Bruges, Belgium – The Red Postcard City
If you are visiting Bruges for the first time, you could easily fall in love with the city and you might ask yourself, How did this place even end up here?! If Bruges is a colour, it has to be Red.
I heard about Bruges for the first time from my friend Felix in Sheffield, when he was talking about this magical place in Belgium, which he really wanted to visit after watching the movie ‘In Bruges’. I have never watched the movie myself, but I did hear quite a lot about the movie since then, especially when I planned to visit Bruges during my short Euro trip in 2014. Little did I know back then that I would be moving to a place fifteen minutes away from Bruges by train ( Click here to know about Gent). I must admit that I was wooed by its canals, cobble stones and medieval streets the first time I was there, I did like it over Gent at first glance, but it has changed now(I have visited Bruges 5 times). You can read here why.
Begijnhof and Minnewaterpark
You might want to grab a sandwich from the station (food can be expensive) and start the walk to the center, which is not far but can be long, especially with so many distractions (good ones!) along the way. As you start walking and cross the station you have an option to continue straight or take the Begijnenvest route along the lake to the right, which is apparently the lake of love (Which I took of course!). Now you reach the Gunpowder tower and bridge, where you have some really nice views on both sides (I would suggest coming back here when the sun goes down).
If you cross the bridge with your partner (Legend says that it’s true love, Meh!) and take a left, you reach the Minnewaterpark.
This is the park where the couple; Minna and Stromberg used to hang out, their love ended tragic and this park is today a romantic spot. You also see a large chess flooring in the park, all the chess enthusiasts out there, go ahead and challenge someone. Walking a bit more further you walk into the Begijnhof, a place which was started by pious women who were not part of a monastery or convent. The white cottages with brown roofs blend really well with the woods, it makes for good viewing with a feel of solitude and calmness amidst the flashiness in the touristy city.
It is advised to stay quiet as you enter the premises and respect their way of living as these women live in the cottages even today. You can visit the Begijnhof church for free of cost and the museum for a price of 2 euros. The place is filled with daffodils during spring (who doesn’t like spring anyway?) making it the best time to visit.
The Brewery and the Church
The oldest brewery in town called De halve maan (The half moon) is just around the corner, you can do the tour if you would like to know about beer brewing history in Bruges, Belgium and Belgium in general. They also give you a Brugse Zot Blond in the end (which is handy). The climb to the top is quite long with the steep stairs, but is definitely worth it, with the roof top view in the end.
The Church of our lady, Bruges is one of the churches the city is known for, it is the second tallest brick tower in the world.Dating back to the 13th century, it still manages to preserve some of it’s treasure back from the 15th century. There are quite a few churches in Bruges, you can have a look at this map and do a small church tour yourself (If you like that). Not far away is the Market square.
The Market square is probably the most important place in Bruges, like many other european cities. The combination of red and golden colours on the building make them look grand and majestic. The tall Belfry of Bruges steals the show with its 83 metre structure, it is said to be taller before and has been rebuilt three times over it’s course of life, which can be entered with an entry fee. I skipped it, because I had visited the Gent Belfry before, you can read about it here.
Want to know about Ghent’s history and it’s Infamous Belfry?
The Battle of Fries
Right under the nose of the Belfry you would find two fries sellers competing with each other selling yummy Belgian fries, The locals don’t seem to think that they sell the best fries in Bruges, but you are free to try them yourselves (It’s nice to be part of all this hype anyway, haha). I heard this from someone that, the makers of the movie ‘In Bruges’ paid the fry sellers 450,000 euros each day to move their shops for the shooting days, as they made that much on average each day (Does anyone know if this is true?). The statues of the heroes from the Battle of spurs adds historic and patriotic value to the square, below which you might find a lot of people chilling with their fries or ice-cream. You also find a lot of people going on horse drawn carriage rides (Which I do not support).
Waffles and Ice-cream
If the fries were a bit too salty and you feel sweet toothed you should head over to Oyya to enjoy some chocolate rich waffles or just enjoy the ice-cream (You can never go wrong with the ice-cream here!) My personal favourite is a chocolate waffle with a kinder bueno ice-cream topping (Costs about 5 euros). Near the centre, you can experience the old hanseatic quarter with cobble stoned streets, horse drawn carriages and some cool statues.
Accommodation and transport
If you are thinking of staying at a budget hostel, you should try the Snuffel Backpacker Hostel, It was very good for the price and it has a bar downstairs that opens as the evening begins to engage. You can also rent a bike at Snuffel for the cheapest price in town (6 euro/day) and probably visit Damme, which is a cozy little village with a operational windmill (20 mins by bike) or Sluis, which is a bit more porsh-y village (30 mins from Bruges). During one of my visits (like many others), I was obsessed with finding a cafe with a terrace. I never managed to find it, Maybe, another time.
De Garre – Probably the best beer in Belgium
If you are a Beer lover, you need to head off to Staminee De Garre, a treasure in Bruges, It can be quite difficult to find. If you want to give your taste buds a taste of possibly the best beer in Belgium, you need to ask for De Garre Tripel, which comes with a few yummy cubes of cheese. This bad boy has 11.5% alcohol and only three are allowed per person, but sure is tasty and smooth.
The Bollywood connection
I would say that you can enjoy the most of Bruges, Belgium in one day, but don’t forget to stay till the sun goes down as Bruges looks the prettiest in the night. Oh I almost forgot, this Bollywood song was shot in Bruges as well (for all you Bollywood lovers :D).
Rozenhoedkaai is known as the most photographed places in Bruges which gives way to some splendid views as two canals meet there, yes it is beautiful, But i would suggest keeping your eyes open and taking off beaten routes, I found this place, I could never find it again, it was magical.
Enjoy your stay at Bruges, Belgium and let me know what you think of this red postcard city.