Bruges (or Brugge, if you want to get Belgian about it), is the epitome of a fairytale city; when I first stepped off of the train and into the winding cobbled lanes I had a strong suspicion that we were actually in Duloc (you know, the town out of Shrek) as it almost seemed too pretty to be true. The medieval streets are easy to navigate on foot as Bruges is actually rather small as cities go- however this, coupled with the downright amazing aesthetics of the place, means that it’s often packed full of tourists so make sure you’re mentally prepared to encounter swathes of people are something you’re not generally up for. I visited several times over the course of the last four months, so here’s my casual lowdown on what you should probably get up to in this lovely location…
Eat waffles galore at Chez Albert
Now don’t get me wrong folks, you can have these at any old street corner in Bruges being as they are one of the most famous foods that Belgium has to offer, however the waffles at Chez Albert seem to contain some kind of secret ingredient that makes them a whole load more irresistible than your average sugary waffley snack. My favourite topping was cherries and cream although there are many more traditional flavours to choose from. The waffles are handed out from a little window just off Burg Square, so there’re plenty of places to sit and people watch nearby.
Talking of Burg Square…go and see a real life Holy Relic…
…at the Basilica of the Holy Blood, a rather marvellous and ominous looking Catholic Church which sits in one corner of the square. It can take some time for your eyes to adjust to the darkness of the building, and I’m not going to lie pals- this is definitely one of the creepier Holy buildings I’ve ever set foot inside, despite also appreciating the beauty of it. The Relic itself- the clue’s in the name- is an ACTUAL swab of Jesus’ ACTUAL blood, which is taken for an annual outing in the form of a parade around the city, accompanied by a troupe of medieval knights as well as the classic Catholic priests. My friend described it as looking not too dissimilar to a tampon in a glass case, but I’ll leave that to you to decide. On a day-to-day basis the case containing the relic sits under the watchful gaze of an old priest as people shuffle past in a great long line and one by one place their hands on the top of it, before one by one moving on and the priest one by one disinfecting the top of the case with a cloth. Cleanliness is next to Godliness, after all.
Have a wander in a winding alley or two
I feel very positive about a bit of aimless wandering, and Bruges is a bloody lovely place to do this in- there are cobblestones and horse and carriage vibes galore, and in amongst all the usual touristy shops you can find some real gems in the form of lace makers or chocolate shops. A couple of times that I visited during the Summer it was freakishly hot and therefore unbearable to walk further than twenty paces without stopping for coffee or some other such treat, just simply to avoid sweating to death in the sun. I can imagine that in the snow this place would look truly and completely magical (and would also presumably hold fewer crowds), so one day I’d like to revisit in Winter just to see if my calculations are correct, you know?
Mussels and beer!!
Aside from waffles and chocolates, Belgium is world-renowned for it’s mussels and beer…ideally the two should be combined within one meal, not only as two separate entities but also as one, with mussels cooked in the beer itself. Moules frites can be found on the menu at many a restaurant around the city (and further afield, of course), and although I tried several places my favourite location on a Summers day was Poules Moules, where you can sit outside in a beautiful square and watch the world go by whilst attempting to work your way through an entire cauldron of mussels. Bear in mind that it’s near impossible to finish an entire meal- I actually left my pal dying on the floor in a park after he consumed far too many and discovered that he could no longer move. It was a sad sad situation but I’m happy to report that he lived to tell the tale and is now fit and healthy once again. Praise the lord.
Do some learning in a museum or gallery or two
Bruges is packed full of museums and galleries that are really worth taking a look inside if you fancy increasing your general knowledge and having a little marvel at the sights it has to offer. Aside from the more obvious Historium Brugge can be found the Bruges Beer Museum, the Chocolate Museum and the Torture Museum- showcasing the finest of medieval torture devices, what a laugh! I also had a gander at the Dalí exhibition which was downright lovely (and taught me that Dalí is the designer of the Chupa Chups logo, who knew!?) but simultaneously brought back all the unwanted memories of my A-Level Spanish exam presentation on the man himself; needless to say I didn’t do so well in that particular examination and am still feeling bitter about the whole experience. No offence to the Dalí exhibition; it was great.
Cruise on the Canals
I myself didn’t actually go on a canal boat-ride as it was so jam-packed full of people that we gave up on queuing, but I do think it would be a cool thing to do if you’re feeling in full-on tourist mode. Who doesn’t love a good boat ride, for goodness’ sake!? The canals are beautiful from land, so viewing the city from the water itself would be a lovely change of vantage point, that’s for sure. I mean, look at the stunning scenery they have to offer! It’s easy to understand why the city centre is a World Heritage site.
All I’m saying pals is that Bruges is a rather spectacular and beautiful place, and I’m pretty glad to have been able to visit so regularly across the Summer and into Autumn. To see it through Winter and Spring must be equally as pretty as this city is easily one of the most picturesque that I’ve ever visited; whatever the weather if you can brave the crowds this gem of a city is really most definitely and truly 100% worth a visit.