On my second visit to Belgium, I discovered Bruges, one of the most extraordinary places in Europe. In many ways, it’s like taking a trip back to the medieval times where time stood still – the narrow cobblestone streets, ornate architecture, and the intricate canal system.
Bruges is the capital city of the province of West Flanders and is located in the northwest corner of Belgium.
The lock house on Minnewater Lake was my first view of ancient Bruges.
I arrived by coach and, because the streets are so narrow in Bruges and there are thousands of people visiting each day during peak tourist season, large coaches are not allowed in the downtown area. Just a short walk from the coach parking lot brought us to Minnewater Lake and then in to the hub of Bruges.
The photo below shows the narrow cobblestone streets that are characteristic of Bruges. Cycling is a popular mode of transportation.
Horse and carriage rides are also popular, especially with tourists, and the clip-clopping of horses’ hooves can be heard all around town.
Just be sure you watch out for them as they clip along at very fast speed and take the corners tightly and sharply!
Grote Markt (Market Square) is the nerve center of the city. With its colorful eclectic gabled buildings, there are lots of restaurants and shops available and photo opportunities at every turn.
Dining al fresco in Bruges is the norm.
One of the most iconic sights of Bruges is the Halle and the Belfry in Market Square. While we chose not to spend time waiting in the long line to climb some 366 steps up to the top of the bell tower, those who did said it has a most commanding view of Market Square.
It was glorious to hear the carillon performance emanating from the bell tower as we walked through Bruges.
Look for architecture with construction that dates back to the 1200s like the Church of Our Lady. Bruges is history.
Bruges is often referred to as the “Venice of the North” because of its series of canals that wind through the historic city. I highly recommend one of the short narrated excursions by boat through the canals as it’s a great way to get up close to the ancient architecture of the city.
Just be sure to watch your head as you pass under the many low footbridges!
The boat excursions generally last about 30 minutes.
To the right in the photo below, you can see red poppies growing alongside the canal.
The canal boat tour passes such iconic sights as the Memling Museum.
Swans are everywhere and the canal tour boats simply weave in and out between them and, somehow, it works for everybody to use the canal system!
One of the most popular sights along the canal in Bruges is the “Dog of Bruges”, a golden lab in a gabled window at the Côté Canal Guesthouse. Apparently, the dog spends much of his time resting on a comfy pillow on the window ledge overlooking the canal.
This dog is probably one of the most photographed sights in Bruges!
And, when he is tired, he simply closes his eyes and ignores the thousands of tourists passing his window. It’s a dog’s cushy life!
No visit to Bruges would be complete without a little shopping. Handmade Belgian lace and chocolates are the two most popular items on most shopping lists. I still have the lace pieces I bought on my first visit to Brussels several years ago and, of course, added a couple more as souvenirs of my visit to Bruges. You will find lace shops everywhere in Bruges; however, some lace is now imported and is not hand-made in Belgium. Many shops will have signs posted as to whether the lace is locally hand-made or imported; however, if your goal is to acquire a piece of genuine handmade Belgian lace, when in doubt, ask and do shop around before purchasing.
From the moment I set foot in Bruges, I could smell the chocolate! There are a ton of chocolate shops selling quality Belgian chocolate.
There are also some exquisite chocolate designs to be had!
It was really hard to settle on just which chocolates (and how many) to take home!
Everywhere you turn, there is a chocolatier. Bruges is a chocolate lover’s mecca!
This sign in a chocolate shop window pretty much sums it up!
Bruges is a real tourist attraction so, if visiting during peak tourist season, just know you will be sharing its beauty with thousands of other tourists on any given day.
Bruges is definitely on my “places to re-visit” list.
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