Belgium is one of my favorite places. Just the architecture alone made me instantly fall head over heels with this country. I was so intrigued by the number of languages being spoken around me, from French to English to Dutch and German, and I was completely infatuated by the bicycle culture. If I could up and move anywhere in the world today, I would go to Belgium.
Oh, plus, my idol, Audrey Hepburn is Belgian.
Bruges is a lovely little Flemish town on the English channel, often referred to as the Venice of the North and designated as the "European Capital of Culture," in 2002. Being right on the English channel, it provides fish and trade between the UK and Europe.
Cruise the Canals
With the exception of the winter months, it is possible to pay a small fee to cruise down the canals of Bruges. It is a wonderful way to see all those hidden corners of the city that can't be accessed by foot, such as secret gardens, tiny bridges, and unique architecture. While it may be a little bit cliche and Venice-esque, it is a lovely, relaxing, and romantic way to spend thirty minutes to two hours, depending on the company. Buy the Brugge City Card and to receive a guided tour of the city. Most boats leave from Burg Square.
Rent a Bike
Under almost every window and next to every door rests a bicycle in Bruges. The culture here supports bikes in a similar way that Amsterdam does - the flat lands and bike lanes make it the perfect city to forgo a car and pedal away. The quiet lanes take you right alongside canals, parks, and residential areas. Plus, you might want to go for a bike ride after eating all those waffles! Check out the Visit Bruges website here to see exactly where you can pick up a bike.
While Bruges is incredibly beautiful and charming, it is also a popular tourist attraction, making the prices more expensive than most places. After hungrily circling around the city center, I became dismayed by just how ridiculously expensive the restaurants were. Thirty-five euros for a lunch? Twenty euros for a glass of wine? No thank you. I wouldn't be able to afford those prices even if I shared a meal. The solution? Buy some bread, fruit, and cheese, then find an open space to have a picnic. We found a cheap cafe and bakery called Venice Corn (weird, right?) and, while this wasn't a fine dining experience, the sandwiches were affordable and tasty.
While walking down a small stone street just outside of the city center, I turned a corner came across this scene: an older couple, still very much in love, kissing under and arch. It looked like a work of art. My boyfriend turned to me and said, "I hope that's us when we're that age - happy and traveling."
In a place like Bruges, simply keeping your eyes open while meandering is the best way to discover beauty.
Okay, I apologize for the erotic image above, but it was just too eye catching not to share...
The shops in Bruges are all filled with unique and handmade items, making it the perfect city to spend an afternoon window shopping, ducking in and out of stores to discover all sorts of knick-knacks, from knitted clothing, glass trinkets, specialty beer, and even art workshops. Yes, this does happen to include genitalia shaped chocolate... Hey, I just wanted to prepare you ahead of time.
To my surprise, window shopping also included finding a winter wonderland shop that plays Christmas music year round, selling Christmas decorations and snow globes. There's something for everyone, seriously.
Enjoy the Views from Above
Located in the main city center, the Markt Square, the Belfry tower is considered one of the most iconic symbols of Bruges and offers the best views of the city. Back in the day, it was used as a post to spot fires around the city, but ironically it burned down. Most of it has been rebuilt since 1822, now with special stones that won't catch fire so easily. While it is free to enter the courtyard, a trip to the top costs 8 euros. Oh, and I've got a few words to say about the Belfry Tower. It closes way too early in the day. I left Bruges feeling rather gypped, but promised that I would return one day, if only to make it to the top.
Address: Markt 7, 8000, Brugge, Belgium
Hours: 9:30 am - 5:00 pm
What is one thing you would love to do while in Bruges? Let me know in the comments!