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Dates: Various in 2016-2018
Route: Drove or took the train from Amsterdam.
Bruges is one of those touristy towns that is actually worth going to. It is easily accessible from Amsterdam by car or train (change in Brussels) and makes for a fun or romantic weekend. It was also the scene of the 2008 movie ‘In Bruges’, which was about two Irish hitmen hiding here. For me, the best part about Bruges is that it offers the best of Belgium in one place; quaint medieval town, architecture, Belgian beer, and Belgian chocolate. You can easily see all of Bruges in one day though we recommend two given you want to enjoy all that it has to offer.
The historic center is a massive square called the Grote Markt that is dominated by the Belfort, a tower with a bell that offers 360o views of the city once you climb shops, all in the gabled style of the early 19th century. Horse-drawn carriages can be rented to go around the city, but they add more to the medieval ambiance than anything else. We strongly recommend you walk Bruges as it is the best way to see the city. Bruges also has many canals and you can take a cruise which showcases the various sections of the city. This is actually worth doing but be prepared to wait to sit on a crowded boat. Just to the east of Grote Markt, there is Burg square which is worth seeing for the grand, palatial buildings. Walk through the buildings on Blinde-Ezelstraat street to come out on an ancient stone bridge with a local market just across. To the right is another small square with quaint restaurants and bars. This is also where you can board the boats for the canal cruises. Most of the best photos can be taken on the other side of this square on Rozenhoedkaai street.
I am a fanatic of Belgian beer and Bruges is one of the pilgrimage destinations to sample these. Know that Belgian beer is more like wine (7%-12% alcohol) and needs to be sipped and savored. The best place to start sampling is the massive store + bar called 2Be which is on the canal directly opposite from Rozenhoedkaai street. On days with nice weather, get yourself a seat outside on the canal and watch life go by while sampling the many beers of offer. The entry to this place has a ‘Beer Wall’ showcasing most if not all Belgian beers. There is also a shop at the entry where you can buy most things Belgium including beer, chocolate, cheese, and Tintin. 2Be unfortunately closes at 7pm so head over to the lively but cozy Le Trappiste which is just to the north of Grote Markt square. Set in the cellars of a 800 year old building, this is the only way to enjoy Belgium Beer, especially given the extensive selection they have. If you are a newbie, go for the sampler that let’s you decide which ones you like best.
If there is a negative to Bruges is that the food is generally mediocre and overpriced. The only restaurant that we liked there is The Olive Tree which is just off the main square and serves modern Greek food. But, the chocolate more than make up for this and you will find no shortage of bespoke chocolatiers all over Bruges. Make sure to take some home as the selection and quality is high.
(Click on gallery images below for details)
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