I had visions of what my visit to Bruges would be. I had a picture in my mind of a quiet, dark city with gray skies and picturesque architecture. I imagined a somber visit and pictured Colin Farrell saying, “If I grew up on a farm, and was retarded, Bruges might impress me. But I didn’t, so it doesn’t“… Leave it to Hollywood and a dark comedy about two Irish hit-men (In Bruges) to paint a picture for me. For most of the year, their depiction is not too far off, but it’s Summertime in Belgium! Our experience on our day-trip to Bruges was blue skies and happy little clouds.
Summer is the most popular season for tourists visiting Belgium, and Bruges is nowhere near the ‘quaint and quiet’ little town I imagined at this time. People flock from all over the world to visit this charming, medieval city, and for good reason – it’s postcard perfect! We spent most of our time wandering cobblestone streets, weaving around picturesque canals of the city, eating waffles and finding unique spots to enjoy a Belgian beer.
The ambiance is straight up fairytale… a fairytale flooded with tourists however. You’ll find ‘hot spots’ the most crowded of course, but if you want to get lost in more private, magical worlds, I recommend wandering smaller side-streets, where you can escape crowds and discover hidden Bruges.
Within Belgium, getting to Bruges from our temporary Brussels home was easy; just an hour train – the perfect day trip. It’s a popular stop for travelers exploring the country via the wonderful Belgian rail system, with the other great cities like Ghent and Antwerp also easily accessed. When you arrive to Bruges via train, I recommend enjoying the beautiful, 15 minute walk to the city center rather than grabbing a taxi.
There are a few must-see’s in Bruges. When we visited, I was reluctant to put my beer down, and leave the charming cafe we found on a quiet, cobblestone street. Why battle lines of tourists? I would never recommend you do the same unless there are sites really worth seeing, and indeed there are….
Grote Markt can’t be missed. It’s the large square surrounded by unique architectural surroundings in the center of the city. Medieval buildings, colorful shops, and the famous Belfry of Bruges steal the show. I recommend sitting around the fountain at the center of the square for a few minutes, long enough to take it all in. There’s a lot of activity in this area, with pedestrians, bikes and horse-drawn carriages zig-zagging to and fro. The fountain is a great spot to enjoy the vibrant surroundings.
We had to go to the top of the bell tower (Belfry of Bruges), an interesting journey with a monumental ending! The line to the tower can be quite long and slow-moving – they only allow a small number of visitors up the tower at a time. The wait is well worth it when it’s your turn. There are 366 narrow, winding steps to the top. Don’t worry though, it’s not a straight shot. There are a few stops along the way to take a break before you reach the pinnacle, each level having interesting elements to explore about the history of tower on your way up. After climbing to the top, it’s nice to be welcomed by a refreshing breeze and a stunning view!
There aren’t a ton of things to see in Bruges, but it’s still hard to hit up all the highlights in a short day-trip. If you want time to visit museums and sites like Basilica of the Holy Blood, Choco-Story or Museum voor Volkskunde, then I recommend you stay for at least one night, or move very quickly through your day!
We chose to unwind in Bruges, and it’s the perfect place to do so. A day in Bruges is like being transported to a medieval fairy tale. I highly recommend stopping by for a visit!