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Romantic canals, medieval squares, waffle shops on every corner, and hoards of camera-toting tourists: what’s not to love about beautiful Bruges, Belgium?
After spending several days in Brussels, which is better known for its politics and strange obsession with comic book characters than its charm, we decided to make a day trip to Bruges.
Despite the high-volume of tourists (even on an overcast, slightly frigid weekday in late October), we could easily understand why everyone raves about it. Pretty well every street corner could be photographed and made into a postcard. And chocolate. So. Much. Chocolate.
Though it’s definitely not a “hidden gem,” we highly recommend braving the crowds and adding Bruges to your next European trip itinerary.
What to do in Bruges
Though its main draw is its beauty, there are plenty of things to see and do on a day trip to Bruges for people like Sam and me who prefer to conquer cities rather than simply see and enjoy them (At this point, this is a trait I’ve just learned to embrace about myself).
Visit the Markt
Named for the market that has been held here since 958, Markt is the main square in Bruges.
The architecture is lovely and it is the perfect place to people-watch while scarfing down your third waffle of the day (Or fourth. This is a no-judgment zone).
Hike the Belfry
Located in the market square, the Belfry of Bruges is one of the city’s most iconic landmarks.
Because Sam and I are apparently gluttons for punishment and incapable of passing a Medieval—or at least reasonably old—tower without climbing it (see here and here), we braved the 366 winding steps to the top. The stairs are steep and so is the admission price, but the view from the top is pretty incredible. Plus, we needed to work off all those waffles.
Admission: € 10
Bruges is famous for its beautiful canals, and one of the best ways to explore the city is on a canal cruise. Boat tours lasts about thirty minutes. Just be prepared to share the experience with 20+ new friends.
Ticket: € 7
Now we come to the reason you visited Belgium in the first place: the waffles. While I always thought the whole “Belgians eating waffles all the time” thing was a cliché, it turns out that Belgians really do love their waffles. And if you were born with any taste buds at all, so will you.
Though you can find waffles all throughout the city, Sam and I loved the waffles we purchased at Chez Albert. Though the locals tend to prefer their waffles plain, I could never resist the toppings. I mean, why wouldn’t you add chocolate?
I know I know. You’ve eaten four waffles already and you think you might burst. But no one said traveling would be easy. So it’s time to pull yourself together and hit the chocolate shops. Because chocolate is the other reason you visited Belgium. Or at least it was for us.
We recommend checking out several different chocolate shops to experience the best variety of Belgian chocolaty goodness. I particularly loved the chocolate truffles.
Go to Church
The only thing Belgians do as well as chocolate and waffles is build churches. Seriously, they are everywhere and they are all beautiful. My favorites were the Basilica of the Holy Blood and the Church of Our Lady.
Visit the Minnewater (or Lake of Love)
We actually found this area by accident in our mad rush to find somewhere to eat before catching a train back to Brussels, and my biggest regret from our time in Bruges is not spending more time here.
The lake is beautiful and often frequented by swans!
Aimlessly Wander the Streets
Though this sounds super cliché, one of the best things to do in a fairy-tale European city like Bruges is set down the map and the to-do list and the hour-by-hour Excel spreadsheet (ok, that may only be me…) and spend some time roaming the streets with a camera. Not only will you find some beautiful side streets, but you will also escape the crowds once you veer out of the main tourist-trodden thoroughfares.
Getting to Bruges
Belgium is a small country, and Bruges is easily accessible from any other Belgian city. We took a train from Brussels, which took an hour and cost about €29 round-trip. We purchased same-day train tickets from a kiosk at the station. If you are visiting from Ghent, the train only takes about 30 minutes. You can read about navigating Belgium by train here.
From the train station in Bruges, the historic center is about a 10-15 minute walk away.
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