Our last stop on our Belgium travels
The last stop on our brief tour of Flanders was the beautiful city of Bruges. (read part 3 here)
Bruges is the capital of West Flanders and famed for its canals, cobbled streets and medieval buildings. The old city within the city walls only has about 20,000 residents, so visit at the right time outside the peak tourist season and the city has a relaxed uncongested feel which is what we found when we visited in late September.
Staying in a
BnB just inside the ‘Smedenpoort city gate, we were a short walk into the city centre, overlooking parkland and the canal/moat which runs alongside the old city walls. It didn’t feel like a city at all and was very quiet.
So leaving the car behind we walked into Bruge to explore. Our first destination was the Markt Square with its 13th Century Belfont (belfry), made famous by the film ‘In Bruges’. 366 steps to the top provide an impressive panorama of the old city.
Beer and cheese, what’s not to like!
Our first stop however was to try and locate the De Garre pub that is hidden down a small alleyway between the Markt and Burg squares that looks like it goes nowhere. It’s worth the effort to seek it out though as the small bar is located over 4 or 5 rickety floors with an extensive beer menu and is wonderfully quirky and atmospheric. We ordered the house ‘De Garre’ beer which was served with a perfect accompaniment of cheese!
From De Garre we made our way into the beautiful Burg Square and through the arch to the canal where we wandered the streets working our way towards the Powder Tower on the south of the city wall. It was fabulous just to explore the cobbled streets without any real agenda as the Bruges old town has surprises and photo opportunities around every corner.
One such photo opportunity was the area around The Begijnhof white-coloured house fronts and tranquil convent garden right beside a junction of canals and tree-lined parkland ideal for a picnic was founded in 1245. This world heritage site was once the home of the beguines, emancipated lay-women who nevertheless led a pious and celibate life. Today the beguinage is inhabited by nuns of the Order of St. Benedict and several Bruges women who have decided to remain unmarried. In the Beguine’s house, you can still get a good idea of what day-to-day life was like in the 17th century.
We completed our circuit via the Powder Tower and Gentpoort back to the city centre and continued our amble through the cobbled streets. You really can’t go wrong and taking the time to head away from the popular tourist sites shows a relaxed and tranquil side of the city with its own charms.
Amazing food and drink
During our brief two days in the city we really enjoyed a relaxed break sampling the city’s visual highlights as well as its culinary delights. Particular highlights were the amazing brioche baked on the premises at Aux Merveilleux de Fred. They were absolutely delicious and a fabulous place near the Markt square to enjoy a sightseeing break with a coffee and cake whilst you watch them being made.
We also enjoyed some fabulous ‘friets’ at The Potato Bar (where else!). We visited the Frietmuseum and the Choco Story Museum (you can buy a joint ticket which is cheaper than visiting both independently available at both museums) which were ok but we found the chocolate museum more interesting and plenty of free samples!
All in all if you’ve not been to Bruges, (or Ghent and Ypres) I urge you to do so as it is a beautiful area, with great food and drink, fascinating museums and very welcoming people. We will definitely be back!
All photos copyright Alan Pewsey