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A short break in Flanders
Bruges

Bruges Markt  Bruges canals

Bruges canals



 

 

 

 

 




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The music of bells is everywhere in Bruges, from clink-clonking belfries to the tinkling bells of bicycles bumping over the cobbles.
  Of all the things to do and see in this exquisite town, the best is simply to stroll, listen and look. It’s hard to imagine anywhere lovelier for simply wandering idly along beautiful old streets, with frequent pauses to admire pretty scenes, medieval houses, winding canals and tempting shop window displays of lace and diamonds and chocolates laid out like jewels.

 
Life revolves around Markt, the central square where the people of Bruges gather at scores of outdoor tables, lingering over strong coffee or glasses of local beer. Steep gabled rooftops in the Flemish style rise above restaurants and bars. Follow a picturesque canal side called Dijver to reach the town’s art museums. Beyond, white swans glide on a dark lake called Minnewater. That’s Flemish for Lake of Love.


 Get the feel

Bruges is gloriously romantic and old-fashioned. Its canals, cobbles, gables and belfries come together in picture-perfect proportions. Strolling its streets and lanes, crossing canal bridges or walking by dark shimmering water, especially in the evening when spotlights pick out landmark spires, is like wandering inside a work of art.
  It gets very crowded at peak holiday times. But Bruges out of season, especially in pearly spring or autumn light, when wisps of morning mist linger over the water, feels almost secretive.

 What, why, where

Bruges in French, Brugge in its own language, Flemish, this was once among the richest towns in Europe. In the Middle Ages, its merchant class prospered from the town's skilled lace-makers and high-quality weavers.
  Eventually cloth-making declined, and Flanders lost its importance. Bruges became a forgotten backwater, for centuries virtually unchanged.
  In the 20th century, Bruges was discovered again, cleaned and polished, repaired and restored. Today its central squares and lanes and canalside walks are among Europe’s most treasured possessions, a perfect, storybook town of old Flanders.

 Getting started

There are tourist offices at Concertgebouw (the Concert building) in 'tZand square, at the railway station, and in Markt (Market Square).
https://bezoekers.brugge.be

If you plan to see most of the sights, pick up the Brugge City Card, which costs €47 for 48 hours or €53 for 72 hours, but gives free admission to 27 museums and attractions, and numerous discounts around town.
www.bruggecitycard.be

 Compass points

At the centre of town, Old Bruges forms a neat circle enclosed by a ring of waterways. On the eastern side, park-like ramparts follow the ring of canals and are topped by four windmills. Cross the ring road and canal to enter the bumpy cobbled streets of the old centre.
Orient yourself from Markt, the central square. The adjoining square is Burg. A canalside street nearby, called Dijver, is the place to find the great Flemish art museums of Bruges.
If arriving in Bruges by train, the station is just outside the edge of Old Bruges. It's about 10 minutes walk from the central squares, or catch a bus from the station to any part of town. Buses are frequent and drivers speak English.

 Getting around

Bruges is a walking town. Almost everything of interest lies within the central ring of canals. For a faster way to explore, and go further afield, join the locals and ride a bike - the tourist office lists several cycle hire companies.
  And of course, there are the canals. A half-hour guided canalboat excursion gives an enjoyable, traditional perspective on the town. Another possibility is a tour by horsedrawn carriage.

 Eat and drink

Chips with everything – but don’t say “french fries”, because they were actually invented here in Flanders. Just say "frieten" or "frîtes". Mosselen met frieten (or moules-frîtes) is a favourite local meal: a big pan of mussels freshly boiled in stock, served with a plate of fries. Other specialities include fish-and-wine stew called Waterzooi (there’s a chicken version too), and Karbonnade, a mouthwatering stew of beef braised in beer. For a light, cheap lunch, many bars serve freshly made soup and bread.

Top dining As well as good, down-to-earth eating, Bruges offers acclaimed gastronomic dining, with an array of Michelin- starred restaurants.
 In 2017, Bruges restaurants with 1 Michelin star are Sans Cravate; Den Gouden Harynck; De Herborist; A'Qi; and (in Zedelgem) Ter Leep.
 
Bruges' 2-star restaurant is De Jonkman; while at Zedelgem, a 20-minute drive from town, Hertog Jan is a renowned 3-star, offering delectable, perfectionist dishes emphasising health and simplicity, with beautiful vegetables, herbs and flowers.

Here for the beer - Belgian beer is a huge subject. Bruges bars offer a wide range of traditional Belgian ales, each served in its own distinctive style of glass.
  The refreshing Straffe Hendrick comes from Bruges brewery De Halve Maan (26 Walplein).

 
The powerful local favourite Brugse Tripel was a creation of the Gouden Boum brewery (45 Langestraat), but is now brewed by Palm at Steenhuffel.
  Beware – Belgian beers pack quite a punch, some as high as 8° or 9°.

 Bruges Hotels

Hotels in Bruges - Book hotels in Bruges well in advance. There are dozens to suit all budgets, many with masses of old-fashioned charm, in the historic town centre.
  Some of the best-value 3-star hotels are in the streets just north of Markt, for example 15th-century family-run Hotel Bryghia.
  For luxury and style with some grand historic interiors, choose Hotel de Tuilerieen, in a 15th-century mansion beside Den Dijver canal.

 Bruges Basics

Where is Bruges?
 
10 miles (16km) from the Belgian coast.
International phone dialling code:
  00 32 (+ drop initial 0 of phone number).
Time zone:
  GMT/BST + 1 hour.
Money:
  Euro (€).

 Must-see

 Markt and Burg 
Markt is the beautiful and lively main square at the heart of town, and Burg is the quieter but equally impressive adjoining square. Here are clustered several of Bruges' main sights. Among them are the educational and entertaining Historium (1 Markt); the atmospheric Basilica of the Holy Blood (housing a container of what is supposedly Christ's blood); the dignified Town Hall and gilded Renaissance Hall; and the massive Belfort or town belfry – climb 366 steps to the top for a wonderful panorama.

 Choco-Story  
This amazing and surprisingly serious museum has fascinating displays, including Aztec and Mayan treasures, giving an in-depth look at Belgium’s most famous product.
(St Jansplein).
www.choco-story.be

 Groeninge Museum 
This is the town’s outstanding principal art collection, with Flemish Old Masters as well as modern Belgian artists like surrealist Magritte. Close by are several other museums.
(12 Dijver).
Webpage

 Begijnhof 
On the south side of Old Bruges, this is the peaceful waterside haven where pious women called beguines lived in little white cottages around a tree-shaded lawn. Today, it is a community of nuns. One of the original beguine houses is open to visitors.

No website.

 Kantcentrum (Lace Centre)
This little craft museum, now housed in the the former lace school of the Sisters of the Apostles, is a must for lace lovers. As well as displaying exquisite antique Flemish lacework, it's also the place, every afternoon, to see lace being made in the traditional way. You can buy it here too.
(New address: Balstraat 16)
www.kantcentrum.com

 Buy it

Hand-made chocolates are sold at dozens of excellent speciality shops, such as much-acclaimed The Chocolate Line (19 Simon Stevinplein) which make a quirky assortment of flavours as well as the classics. Buy ready-made selections or choose your own.

Fine lace has long been a Bruges speciality, and is still sold by many small shops with modest prices for a handkerchief, and embroidered lace and silk shirts from around 120. However, for beautiful pieces with delicate workmanship, expect to pay hundreds of euro. NB: cheaper pieces may not be from Bruges.

Belgian beers - stock up at any supermarket.

Antiques and curiosities - The little Antiques and Secondhand market on the Dijver canalside every Sun (also Sat in summer) looks like a flea market, but genuine antiques can be found.

 In the Know

Don't ask for a "beer" - what kind do you want? Most bars have a huge beer menu. The waiter will be happy to explain.
Avoiding the crowds - Bruges is at its very best in spring and autumn.
Never on a Monday - Most museums and sights are closed Monday (some Tuesday, too).
Park the car and forget about it. Bruges is geared to walkers and cyclists, not drivers.
Ne parlez pas - Don’t bother to practise your French in this Flemish-speaking town – locals prefer English and many speak it very well.

 Events and festivals

MOOOV
19-27 April 2017
New films from the Third World are showcased at this annual festival. See the films at cinemas around town. There's also an award for the company that buys the winner.

www.mooov.be/Festival


Holy Blood Procession
25 May 2017
A medieval piece of religious pageantry is a major event of the Bruges year. The Heilig Bloedprocessie, or Procession of the Holy Blood,  takes place on Ascension Day each year and always follows the same programme - 0830-1015 Veneration of the Relic; 1100 High Mass; 1430-1800 Procession of the Holy Blood; 1800 Benediction and Worship of the Relic.
www.holyblood.com

Cactus Festival
7-9 July 2017
There's laid-back summertime mood
at this popular open-air festival with a party atmosphere at Minnewater park.
www.cactusfestival.be


Moods!
28 July-10 August 2017
Bruges' big summer festival of open-air concerts, film and all-round fun for everyone. It takes place all over town and almost everything is free.

www.moodsbrugge.be

 Getting to Bruges

Road - Driving to Bruges from the UK, cross (beneath) the English Channel with Eurotunnel or choose from a number of ferry routes. From Calais it takes under an hour on the motorway, or from Ostend it's 15 minutes drive. Travel on motorway A10 (E40) and take exit 8 for Bruges. You'll come to the ring road around Old Bruges.
Google map - road approaches to Bruges

Rail - It's easy to travel to Bruges by train - London to Brussels by Eurostar, departing several times a day, takes just over 2 hours, and the ticket includes onward rail travel to Bruges. For rail travel from other European cities, visit the website SNCB (Belgian Railways)

Air - Flights to Bruges from over 200 cities worldwide arrive at Brussels airport and Brussels South (Charleroi) airport, which both have direct connections to Bruges.

 

 

 

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Bruges
Revised and updated January 2017.

Text © Focus Guides and Andrew Sanger.
All pics
© Toerisme Brugge (used with permission).
All rights reserved worldwide.
Permission to use: This guide may be freely PRINTED ONLY for personal non-commercial use. Unless a LICENCE has been obtained it may not, in whole or in part, be COPIED nor used for any COMMERCIAL purpose.
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