Bruges or Brugge is a beautiful Flemish town in Belgium that was the highlight of our 4-day trip in the country. In hindsight, it probably would have been a lot better if we stayed in Bruges the whole time and only went to Brussels on a day trip. Oh well, at least Lillian and I were able to see this beauty otherwise it would have been such a shame.
Travel date: June 30, 2013
We took the train to Bruges from Brussels Midi. It was a great surprise to learn that on weekends the train tickets around the country are 50% discounted. We paid €14.80 each for roundtrip. Tickets can be purchased at the train station and the trip would be for an hour usually with few minutes stop at Ghent.
One of the first things that greeted us in Bruges was the sight of the biggest flea market I’ve ever seen. It was held at the park very near the train station. From handbags to toys to food – they were selling practically everything. Of course it was full of people on the hunt for bargains. Being huge market lovers, Lillian and I were both itching to check out the items on display but we somehow managed to convince ourselves we weren’t there for shopping. How we did that will forever be a mystery to me.
I’ve learned later this event is held three times a year and is called “Zandfeesten.” It was the second for this year. The last one will be on the 22nd of September. Hmm, it’s not too late to buy a ticket for Bruges now, is it?
Anyway, off we went to sight-see. Come with me as I try to retrace our steps around the major attractions of this town:
The Dijver Canal
Bruges is indeed the Venice of North. This part of town did remind me of the floating Italian city. We saw a lot of boats loading tourists for a canal cruise. We skipped this activity as we preferred to get to know Bruges on foot.
The place is dominated by the Belfry which you can climb to enjoy the bird’s eye view of the town. The Government Palace is also located in this square. Some buildings or houses with stepped facades reminded me of the square in another pretty town in the Czech Republic called Telč.
We walked around this square for several minutes just getting the feel of the place. The square was bursting with tourists like us doing the usual touristy things. Usually I would mind the crowd but not this time. I was just happy to be there in the sun after spending two gloomy days in Brussels.
A five-minute walk from the busy Market Square took us to a nice street lined with restaurants offering varied cuisines. We had lunch al fresco at a Flemish restaurant called Chagall which happened to be recommended by Lonely Planet. We ordered their specialty – herring fillet with vegetables and mashed potatoes. Oh so delicious!
On a funny note, we asked the waiter what goes well with the dish and he said white wine. We said, “Ok, we’ll have a glass each.” He replied, “Ok, I’ll bring you a bottle.” I don’t know if it was deliberate or we just got lost in translation but we were not in the mood to argue. The end result was Lillian got tipsy and I was sneezing all over the place as I have this mysterious allergy on wines that comes and goes whenever it pleases.
The Town Hall
After lunch we walked towards the Town Hall passing by the Market Square again. I love how there are so many musicians playing classical music in the squares or streets of Europe. I heard Pachelbel’s Canon at least three times that day in Bruges which probably added more romance in the air to the honeymooners there. 🙂
The Town Hall is just another gothic European building at first glance. A closer look would make you realize the building’s façade is decorated with statues in the niches. Nice.
From the Town Hall we just walked around and ended back to the Dijver canal, this time by the Rosary Dock. I’ve read that “the Rosary dock is the pride and joy of the people of Bruges.” Well, they have every right to be proud of this place because it’s amazing. Just look at the photo below. It must be an awesome sight at night when the lights are on in the buildings around it.
Church of Our Lady
Before we left for Belgium, Lillian’s husband, Jirka, told us not to forget to check out Michaelangelo’s Madonna and Child. This sculpture sits inside the church. We were just in time before the church closed that day. Entrance was for €2. Lillian went to see it so she’d have something to report back to her hubby while I sat by the votive candles massaging my injured shoulders caused by my heavy bag.
Mission accomplished for Lillian, we then went to check out the chocolates. We bought some at Chocoholic including a slim box of chocolates filled with different Belgian beers.
The Lake of Love (Minnewater) and Gunpowder Tower
With our loot from Chocoholic, we headed to this lake which is a fitting backdrop to Tchaikovky’s masterpiece. I don’t know how many swans live here but I saw a lot. Right across the bridge is the entrance to Princely Beguinage which we, unfortunately, didn’t have time to explore.
We walked further down the lake to have a look at the Gunpowder Tower. It was a nice, quiet walk because not many tourists were in the area. The lake was so still, so peaceful complete with an awesome view. If we stayed for another day, I would have explored this part of Bruges more. Shame we were only there for a day.
From the lake, we walked through a park to get back to the train station. It was past 8 pm when we arrived back in Brussels. We were totally exhausted but so happy we made the trip.
Bruges is so gorgeous you don’t actually need a list of sights to see as the whole town itself is already one big eye-candy. So go ahead, book a trip and get ready to abandon your map or your sense of time. All you need to do is get lost in the beauty around you.