Thursday, May 2, 2013

A weekend break in Bruges, Belgium

We spent last weekend in the beautiful fairytale Belgian city of Bruges. I say fairytale because wandering around Bruges especially at night makes you feel like you are in the middle of a film set. Our home for two nights was the Flanders Hotel on Langestraat, the hotel is easy to find, has its own parking, nice rooms, good breakfast, a nice bar and for Bruges which is quite expensive offers good value for money. To top all of that, it is only a short walk to all of the main attractions in Bruges.

Flanders Hotel
The starting point for most people's visit to Bruges is the city's main square, the Markt, an impressive open space lined with 17th century houses and overlooked by the Belfort on one side. In the eastern side of the square you'll find the Neo-Gothic Provincial Hof which denotes Bruges's status as the capital of the Province of West Vlaanderen.

The Belfort
The Belfort is an octagonal bell tower that rises to a height of 83m, it dominates the Markt and is a major tourist attraction. If you fancy climbing the tower try and get there when it opens at 9.30am as there tends to be queues throughout the day. Inside 366 steps take you to the roof and some great views over the city. If you've seen the movie "In Bruges" with Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson you'll remember the role that the Belfort plays, if not its worth watching the film, as you'll see some great footage of the city.

The Markt

The wonderful thing about Bruges is that so long as you have a city map in your hand, it is really hard to get lost. As impressive as the Markt is, take the time to wander beyond this central square to explore more of the city and escape the expensive restaurants that line the permiter of the square.


Onthaalkerk Onze-Lieve-Vrouw

The city's skyline is littered with the towers of many churches, perhaps the most impressive is the Onthaalkerk Onze-Lieve-Vrow. The area around this impressive edifice is gorgeous as you'll see in the photo below. One of the church's artistic highlights is Michaelangelo's 1505 sculpture, Madonna and Child, located at the end of the southern aisle. Imported by a flemish merchant, this was the only one of the artist's works to leave Italy during his lifetime.

The canals of Bruges play an important role in city life and are a popular way to see the city, however like when visiting the Belfort be ready to queue if its a busy day during high season.

One area definitely worth visiting is the Bruges Begijnhof, entered via an 18the century gatehouse at the end of a bridge which runs over the canal, this is an area of quiet tree-lined paths faced by white, gables houses. The nuns who live in these houses are Benedictine sisters who moved here originally in the 1830s.

Entrance to the Begijnhof

Inside the Begijnhof

Just south of the Begijnhof, you'll find the Minnewater, a lovely park with a lake. Apparently Minnewater is often referred to as the Lake of Love, so if you are looking for a romantic spot, look no further !


Between us we took over 200 photos in just two days and as I'm typing this blogpost, I'm finding it increasingly difficult to choose which ones to use and where to stop. Hopefully by now if you've taken the time to read our post on Bruges you'll have seen what a wonderful place to visit this city is. Time for some more photos...


Vismarkt - Fish market
So by now you've seen some of the beautiful attractions of Bruges, what about places to eat an drink. We were recommended by friends who own The Townhouse B&B in Bruges, Bistro Christophe on Garenmarkt. We had a lovely meal and in turn would recommend it too with an additional recommendation to book a table, especially on Saturday night. On our second evening in Bruges we came across by chance a restaurant called Maria van Bourgondië, it offers a more traditional style of cooking that Bistro Christophe, great food and very good service. You'll find it on Guido Gezelleplein.


Punta Est
Three final tips for places to eat and drink; Walplein, if you are looking for somewhere to have lunch on a nice sunny day, this is the spot, it is very close to Begijnhof. A great place to relax your feet after a day walking round Bruges is Punta Est on Predikherenre and finally if you like a nice glass of wine, check out Wijnbar Est on Braambergstraat.

I hope you'll have got a sense of what a fabulous destination Bruges is for a short break. With the cities of Ghent,  Antwerp and Brussels close by you could even use the city as a base to visit more of this part of Belgium. If I had to pick out some negatives, be warned it can be expensive, we paid €18 for a coffee, a tea and a slice of apple pie on a tearoom/restaurant on the Burg. In some restaurants the service can be below average, if you come across a waiter called Frederic in Mozarthuys on Huidenvettersplein don't expect to get a smile from him. All that aside, we had a fantastic time in Bruges, a very special city, one not to miss.