A day in Bruges
There is no other place like Bruges in Belgium. With its authentic medieval architecture and picturesque canals, the so-called "reien", the city really is fairy tale material. Thanks to its water connection to the sea, the "Venice of the North" has been wealthy for centuries, having its golden age in the 15th century. Fortunately the inner city stayed intact ever since, making it a World Heritage Site of Unesco for everybody to enjoy. Go ahead and be a tourist in your own country, it feels wonderful. And there are even some hotspots to discover. Follow me!
Visit of the Princely Beguinage of the Vineyard
The Beguinage of Bruges is one of the prettiest in Belgium with its white houses and central garden. It was built in the 13th century and was home to the Beguines, women who devoted themselves to prayer and good works without taking vows. Nowadays Benedictine nuns live in the little houses. Although it attracts many tourists, the beguinage remains a tranquil haven in the city. Just outside the beguinage, countless swans live around the canals. There is actually a legend explaining the never-ending presence of swans in Bruges. It is about a ruler that was imprisoned by the people of Bruges as a reaction to the increase of taxes. One of his servants was beheaded on the Grote Markt during his imprisonment, so when he finally ruled again, he promised there would always be "long necks" on the reien.
Stop at the Arentshof
The Arentshof is a great place to experience the Bruges atmosphere as it combines history and romanticism. In this little park and its surroundings, you can watch the horse drawn carriages go by, as well as the boats on the canals, under the watchful eye of the Church of Our Lady. To reach the Arentshof, take the Bonifacius Bridge, probably the most picturesque bridge of the city (although it's actually one the youngest bridges of Bruges as it was built at the beginning of the 20th century). From the bridge, you have a perfect view on the wooden houses along the reien.
Boat trip on the canals
A visit of Bruges isn't complete without a boat trip on the canals! Seeing the city from water level just adds that little more to your experience. There are several places around the Dijver and the Rozenhoedkaai where you can embark for a 30 minutes trip for just €8,00.
Lunch at Grun | Dweersstraat 4, Brugge
For a healthy lunch in Bruges you have to be at Grun, the newly opened "urban deli"! They offer great sandwiches, soup, delicious salads and a wide selection of hot drinks in a Pinterest worthy setting. And they're very friendly people.
Stop at the Grote Markt
The most famous square of Bruges is the Grote Markt with its iconic Belfry. If you're courageous (and you don't have claustrophobia), you might brave the 366 stairs to the top to enjoy the panoramic view of the surroundings. Just under the Belfry are some of Belgium's most famous "frietkoten" and in the center of the square stands the statue of two local heroes who resisted the French in the 14th century. But my favorite sights are definitely the colored facades on the opposite side of the Belfry.
Shopping in the North of the city
The popular shopping street is the Steenstraat/Zuidzandstraat. You know me, this is the part of town I always avoid. Instead head North to discover unique shopping venues. One of those is Goûts et Couleurs, a tasteful boutique with plenty of Scandinavian design, but also fine jewelry and Aesop cosmetics. The owners are really enthusiastic about giving service and advice so don't hesitate to call on them. Another boutique that's worth a visit is Mais oui. Open since October, it was founded by two ladies who wish to share their passion for clothing and interior through a personal selection of French and Scandinavian brands.
Sweet break at The Gulliver Tree | Cordoeaniersstraat 4, Brugge
After all that walking around you'll surely want to have some drinks and perhaps a little dessert. The Gulliver Tree is the place to be! With its cozy interior and the lovely family who runs the place, this coffee and tearoom has a warm feeling to it. They offer countless hot drinks and their cakes are delicious. Should there be no seats available when you arrive there, don't worry, the Vero Caffè located nearby is also a great option!
Stop at the Burg Square
Another famous square is the Burg. This used to be the political and religious center of Bruges and it served as the base of the Counts of Flanders for centuries. There's plenty of architectural beauty for you to admire: the City Hall, the Basilica of the Holy Blood and my personal favorite, the Palace of the Liberty of Bruges. I love the golden details and the little heads popping out of the building!
How to get there:
Bruges is just a little more than 1 hour away from Brussels by train. And the beguinage is on walking distance from the station. If you come by car, there's a large parking near the train station where they only charge €3,50 a day (Address: Buiten Begijnenvest).