Bruges: Canals and Cobblestones
January 1, 1970
If you’re here, you’re one or more of these:
- You’re into Hollywood and watched “In Bruges” a couple of times and fell in love with the city.
- A fan of Indian movies – Bruges has become one of your dream destinations, just after the first few minutes of Amir Khan’s “PK”.
- Probably a travel demon-possessed, crazy person like I, who picks one random city every week and does a complete virtual tour and can’t stop thinking about Bruges ever since you map-marked it.
Bruges (pronounced “Broojh”) or Brugge, Belgium, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has something on offer for everyone: couples to revel in the romantic setup of canals and cobblestone walkways, solo travelers who love getting lost in a maze of narrow streets, friends who just want to hang out by the river and make music, the elderly to enjoy a late evening hot chocolate at the laid back posh cafés and of course, for families, hell, because, it’s vacation!
I backpacked for just a day in this mesmerizing north-western Belgian town in the February cold and it was pure magic. Bruges, the ‘Venice of the North’, is straight out of fairytale: Canals, vintage streets, medieval architecture, lovely street music, and cheery people – the atmosphere is nothing less than euphoric!
You can pretty much cover Bruges in a day, if you start early, but I would suggest two days or even three, if you want to soak up the culture when you’re right there, living the moment. Well, you know what I mean.
So, here’s my list of things to do in Bruges:
Minnewater Lake and Park
When you get out of the main railway station, take a left and you will be greeted by a canal way bordered by a large canopy of trees. That’s your first photo cue. Imagine walking around this beauty, on a mildly cold morning, as the first rays of the sun hit the water and the trees, illuminating the whole setup!
Oh, there’s this breathtaking view of the prettiest castle by the lake – your second photo cue. Believe me, you would want to stand there for hours, staring at it, if not for the people waiting impatiently to have a picture for themselves.
TIP: Early morning, just around sunrise, is ideal, as there aren’t many tourists and you have time aplenty, if you love clicking photos or being in several. Perfect windows wallpaper spot!
Belfry of Bruges
You’d definitely remember this, if you’re a fan of “In Bruges”. This bell tower served as a treasury and watch tower in the medieval times. History says that the Belfry was taller in the Middle Ages, until it caught fire and burned down because of lightning. Climb up all the 366 stairs to reach the top at 83m and click away fab panoramas of the entire city.
TIP: It’s open only until 5PM, but if you’re there during winter, get to the top just around sunset, for a beautiful pink/orange sky as a backdrop for your photos.
All about Cathedrals and Museums
For such a small town, there are quite a no. of cathedrals and museums to choose from: Onze Lieve Vrouwerk Church, Jerusalem Church, Sint-Jacobs Church, Groeninge Art Museum, Brewery De Halve Maan Beer Museum, Memling Flemish Art Museum and Choco-Story Museum are my picks.
TIP: Don’t miss “The Church of the Lady” as it houses the famous sculpture, “Madonna with Child” made by Michelangelo.
Ready for some strange/Cool stuff?
If you answered, “Always”, you need to do these:
- Holy Blood Basilica: Houses a cylinder of holy blood that was taken on a crusade to Jerusalem in the 1200s. Catholics believe that it is the blood of Lord Jesus.
- Kiss the Frog: There’s a small fountain, opposite to the Town hall in the city center, with a bronze frog on the backside. It is believed that, after 100,000 kisses, the frog would turn into a handsome Prince. Bruges is indeed a fairytale!
- Hemelrijk: Meaning “Heaven”, is a street in Belgium with absolutely no houses and a proper pavement. The street’s just gravel. Take a walk!
- Head to Wollestraat near the Belfry and scan it 360 degrees! Can you spot a cannon? Look closer. It was placed upside down to protect the houses from the horse carriages. Probably ask a local for help in case you don’t find it!
- Lace Map: Bruges is famous for lacework. There is a city map, made only out of lace, hanging in a corner of a street, 5 minutes from the town hall. Ask locals for directions.
Bull’s Eye of Bruges
Right in the dead center of Bruges is the magnificent Town Hall – a red hot tourist spot. It houses such beautiful architecture both on the inside and outside. With so many shopping and food options around, you’re bound to spend a lot of time in this area.
Cycling or Walking – You Decide!
You will spot a lot of cyclists thundering down the narrow streets of Bruges. Rent one for yourself and bike around, alongside the canals or even all the way to the beach. Zeebrugge is where you can surf and chill out at a beach bar.
Or a lazy stroll with your loved one isn’t a bad idea either. Walking on the cobblestone streets, sitting on the canal banks and staring into infinity, wandering aimlessly with the only purpose of getting lost are pleasures in this city.
Decide what suits you the best!
Food and Drinks
There are plenty of good options to fill the tummy, grab a beer or a cup of coffee. Choose a pretty café, facing the canals, tuck your phone away, order a sumptuous meal or a favorite drink and get lost in your own thoughts!
My top picks are “Oyya” for waffles, “Blend” for Wine, “Jillets” for lunch, “Potato Bar”, “L’estamine” for drinks and food and “Café Vlissinghe”, the oldest bar in town.
Live music fan? This could be your fantasy come true!
Bruges buzzes with music all through the year with artists, solo and bands, performing on the streets. Surrounded by canals, medieval history, waffles, hot fries and beer, this is quite the setup to listen to live music.
Vegan or Vegetarian? No problem!
Tough being one of these in Belgium, with even the fries being made with beef fat. There are a couple of places that are a Vegan/Vegetarian’s dream:
- DePlaats for vegan food
- Frituur Royal for vegetarian fries and burgers
- Vero Caffé for the perfect tea, coffee, homemade vegan pastries and sweet treats
There’s a lot more fun stuff!
There’s so much more to do in Bruges! Hike up the hill to Sint-Janshuis Mill for a quiet picnic, visit the bars in the town for good parties and games, learn lacework from the local craftswomen, take a boat cruise along the canals, or just wander around like a nomad, with waffles in one hand and a camera in another. It’s all time well spent!
Heading to Bruges soon after reading this? I am pretty sure you will be blown away by the magic!
PS Send some love to Broooojh from me.