I get different reactions when I tell people I visited Bruges, Belgium. There are the folks who have heard about it, and then there are the people who have not. Those who know Bruges want to hear all about it; those who don’t know Bruges just want to know where in the heck it is. At it’s core, Bruges is a beautiful, well-preserved medieval city — packed with tourists.
When I originally planned my trip to Europe, Bruges wasn’t in the equation. It wasn’t until I invited my mom to join me that the idea came up. I had seen the movie In Bruges (starring Colin Farrell) several times. Bruges looked like a cool little city in the film, so I jumped on board.
After three days in Paris, my mom and I hopped a train to Bruges. There are no direct trains from Paris to Bruges, so we had to stop over in Antwerp first (you can also travel through Brussels). Each leg of the trip was a little more than an hour, making it about a three-hour trek altogether (with the time in between trains in Antwerp included).
Bruges was everything we expected it to be. It’s easily the most unique, picturesque city I’ve ever seen in my life. Often described as “the most well-preserved medieval city in Europe,” Bruges prides itself on its spectacular architecture and flowing canals (Bruges is known as the ”Venice of the North”). You need to have your camera ready at all times, because there’s a picture waiting around every turn. I could try to describe the city’s beauty, but my words won’t do it justice. Bruges is truly incredible.
My mom and I only planned one day in Bruges before we needed to leave for Amsterdam, so we tried to make the most of our time in Belgium. The first thing we did was hop on a canal tour (you can get discount tickets through your hotel). This is a MUST in Bruges, and it’s a great way to learn about the city before you really dig into it. Our canal guide was very informative, and he kept the half-hour trip entertaining. The seagulls in Bruges also made the canal tour entertaining for me, especially when one of them pooped on my chest (it appeared to be a kamikaze attack — the bird dove down toward me, pooped and swiftly flew away). All I could do was laugh and clean myself off (thankfully my mom had tissue on her). It definitely created a good story.
Here’s a quick video I took on our canal tour, so you can get a feel for what it’s like to be in Bruges:
After the canal tour, my mom and I took it pretty easy in Bruges (which was nice after the hustle and bustle of London and Paris). We walked around the cobblestone streets, stopped in the different churches (Basilica of the Holy Blood, etc.), admired the 300-foot belfry in the historic city center, strolled past many of the stores (shopping is BIG in Bruges) and even saw a real windmill in Belgium (that was apparently high on my mom’s list of things to do).
Bruges is awesome, but it’s not perfect. The city really isn’t built for a 31-year-old dude (I see why Colin Farrell’s character complained about Bruges being boring in In Bruges). It seems like it’s more for couples and families. Speaking of, there are way too many tourists in Bruges. People are everywhere (not to mention the horse-drawn carriages and bicycles). I know that I was a tourist there too, but it really took away from the experience. My mom and I made it a point to see the main areas, but avoid them as well. Bruges thrives because of the tourism, and the residents know it — that’s why they jack up the prices on everything (Bruges is really expensive). When it rains (which it did when we were there), the canals get a little stinky too.
I actually enjoyed Bruges more at night than I did during the day. Many of the tourists go to bed early, so the city really quiets down. With the canals, bridges and buildings in the city all lit up, Bruges is perfect for a night-time stroll. I honestly think the city is more impressive at night than in the day. Again, my words can’t even describe how aesthetically pleasing this place is.
There’s one final thing I want to touch on about Bruges — the food! It was expensive, but it was delicious. Belgium is famous for its waffles (which they actually eat as an afternoon snack — not a breakfast food), chocolate, mussels and beer (especially white beer). I happily downed all four when I was there, and I highly recommend you do the same.
As you can tell, I thought very highly of Bruges (for the most part). It was definitely worth a stop along the way on our trip, and I would tell everyone to visit at least once (because you’ll never see another place like it). With that said, one trip to Bruges was enough for me. I would honestly never plan another trip there again. It’s incredible, but I don’t feel the need to visit again.
Have you ever been to Bruges? What did you think? I would love to hear from you! Leave a message below or connect with me on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. I’m open to all of your questions about Bruges as well. And, don’t forget — if you can’t travel the globe; experience the world with me at http://allaroundtim.com.