Everything we’d heard about Bruges was positive – that it was gorgeous, quaint, historic, a must see, etc. It lived up to all of those expectations. The city center has been preserved for centuries, and it is still ringed in canals with a few cutting through the middle. When you look up at the building facades you can often glimpse the year they were built, and most of the years start in “16”. Although some of the buildings may have been rebuilt to look like 17th century ones, the historic feel of the city is real, and entering the center feels like stepping into a time machine.
On our first trip there with Matt and Jill we visited some of the many beautiful churches. I don’t know why a relatively small city needed so many towering cathedrals, but we enjoyed wandering through them nonetheless. We also did a tour of De Halve Maan (Half Moon) brewery, which afforded not only glimpses into how their brewery functions but also 360 views of the whole city from their rooftop (and a free beer!). FYI – More on De Halve Maan brewery in our upcoming “Brian-writes-about-Belgian-Beer” post.
In Bruges, trying to absorb all the beautiful architecture is challenging. Also challenging: dodging the sightseeing horse and carriages which make NYC taxis look passive. However, the most difficult part of wandering Bruges is resisting the food. The hype is all true, and Belgium, but Bruges specifically, boasts some amazing fries, chocolate, and waffles. Jill and Matt led us to one of the better waffle stands (as evidenced by the batter being poured to order), and after buying two of the “deluxe”, the four of us stood silently in the middle of the street focusing on carefully transporting pieces of waffle, strawberry, melted chocolate, and whipped cream on too-small forks to our mouths. Balance and focus never paid off so well. See picture below for proof.
The one downside of Bruges’ narrow cobblestone streets and two shoulder-width sidewalks was the number of people crammed into them. The second time we went we arrived early in the morning, and the city was peaceful and barely awake. We were able to enjoy breakfast on the square without waiting, and walking the empty streets as the shops were just opening was like peeking behind the scenes of a movie set. If you’re planning a visit to Bruges, an early wake up is definitely worth it. Plus, the chocolate stores give out free samples for the first hour or so. That’s worth the trip alone.
Now for the pictures!
Sint Jan Hospital. Note the door for easy boat access.
Church of Our Lady Bruges. Unfortunately, the Madonna statue was hidden behind construction scaffolding… But the outside was beautiful!
The inside wasn’t bad either, despite the scaffolding.
Jill and Matt
Inside of Sint Salvator Church. These were only 3 of the many, many amazing windows.
(no caption needed)
Belfry of Bruges in the main market square. A fittingly beautiful landmark.
Beer tasting at De Halve Maan.
We’re starting to think Europe really likes canals.
Basilica of the Holy Blood. Built in the 12th century and known for containing a vial said to house the blood of Jesus Christ.
Admiring the architecture