24 Hours in Bruges

Often referred to as “Venice of the North’ Bruges offers an easily accessible city break from the UK with plenty of attractions whatever the time of year.

BrugesBreath-taking architecture and pretty meandering canals, together with some surprising museums, made my stay very enjoyable. Bruges is proud of its UNESCO World Heritage status and rightly so.

The Bruges city card is a real bargain and can be bought online in advance of your trip or picked up from the Tourist Information office. Once you have this you will gain free or reduced price entry to many museums and attractions and will save time queuing for tickets. The card also covers a canal boat trip, which is a great start to your stay.

Day 1

Arriving at midday gives you the opportunity to relax by a canal and enjoy lunch whilst reading up from your guidebook. Visit Bruges supply a comprehensive official city guide for just €5 with useful pull out map, pick one up from the Tourist information Office in the Markt, by the Railway Station or or t’Zand.

A riverboat trip through the waterways that criss cross the city is a great start, giving a good overview of the city, passing the major landmarks and accompanied by an informative commentary. The canals are home to flocks of swans and they just add to the beauty of the waterways as they swim silently along. You can hop on a riverboat at one of the 5 landing stages around the city for a 30-minute tour.

BrugesBack on dry land and you soon realise that Bruges is a walkers city with surprises around every corner. The imposing Cathedral, the pretty archway between the City Hall and Civil Registry, the peaceful Alms Houses and historical Vismarkt, to name a few. A visit to the Belfry Tower will take your breath away. The 366 steps are a small price to pay for a stunning panorama of the city and surrounding area.

When it is time for dinner you will be spoilt for choice as Bruges boasts some great restaurants. We had a memorable evening meal at the Park Restaurant a few minutes walk from the centre of town. The food was delicious and service was excellent.

Day 2

Ideally you need more than a day to experience all of Bruges museums and attractions. The city is renowned for ‘frites’, chocolate, beer, lace and diamonds – and has museums to them all.

BrugesFirst on our list was a visit to the famous De Haan Brewery, where the same family has brewed beer for 6 generations. It is a fun way to learn about an industry that is so important to the Belgians, and at the end you get to taste the product! They run informative and enjoyable guided tours but check online for times. of chocolate with plenty of tasting to be had, as well as the chance to watch the famous Belgian Pralines being hand made.

The Frites Museum is a history of the chip – quite a tall order for an entire museum.

After sampling beer, chocolates and frites, you may find lunch is not necessary, but there are many bars and restaurants around the city where you can relax and watch the world go by.

A real family experience is Historium Bruges.  It is a great concept that transports you back to the golden age of Bruges using amazing special effects. Both educational and entertaining and an innovative way to show you life in the Middle Ages.

BrugesAnother ‘must see’ is the Stadhuis or City Hall in Burg Square, an amazing building dating back to 1376. The vaulted Gothic Hall is decorated with 19th Century murals telling the story of the city and there is a multi media exhibition on the ground floor depicting the story of Burg Square.

If you have any energy left, leave the city behind and end the afternoon walking around the tranquil areas of Saint Anne & Saint Giles, along the Vesten canal, passing the cities four remaining windmills.

As with so many city breaks, you can only catch a glimpse of all there is to see and will want to return to explore more that this lovely city has to offer.

You can find information online at www.visitbruges.be and also http://www.visitflanders.co.uk/.

Travel to Bruges is quick and easy with Eurotunnel who offer frequent service between Folkestone and Calais.

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Sally Dowling

Travel writer

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