BEAUTIFUL BRUGES // a flemish family adventure

Bruges canal by night

Bruges is beautiful by day, but becomes truly magical at night. As the sun sets the buildings lining the curves of its famous canals are bathed with golden light; mirror images reflected in the inky black water. It’s a sight that literally takes your breath away.

Like most popular European cities, the ‘Venice of the North’, as it is often referred, is buzzing with tourists. But unlike many places — where claustrophic crowds can spoil your experience — Bruges has more than enough charm to counterbalance the hoards of people.

This is largely due to the fact most of its medieval Flemish structures are still perfectly preserved, which resulted in the entire city centre being declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000.

Bruges canal by night 3

Bruges canal by night 2

I travelled early in winter (annoyingly, just missing the famous Christmas market by days) and stayed in the delightfully quirky HUYZE DIE MAENE B&B, right in the city centre.

After arriving in darkness, I awoke the next morning to the clip-clop of hooves. Pulling back the curtains, I had a bird’s eye view over the historic Markt Square, and the horse-drawn carriages waiting below.

Bruges Huyze die Maene

Bruges Markt day

During the occupation of World War I, German soldiers would parade across this square in full military uniform, while local children marched cheekily alongside them.

Now the square is ringed with cafes offering those Belgian staples — waffles, and moules frites.

You can’t go to Bruges without sampling their iconic mussels dish, moules, which can be ordered several different ways, from traditionally steamed with onions and celery (simple, but so delicious!), to a range of white wine, cream and tomato sauces. Many restaurants also have their own house special recipe.

Bruges mussels

bruges bistro

Eat al fresco if you can; most bars and cafes have covered patio areas warmed by heaters in the colder months, and it just adds to the holiday feel. And don’t forget your side of frites.

Fries have their own celebrity status in Belgium, and Bruges is home to the world’s only Frietmuseum, devoted to the history of the humble chip. Here you can uncover the answer to that much-debated question: were fries invented in France, or Belgium (no spoilers, but let’s just say, ‘French’ fries might be a misnomer…)?

Of course no bowl of moules would be complete without a glass of Belgian beer to wash it down – but be warned: these brews are often stronger than their English counterparts, and are renowned for packing a punch.

At one end the square, the medieval Belfort Belfry ascends 83-metres into the sky. The main structure was built in 1240, while the octagonal top section, which — rather unnervingly — leans around a metre to the east, was completed in 1487. If you’re brave enough to tackle a narrow staircase and 366 steps, you can pay a small fee to climb to the summit, where the views from the top are quite stunning.

You won’t have to venture far along the cobblestoned streets that radiate out from the square to find a traditional Belgian Chocolatier.

Bruges chocolatiere

Bruges chocolatiere inside

Bruges chocolatiere inside jellies

Inside you’ll find mouthwatering displays of rainbow fruit jellies and chocolate-dipped strawberries, stacked in display cabinets and lined high along the walls. And, of course, chocolate of every kind — white, milk, and dark; sprinkled with candied citrus fruits, crushed walnuts, caramel crumbs, and every other flavour you can imagine.

bruges cobblestone cafe

I decided not to consult the tour guides, choosing instead to wander the streets at leisure, discovering new sights around every corner; medieval stone buildings, tiny cobblestoned alleyways, delightfully overgrown gardens. Then, the waterways opened up before me…

Bruges canals by day

Bruges canals by day bridge

Bruges canals by day landscape

Many famous sights that don’t quite live up to expectations, but in Bruges it’s the reverse – photos of the canals barely do them justice. By day they’re pretty, tree-lined waterways, glinting in the summer sun, in colder months they’re romantically layered with mist.

Taking a cruise along Bruges’s most famous canal, the Groenerei is a must. Be prepared for queues – even in the colder months – but it’s worth the wait.

A bus tour is a great way to take in the sights that circle the main centre – they leave regularly from Markt Square and I was able to jump on without booking first. Alternatively, you can hire a horse and carriage, join a bicycle tour or there are free walking tours from the centre (remember to leave a nice tip for your guide though).

If you have a couple of days to explore, it’s definitely worth investing in a Brugge City Card. For €47 you get a 48-hour pass to 27 different museums and attractions, including canal trips. Pay just €6 more for a 72-hour pass.

One of the biggest things I noticed about Bruges was how family friendly it was – there were lots of young children and babies and it had a really relaxed feel. Although, in saying that, a lot of the kitschy stores I went into would have been difficult to navigate with pushchairs.

Equally it would make an amazing girls’ weekend destination, or romantic getaway: chocolate, chips, Christmas and canal rides – what’s not to love? 

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USEFUL CONTACTS:

VISIT BRUGES

FRIES MUSEUM

BELFORT BELFRY AND CARRILLON

CITY TOUR

HORSE-DRAWN CARRIAGE TOUR

BRUGES CITY CARD

HUYZE DIE MAENE B&B

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13 Comments

  1. It looks like a magical holiday

  2. It looks stunning – I’ve been meaning to go for ages but somehow I always tend to overlook places that are very close by. You have reminded me though and now I’m thinking a quick break between Xmas and new year. Beautiful pictures xx
    your DIY family recently posted…A quick (and easy) DIY eucalyptus garlandMy Profile

  3. Sounds like a lovely place to visit. I’d heard of Bruges, but had no idea where it was (my geography sucks)… so it’s in Belgium! It looks lovely, definitely putting it on my list of places I’d like to travel to. 🙂

  4. Bruges is on my holiday wishlist for this year. I have bookmarked this for when I go. It looks so beautiful. Some of the buildings remind me of Amsterdam
    Mellissa Williams recently posted…Meditating With Spinning RingsMy Profile

  5. Looks like you had a great trip. i really like your room at the b&b looks very nice and cozy

  6. Such fabulous photos. It looks like a lovely holiday.

  7. Looks like you had an awesome experience and I want to go there to see it in live, Btw I really love the beautiful view

  8. It looks like such a beautiful city to visit! I’d love to visit a proper Belgian chocolatier <3
    Jess recently posted…Review | NYX Stay Matte But Not Flat Liquid FoundationMy Profile

  9. It looks like you had a fantastic time, and your photography is brilliant! Everything looks so beautiful. Definitely adding Bruges to my list of places to visit! xo

    Emma-Louise | Dino’s Beauty

  10. I went to Bruges a few years ago for a quick visit and I really think I need to go and spend a bit longer there. SUch a beautiful city, love your photos. #hmcapturingmoments

  11. Ohh what a beautiful location! I remember I visited Bruges as a child, but I don’t remember it being quite this beautiful. I love the different colours of the buildings xxx #HMCapturingMoments
    Sarah recently posted…Health & Helping OthersMy Profile

  12. I really want to visit Bruges, stunning architecture and yummy chocolate, what more can you want in a city break! Looks like you had a fab time, beautiful photos. I tried to pin one but I couldn’t. Thank you so much for linking up to #HMCapturingMoments x

  13. […] travel? You might also like to read about my trips to BRUGES, GRASSE & […]

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