe that their relics are real) but when we were at this church the relic was out for display so I went for a little peek at it. It is guarded by a Church official, but people were touching it and so forth. I just went for a little look and then scuttled off.
Jeruzalemkerk is also worth a mention. It is meant to be based on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem so I was keen to visit as I've also been to Jerusalem. I didn't see many similarities with the church of the Holy Sepulchre myself but then I can only vaguely remember what it looked like. Jeruzalemkerk also has a lace museum attached and when we were there, there were ladies making lace who you could go and watch. Lace is one of the items Bruges is famous for, so it was interesting to see it being made for a small fee.
The Lover's Lake, Minnewater is very picturesque but the horse and carts stop here to water the horses so depending what part of the lake you stand at, you might have to smell lots of horse poop! Koningin-Astridpark is also a nice place for a walk. My boyfriend and I used to go at night when it was quiet and then play in the kids playpark like the big children we are! This playpark features in In Bruges as well (remember where Colin Farrell was when he was going to kill himself? Well this is the park.)
The atmosphere in Bruges is great. We went fairly early in the year (mid-spring) when it wasn't too busy. The weather was nice, not too cold or too warm and there were tourists but not so many that you felt like one in a herd of cattle. It has a very laid back atmosphere very different to what I've experience elsewhere. At the risk of sounding like Ralph Fiennes here, it really is like a fairytale and doesn't really feel like a working city but has a laid back vibe to it. It is such a pretty place that no matter where you go, you just are surrounded by beauty and it really is a lovely, relaxing place to be.
Now the Important Bits
It's all very well knowing how to get there and what there is to do, but what about the beer and the chocolate I hear you cry! Well, I want leave my audience waiting any longer. Beer and chocolate exist in copious quantities. There are a huge number of chocolatiers in the city (some of them with very elaborate and impressive window displays). Some are, as you would expect, far more expensive than others but I found a few shops all under the same ownership that were very reasonable. My boyfriend says that he doesn't like chocolate but when I came out of one of the choc shops with a box of mixed chocolates, he seemed to suddenly find a love for them as his hand dipped in and out of it! I also bought little boxes of shaped chocs to bring home as presents and again, they were a bargain with them on offer for 4 boxes for 10 euros or something along that line.
As for the beer, Belgian beer really is some of the best beer in the world. The bloke of mine was pleased to find a bar that featured a beer wall that contained empty bottles of all the different beers brewed in Belgium and the wall was very extensive! He then tried to sample as many of them as possible during the course of the week. Some of the Belgian beers are strong, though, so be warned. The local and cheap tipple of Jupiler is a bit dire, a bit like the Belgian version of Tennant's, but my man was thrilled with the cheap price of his favourite beer, Leffe, which was costing him around 3 euros in most places whereas in pubs in Glasgow he can spend £5 or £6 for the same thing! I also found that you don't get ripped off in Bruges in the same way that you do in other tourist spots such as Paris. We went to a cafe right next to the Belfry at night on the way back to the hotel as my man wanted to sample a beer there. I laughed and told him he'd be paying through the nose for it due to the location of the cafe. We sat outside, him sampling his beer, right smack bang in the middle of the Markt, right next to the Belfry. It was a massive tankard of beer and when the bill came I was expecting tourist prices but it only cost 4 euros!
I'm sure there are rip-off restaurants and cafes somewhere in Bruges, but we certainly didn't come across any.
I would definately recommend Bruges and go back there myself! However, I think children would probably be very bored there. It is definately a more adult location and although the children would like the play park and would possibly enjoy parts of the Choco-Story, I think by and large they'd be climbing the walls after a few days.
We spent a week there and found that at the end of the week we had done and seen pretty much everything we wanted to. We weren't packing our days full but chilling out a bit, sometimes having long lies and then getting up to start the day late etc. It wasn't like previous holidays I've had to Paris and Rome where it is a mile a minute stuff just trying to pack everything in. As I say, we wanted to see a lot of museums and churches etc. so a week was ideal for us, but I think most people would probably be quite happy after a couple of days here.
In September me and my girlfriend spent our one year anniversary together in one place I've always wanted to visit after seeing In Bruges (I guess everyone does after seeing it), we decided to go to Belgium since we had never been before (in my case I had never been abroad before), it was fairly cheapish, students can't afford alot you know, and it looked stunning and beautiful with numerous cities all within an easy train journey of each other.
We decided to stay in Brugge, it was probably my decision what with wanting to stay out of the way of the hustle and bustle of the capital and wanting to stay for a few days in a relaxed and beautiful atmostphere. We stayed at the Brugotel, it's a little walk from the city center, we found a couple of ways to the center, one down the longest straight road in the world...or so it seemed. The culture wasn't a shock but it was certainly different, the traffic signals, the when to walk 'beeps' at traffic lights and not to mention the hundreds amount of bikes about, so much so that purposeful bike lanes in the roads were around...this we found quite odd but probably alot better than our system in the UK.
About an hours train journey from Brussels it seemed to me to be one of the perfect places to stay to get around Belgium, easy access to Gent, Antwerpen and Brussels, we got to the train station at around 2pm local time and immediatly had to go about buying a 'Go Pass' a 10 journey pass for students costing Euro50, Euro5 a journey to Brussels not half bad. After being told that most people spoke English we found that...well, they didn't. Alot did but some shop/train workers didn't, we were able to manage more than competently enough though. The first thing we saw was a huge amount of bikes, to hire I guess, it was quite daunting!
Back to the town anyway, on the walk from the hotel there was a Lidl and Aldi within easy reach to get cheap food for the day or evening which we only decided on once...but it's there if it suits you, we passed through a castle type bridge which goes over a river which just prior flows through a clean and luscious green park just outside the station that we walked through more than once...my girlfriend was surprised by the amount of wild rabbits...living in Bristol we don't get too many!
The walk into town was very very peaceful, hardly any commotion and everyone seemed so peaceful and relaxed, I suppose living in Bristol and having images on London the day before doesn't help the generalisation of the UK but Brugge seemed particularly calm. We got to t#Zand, an area which brings a huge market on the sunday with a large fountain structure on one side of it, it's here the shops and many many chocolate shops start, the earlier shops are your usual sort you'd find anywhere, clothes, household etc. It wasn't until the further we walked towards the famous markt and belfry that came all the little touristy shops we were waiting for, I partucularly had to keep my girlfriend out of a rather sickly looking candy shop which wa sliterally hundreds of types of candy, chocolate and any sweet imaginable.
The first day in Belgium (we spent the first, 2nd and 4th days in Brugge) was spent just looking around the markt and around the area and finding a place to eat, we found a delicious place which served a very nice steak right on the markt...typical British man going to Belgium and ordering steak. We left it for that night until the next day we took the middle length walk into town again, this time taking many more photos. We decided to spend the day doing much more touristy stuff, the first and most important agenda was of course the Belfry which we had seen so much about in In Bruges, my girlfriend ordered us back down about half way up but no way was I going back. The steps are very very thin and not once or twice felt rather uneasy...and I'm a rather slender (read weak and feable) 20 year old! Luckily there are stop points to gather your breath but once at the top...the view was stunning, from the top you really get a sense of how flat the place is and how high up you are, I've never been so high up somewhere before. We were also up there whilst the bells rang so got a nice deafening to go with possible vertigo (lucky we don't have vertigo then!).
After the belfry we decided to look around for walk and a place to eat, I had always wanted to try Belgian Waffles (having never tried any waffle before ever...other than the potato variety). We found a place and there I was, eating my delicious waffle with whipped cream (don't worry, I had another 2 later on in the week). We took a walk along the canals around the lovers lake looking around the statues around the town before stepping foot in a few more places such as the few cathedrals located around town. We ended the day with the boat trip around the canal, it took about half an hour and it was a brilliant way to see the town from another perspective, certainly worth the Euro6.70. For our actual anniversary day we took a horse drawn carriage ride around the town, with this not onyl did we learn alot about the culture and history of the town but we saw plenty of Brugge we hadn't actually discovered yet and wondered around yet more (this time taking in a Waffle with cream AND stawberries). We were able to find a nice little park that seemed a little out of the way around the cottages and greenery around the train station.
Brugge was more than we expected, I didn't want to leave and want to go back any time I see anything regarding the country, it'll certainly live long in the memory for me. For a place to stay whilst in Belgium it was perfect, it's a quiet place with not much going on other than a calm feeling about the place, there's plenty of touristy things to do to fit into a couple a day (anymore and you may run out). The buildings are beautiful and particularly one near the railway station a huge psychiatric hospital which was gorgeous. The greenery, canals, lakes and monuments around town were breathtaking, particularly the views from across the canal and lake. The food was very nice in and around the Markt and not overly expensive anywhere despite the high exchange rathe when we went. The belfry particularly is worth visiting the place alone and as I said a brilliant place to take in whilst you stay and visit a few other places around Belgium.
This review wouldn't be anything without the talk of chocolate, we must have visited 20 chocolate shops within the center of Brugge and buying alot of it as souvenirs...and eating alot of those souvenirs ourselves. We also found a very nice biscuit shop which baked freshly baked biscuits which can then be placed into a special Brugge tin, it was Euro10 which would usually put me off, but we were in Belgium and it was a gift!
I'm not sure I can really say too much more about Brugge itself, I'll go onto review the other towns and belgium itself soon enough I'm sure, but Brugge was just fantastic, it's not an all action place and I'm certainly a sightseeing type holiday maker so loved it, anyone looking for a busy time will be very dissapointed however. The peacefulness and beautifulness was a joy to be around, it was still very cheap despite the exchange rate and came home with more than Euro50 of the Euro250 I took for the duration of my stay. The people were very friendly, they obviously get alot of tourists and are able to deal with us well. The whole trip but Brugge especially was far beyond what I expected and would visit there again without hesitation.
As for the whole Christs blood thing, we went to have a look, it was free to see, but people were going up and kissing the phial, we felt a little odd since we aren't christian so just left but I'm sure it's an overwhelming thing to do/see if you happen to want to see it.
If you do visit Brugge, please go to Blankenberge, we had probably the funnest time there, sea life center, lots of golf, a beach, a small pier and beyond anything else, the greatest invention in the world...Snookergolf.
Thats my take on Brugge, I've mad myself want to go again now...I'll just have to do with the hundreds of picture instead.
Since I am just back from my 4th visit to Bruges, you would think I had loads to say about the place, but I probably don't. Don't tend to do long and informative reviews on here, but here goes.
So why so many times to Bruges? Am not really sure. I guess it all started about 6 years ago when a Ferry crossing opened up in the town of Rosyth. This is about 12 miles away from where we live. I had heard of the Hull to Zeebrugge crossing, well this was the Rosyth to Zeebrugge. A handy way for us up in Scotland to experience a Ferry Crossing over the North Sea. The original Boat was called the Superfast, which lasted about 3 years. A lovely large Ferry Boat however the costs weren't paying so a new Boat arrived, again the costs didn't pay, so in late 2007 the service was cancelled. This May the service was taken over by Norfolkline and the sailing set again. We went last week when the cheap season was on, but cheap meant £364 for the 2 of us just for the crossing. I can see this boat going again as the Boat only had about 60 people on it either way. Anyway we aren't hear to talk about the Ferry, we are hear to talk about the town that is Bruges.
Although the Ferry docks in the port of Zeebrugges, most people tend to hear to Bruges. About 7 miles from the Port but the Taxi's tend to be very expensive. We took advantage of a 24 Euro fare through the Ferry, but we saw on the meter coming back that that tiny 7 mile journey would have cost aprox 46 Euro. We cannot measure the journey in a straight line, as most of Brugges is a 1 way system, so you find yourselves going around in circles to get to the main road to get out.
Bruges is full of Tourists no doubt because of the frequent Ferry crossings. Also you can get to Brussels by Train in 45 minutes, so you may find that people who fly into Brussels come down to see the quaint old town which is Bruges.
Yes Bruges is known as the Venice of the North, for the reasons of their canals. You cannot see water or canals everywhere though. I find that you only see this down past the market square, or in another part which was close by to the Hotel we always used to stay in. The picture that Dooyoo have up is the part that was near our Hotel, which was about a 10 minute walk from the Market Square.
You will mostly smell 3 smells in Bruges.
1. The smell of the sewers. This could be down to the fact about the water being quite open with the wide Canals. The water looks murky and you see the green mildew markings on the buildings where the water is lapping against them. It's a smell you get used to though, and although not the nicest scent in the world, it isn't like raw sewage or anything.
2. Smoking. Everyone here seems to smoke, and the smell wafts about all the time. Even young teenagers seem to be smoking and the rare time you see an eating establishment that doesn't allow Smoking, when people come out from eating the first thing they do is reach for their fags. We are non smokers, and hate the smell wafting in our faces and clinging to our clothes.
3. Chips and Mayo. The Belgiums love their Chips, and they will ask if you want Mayo before they ask about Ketchup. The Mayo is lovely, nice, rich, thick stuff that you know will be full of calories.
There really isn't much to do in Bruges. It is a lovely historic town where the buildings are old and quaint and all the streets are cobbles. They also have the Horse and cart tours and it is a town that seems stuck in the old days. The streets aren't that wide either, but as my husband pointed out, since most of the buildings seem to date back to the 16th and 17th century, then they wouldn't have envisioned Cars, and the streets were probably more designed for Horse and Carts.
Bruges boasts 72 Chocolate shops. Can't say if this is true as i've never counted, but since there is a Chocolate shop every few shops then I would guess that is right. Who could leave Belgium without sampling some of their Chocolate? The Chocolate is a cut above, and even though you can buy Belgium Chocolate over here, it certainly isn't a patch on the stuff over there. A lot of the shops make their Chocolate onsite, and you see what you see on the Lindor advert with the guy in the large hat making Chocolate. You will get samples in the shops, but although the shops are 10 a penny, they do not bargain on their prices to get custom. It is very much take it or leave it, which I guess is alright.
There is a few ways to buy the Chocolate over there. The most popular way is by the box. You can get 250g,500g,750g and 1kg boxes. Prices vary but normally the 250g boxes are 4 euro, and the 1kg is around 17 euro. Bit odd that you can buy 4 small boxes for cheaper than the 1 large. We did see 1 shop that was selling a 1kg box for 48 euro. I'm sure they were nice, but I didn't buy them unfortunately.
This is certainly a Beer country, as i'm sure you know Belgiums are famous for their Beers. You can pay 2 euro for a bottle of Beer, 2 euro for a bottle of water, but a bacardi and coke will set you back 8 euro. Their spirits and wine prices are expensive.
Food wise in Bruges is alright. They love their seafood, and the restaurants in the market square offer mostly seafood and steak. Prices are expensive thesedays and you would expect to pay about 24 euroes just for a main meal over there just now. They do not have a Burger King, McDonalds, or KFC over there, but they have a Burger Place called Quicks. Same idea and a place we would head for lunch. Damn expensive though. We got 2 medium sized drinks, 2 meduim fries, 2 Hamburgers and their version of a Big Mac. The food wasn't as filling as Mcdonalds, and not as large either and it cost us 13 euroes 60 cents, which is just under £13. We went to Pizza Hut and got a meduim Meat Feast Pizza and this alone cost us 18 euroes, so about £17. The first time we went the prices were much like at home, and I know we are getting hammered with the Euro at the moment, but surely not that much?
Around this time of year they set up an open air Ice Rink, and there is food and Christmas stalls around the ice rink. This is in the town square and looks lovely at night time. It wasn't fully set up when we were there last week, but this week is when it opens.
Any sightseeing here? There is the famous Belfry tower which you can climb. It cost 7 euroes the last time we were there and we climbed the 176 steps to the top. They have now put metal grating over the top part, as people kept climbing up and commiting suicide. There is a Diamond Museum where you can see how they make Diamonds, 2 Breweries that you can go on a tour, and a Boat trip around the Canals.
The other big export from here is Lace, and amongst the Chocolate Shops you will find loads of Lace Shops. Not into Lace myself, but the intricate details is lovely.
Language wise I believe the official lange of Bruges seems to be Flemish, but they all speak very good English anyway.
So there you have it. There really isn't much to this small town. It is relaxing, peaceful and a nice place to chill out and eat Chocolate. I think this will be my last visit to Bruges, as I wasn't impressed by the Ferry and the prices here were horrendous. If I ever fly into Brussels I may stop down for a visit, but i'm sure Brussels will have all what Bruges has got and probably more.
~Where is it?~
Bruges is in the province of West Flanders in Belgium, Europe. It is fondly known as 'The Venice of the North' due to the large number of canals. The best way to get there from the UK is by ferry, but don't go directly, it costs significantly more, a ferry to Calais will set up back about 30 pounds each way, a ferry from Hull to Zebrugge will cost you at least 100 pounds each way, but a ferry from Dover to Dunkirk (closer to Bruges than Calais) will cost 19 pounds each way at the lowest price.
Dunkirk to Bruges will take about 52 minutes by car, saving about half an hour from Calais. Just don't get lost like I did, we were very confused on leaving Dunkirk.
~What is it like?~
Bruges is a beautiful medieval city, with eye-catching architecture and lovely people. It is completely flat, and I mean completely, I don't think I saw any hills at all, which coming from Wales, was a bit of a shock. But it is a good thing, since walking is much easier, and you can just walk for miles without tiring. People tend to travel by bike everywhere, which you will see the sense in, considering the narrow lanes and lack of parking.
The lovely canals are lit up at night, and make some wonderful walks, you can also explore the city by boat in summer, we went at Christmas so there wasn't any running. If you fancy something different head to the square and take a horse drawn carriage around the city. We couldn't afford it sadly, but it's supposed to be magical.
~What can you see~
Let's talk chocolate, Belgium Chocolate is considered one of the finest around, and you can take a tour of a chocolate museum and chocolate factory in one, with a free taster at the end. Seeing how they make their chocolate s fascinating and the taste is unrivalled by anything I've had before - or since.
If you fancy history (which I would assume you do, if you are going to Bruges) then visit the Basilica of the Holy Blood (Heilig-Bloedbasiliek). Even if you are not interested in Churches, this place will take your breath away, it was built between 1134 and 1157 and is said to hold a relic containing a cloth with blood from Jesus, it sits in a vial - a perfume bottle made in the area of Constantinople and dating back to the 11th or 12th Century. It has never been opened since that time! It doesn't really matter if you are a Christian or not, I went there mainly to see the building, (although I was born Roman Catholic). It really is a splendid place, and very interesting. Well worth a visit.
If you go just before Christmas you will find Belgium alive with the hustle and bustle of Christmas Markets, and the one in Bruges is very old fashioned and lovely. There are two squares where it is held, and we didn't realize we had missed half until the end of our holiday; there are stalls, hot waffles, an open air ice rink and the who place is lit up like a Christmas Tree.
It really is worth a visit.
At night, we liked to just walk down the cobbled streets, admiring the buildings, taking in the aroma of Belgium waffles and other delights, and gazing out over the shining canals. Very calming, and awe inspiring.
~What about night life~
Bruges is a quiet, gentle, sophisticated city, and makes no attempt to cater to those seeking a wild time, but if you just fancy a drink, then remember Bruges is in Belgium and they have a MASSIVE selection of beer for you to taste. If you really need a night out, then I recommend heading to Ostend, only about 20 minutes away, but it has a huge casino, lots of clubs and bars.
~Where to stay~
We had no money, so our holiday was budget, but I couldn't have been happier with my accommodation. We stayed at the Lady Jane Bed and Breakfast (google it), the rooms were huge, and themed, we got a Japanese Theme, complete with futon, swords and a low table with stools. We didn't have to eat on the table though, as Hugo (the manager) pointed out, that would be silly. You get your own sitting room and dining room, and bathroom, actually you get the whole floor! Yes, really, the living room is massive, with a TV, fridge, microwave, coffee and tea, two sofas, a fireplace etc. You can bring your own food in (Hugo doesn't mind) and have bread, cheese and salami for dinner! Oh and Hugo makes you a HUGE breakfast and leaves it in you dining room for you, he makes sure there is more than enough for breakfast lunch and dinner! We got about 6 bread roll, 4 types of cold meat, 2 drinks, butter, pastries, jam, chocolate spread etc. Plus it is very reasonable, it cost us around 30 euros a night, might be more now though.
~In conclusions (finally)~
Visit Bruges (and Hugo) you wont regret it.
Bruges is a beautiful city in Brussels and is well worth a visit. The city is only an hour or so from Dunkirk ferry and is a great stop off if driving in Europe. The city itself if is a beautiful medieval city. It is surrounded by a canal with grand gateways at some of the entrances. It is very quaint with cobbled streets and breathtaking architecture. If you visit the city don't drive if you can help it! It is not really designed for cars, the one way system is mind boggling and it's impossible to park. A good tip is to park on the ring road for free or in the train station and walk/cycle in to town. You can walk across in to town in 10minutes. There are millions of great shops selling traditional chocolates and other special girfts. It can be quite a pricey city but there is a great campsite on the outskirts which will help reduce your spending. Make sure you take time to visit the fries museum. Apparently French fries are actually from Belgium and here is a museum all about the history of fries and the humble potato. The fries at the end are possibly the best fries I have ever had. Its a great city and you should definitely spend a few days exploring.
Bruges is a beautiful medieval city in Belgium. Bruges was one of the first cities I visit in Europe. We were in Bruges during February, which was still cold and wet. However, the beauty and tranquil setting of the city centre compensate it.
Bruges is often referred as "The Venice of the North". The canals connects the street and with medieval style building lined alongside. Bruges's city centre was nominated as a World Heritage Site in 2000 for their preservation of historical and medieval architecture building.
Most of the historical medieval buildings surround the city centre. The cobbled street linked the individual building, hence making it the perfect place to explore Bruges. The famous buildings in Bruges include the Church of Our Lady, the Basilica of the Holy Blood and the City Hall in the city square. The Church of Our Lady has a brick spire that is very prominent in the city. Inside the church is a sculpture of Madonna and Child, which is believed to be one of Michelangelo's sculptures. The light shine through the multi colour stained glass give a divine impression to the place.
Bruges is well known for chocolates and there are many chocolate confectioneries to feast your eyes and your palette. The quaint shops are decorated with different shape and sizes of chocolates, colourful chocolate boxes. Sometimes there are even free sampling of the chocolates sold in the shop.
I like the city square. There was an open air concert in the square when I was there. Surrounding the square are restaurants and cafe with alfresco dining facilities. Sitting and sipping Belgium hot chocolate with music humming in the background is the perfect holiday experience.
As traffic is discouraged in the city centre, the best way to get to Bruges is by bus or rail. We took the Eurostar in to Belgium and another connecting train to Bruges. The main railway station is only a 20 min walk to the square and the bus network link the centre to surrounding Bruges and Dutch suburbs. We took a bus to Sluis, a Dutch suburb and spend a day exploring the town.
I would like to visit Bruges again and this time in summer. There are plenty more in Bruges to explore especially boat rides on the canal and the several festivities in the square.
Me and my husband went to Bruges on a mini cruise at Christmas time. It was a really enjoyable day with plenty to do and see but it was very tiring.
Bruges has a lot of interesting architecture and also a lot of history, however if you want to go and look in builidngs and museums then expect to pay some admission. There are a lot of places to eat but not many coffee shops or tea shops and a few of the places we went would not allow you to have a drink without purchasing a meal as well. The town of Bruges is small enough so that you can get around on foot but there also seemed to be plenty of buses.
If you fancy seeing the town from a different angle then Bruges offers boat trips down the canals and also horse drawn carriage trips. They are quite pricey but well worth it.
As you would expect Bruges is full of chocolate shops and gift shops which again are quite pricey however the chocolate that they sell is extremely delicious.
It is definately worth a visit to this beautiful place as it is so close to England. I would also recommend going at Christmas time so that you can visit the Christmas markets and the amazing ice and snow exhibition!
Brugge must be one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. Medieval architecture, famous churches, friendly people, chocolate shops and beer....there must be something for everyone! And if that is ot enough, then you have to experience the Holy Blood procession!
My husband and I ended up in Brugge earlier this year, on an impulse, after driving around in France, and deciding to make the most of our holiday, and cross the border to Belgium. I have been there a few years ago, and loved it, so I was eager to show it to him as well. Little did I know that we would experience something even more fantastic as I did on my first visit.
It was pretty soon after arriving in Brugge, and after struggling to find a place to park the car, we realised this was not an ordinary day in Brugge. The town was absloutely heaving! We soon found out there was a special parade taking place that day, and that was why every street was lined with people and white plastic chairs. This parade is the vey special "Procession of the Holy Blood".
It is said in the Basilica of the Holy Blood in Brugge, is a relic, a small piece of cloth that contains the blood of Jesus, that was brought to Bruuge, and this Basilica, during the crusades. Since then, every year, 40 days after Easter, the people of Brugge parade this relic through the streets, in a magical parade. More tha 1500 citizens of Brugge dress up in historical costume, and act out Biblical scenes, and the arrival of the count who brought his relic to Brugge.
The parade goes all through the town, and everywhere along the streets people are lined up to see. Inventive vendors rent out plastic chairs, for a few euro, and if you are planning to watch the parade, it is well worth it! Not only does it give you a better view, believe me, this parade is long, and you will get tired standing. Oh, and also if you are planning to take a seat to watch it, make sure you have a few drinks and a snack or two ready! In the centre of the town, is the Burg square and the Town hall, and this was closed off with special seating areas for I suppose VIP guests.
People obvioulsy come from all over the world to experience this parade, and it really is quite magnificent. It was quite moving for me to see the Bishop with the relic, but secretly I was just hoping he doesnt accidentally drop it (but then I suppose they have doen this for so many years...). The costumes were quite nice, and I enjoyed seeing ordinary people form Brugge all participating. They enacted of course many familiar Bible stories, but if you are not so familiar with the Bible, I suggest you get a programme. Although t sounds as if it is a religious experience that would not be to everybody taste, I dont belive it is really. It is fascinating to see the costumes, some clearly very old, and to see how one town can come together and present such a parade, and the atmosphere is really very carnival like. And dnot forget there ar even camles, horses, donkeys and sheep parading past you!
The only negative points I would say was that if this was your only visit to Brugge, forget sightseeing. It is just too difficult to get from place to place, and many of the main attractions were either closed, or just not accessable. Also, make sure you have accomodation booked well in advance, as there is literally no place in the inn on this weekend, which we soon realised, and we had to travel to Antwerp to find a hotel room.
But the atmosphere, the friendliness of the people, and of course plenty of good Belgian beer and chocolate more than made up for not being able to do too much sightseeing.
I will definitley return to Brugge, maybe not on this weekend again, but I really appreciate having ahd the opportunity to experience this parade.
This town is around 1 hour away from calais, and its well worth the trip. This was one of our first stops into belgium.
I can see why people call it the venice of the north,its a really nice town.you get to walk through busy squares, lovely and quiet parks , intimate cobbled streets, and do not forget to visit the modest almshouses as well as the imposing patrician's homes!
We attually went on a sunday , there wasent many shops open, but it was just great to walk around a quiet town.
Theres alot of famous buildings in brugge including The Beguinage
The modern Concertgebouw
The Old St-John's Hospital
The Saint-Salvator Cathedral
The City Hall on the Burg square
There is plenty of places to park your car, we parked in a free area and just walked in, the train station is a 10 minute walk to the shops. The nearest airport is a hour away in brussels.
One thing i did notice about brugge, its expensive. So take plenty of money with you if you want to buy choclate.
I would recommend brugge to all people, espically if you are staying in calais. Take a trip to belgium, its not far away and its really pretty and different. Next time i wont go on a sunday, so i can visit all the shops
Bruges is a delightful city in the North of Belgium in the part of the country known as Flanders. The first habitants called it Bruggia or Burg and it literally just means borough. However in the 13th century the Counts of Flandres built parts of the town and it became a centre for trade and the arts from the 13th century. It is that town that it is possible to see today.
I recently visited the city again. As regular readers of some of my reviews know I often travel with my job in Northern Europe and was visiting the Gent and Brussels areas again this past week. Like many Belgian towns and cities Bruges has a splendid Market Place surrounded by old impressive buildings. In the Bruges Market Place there is the Provincial Palace along one side and the Belfry at one end. Around three sides of the square now there are shops and bars and cafes and these are all very reasonably priced. I always try to get my usual portion of Moules and Frites (cost about 495BEF less than £8) and have never been disappointed. Of course as I was driving I had to be careful with the local beers but it was a warm day so I had to have one. In the centre of the Market Place there is a statue of Jan Breydel and Pieter de Coninck who fought for independence from the French in 1302.
A pleasant part about Bruges is that it s all flat and level so you cn walk around the town to see without excessive exertion. From the Market Square I walked through to the Stadhuis (Town Hall) but unfortunately it is being renovated at the moment so the façade is not visible. Next door is the Basilica of the Holy Blood which is in an ornate casket in a small church shrine. The tourist information and some useful public toilets are also nearby here in case the beer has worked its way through.
Passing through an archway you find yourself in Blinde Ezelstraat (Blind Donkey Street) which leads toward the river. The street is also old and untouched. The river is very picturesque and also largely unchanged from 100s of years ago. You can also go for boat rides here around the town. They cost about 300BEF (about £5) and include a commentary from the boatman. At various points you will see beautiful views to capture on photographs or film. At weekend there are antique markets and lace makers along the river to add to the scene.
It can also be worth visiting the Gruuthise Museum if only to walk around the magnificent original rooms. There are inevitably a number of churches to visit including St Salvadors Cathedral which is worth going inside to see the huge high altar from the 17th century.
Above all though Bruges is an easy place to visit. Parking is plentiful and reasonable in the underground car parks costing about £4 for 5 hours and only minutes from the city centre. The ambience is good and friendly and the food and drink are to be recommended for price and quality. I am often surprised that some people have never considered Belgium for a short break. They are missing a lot.
Brugge is a beautiful medieval city, only 1 hour drive from Calais, when leaving Calais head for Lille initially for 20 mins and then follow the signs to Brugge from there. The city is an ideal for a weekend break, Brugge is packed full of bars, cafes and restaurants, if you explore down any of the back streets you will find a little bar hidden away. Trying the local beers is a must, my personal recommendations are Brugge Tripel and Kasteel Brun, both very nice and very strong!! A boat trip along the river is a good way of seeing the city from a different perspective. I would recommend trying the local chocolate, you may have tried Belgian chocolates in England but its not the same. In Belgium for chocolates to be called 'Belgian' chocolates they have to meet certain quality standards. If you are going to try the waffles they are much better from the Cafes than they are from the mobile vans in the market square. The local people are very friendly and many do speak English and will do there best to help you. There are a lot of bikes on the road and in certain areas you need to keep wits about you as they seem to have the right of way all the time!
Can I suggest to change the heading. The name of the city is BRUGGE and it is wrongly known as BRUGES by non locals!
During our excellent trip to Belgium in June this year we had a day out in the beautiful city of Bruges. As with our other trips the main motivation was to sample beer and to go on a glorified bar crawl ~ but we did have a wander round the city and had ample opportunity to buy chocolates and look at the scenery. ~~~WHERE IS BRUGES? Bruges is in the small European country of Belgium and can be found in an area in the north called West Flanders. The main language in this area of the country is Dutch (French is the dominant language in the Southern regions ~ Wallonia), although English is widely spoken and also German. Belgium is part of the E.U. so the currency is the Euro. Bruges is known for its canals, earning it the name of ?Venice of the North? and you will find lace and chocolates are the main items for sale in the tourist shops. Flanders is apparently one of the most prosperous regions in the E.U. and the other cities you will find here include Ghent (in East Flanders) and Antwerp (one of the Fashion capitals of Europe). ~~~HOW DID WE GET THERE? We traveled to Bruges on the train from Ostende and the journey took us approximately 20 minutes ~ no time at all. Bruges is also easily accessible by road and rail from other destinations in Europe (we traveled from the UK and rail links from the channel tunnel and ferry ports were regular and convenient). ~~~GETTING AROUND. Once we arrived in Bruges we opted for the old fashioned method of transport and walked from the station to the centre. It isn?t a huge city, so walking is fine and (as with most of Belgium) it is
pretty flat too. If you do want to try other ways of getting around there are Boat Trips (you need to go to the jetties near the Vismarkt ~ queues were big when we were there and trips cost about ?5 for adults and ?2.60 for kids), horse drawn carriages (half an hour for around ?27 ~ our friends went on the tour because one has slight difficulties in walking and said it was an excellent and informative trip), bicycles (there are dedicated cycle routes around most of the city), by bus (the minibus tour around the city was recommended to us but we didn?t have time). I wouldn?t advise going into the centre in a car ~ cars aren?t encouraged in the tourist areas and parking spaces are VERY scarce. If you do drive, park at the Railway Station and the walk ~ at ?2.50 for the day it won?t break the bank and will be much more convenient for you. I also wouldn?t advise driving because you would miss out on all the great beer! ~~~ BREWERIES, FOOD & FAVOURITE BARS! The first place we walked to when we got into Bruges was the De Halve Mann (Half Moon) Brewery who produce Straffe Hendrik (Strong Henry) beer. Here you can take a really good brewery tour and also get a couple of beers thrown in for around ?3. Tours take place at several times during the day and are available in different languages ~ just make sure you go in with the correct group! We really enjoyed the tour, the wonderful views of Bruges from the roof and the beer ~ a spring special brew, imaginatively named ?Spring?! This tour involves climbing up and down lots of steep metal stairs (almost like ladders), low doorways and a few dodgy floors ~ please bear this in mind!! (for details see http://www.halvemaan.be/english/brouwerij.html) After a
few drinks in the excellent bars in Bruges we headed off to De Gouden Boom (the Golden Tree) Brewery which has been brewing in the city since 1587. We couldn?t actually go in the brewery house, but the museum next tour is very interesting ~ lots of breweriana, objects associated with brewing and a replica of a turn of the century bar. There is also information about the 31 breweries that used to exist in Bruges?there are now just the two! This isn?t a guided tour but a sheet telling you all about the exhibits serves as your ticket and can be exchanged at the end for a glass of draught beer ~ I had Kastelbier Bruin. Again there are a lot of steps and the toilet roll dispenser is at head level ~ I found it by hitting my head! We had a sandwich at lunchtime from a kiosk outside had a tour of a couple of bars between breweries! My favourites were: De Garre ~ a very small bar very easy to miss down a little alley called De Garre. It gets very full very quickly and allows party bookings, so sometimes you can?t get in at all. ?t Bruges Bertje (Little Bruges Bear), in Kemelstraat ~ a small, two-roomed bar with a choice of around 250 beers. Erasmus, in Wollestraat ~ a hotel that also has a bar and outside seating area. I liked this place, once we had got on the good side of the owner by asking for his advice on what beer to have! Most bars do bar snacks and some offer full menus ~ Dyver has an a la carte menu made of dishes made with beer! There are lots of other places to eat, including sandwich shops, street food stalls and a few restaurants. Prices aren?t cheap, but a sandwich outside on a sunny day is great; especially if you?re looking out over the canals. ~~~SO?IS IT JUST BARS? Oh, yes. We did have a l
ook round too while walking between bars, but our time was limited, so we didn?t get to see all Bruges had to offer. The best way not to get lost in Bruges is to keep the Belfry Tower in view ~ it has 366 steps so is easy to spot! The buildings are stunning, the canals are pretty and there are lots of flowers. Bruges has its fair share of Museums, including the Memling Museum (full of 15th Century paintings), the Diamond Museum (bet you can?t guess what that one?s all about) and the Groeninge Museum (packed with religious art). ~~~DID I LIKE IT? I thought Bruges was great! It is visually very stunning and is certainly worthy of another visit in the future. My only gripes were that it is expensive, as tourist places often are, and it can get far too busy for comfort. I found it quite easy to get around with the aid of a good map and that the people were helpful if you did lose track of your position. There was an excellent selection of bars to visit and a good choice of beers to sample. I would thoroughly recommend going to the breweries ~ but would advise anyone with mobility problems to give the actual tours a miss! The rest of Bruges was pretty flat, so accessibility shouldn?t be a problem, as long as you bear in mind that the cobbled streets do start to play havoc with your ankles after a while. The centre of the city is compact, making it a great place for a day trip. We only got lost once and it wasn?t too hard to get back on the right track! A lot of the attractions are free too, so that is a bonus for those on a budget ~ walking through the park near the train station is lovely, full of tree lined paths and flowers. Looking at the architecture is a great way to pass a few hours and will also cost you nothing! We enjoyed looking round the markets ~ shopping costs, but b
rowsing and people watching is free! I would really recommend a trip to Bruges, whether you are going for the day from another Belgian town, or booking a City Break to Bruges itself. There seemed to be a lot of families and people of all ages ~ most bars seemed to allow children inside and sitting outside was lovely too. So?a stunning city, with lots to see and do, with some damn fine beer thrown in! Did I visit heaven?
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had booked our three night break in Bruges through the Sunday Times Leisure Direction. On paper this appeared to be a four day break to be taken in the period between Christmas and New Year but we failed to take too much notice of the travelling time involved in getting from West Dorset to Bruges. Our best option would have been to fly from Bristol to Brussels but we had set our hearts on journeying by Eurostar from Waterloo International to Brussels as a first time experience that had to be done at least once in a lifetime. Yes, Eurostar must be heaven to those who live in London and the South East and within easy access to Waterloo or Ashford in Kent but to fellow West Country travellers-beware. We left home by car at 8.00 am to catch the 9.00 am South-West Train direct to Waterloo London due to arrive at 11.30 am. This left us with one hour and ten minutes to simply cross the concourse and take our pre-booked seats on the Eurostar at 12.40 pm. Unfortunately our 9.00 am SW train broke down at Bournemouth. We waited while they divided a ten coach train into two five coach trains resulting in a crowded train with passengers standing and waving goodbye to any booked seats. Worse was to come when we were told we had no train driver. Well we did have a driver but he was on his way in a taxi. I needn't describe my internal panic as we watched the minutes tick by. The panic was exacerbated when I had a closer read of our travel documents. Not only did we have to be in the Eurostar departure lounge forty minutes before departure time but we also had to be on board the train twenty minutes before the departure time. It got worse when I saw that we had only been given a pre-paid ticket voucher instead of real Eurostar tickets and were to collect them from the ticket office at Waterloo International. I could already envisage the queues. Why pay for rail tickets six weeks in advance only to have to queue for them at the departure point? We arrived at Wa
terloo with less than twenty minutes to spare to collect our tickets, pass through security and passport control and board the train. Morty sprang into action and kidnapped a man in a uniform and insisted that he jumped the massive ticket queue on our behalf. There are quick serve ticket machines where pre-paid for tickets can be collected by entering the voucher number along with the credit card details used to pay for the tickets. Oh yes? I did that and my card wasn't recognised. By now I am in a purple haze and fraught beyond belief. However, thanks to the kidnapped man in uniform we eventually boarded the Eurostar with seconds to spare. The next train was in two hours time with no guarantee we would get a seat. Once on the other side of the Channel we had to move our watches forward one hour to European time and arrived in Brussels at 4.00 pm. We were under the impression that the train journey from Brussels to Bruges was matter of minutes. Wrong on that one; up and down escalators with our luggage and a twenty minute wait on a cold platform then what must have been the slow train to Bruges arriving at 5.30 pm. A taxi to our hotel in the centre of Bruges and we were finally in our hotel room at 6.00 pm. Have you got that? A car, three trains and a taxi with a total travelling time of ten hours; it didn't take that long to get to Russia earlier in the year. Was it all going to be worth it? Fortunately it was. Our hotel, De Tuilerieen, was pure five-star luxury, situated overlooking the Dijver Canal complete with pool, sauna, Jacuzzi and solarium. It was 18th Century elegance with everything we expected from a hotel of this class. De Tuilerieen actually cost £160.00 a night for a double en-suite room with breakfast an extra £18.00 per person-Gulp! Our package was based on 'buy two and get the third night free including breakfast' and all return rail travel from Waterloo to Bruges for £450.00 for the two of us so this was indeed e
xcellent value. The hotel was enchanting and extremely comfortable and warm and the nightmare journey soon faded from our minds. Bruges is the capital of the province of West Flanders and Belgium's most popular tourist destination. The old town of Bruges is almost an island encircled by canals and is dubbed 'The Venice of the North' In fact, my first impression of Bruges by night was that I may have got it wrong and the entire place was a Disney film set complete with Gothic spires, Bruges-red painted shutters, cobbled streets, gabled houses, horse drawn carriages, big city walls and the harmonious appearance of the architecture. All the charming buildings were covered with Christmas lights- not the flashing Christmas lights of the U.K-tacky, flashing, neon, mobile reindeers, sleighs and Father Christmas-but gossamer fine lights seeming to hang airily suspended on the roofs and walls of the picturesque buildings. The many bars, cafes and restaurants continually burned small red night lights by the thousand and as soon as one burnt out it was immediately replaced with a freshly lit burner. The attention to detail was impressive wherever we went. Our hotel was a few minutes walk from the Markt, Bruges' main square, so by 7.00 pm we were strolling looking for food and beer. After reading several menus we realised they were all pretty much the same offering moules, frites, eel, Flemish beef stew, trout, sole, lobster (Alive in a tank so choose your own) steaks and veal. We've never been to Northern Europe before and found things comparatively expensive. Perhaps this is because the rest of Europe appears to have a better standard of living than us with higher average incomes making things seem more expensive to us poor old Brits? We were very impressed by the service in all the busy restaurants we ate in over the three days. A table is found for you at once; a menu is produced; a drink is offered; smoking isn't an issue; the food
is of a high quality; all the waiters, and they are mainly waiters as opposed to waitresses, are attentive, polite and speak English even when we tried a few Flemish phrases. On leaving any restaurant the door is opened for you with a friendly goodbye and a thank you. I would like to see more UK service industries take note of this courteousness. I sometimes think we don't have a clue how to cater! We also noticed how many Belgian families with young children ate out together at night. The young children obviously enjoyed eating out without resorting to running around the place and there were no specific menus for children (No chicken nuggets, burgers, and scampi) but they ate the same as their parents, in some cases being given empty plates in order to share. High chairs were produced by the waiters in seconds. It wasn't unusual to see three or four generations eating together in these Gothic inspired, red walled, chandeliered and candlelit restaurants and it seemed the norm to them. We were rather restrained on our first night in Bruges as the country produces over seven hundred different beers, many being served in their own special glasses. Restrained, because Morty only tried two different beers, a blonde and a dark; announcing them delicious and ruing the fact that he wouldn't have enough time to sample the remaining seven hundred and forty eight. Our hotel served breakfast until the civilised hour of 10.30 am. This gave Morty time use the complimentary white cotton towelling bath-robe and slippers and swim in the pool, have a Turkish bath and a Jacuzzi, returning to our room energised and ready for breakfast. This was a superb buffet including Belgian Pate, smoked fishes, brawn, hams, cheeses, eggs, cereal, quiches, fresh fruits, yoghurts, croissants, fruit breads, rye breads, juices, jams and oh so perfect coffee. We only tasted perfect coffee in Bruges and I wish I'd taken the time to discover the blend they favou
r. The hotel supplied complimentary bicycles and umbrellas. The bicycle was tempting as Bruges is flat and we would have liked to have cycled along the canals and the cycle paths to Damme, the Flemish village that serves as the coastal port for Bruges. Bruges was once on the coast but the inlet silted up cutting the city off from the sea. So as it was raining the umbrellas won and we made this a morning for museums. There were three next door to the hotel. We only viewed one, the Groeninge Museum, containing some of the great works of the Flemish Primitives including Bosch's 'Last Judgement' with the blazing fires of hell. We missed the Brangwyn Museum showing The Arts and Crafts and founded by a Welshman and the Lace Museum as it was lunchtime and we felt the need for coffee and cognac sitting in the window of a traditional Bruges; bar and people-watching. The Bruges' canal cruises don't run in the winter months and are said to be the best way of viewing the city. Instead we took a horse and carriage ride. These pick up visitors in the Markt, the largest of several impressive squares, which by this time of the day was full of Christmas Market stalls selling everything from gloves to cheeses, hot spicy drinks to frites and mayo, and an ice-rink. This was a delightful half an hour spent clip-clopping our way around this compact city accompanied by an entertaining commentary from our driver. This tour really showed how intact these medieval buildings are. The main reason for this preservation is due to Bruges' five centuries of economic decline when there was never enough money to demolish and rebuild. Although the city became badly dilapidated once visitors 'discovered' Bruges in the 19th Century money was spent on renovation, repairs and rebuilding so the present day visitor benefits as at every turn there are scenes to delight the eye-like an outdoor museum. All the historic buildings in Bruges give the vi
sitor an insight into the long and distinguished history of Bruges and the Golden Ages of trade with the Orient, Europe and the Middle East which peaked in the 14th Century. Bruges prospered with wealthy merchants and the first Stock Exchange in Europe was founded in Bruges as well as the first European railway line in 1835. There are many events and festivals through out the year in Bruges. Film festivals, flower festivals, jazz festivals, antique fairs and religious festivals as this is a predominantly Catholic country. Apart from the hundreds of restaurants and bars all along the cobbled streets there is an abundance of lace and tapestry shops, chocolate shops, diamond and gold shops, specialist beer shops punctuated with excellent delicatessens selling delectable pastries, fruit breads, cheeses and pates and a good smattering of antique shops. We were struck by the fact that although Bruges has a 'Beer Culture' there was no evidence of public drunkenness and the streets felt safe to walk at night with no fevered checking that personal valuables hadn't been pick-pocketed. We saw no litter and noted how well kept and well maintained everything was. The Belgians appear to be very house-proud people and like things to be orderly. The spoken and written language is Flemish which at times is remarkably similar to English. However, everyone we met spoke extremely good English, French and German. This small city is inundated with visitors from the UK and Europe all the year round and they clearly have the tourism industry honed to a fine art. Whether a day tripper or staying for a longer break the visitor is welcomed and treated with respect. Bruges is a romantic city. The romance can be experienced in the park and the lake of Minniewater or 'The Lake of Love.' The serene Lake of Love was once the inner harbour of Bruges before it was cut off from the sea. The canals and the lake are full of gracefully paired swans preenin
g each other as well as herons, flying geese and gulls and it is hard to remember that this beautifully hushed area is in the heart of the city. If I were a young man and wanted to propose to my lady I would book a break in Bruges. I would drape her body in hand-made Bruges lace, feed her hand-made Belgian chocolates, choose a diamond together-all the while plucking up the courage to ask for her hand by sampling as many local beers as I could in case she refused me. But if I lived in the West Country I'd make sure I went by air.
"Bruges (Brugge) is also known as "the Venice of the North" is one of the best-preserved medieval cities in Northern Europe. Bruges has most of its medieval architecture intact. There are many beautiful medieval buildings, including the Church of Our Lady, whose brick spire - at 122m - makes it one of the world's highest brick towers/buildings. Bruges is also famous for its 13th-century Belfry, housing a municipal Carillon comprising 47 bells. The city still employs a full-time bell ringer, Aimé Lombaért, who puts on regular free concerts. Other famous buildings in Bruges include the Beguinage, the Heilig Bloed Basiliek (the Basilica of the Holy Blood), the modern Concert Building (Concertgebouw) and the Old St-John's Hospital. The historic centre of Bruges is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000. Bruges also has a very fine collection of medieval and early modern art, including the world-famous collection of Flemish Primitives. Various masters, such as Hans Memling and Jan van Eyck, lived and worked in Bruges."