A day trip to Bruges or Brugge in Dutch is really not enough to cover what this Unesco World Heritage City offers, shame that I had only one day free when I visited this enchanting Capital city of West Flanders in the Flemish Region of Belgium. There’s so much to do and see this part of Belgium and I guarantee you, this charming medieval city will capture your heart.
I was based in Brussels for a few days during my last vacay in Europe so visiting Bruges was easy. There is an average of 72 trains a day between the two cities and if you’re intending to do a day trip, the best idea is to take an early train, the journey takes under an hour arriving at the Central Station. From the station it’s about 15 – 20 minutes walk to get to the city centre. If you’re traveling with luggage, you’ll find a taxi rank outside the station or utilise the luggage lockers in the station. The other option to get to the city centre is by bus to Centrum or Markt. You can also hire a bicycle to get around, cycling is a popular means of transport.
Navigating your way from the station to the city centre by foot is easy, there are overhead signs with clear directions or simply follow the hordes of fellow tourists making their way to the centre. For me, I met up with my relative who lives there and we made our way by foot at a leisurely pace, stopping at all interesting landmarks on the way.
If you only have a short amount of time, here are some of the top attractions (highlighted) not to miss in Bruges.
Our self guided tour started at the Koning Albert l Park named after King Belgium Albert l. A grand park near central station features a traditional garden, historical monuments, serene river, bridges and the awe inspiring Poertoren Tower. We continued our walk along the cobbled streets admiring the picturesque Medieval neighbourhood.
We arrived at the Church of Our Lady, built in the 13th century, the spire is the tallest in Belgium. It was under renovation at the time of our visit so we didn’t get the chance to visit inside but the structure itself was magnificent.
Opposite the west door of the Church of our Lady is the oldest building in Bruges, the Sint-Jansspitaal – Saint Johns Hospital Museum, a great representation of the history of medicine and the church. Today, you can visit the medieval wards where the nuns and monks cared for the sick, pilgrims and travellers. It also houses collection of paintings by Flemish artist Hans Memling, there is an entrance fee for this museum.
Step back in time at The Markt – Market Square located in the heart of the city, the Historic Centre of Bruges. Here you’ll find the majestic Belfry Tower, one of Bruges most prominent symbols. The medieval Square is home to museums, restaurants, shops, scheduled shows and concerts. Market day is on every Wednesday with stalls selling all sorts of items. This part of Bruges is the perfect stop to chill out after a long day walking around the city. You can boost your sugar level with the famous Belgium waffles, chocolates and coffee in this area. For dining al fresco, a lot of restaurants offer outdoor seating with views of the square.
Our next stop after our morning tea was the Basilica of the Holy Blood – Heilig-Bloedbasiliek in Burg Square, famous for the crystal vial kept inside that is reputed to contain a drop of Christ’s blood brought back from the Holy Land. You’ll go up an elegant spiral staircase leading to the upper chapel. The Basilica is very impressive with stained glass windows and religious art work adorning the walls. There is a small donation asked to view the Holy Blood.
A visit to Bruges isn’t complete without a sumptuous lunch washed down by one of the many Belgium beers. We ended up having our lunch away from the centre. De Stoepa, is a charming restaurant with a bar and beer garden, if you do visit this place, try their mouth watering burgers.
If time permits, another way to appreciate Bruges is to explore by a guided canal boat tour, you’ll pass romantic bridges and breathtaking views of the city from a completely different perspective.
The last part of our self guided tour was a visit to one of the beer breweries. Brugse Zot is the only beer brewery in the town centre. You’ll find here a tasting area, guided tours and in house restaurants if you feel peckish. If you’re a beer lover then this definitely is your beer haven! I’m pretty sure the fun here is beyond awesome at night.
I caught the late train back to Brussels.