Discovering Bruges, Belgium
If you are interested in discovering places that seem like they have been plucked from a medieval Disney fairyland complete with cobbled streets, gabled houses, winding canals, picturesque churches with soaring spirals, and scenic quaint marketplaces then Bruges, Belgium is the place for you. Bruges receives a constant throng of tourists every year during the summer, who want to soak in the rich culture and history of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. This guide will give you a comprehensive overview of the main attractions of Bruges, cheap motels and hostels where one can stay with the locals, the amazing nightlife and how to meet the interesting locals of this historic city center of Belgium.
Bruges or Brugges is the capital of the Flanders and situated on the river of Reie, south of the busy port of Zeebrugge. Its strategic location near the port has earned the medieval city the title of “The Venice of the North”. It once used to be the commercial economic hub of the world. Its reputation as a perfectly preserved quaint town has made it into a tourist hub, with about two million tourists annually visiting the place. The city has a bustling industry as well, with many factories for steel works, calico mills, furniture, and many more. Bruges is famous for its bobbin lace which is an intricate lace textile made by braiding and twisting thread which are then wound on bobbins to create immensely complex patterns. Bruges is a famous tourist spot because of its ancient and medieval buildings and canals that provide it with an air of mystery and rich history which make it a unique holiday destination. People can take long romantic walks on the cobbled streets; enjoy a scenic boat ride on the canals, or even take a hot air balloon ride to catch a bird’s eye view of the entire majestic location.
Top 5 nearby destinations from Bruges:
1. Amsterdam, a great city to hangout for many days and do nice trips.
2. Antwerpen, Maybe the nicest city in entire belgium. Also very nice for shopping and a nice cozy nightlife.
3. Brussels, You should have visited the Frensh part of belgium once in your life.
4. Paris ,maybe not so nearby but certainly worth visiting.
5. Luxembourg, another small country with their own identity.
Discover the City!
There has been a lot of talk of taking boat rides in Bruges on those clear and winding canals, which thanks to a massive restoration program have greatly improved. These boat trips are offered all along the Grachten (canals) and typically last a half an hour. These boat rides pass along quaint bridges that can become so low that the people have to duck underneath them. Be sure to visit the Lake of Love otherwise known as the Minnewater Lake which has colorful swans wading in the clear water. The boats boast amazing views of the entire town and have landing stages at two areas: Huidenvetterplaats and Rozenhoedkaai.
A great way to meet new people of diverse nationalities, is to take the minibus tours or guided walks offered by the horse-drawn carriages that begin from Burg. In the months of July and August these guided walks occur every day around 3 pm from the tourist office in Burg.
The heart of Bruges is considered to be Markt, which is the marketplace and is dominated by the large Belfort (a humongous brick belfry with a staggering 366 steps to climb. It is not for the ones who have a fear of heights; however it is worth the 360 degree breathtaking view of Bruges down below). The Markt is a collection of old buildings and the Main Square and hub of activity in Burges. The buildings surrounding market from all sides are from many different eras with a rich history attached to all of them. Some monuments even date back to 1887. Some of these buildings that must be explored include the Belfort, Halle (a large building with a magnificent courtyard), Provinciaal Hoff (situated on the east of the Markt and is the seat of the provincial government), and Craenenburg (situated on the west of the Markt and was where the future Habsburg Emperor Maxmillian was imprisoned). The Markt is the best place to try out the special Belgian beer which has a total of 100 varieties available at all local pubs. The local brew called the “Brugse Zot” (Bruges Fool) is highly recommended. There are many street carts all over the Markt which boast local delicacies such as the Frietkot, which are special fries and a Belgian authenticity.
There are many churches that can be explored on a tour to Burges, the most popular one is called the English Convent on Camersstraat. This magnificent Church was built in the 1629 as a refuge for English Catholics and is open for short periods of the time for tourists to visit. One can also visit one of the world’s highest brick towers in terms of the Church of Our Lady and dates as far back as the 13th century. It comprises of the only sculpture left in Italy by the famous sculptor Michelangelo of the Madonna and the Child created in 1504.
Visitors can also visit a one-of-a-kind chocolate museum, Choco Story that illustrates the rich history of the chocolate from the cocoa bean to its role as a means of Aztec currency and you can also try special Belgian praline that is made in front of you.
On guided walk tours or otherwise, one must visit the Burg which is also a town square with beautiful buildings like the Basilica of the Holy Blood, Town Hall and the Old Recorder’s House.
The City of Life!
Bruges boasts a wide variety of local pubs, cafés, bars and clubs for the party animal visitors. Majority of the entertainment occurs around the Old Town where there is a range of traditional style bars and pubs that sell more varieties of beer than there are people. If you want to mingle with the hip local crowd then there are plenty of options around the Kuipersstraat and Zilverstraat.
Many notable cafes and bars for tourists are:
‘t Brugs Beertje: This bar boasts a wide collection of Belgium’s finest beers (in total 300 beer varieties).
Cafedraal: This is a funky yet medieval style cottage converted into a warm pub for the hippest people in town. It combines modern style with period features to make it popular with the wild bohemian crowd of Bruges.
Bras Café: This is the go to place for wild themed nights, fancy dress events and attractive drinks promotions. One can easily expect people to be more than a little tipsy here, and partial nudity and debauchery is the norm here.
There are many live music festivals in Bruges as well, where one can meet great people and bond over the love of music. These are:
Joey’s Bar: This is a dim lit, modest establishment that holds sporadic live performances and coupled with friendly bartenders and great drinks, this is easily a great place to have fun.
Concertgebouw (Concert Hall): This is the top music venue in Bruges for all sorts of genres such as classical music, opera and ballet etc. It has a capacity of hosting 1,300 people.
How to Meet New People In Bruges
The people of Bruges are warm, loud, enthusiastic, and friendly. They love to live life to the fullest and know how to have fun. Since Bruges is considered a charming and cozy little town located in Europe, with only 120,000 citizens, there are times when the tourists are more in number than the citizens. Hence, it is very easy to mingle with the locals and the best way to do that is by hopping from one café to another. The locals usually like to eat at small and modest food establishments rather than the fine dining eateries. You can see them enjoying a steaming plate of frites fresh off the bucket or hob of hot mussels on large comfortable couches. The easy and relaxed culture of eating and drinking is so common that you, as a tourist won’t feel out of place in any local pub or bar. A pleasant place to meet the locals and enjoy the Belgian cuisine is the Cambrinus as it offers hearty Italian and Belgian food. The surroundings are comfortable, which allows for conversation to continue for longer time periods.
Other haunts where the locals tend to hang are:
The Ostend: This is a very famous beach which is very close to the main hotel road in Bruges and boasts fine sand and great many visitors.
Minnewater (Cactus Music Festival): This is a great way to catch live performances by top singers during the three day festival in such a romantic setting. The festival occurs annually at the start of July.
For romantic getaways in Bruges, there are many options:
Lake of Love (Minnewater park): This is located in the south of Bruges and the lake has a tragic love story attached to it. It is said that if anyone tosses a coin in the lake, he or she will get married the very next year, so take the plunge knowingly. It is also said that walking over the lake bridge with your partner will make you experience eternal love.
Bonifaciusbrug: This little area has the potential to enchant any visitor. Its rich history, coupled with a feeling of romance makes this a great place to visit. It has spiraling trees, unique art masterpieces, hidden benches and a splendid view of the Church of Our Lady.
Rozenhoedkaai: This is one of the most photographed spots in Bruges, and has timeless scenery that can be enjoyed hand in hand with a special one.
There are many more such romantic haunts like the Begijnhof (century old beautiful convent gardens with a small museum and church), Gruuthuse (A palace built in the 15th century) and Vesten (a green lung surrounding the entire city with many local places to visit).
Bruges is a just a small distance away from Brussels and can be visited via an hour long train from the Brussels airport. It is a great place to interact with people from all sorts of countries.
Some Key Words/Phrases to Know In Bruges and Some basic words in Dutch and Flemish to
communicate with the locals:
Thank you: Dank u
Keywords: Beer, Chocolate, medieval, fairytale town.