When I initially booked this eurotrip - I thought I would spend two days in Brussels. But in a last minute switch, I decided to take a day trip to Brugges - and it was the best decision ever! Brugges has definitely maintained is medieval architecture and charm, while accepting some of the more modern attractions. The town is filled with shops, breweries, restaurants and other touristy things to do - definitely a city worth visiting!
I took the train from Brussels to Brugges. It was such an easy way to travel. It only took an hour and Brugges city center is only a 10 minute walk from the train station. Plenty of time to enjoy the multigrain crossaint I picked up before I jumped on the train. (Multigrain - still tastes like a stick of butter, but you feel like you "accomplished" something for your health).
When I arrived, I walked toward the city center stopping at sights along the way. The first stop was one of the most interesting. I walked through Beguinage, a semi-monastic community of women. The sight was serene. The community is known for its calm and quiet atmosphere, but was most interesting was at art installation within the community. In the courtyard were wooden tree houses. The houses were purely symbolic of children or playgrounds, meant as a juxtaposition with the quiet community. (No one is actually allowed to play in the houses - but it was very beautiful).
Next, I continued to walk up town through many canal-lined streets. It was so much fun to wander on my own! The town is very picturesque - as you can see from the panorama shot above!
Whenever I visit a historic town, I love to see the old sights. Contrary to the the U.S., "historic sights" in Europe usually involve climbing to the top of a church tower or castle tower that was built during the medieval era. It's a nice way to earn your afternoon beer while usually guaranteeing a great view of the city. As long as you get over the feeling that a strong wind may topple the tower over forever.
For Brugges, that meant stopping by the Belfry of Brugges, a medieval bell tower with a narrow, steep staircase of 366 steps. Narrow is definitely an understatement here. This is a trek that could be difficult for older individuals or anyone who gets nervous in cramped spaces because there were definitely portions of the staircase that were one-way only. (Which definitely made it interesting for passing people). But the views of the city are definitely worth the wait.
One interesting aspect of the square the visitor staff didn't emphasize was across the square. A multi-faceted sculpture with mirrors at different angles. Think "the bean" in Chicago got together with a rubik's cube and had a baby. It is angled just right that when you are looking at the sculpture you can see the full view of the tower, and surrounding buildings, perfectly!
If you are looking for some interesting shopping in addition to sight-seeing, I did stop in a few interesting shops. Nothing particularly notable to write home about beyond the typical "Belgian" touristy shops. I'll admit, I did leave town with a box of delicious chocolates and some cool postcards. But it was very difficult to walk into the shop below and leave with nothing. I guess the only salvation was the thought of traveling to Amsterdam with multiple bottles of beer - that probably wouldn't be the most fun ever.
But if you hit Brugges towards the end of your trip, or have a car, check out The Bottle Shop, tons of individually bottled Belgian beers (say that 5 times fast) available for sale!
All in all, despite Brugges being a bit touristy, I saw a lot of sights without breaking the bank! It is a highly walkable town, and if you want to see more, I would recommend a bike! I never felt unsafe or bored while walking the beautiful streets of Brugges!
If you are wondering more about what there is to eat and drink in Brugges, check out my upcoming post, "When in Brugges! Things to eat edition." I cover all the best places to grab a beer!
Until next time.