Colin Farell leaped out of a window in this Medieval town in 2008, but this mini Venice, untouched by the German blitzkriegs, has a bit more to show you – though 1 in 3 people will point to the window (that’s a freebie).
Pro tip: take Tyler. He’s the best travel buddy.
Stay at the Gulden Vlies
Bruges (or Brugge) is a fantastic host to travelers, with hotels of all price points and lots of centrally located options. We stayed at the Gulden Vlies with Fleur and her family, and it was a treat. So much of the town is curated for tourists, and it’s easy to walk through this snowglobe village and miss some of its characters. Fleur’s family runs their boutique hotel/B&B like they’re hosting friends, and between her friendly family and their relatively local travelers, you get some truly choice recommendations – what to see and what to avoid (the latter being worth its weight in gold). I literally miss Fleur right now. Right. Now.
Walk to the Square
The central square and main areas are all canal, cobblestone, cobblestone, canal. It’s amazing. I loved winding through the tiny streets and trying to imagine all the crazy fashions, types of transportation, shop windows, etc. had called Brugge home. It’s rare to find a place so old and left untouched by war – you have to stroll through and try to take it in.
See the Belfry and the Market Square- climb steps and take pics
Old man river said you can go your own way…JUST KIDDING. If you’re into steps (and bats), like 366, and views the likes of which allow you to spot encroaching fires, scale the Belfry in Bruges. Thanks to our hosts at Gulden Vlies, we avoided eating on the square (apparently that’s a big nah), but the chocolate shops, parades, and horse-drawn carts have their charms. It’s one of this small city’s most prominent landmarks and is adjacent to tasty frites.
This is not a frite, a waffle or a chocolate. It’s a swan swimming by me as I’m enjoying my snack in peace.
Speaking of frites, order some. Order many. Belgium isn’t really the place to adhere to your paleo diet. What they do with carbs is so delish we haven’t tried to fully co-opt it here in the states. Indulge it. Waffle it up, get a cone of fries with aioli. Walk it off on the uneven streets.
Since we’ve all agreed that this is the city where we’ll carbo-load, time for a beer. Trappist Monks in Belgium have influenced beer from Windsor, England to Windsor, Colorado. There is no shortage of water-side watering holes, but the three most famous stops are: 1. Dubbel BVBA – with a terrace and something like 300 taps to keep you busy, 2. Herberg Vlissinghe – established in the 1500’s (1515) and closed on Sundays, this old tap room is a place for beer pilgrims, 3. De Halve Maan – this family-run brewery is the only Bruges-based brewery and home to Bruges Zot. You’ll know what I mean when you’re in town.
Take a canal tour
Locals will tell you they are “little Venice” and that you cannot miss the canals. I would agree. I loved seeing the city from the water as the driver told us about the Romans building the first fortifications of the city, followed by stories of the Gauls, the Vikings, the Franks, the Kings of the Lowlands, World Wars, and (of course) Colin Farrell. The history, like the beauty, is unusual – and, you can hear about it in both English and French because we Americans are linguistic chumps. There are about 5 landing spots where you can buy tickets and board a boat for a tour. You can’t miss it.
Stop into the shops
My favorite shop is Juttu (who can resist a store that calls itself “home of brands, house or friends”? Not moi!) but you can find all means of curiosities in the alley shops. And, for the love of Piet, take a pic when you see one of the adorably strange fancy dog pillows.
the aforementioned and famed window for jumping Farell.
I’m told Ghent and Antwerp have a bit more to offer for a full weekend, but Bruges is the right speed for a day trip out from Brussels, Paris, or Amsterdam. I loved spending the day with Brugge and have the fancy dog pillows to prove it.