On our fall road trip through Europe, we spent a few days in Bruges (or Brugge, depending on whether you are speaking French or Flemish), Belgium. The beautiful city center of Bruges is a UNESCO Word Heritage site. It has a town square called Markt lined by beautiful buildings, and overlooked by a 13th century belfry.
We stayed in an Airbnb near the city center, so once we parked our car, we left it for the duration. Here are some of the things we saw, did and food we ate while we are there (don’t get too excited about the food part – the headline of that is the Belgian waffles).
Speaking of waffles – I guess we can jump right into the “food” portion – gourmets, we are not. But I promised (pretty much bribed) the kids for a few weeks beforehand that they could have – and would love – Belgian waffles when we got to Bruges. They were not disappointed! These are definitely a dessert in Belgium, and even the “plain” flavored ones have a nice sugary coating. We found really good waffles at Chez Albert, right off the main square.
Our only other noteworthy meal was a classic Belgian combo – Moules frites (mussels & fries), and a local beer at Poule Moule. We were worried it would be a bit too nice of a restaurant for the boys, but we went at lunchtime, and when the waiter came around with coloring books and crayons, we knew it would be okay!
Now that food is out of the way, we can talk about what we saw and did.
Belfry of Bruges
The Belfry was built around 1240 and overlooks the town’s main square. The tower is 83 meters tall, and bells still chime from it multiple times each hour. I knew we wanted to climb to the top, but had read that, due to safety, they only allow a certain number of people in the tower at a time (I think it was around 75?), and that lines can get really long as the day goes on. We are (used to be?) fairly early risers, so I will blame the one hour time change from the UK for why we weren’t there quite as early as I had planned. So, when we arrived around 10:30, an hour after it opened, there were only about a dozen people ahead of us in line, and we only waited about 15 minutes (but by the time we left, the line was really long!).
When it was our turn, we started up the 366 steps…
It was a fun little walk up the stairs, with displays at certain levels that you could leave the staircase to view. As we approached the top of the belfry, the stairs got steep, and the stairway narrow, so it was good that they limited the number of people. When we did approach someone going in the opposite direction, someone would have to stand aside to let the other pass.
We (me?) liked to pretend we were stopping at the various floors because we were really interested in the information placards about the tower and bells, not because we needed to catch our breath from climbing all the stairs.
When we finally got to the top, we had great views all around the city, and of some of the bells that ring in the tower (all automated these days).
Canal Boat Tour
One of Bruge’s (or Brugge’s) claims to fame is their canal, and they are often called a “Venice of the North” (though the “Venice of…” title seems to be bandied about quite a bit). In any case, we went ahead and plunked the Euros down to take a tour on the lovely canals.
The lack of enthusiasm by our tour guide was at least somewhat offset by his impressive multilingual skills (speaking English, German and French on the tour – plus he was a native Flemish speaker!). So, we learned a bit about the buildings, but I wouldn’t call it an outstanding tour. And he asked for tips 😕
Anyway – we got to see some nice buildings and bridges.
St Bonifacius Bridge
As we walked through the historic area of Bruges, we walked by, and over, the famous “bridge of love”, a cute, scenic cobblestone bridge. It was cute but crowded, neat to see on our wander around town. The view from the bridge was also pretty nice!
Markt at Night
The Markt is always lively and fun to visit, and N is particularly excited each time to check out the horses with their carriages. We went out one evening (taking advantage of still being on British time, so we were up an hour later!).
Though we didn’t stop to eat in a cafe, there were lots of options for sitting and watching the activity in the square.
That wraps up our stop in Bruges. It was a nice, walkable place to spend a few days with the family, particularly in fall, when the weather is still pretty nice.
Next stop ——— Switzerland. So beautiful, yet oh-so-expensive! Will we stick to our budget? Stay tuned! (spoiler alert – the answer starts with an “N” and ends with a “O”). 😥