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Unveiling the Hidden Gems and Timeless Charms of Bruges!

In the blossoming spring of April 2018, we embarked on an unforgettable journey through the captivating city of Bruges in Belgium for 3 days. With a blend of medieval charm and modern vibrancy, our trip promised to be a delightful fusion of historical exploration, culinary indulgence, and cultural immersion.

Here are some useful trivia about traveling to Belgium:

  1. Currency: The official currency of Belgium is the Euro (€).
  2. Languages Spoken in Belgium: The official languages are Dutch, French, and German.
  3. Best Time to Visit: The best time to visit Belgium is during the shoulder seasons of spring (April and May) and autumn (September and October) when the weather is mild, and tourist crowds are fewer. However, summer (June to August) is also popular despite being more crowded.
  4. Seasons: Belgium experiences a temperate maritime climate, with warm summers and cool winters. The seasons are typically divided into spring (March to May), summer (June to August), autumn (September to November), and winter (December to February).
  5. Visa: Belgium is part of the Schengen Area, which allows visitors from many countries to enter without a visa for short stays of up to 90 days. However, visa requirements may vary depending on your nationality, so it’s essential to check the specific requirements for your country before traveling.
  6. Country Code: The country code for Belgium is +32.
  7. Capital of Belgium: The capital is Brussels, which is also the largest city in the country.
  8. Neighboring Countries: Belgium shares borders with four countries: France to the southwest, Luxembourg to the southeast, Germany to the east, and the Netherlands to the north.

Stay – St. Christopher’s Inn – Bauhaus Hostel

Day Wise Itinerary:

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Day 1 – We visited the following places on our first day in Bruges:

Rozenhoedkaai – Where the Dijver Canal and the Groenerei meet, in front of the Dijver Mansions. This enchanting little corner, with its brick medieval houses and the Belfort in the background, is probably one the most photographed part of Bruges. Arriving early in the morning will give you the chance to get the perfect city ‘postcard’ photo before everyone else gets there!

Do a boat trip along Bruges’ canals – This will give you a unique perspective on the city and it won’t have much impact on your schedule or budget. Trips last around half an hour and cost less than €10. Opens at 10:00AM and closes at around 6:00PM (some even earlier at around 5:00PM). There are a few places around the city where you can join a boat tour. We went with Boottochten Brugge and loved the experience! They are located at Bootexcursies Gruuthuse, boarding point 3, Nieuwstraat 11. The trip includes an English guide who highlights the main points you can see from the water.

After getting off the boat, we ventured into the nearby Church of Our Lady. Besides its dramatic exterior (its tower is the second tallest brickwork tower in the world), you can also see the Madonna of Bruges, one of the few Michelangelo sculptures to be found outside of Italy today. Entrance to the church is free, but you will have to pay around €4 to enter the museum and see the sculpture.

Behind the church, you will find Bonifacius Bridge, one of the prettiest bridges in Bruges. It can enchant you given its marvelous view of the Church of Our Lady and the Gruuthuse Palace (just near the Groeninge Museum).

South of the Church of Our Lady you will find the Begijnhof. This peaceful area is an architectural complex typical of the Netherlands and Belgium, and it is where beguines used to live. These were groups of women, usually widows, who lived together and devoted their lives to helping the sick and the poor. Today, the Begijnhof is the place to get away from all the city buzz and enjoy a few moments of silence.

If you keep heading south, you will find the Minnewater Park and Lover’s Bridge. Its translation literally means ‘Love Lake’. When you see the romantic bridges and the swans swimming in the water you will understand why! You can feed bread to the swans in the lake.

Go back north to the east of the canal and arrive at The Halve Maan. This traditional brewery offers a varied lunch menu from noon to 3.30 p.m. Options include soups, salads, fish and meat dishes. You can also get the promotional 2-course lunch for around €20. The best way to accompany the food is with a typical beer. Our favorite one is the intense Quadruple Straffe Hendrik. Beware though: it has an 11% alcohol percentage so make sure you eat something first!

The beer ‘Brugse Zot’ as well as ‘Straffe Hendrik’ (Strong Henri) are the only beers brewed in the historical city centre by the brewery De Halve Maan. For non beer drinkers, Duvel is a well known Belgian beer. After lunch, you can do a tour of the brewery (€10) where you will be offered another glass of beer at the end. Halve Maan brewery (the Half Moon Brewery) tour – The most famous brewery in Bruges started operation in 1564 and also happens to have the most spectacular rooftop city views. Who knew? You have to do the tour to get to the rooftop, and they run hourly.

Day 2 – We visited the following places on our second day in Bruges:

Grote Markt – A bustling square at the heart of Bruges, featuring medieval buildings and the impressive Belfry of Bruges, offering panoramic views of the city from its top. This square (8am to 1.30 pm – selling fresh fruits, veggies, gifts, flowers etc.) has been at the center of this city’s life for over 1,000 years. Its name comes from the traditional market which has taken place every Wednesday since the year 968.

Belfort (Belfry of Bruges), with its 83-metre bell tower – If you want to get some of the best views of the city, you can climb the 366 steps to the top for around €12. Open from 9:30AM to 5:00PM, entrance fee is at €8 (Php 400+) but can be only €6 (Php 300+) with the Bruges City Card.

There are a lot of chocolate shops in Bruges. After all, this sweet treat is a trademark of the city and the country itself, therefore chocolate tasting is one of the most popular things to do in Brugge. However, among many uninspired options, we think The Chocolate Line (Address: Simon Stevinplein 19 OR Vaartstraat 75, 8000 Brugge, Belgium), The Old Chocolate House (Address: Mariastraat 1, 8000 Brugge, Belgium), BbyB (Address: Sint-Amandsstraat 39, 8000 Brugge, Belgium), Olivier’s (Address: Sint-Amandsstraat 14, 8000 Brugge, Belgium) offers some of the best chocolate in Bruges. Not only is its chocolate a pure delicacy, you will also be able to find some quirky formats such as chocolate for massages, personalized chocolate cards and even a chocolate sniffer!

The Old Chocolate House is an insanely romantic restaurant in Bruges that also happens the best place to go for chocolate “high tea.” Chocolate high tea is exactly what it sounds like, if what you think it sounds like is high tea without tea but with hot chocolate. Try Waffle on a stick at Go Fre (Address: Breidelstraat 11, 8000 Brugge, Belgium). There are two different types of waffles in Belgium, the Brussels waffle and the Liege waffle. The Liege waffles are the best! Have them at Chez Albert, Fred’s, and the waffle truck in Burg Square. Check out Aux Merveilleux de Fred for their famous pastry, the Merveilleux.

See the sunset at the Rosary Quay – It’s always full of tourists who take pictures and selfies, but if you go there at sunset or at night, it’s more likely that you will be able to enjoy the magic of this place with views on beautiful Flemish buildings, the canal and the Belfry Tower at the background.

Getting a good and affordable sit-down dinner is not a simple task in Bruges. Avoiding the tourist traps around the city center is the first step to finding somewhere good. We found a couple of really good Bruges restaurants that we are happy to recommend. ‘T Risico is one of those small and cozy places which is famous among locals and which offers yummy and affordable dishes. Of course while in Belgium you must order Fries, they are the best.

Day 3: We visited the following places on our third day in Bruges:

Koningin Astridpark – We visited this tranquil park, named after Queen Astrid of Belgium, which provided a perfect setting for a peaceful escape and a closer look at Bruges’ commitment to maintaining green spaces amidst the city’s historical charm.

Huidenvettersplein – Originally a bustling square for tanners, we discovered that Huidenvettersplein has transformed into a vibrant hub of local cuisine and culture, where we indulged in authentic Belgian dishes, immersing ourselves in the city’s rich gastronomic heritage.

Windmills, Sint-Janshuismill – One of the highlights of our day was the Sint-Janshuismill, the last remaining windmill in its original location, where we gained insight into Bruges’ historical dependence on wind energy and the significance of milling in the city’s economic history.

Basilica of the Holy Blood – Aside from housing the revered relic of the Holy Blood, the Basilica stands as an architectural masterpiece, blending Romanesque and Gothic styles, while also providing a place for reflection and spiritual contemplation for both tourists and locals alike.

Bauhaus Bar – With its hidden entrance and cozy atmosphere, Bauhaus Bar is not only a favorite among locals but also serves as a meeting point for travelers looking to delve into Bruges’ vibrant nightlife. Known for its selection of local Belgian beers, the bar offered us an opportunity to engage with the city’s beer culture and indulge in some of the finest brews the region has to offer.

We returned to the welcoming ambiance of St. Christopher’s Inn – Bauhaus Hostel, and prepared for an enchanting evening at a harp concert at Site Oud Sint Jan.

Optional – Uncover Bruges’ artistic side by exploring museums like the Choco-Story Museum, Frietmuseum, and Diamantmuseum.

As we bid adieu to the beguiling wonders of Bruges, our hearts remain etched with the memories of its timeless beauty and unique experiences. From savoring delectable chocolates to marveling at architectural masterpieces, our journey through this beautiful Belgian gem has left an indelible mark on our travel chronicles.

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