A day in Bruges . . .

Vantage Travel Team April 22, 2018

Dreamy canals looping through each other like a tangled string of pearls, cobblestone streets winding past whitewashed cottages and soaring towers . . . No, this enchanting medieval city isn’t the setting of a child’s fairytale, it’s Bruges, and it’s one of Belgium's crown jewels. Have only one day to explore this postcard-perfect destination? No problem! We’ll take you on a tour of everything this unique city has to offer.
Perhaps the first thing you’ll notice as you enter Bruges is its lack of modern transportation; horse-drawn carriages and canal boats are the largest vehicles around. With the city’s center closed off to cars, the stunning beauty and charming culture of Bruges is easily explored on foot. Although you’ll find this unforgettable city quite walkable, it is by no means miniature: Today's population stands at 45,000 in the city center alone.

Thanks to its whimsical maze of canals, Bruges is romantically referred to as the "Venice of the North,” so it is only fitting that you begin your exploration by canal cruise! You’ll find boat tours running in and out of Burg Square throughout the day; these charming cruises are the perfect way to see a lot of Bruges in a short period of time. Touristy it may be, but there are few experiences more magical than discovering the hidden sights of this medieval city from water level.

Back on shore, make your way to Grand Place in the heart of the city, referred to by locals as Markt Square (or simply “Markt.”) History buffs won’t be able to ignore the square’s main attraction: Belfry Tower, a medieval architectural marvel from the 13th century. Those who dare to climb the 366 steps to the top will not only get a fascinating look at the structure’s impressive inner workings; reaching the top of the tower rewards you with jaw-dropping panoramic views of the city below. The tower is also home to the famous 47-bell carillon and the city’s former treasury. If the view isn’t enough to convince you to attempt the climb, you can always partake of a cone of the world-famous hand cut fries (Frietkoten) at the foot of the tower instead!

Of course, it wouldn’t be Belgium without the classic treats; after all, a chocolate-dipped or cream-topped waffle is never a bad idea. For a more authentic taste of Bruges, you can stop in the town's only working brewery, De Halve Maan (Half Moon), and stay for a drink or pick up a few bottles of the local brew to take home with you. If you’re a fan of seafood, pull up a chair at one of the restaurants perched along the canals or nestled in the shadow of Belfry Tower and order a pot of wine-cooked mussels to enjoy as you people watch in the surrounding square.

Bruges also claims to be the world capital of chocolate, and wandering the shop-lined streets, it’s easy to see why! You’ll find everything from chocolate-covered espresso beans and crunchy pralines to marzipan creations and tantalizing truffles, so if you’re searching for gifts to bring home, look no further! Most shops also offer samples, which is perfect for travelers bold enough to experience some of the more unique flavors you’ll find here (think Wasabi-infused chocolate.) Want to stick with the classics? Order a hot chocolate at a local café, and you’ll most likely be presented with a warm glass of milk and a decadent chocolate cube; dunk and stir for an delightful experience you won’t soon forget.

While a few hours in enchanting Bruges may leave you reluctant to return to the real world, one day is enough time to get a true feel for its magic. From its modern cuisine and culture to its old world charm, it is indeed a city you won’t soon forget.

Experience the magic of Bruges and other Belgium gems for yourself on Essential Holland: Tulips in Spring.