BRUGGE, BELGIUM: Brugge is the 2nd most visited city of Belgium after Brussels. We really didn’t see the charming side of Brugge in our first short visit of the city. But this time it was a great day-trip and saw a lot more than the last time. It is a Flemish city of Belgium and a nice one too. It is very similar to Gent (another Flemish city in Belgium and my most favorite one among all the Belgian cities I’ve been to so far) with old guild houses, small canals, old town etc.
TIME OF TRAVELING: My uncle-in-law was in town in the 1st week of September, 2012. He has been in Europe many times for his work purposes. He lived in the Netherlands for 2 years and visited Brugge from there few times before. So, he wanted to visit the city again and walk down the memory lane while visiting us in Belgium. It was less than an hour drive from our place and made a great day-trip for us all. The sky was blue and clear and the weather was sunny and golden…just perfect to have some quality family time.
WHAT TO BUY AND EAT IN BRUGGE: Belgian chocolates, tapestries, and laces are famous world-wide and Brugge has tons of stores selling these items. The best place to buy some chocolates in Brugge is The Chocolate Line. This is not your typical chocolate store. Dominique Persoone, the master “Shock-O-Latier”, is an award-winning chef with a creative mind who doesn’t fear to combine chocolate with variety of different types of ingredients, such as bay leaves, olive oil, curry powder, sake, and many many more. Other than chocolate, Brugge is also known of its awesome cheese. For a meal or drink Grote Markt is a nice place. We had lunch in one of the restaurants there which had some traditional Flemish dishes. I tried something called Chickenzooi, a very typical Flanders stew boiled with lots of veges and served in white sauce.
PLACES WE’VE VISITED: We spent about a whole day in Brugge. We really didn’t research on Brugge before going there. We just enjoyed and visited the place as they came along during our walk.
1) SINT SALVATORSKATHEDRAAL: We entered this church without knowing much about it and just by looking at its grand outlook. It is free to enter the cathedral. It’s a big church with nicely decorated high altar, many over-sized old paintings, colorful stained-glass windows, beautiful Belgian tapestries, and detailed wood and marble carvings. The cathedral houses mausoleums of several saints from the late 1600s. Many well-to-do class citizens, the nobles, and the clergymen who could afford it have their resting-place inside the church. There are different types of stones from different places, like East Flanders, Brabant, Germany, and France, which were used to build this cathedral. The oldest bricks, from the 14th century, were made in the brickyards which were situated around Brugge.
2) GROTE MARKT: This is something similar to Brussels Grand Place/Grote Markt, may be a bit bigger square and has a statue in the middle of it. You will see all the cafes and restaurants lined up in one side of the market place with typical Flemish style guild houses. The old post office is also located here (orange and beige building) at one side of Belfry. This is also a good place to hire a horse-wagon ride to get a tour of the historic places of the city. It is a great place to just chill and enjoy the surrounding old architectures.
Belfry in Grote Markt is part of an impressive 13th century building. In the Middle Ages the hall was used for storing and displaying different goods. The top, octagonal lantern tower in Brabant limestone was built between 1482 and 1486. This is a UNESCO World Heritage site to mainly draw attention to the symbolic significance of the belfries as testimonials of the prosperous and autonomous late-medieval cities in the region. Visitors can go to inner courtyard that contains some temporary museums and occasional outdoor concerts. This 83-meter high tower can be accessed from 9:30 am to 4:15 pm everyday by paying 8 euros per adult and 4 euros for kids 6 – 15 years of age. There are 366 steps to climb to go on the top.
3) DE BURG: De Burg is another little but beautiful square situated right beside Grote Markt or the Market Place. You can follow the narrow alley from Grote Markt on the left side when facing the Belfry. Brugge’s present City Hall and old city hall are both in this square. The architecture of old city hall and Basilica of the Holy Blood are simply beautiful. We didn’t go inside any of these buildings and not sure if the visitors are allowed to go in. There is a café here and some shops on the alley that connects De Burg and Grote Markt.
4) BASILICA of the HOLY BLOOD: The basilica is best known to contain a cloth with blood of Jesus Christ, brought to the city from Holy Land after the 12th century Second Crusade. This is located in one side of De Burg, beside the old Town Hall of Brugge. The basilica was built somewhere in the 12th century. This has an upper chapel and a lower chapel. The lower one is virtually in its original Romanesque structure. The upper chapel was rebuilt in Gothic Revival style and inside is small yet very gorgeously ornamented. It is free to enter the chapels but have to pay 2 euros for the museum.
5) BOAT RIDE: Boat ride in Brugge canals costs 7.60 euros per adult and 3.40 euros for kids for a 30-minutes ride. The captain gives English tour along with French and Dutch. The boat takes you thru the old multi-colored houses, cafes, and bridges. You also get to see the skinniest building of the city the ride and one of the most romantic hotels of Europe. The ride is very pleasant, educational, and entertaining for the kids too.