Next on my list of places to visit while I’m still on mainland Europe was Belgium. Having been crudely propositioned by some idiot outside Frankfurt train station at midnight on Monday I was really glad to hop onto my overnight bus to Brussels where escape beckoned. From Brussels its only about an hour to Brugge/Bruges. Arriving at seven in the morning in the dark wasn’t ideal, but I followed the flow of schoolkids through the narrow streets, looking more at my surroundings instead of paying attention to where I was going (no map as usual). I made it to my hostel (on the other side of the town) an hour later (I took a “scenic” route), picked up a map and kept on walking to catch the sunrise from the top of the tower in the center of the town.
There are cute houses and streets around every corner so I just traipsed my way across and back the old center checking off the main points along the way. Bruges (at least the old town) is quite small and the old town isn’t overflowing with museums so its great for a nice day trip. That I had slightly longer didn’t stop me from power walking everywhere – a bad habit of mine, I need to get more used to strolling casually! You can see everything in a few hours (depending how quickly you walk) but you can also rent bikes. That said it’s worth it to just get a little lost because everything is SO picturesque…
Half my time was spent peering at reflections in the canals & gazing at houses while the other half was spent drooling over the lovely window displays of all sorts of food based stores. My active day was fueled by a gorgeous breakfast from “Het Dagelijks Brood” (their bread is to die for), macarons from “Schaeverbeke” (dare I say better than those I ate in Paris..) and coffee from “i love coffee” (amazing coffee, but quite pricey).
Besides going to to the Belfort tower for the view, you should also make time for the view at Rozenhoedkaai/Wollestraat, a stroll through the garden of Onze-Lieve-Vrouwerkek and the square at the Burg, time to take a picture at or in Begijnhof, take a sneak peek at the gardens lining the canal on Augustijnenrei and a wander down the canal at Groenerei and Verversdijk. The further you leave the center the less tourists there are and the city entrances along the large canal circling the city are beautiful! Of course in between all these streets are plenty of chocolateries, tea rooms, cafes and shops to keep you occupied (while you’re not dreaming of the houses here).
There are so many cafes and restaurants to choose from, however I chose to supplement my healthy diet with the chocolate given to you at the chocolate museum. . . It’s interesting if you don’t know much about the history of chocolate but they have put all the information together in a clear and pretty way. There is also a potato/chips museum, but coming from Ireland where it forms two-thirds of our food pyramid and I grew up hearing about the potato famine I decided to steer clear of any more spud related activities (beyond eating of course). There are other museums about the history of the town, but I preferred to just soak up the (very touristy) atmosphere.
I made it back to the hostel around nine hours later after stopped to enjoy the evening sun at Minnewaterpark. The whole city looked so different in sunshine and the reflections of the buildings in the canal was stunning. I found my most wanted reading spot, the small white-with-blue-windowed teeny round tower-esque room/shed (?) perched over the canal – what I would have given to have taken a peek inside! Having overdosed on sugar for the day I decided the next best thing would be to get Belgian Frites for dinner (aka french fries) with a choice of hundreds of various sauces from the stands outside the tower at Markt. Having balanced out my daily sugar intake with my annual salt intake in one go (delicious fries but I could feel my arteries closing) dessert was an apple to account for at least some fruit in my diet.
The half of Bruges that was closed at day time (except for the seasonal stores) came alive as the other half of the stores and cafes closed. The city is still beautiful at night and makes for some calmer wandering. Bruges is a really beautiful town to visit for a weekend to see all the sights and just to stroll around. Any longer and it becomes the foodies dream, I almost wish I had two stomachs so I could visit some more of the cafes or restaurants (and chocolateries) that looked so inviting!