Bruges the Beautiful

25 June 2012

Before I started planning my trip to Europe I had never even heard of the Belgium town of Bruges, let alone thought about travelling there. It wasn't until I questioned my well travelled co-workers on where I should go between Paris and London that I began to consider the charming and historic city.

 The Belfry of Bruges

If you have heard of the tourist town, chances are you've probably seen the movie In Bruges – a claim to fame that paints the medieval city in a rather dull light. Well having been there I can now prove the Hollywood treatment wrong. To me, Bruges has the charm of Amsterdam without the tawdry side. The romance of Paris minus the frantic crowds. It's historic, relaxed and in my eyes, the perfect place for a romantic break between a big city itinerary.

First Impressions of Bruges sights
When our train from Paris arrived in Bruges, the town was in the midst of hosting a marathon complete with live music and lots of cheering crowds (how's that for boring). Our taxi driver advised us that some of the streets had been closed down for the day's events, but that he'd be able to make his way to our Bed and Breakfast by taking a few back streets. 10 Euros later and we were left in a quaint street lined with brick buildings, each with a large coloured door and flower pots hanging from their windows. Behind a bright red door was our welcoming host who escorted us through a magnificent leafy courtyard and to our gorgeous room that overlooked a serene garden. A homely breath of fresh air compared to the hotels and apartments we had grown accustomed too.

 The Town's Market Square

Getting Around and the best things to do in Bruges
As the cheap cab ride suggested, everything is within easy reach in Bruges. Bike riding is an attractive option, though we spent most of our days wandering the streets on foot. If your feet do grow weary, as they tend to do on holidays, Brugge has a number of romantic alternatives to taking in the views. Enjoy a boat ride along the canals where you'll see some of the city's historic landmarks or hop aboard a horse drawn carriage to see the city at night. If you're lucky like we were, you might even be able to catch the view from above via a Ferris wheel, which was serendipitously in town as part of a carnival. If there are no rides to be found however, climb the stairs of the historic bell tower to view the city from above.

Local Cuisine
Apart from being breathtakingly beautiful, Brugge is a foodie's heaven. Chocolate, waffles, beer and mussels are what Brugge is mostly famous for, though the town's restaurants offer a wide array of cuisine. As I'm not a beer or mussel person, I can't comment on their offerings, but let me just say the town certainly has a knack for the sweeter side of things. The family-owned chocolate stores do a roaring trade and it's easy to see why when they produce their praline right in front of you. You can even visit the town's Chocolate Museum to find out just how the addictive treat is made. Waffles can be found pretty much everywhere as well, from fine dining restaurants to street carts, though the best I had was at a tea house. Brugge was also where I enjoyed the best meal of my trip – traditional Flemish stew at Mojo. For a fresh, and hearty meal where the locals eat, this restaurant is a must visit.

Lauren Burvill

Australian born but London based, I'm a sucker for big cities and small tropical islands. When travelling, I like eating like a local, dressing like a local, but staying in 5 star style. Have a travel story to share? Tweet me @laurenburvill.