Chocolate, Lace and Beer. If those three things whet your appetite then Belgium and in particular Bruges should be on your ‘must do’ list. Bruges is situated in the northwest of the country and is the capital and largest city in the province of West Flanders. I was lucky enough to visit here thanks to a day trip arranged whilst I was travelling on the beautiful Scenic Jasper, Scenic’s newest river cruise ship. Berthed in Antwerp and then transported by coach on the 90 minute journey to Bruges, a city that has something for everyone, architecture, history, good restaurants, lots to see and friendly people.
Our guide was excellent and made sure that we saw the best of the city. For those interested in history and the occupation of Belgium during WW1 the photographic exhibition situated on the 1st floor of the Belfry Tower is a must. Vivid photographs depicting various scenes from WW1, some original, some re-enacted. Whilst there the Triumph Bell in the tower begins to ring its deep mesmerizing sound that adds to the occasion. Many church bells were taken by the Germans during the war, smelted down and the metals used for weapons and ammunition. The ground floor houses the historical part of the exhibition.
Moving further down the street the next stop has to be taking a trip on one of the many canal boats offering an excellent way to view the city without expending any energy. The tour of 30 minutes takes in many of the famous buildings and monuments including the Hospital of St. John and the Alms Houses. Passing water side cafes, hotels, street stalls and beautiful canal swans. Continuing our walking tour we pass the ‘Church of Our Lady’ with its magnificent spire that reaches over 400 feet to the sky, through gardens and narrow streets, under the gold decorated ‘Donkey Arch’ finally to reach the Burg Square where the town hall is situated. The square features several styles of architecture. The beautiful town hall built in the gothic style is in my opinion one of the most beautiful looking buildings in Bruges. Situated next door is the renaissance styled Old Civic Registry whilst in the corner is the entrance to the Basilius church and the Chapel of the Holy Blood built in the 12th century as the chapel residence for the Count of Flanders.
Bruges is a city with two main squares and next stop is the “Markt of Brugge”, (Market Square) an area housing the Provincial Court, Salvador Dhal exhibition, the Belfort (Belfry of Bruges) and several large restaurants. The Belfort stands 83 metres high, housing the Triumph Bell, made in 1680 and weighing 12.295 lbs (5.48 tons) accompanied by a carillon of 47 silver toned bells that play different tunes. Climbing the 366 steps to the top gives panoramic views across the city. In the center of the market stands the statue of Jan Breydel and Pieter de Coninck who had a passion for the Flemish identity. The statue has stood there since 1887.
Here our guide leaves us for free time to do shopping. Some of us move off to explore the shops, shops with their window displays of handmade chocolates. Dark, milk and white chocolate made into all manner of objects and figures. With Easter fast approaching chocolate Eggs and Bunnies are in abundance. My personal favorite is Het Chocoladehuisje at Wollestraat 15. Most shops sell chocolates by weight so you select your own mix and amount. One shop is dipping Strawberries in chocolate and the length of the queue to purchase them says it all. Belgium Beer is known the world over and there is no shortage of shops selling it, the beer list is vast. It is said the 180 breweries in Belgium produce nearly 1,200 different types of beer. The Beer Wall in Wollestraat displays many beers and its bar makes an ideal stop to rest the legs. Beware though, some of the beers can be as high as 9% and can cause the legs to stop working!! If you want a souvenir that is a little different try Belgium Lace. Bruges has been famous for its lace as long as anyone can remember and is known throughout the world for its beauty and quality. Everything from a small bookmark or handkerchief up to a large table cloth or even a dress.
The buildings can only be described as magnificent. There is so much to see in this beautiful city that a day visit is not nearly enough. Now time to sit in the sun with a coffee, well a glass of wine actually, and take in the beautiful surroundings of a city that has become one of my favourites. Oh dear, time to board the coach and say goodbye, until the next time.
Silver Travel recommends Scenic Tours