You don’t need to be too extravagant in order to get a feel for Bruges. This ‘flamenca’ city situated in the north of Belgium is without a doubt one of the most picturesque cities in Europe. They call it the ‘city of dreams’ due to its architecture and beautiful landscapes. Others call it ‘the Venice of the north’ due to the amount of small canals that weave their way around the city. But something all these definitions have in common is that this city is one of the best in Belgium and when visiting this country, Bruges should not be missed out..
One advantage of visiting is that you can see it within a day, or even half a day. Bruges is a very small city, in which you can explore the old historic quarter quickly and easily, especially as it is full of tourists throughout the year and that makes it impossible for you to miss.
Getting to Bruges
Bruges survives mainly on tourism which is why it is very easy to get to the city. You can get there by car and by train. If you arrive early there will be a lot of parking spaces available too. Here, you’ll be able to leave your car for the whole day for a competitive price, much more economic than parking in the centre of the city.
If you travel by train, from Brussels, Amberes, Gante etc. you will have barely an hour until you arrive comfortably and this is what we recommend.
The Monumental Route
Due to all the tourists that visit, as well as from our own experience, we recommend this route that you can follow to see all Bruges has to offer:
On arriving at the station you will begin to realise that the dominant language is not French but English and Flemish. If it is the weekend and you are lucky with the weather, opposite the station and on the way to the historic centre you will find a lovely street market that you can wander around on foot and take a look at all the artefacts, antiques and other little bits. It is surrounded by nature and the sound of the river which is very pleasant.
Continuing along the road you will come to The Church of Our Lady, the second tallest brick building in the world. Inside is the famous sculpture of ‘Madonna and Child’ by Michelangelo. There are also many other valuable paintings and figures here.
Nearby is St Salvator’s Cathedral. This is particularly impressive because for many years it has undergone various architectural changes, acquiring different styles.
We will then arrive at the Grote Markt (Market Square), which is the centre point of the city. The heart of the old shopping village is also one of the most sublime examples of the Gothic. In this same square you will also find the provincial court and the impressive Belfry of Bruges.
The Belfry was declared a heritage of humanity by UNESCO and boasts one of the best viewpoints in the city. In its time the building served as a market, archive and watchtower. You can go up the tower although it is not designed for everybody. To get to the top you have to climb 366 stairs. Once at the top you will find the ‘carillon’ consisting of 35 bells, one of the oldest in Europe (dating back to the seventeenth century).
In the surrounding area of the Grote Markt you will find the Historium, one of the best historical museums in the world where you can immerse yourself in the fifteenth century through impressive 3D images accompanied by sound and voice effects.
Continuing along, opposite the market square is the Burg square, its main attraction being the Town Hall building and next to it, the Basilica of the Holy Blood. Found in a corner of the square, the Basilica is striking yet curious, its architecture is very typical to Belgium and therefore very ornate. In here you can find a relic of the Holy Blood which is open to tourists to take a look at every Friday of the year and every day between the 3rd and the 17th of May.
The Canales of Bruges
It would, without a doubt, be a crime to visit Bruges without walking along its canals. Although its true that its monuments and landmarks are stunning, the true beauty of the city is discovering it by walking along the banks of these streams that weave in and out of the city. A piece of advice for finishing your route through Bruges is to go on a small tourist boat that won’t cost you more than 7 euros and explore Bruges’ canals. This is a unique opportunity, to get to know a city by boat along its rivers. An audio guide will explain everything you can see in your own language and also, you will be able to spot a very appealing individual: the dog in the window.
Have a great trip!
The best way to enjoy the city of dreams is our ‘Fairy-tale towns tour’!
Translated by Katie Langwith