Once upon a time the best kept secret in Europe this delightful Belgian city, also known as “The Venice of the North”, is now a major tourist hub attracting millions of visitors each year. Catering to those who possess a sweet tooth and have a love for quaint picturesque scenery, with its charming personality and striking good looks- I had a date lined up with a beautiful city named Bruges!
Travelling to Bruges you have multiple options all with varying price ranges and lengths of journey. So I’ve compiled a quick list of the best ways to reach this fantastic city.
Plane: you can fly into Brussels airport from where it’s a 60-minute train journey to Bruges. This is probably your easiest option if you are travelling via plane and it also gives you the added bonus of stopping off in Ghent along the way if you should so desire.
Train: the Eurostar departs from London St Pancras, taking you to Brussels. Once in Brussels, again you can the catch a connecting train that will take you to Bruges. Bruges has its own train station, so you will also be able to arrive via train from anywhere in Europe.
Bus: although the longest option out of the three, it is also the cheapest. You can pick up a return ticket from London Victoria coach station to Bruges, with Flixbus, starting from €15.99 depending on dates and times. This is also the only option out of the three to take you directly to the city centre. You can also take Flixbus from anywhere across Europe, so check your local provider for dates and prices.
Where to stay:
Hotel Van Cleef: if you are looking to sample a small slice of luxury then look no further! This family run luxury boutique hotel with its exquisite interior and attention to detail is the perfect choice for your stop in Bruges. Towards the higher end of the price scale budget, this once neoclassical mansion, takes up residence along a beautiful stretch of canal and is home to a large terrace perfect for taking in the surrounding beauty of a late evening.
Snuffle Hostel: for those that are looking to travel on a tighter budget this hostel will fit your requirements perfectly. Located just outside of the centre, this hostel is clean, has spacious rooms and most importantly is inexpensive.
Getting around Bruges:
Bruges is a small city meaning that everywhere that you wish to explore will be easily accessible via walking. The other alternative is to follow the locals’ lead and navigate your way around on a bicycle. Rest assured that these are the only two options that you will be required to choose from.
Currency: € Euro
Now that we have our transport, accommodation and currency covered, let’s start by taking a look at our first port of call: Bruges Markt. The central focal point of Bruges provides you with a great starting point for your exploration of this endearing little city. Steeped in history and full of enchanting architecture, restaurants and cafes, the square acts as a vibrant meeting place for people and a great place to experience the city’s fairy tale charm especially in an evening time when the sparkling lights illuminate the square’s ornate buildings.
Standing proud in the heart of the city and holding council over The Markt lies Belfry of Bruges; an imposing medieval bell tower, this eminent city centre symbol formerly served as an observation post for spotting fires, prominent dangers and threats to the city and its residents. Today the tower offers the public the opportunity to climb up its narrow, steep, staircase after which your reward for making the climb up the 366 steps is a spectacular 360 degree view of beautiful Bruges.
From one impressive architectural structure to another you’re going to want to make a stop by Church of Our Lady Bruges. Take a moment to marvel in the craftsmanship as you make an admiring glance towards the city skyline where you will see the dominant, awe-inspiring 122 metre brick steeple. If that wasn’t impressive enough, take a peep inside the church wherein lies a valuable art collection including Michelangelo’s world renowned Madonna and Child sculpture, a collection of exceptional paintings and the 16th century ceremonial tombs of Mary of Burgundy and Charles the Bold.
Lying within the shadows of the Church of Our Lady Bruges lie Bonifacius Bridge and Arents courtyard; this secluded, serene haven, allows you the chance to kick back and relax on one of the canal lined benches, as you cast your eyes over the wonderment of the quaint buildings that run along the canal providing the perfect support act for the endearing little bridge to take centre stage and charm you with its presence. The best time to visit is either early morning or late evening when you will be able to witness the truly blissful silence of a majestic sunrise or sunset away from the selfie toting Instagram brigade.
Burg Square and Town Hall are located to the east side of Grote Markt; a fusion of architectural styles makes for a quite stunning spectacle with the Gothic Town Hall proudly taking centre stage. It is also here that you will find the Basilica of the Holy Blood; a historical church that is home to a vial containing a cloth reputedly stained with the blood of Christ.
A visit to Quay of the Rosary (Rozenhoedkaai) will leave you feeling like you have taken a stroll back through time. This enchanting corner of Bruges with its quaint little bridge is complemented by old worldly buildings casting their reflective shadows against the serene canal making this one of the most photographed places in Bruges.
Enrich your historical knowledge within one of the many cultural temples that reside within the city boundaries of Bruges. If art is your choice of historical passion, then pencil in a trip to the Groeningemuseum; home to six centuries of Flemish artistry you will be hard pressed not to be impressed by some of the magnificent paintings that adorn this wonderful museum.
For those of you with a sweet tooth and who are curious with regards to the history of chocolate, then a visit to Choco-story museum is in order. At €8, the opportunity to tickle your taste buds and submerge yourself within the 4000 year old history of chocolate is simply too good to turn down.
Love is in the air within the city’s very own romantic wonderland. Nestled away in the southern end of Bruges is Minnewater; centred around the Lake of Love, take a stroll across Lovers bridge where local legend states that you will experience eternal love upon crossing with your partner. Now that you have found true love continue through the serene park setting to catch a glimpse of the delightful Castle de la Faille.
Strolling through the streets of Bruges is an absolute delight as the spellbinding architecture and the whimsical beauty of the intricate cobblestone streets and bridges is a truly breathtaking experience. But it is at night time where Bruges really tugs on the heart strings, when it casts more than just a flirting glance your way as the late evening lanterns light up and this little delight goes from being pretty to achingly beautiful. So take yourself for a stroll and fall under this city’s enchanting spell as you lose yourself meandering around the streets of this little wonderland.
Picnic anyone? Taking up residence on the peripheral of the city centre lies the impressive windmills that still remain in Bruges today. Four in total, these imposing specimens line the canal that encircles the city far away from the crowds. So take the 15 minute stroll and get up close and personal and enjoy these four wonders that take command over the city limits whilst enjoying the peacefulness of the surrounding area.
It’s now time to pull up a pew beside the roaring fireplace inside The Gulliver Tree where you can enjoy a cup of coffee or tea whilst taking a load off your feet. Peruse the menu where options include home cakes, soups and health conscious breakfast options, making this contemporary family run business a great setting to relax.
After a full day of exploration you are probably feeling a little peckish right? So why don’t we swing by and make ourselves comfortable over at De Plaats? Here you will find some fantastic vegan and vegetarian cuisine. With a decor combining both modern and vintage styles the eatery’s casual setting and friendly atmosphere make for quite the pleasant evening.
It seemed that my time in Bruges had come and gone within the blink of an eye. I must say that our first date had been an absolute joy and I’m sure that a second date will be on the cards at some point within the future. But for now it was time for us to say our last goodbyes as I had a train to catch and was on my way to see an old friend of Bruges that resided a little further down the road- Ghent!