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We’re nearly two months into 2017, so if you’re anything like us, you’re probably beginning to get itchy feet. We know our wanderlust has well and truly set in! Well the good news is, the world is your oyster, so what’s stopping you from hopping on a plane to explore a new city?
With a number of bank holidays on the horizon, there’s no better time to book a long weekend away. So what are you waiting for?
We’ve already covered Amsterdam, Dublin and Iceland as top mini break destinations, so filling the next spot on our travel bucket-list is another one of our favourite European cities – Bruges.
Much like Amsterdam, which is just a stones throw away from Bruges, the city is formed from an interlinking of charming cobblestone lanes, picturesque canals and buzzing market squares. Steeped with history, the antique town has preserved it’s medieval origins of centuries past and with just 200,000 residents, it retains a serenity that many popular tourist locations lack.
From historic architecture, to romantic havens, the quiet city has a lot to offer without being overwhelming. In fact, being quite modest in size, the city is ideal for the kind of tourist who wants to take their time meandering their way around the streets, rather than diving head first into back to back activities and sight seeing.
If this sounds like it’s up your street (or canal), here are some of the city’s top highlights.
If you’re a fan of the black comedy In Bruges, this is your opportunity to get up close and personal with the film set. A leaflet on the film’s locations is available from the tourist board (www.brugge.be), so you can walk the streets where Ralph Fiennes, Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson set the scene. The tour includes central locations such as Markt Square, Burg Square, Minnewater and Astrid Park, so it’s a great way to explore to the city too!
With footpaths and old stone bridges connecting the scenic canals, you’re free to explore at your leisure. Alternatively you can hop on board a boat, to check out the city’s sights by water. Boat tours are available from as little as seven euros and they’re a fantastic way to spot parts of the city that you wouldn’t necessarily come across by foot.
Canals make up the heart of Bruges, but of all of the city’s water ways the Groenerei is by far the most romantic. Translated ‘The Green Canal’, the appropriately named channel is lined with lush trees and creepers, while elegant 17th-century mansions and almshouses perch on the banks.
Sharing a romantic moment with a loved one? Tucked away in the South of Bruges is a beautiful tree lined park named Minnewater. With ‘The Lake of Love’ and ‘Lovers Bridge’ as its main attractions, the tranquil location is one of the most romantic spots in the city. Take a stroll around the scenic park and watch the swans gracefully make their way across the lake. Swans are a symbol of the city and subject of a famous legend.
Bruges is a very picturesque city and with a limit of 30m in place for all buildings, it is quite a low-lying settlement; meaning high points, such as the Belfry offer panoramic views of the steeped roofed houses and historic buildings.
If Gothic architecture is your kind of thing, the Burg won’t disappoint. As an epicentre of the city’s history, the central square once served as the administrative centre of medieval Bruges. Perfectly depicting the wealth of medieval Bruges, the square boasts the Stadhuis, Belgium’s oldest town hall.
Having played a key role in the film In Bruges, the historic bell tower is one of the most prominent landmarks in the city. Towering 83m above Markt Square, The Belfy is one of the best spots to view the city from up above. Only down fall? You’ll have to climb 366 steps to reach the top!
The 47-bell carillon is still played manually on a changing schedule, which you can find times for posted on a signboard in front of the 13th-century Hallen.
The Church of Our Lady
With a spire reaching 122 metres high, Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk (The Church of Our Lady) is the second tallest brickwork building in the world, dominating Bruge’s skyline. The grand piece of architecture took two whole centuries to complete, resulting in an exquisite cultural blend of 13th, 14th and 15th century influences.
Among the treasures that the religious building homes, is the beautiful Carrara marble Madonna and Child sculpture by Michelangelo, which was the only one of Michelangelo’s works to leave Italy.
If classic art is to your taste, then the Groeninge should satisfy your cultural appetite. Showcasing a world famous collection of masterpieces by artists such as Jan Van Eyck, Hugo van der Goes, Hans Memling and Gerard David, the museum offers one of country’s finest collections.
Food & Drink
Chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate
You simply can’t visit Belgium without sampling their world famous chocolate. Truffles, pralines, chocolate marzipan…you name it, they got it. Indulge your sweet tooth by following “The Chocolate Walk” – A trail that takes you on a tour past all of the finest chocolate shops in the city, offering traditional and experimental treats, that are guaranteed to excite your taste buds.
The Chocolate Line is one of the city’s most famous chocolate shops, renowned for founder Dominique Persoone’s innovative creations, that incorporate everything from wasabi to oysters. Offering a more traditional take on Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, the quaint shop is lined with glass cabinets and tasteful wood panelling.
Another delicacy you can’t leave without trying are Belgium’s divine waffles. With a variety of toppings to choose from, including whipped cream, chocolate sauce and more, the traditional Belgian food delivers a little taste of heaven. Grab one from a street vendor for an authentic Belgian experience.
If you’re looking for a fantastic meal, try Vlissinghe for taste. As the oldest bar in town, the joint dates back to the 16th Century. Be sure to wash your meal down with their award-winning beer, Brugse Zot.