Seven things to do in the beautiful city of Bruges
Surrounded by canals and with a medieval centre so well-preserved it’s been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Bruges in Belgium is bursting with character. This gorgeous city is a romantic place of cobbled streets, crooked buildings, chocolate makers and canalside cafés. Whether you visit in the summer sunshine or the snow-sprinkled winter, you can’t help being bewitched by Bruges.
Here are seven of the best things to do on your visit.
1. Tour the canals
Bruges is connected to the sea by a vast network of canals, so one of the best ways to explore the city is from the water on an open-top boat tour. The canals take you to places you can’t get to from the street and being low down at water level gives you a different perspective on the city. Along the way you float under arching bridges and through overhanging willow trees, past medieval gabled buildings, decorative churches and waterside gardens.
2. Climb the Belfort Tower
One of Bruges’ tallest and most recognisable buildings, the Belfort is an 83-metre-tall belfry which holds 48 bells. Over the years it’s been a treasury and a fire lookout tower, but today you can climb the 366 narrow, spiralling stairs to reach a viewpoint at the top. After that climb the view is breathtaking in more ways than one, looking down onto the red roofs, church spires and canals of Bruges below. You might also recognise the tower from the film In Bruges, a black comedy about two hitmen trapped in the city – one of whom comes to a messy end here.
3. Picnic among the windmills
You might think of windmills as being Dutch, but you can also find them in Belgium too. Originally there were 25 windmills around the edge of Bruges, built in the 18th century. Today there are only four left and you can find them at the northeastern end of the canal. The Sint Janshuismolen mill is still grinding grain today and has a small museum you can visit. Around the windmills is the site of the old town wall, now a lush grassy lawn that makes a great spot for a picnic on a sunny day.
4. Try a local brew
Belgium is synonymous with beer – and there are plenty of places to try it in Bruges. Call in at 2be to see their giant wall of beer bottles and grab a drink on their terrace overlooking the canals. There’s only one place in the old town where beer is still actually made today – De Halve Maan (The Half Moon). Their 45-minute brewery tour starts with an introduction to beer-making, carries on through passageways and up ladders for a panoramic city view from their rooftop, and finishes with a tasting. They also have a restaurant which uses their brews in dishes like carbonnades flamandes (beef in beer).
5. Feast on chocolate
Belgium’s other famous export is chocolate, and you can indulge your cravings at the Choco-Story. The smell of chocolate fills the air, with demonstrations and tastings along the way as you learn about the history of chocolate. If you’re still not satisfied at the end of the tour then call in at the Old Chocolate House for Bruges’ best hot chocolate. And don’t miss the Chocolate Line, a chocolatier that specialises in unusual flavours – like the Asian Confetti (soy sauce and popping candy), the Bollywood (saffron and curry) and the Green Tokyo (wasabi).
6. Visit a quirky museum
Bruges has a wide range of museums – learn about Flemish art at the Groeninge Museum or the city’s history at the Historium. But there are also a few which are inspired by more unusual subjects. If you’re a chip-lover then don’t miss the Frietmuseum which is dedicated to all things French fried, and claims to serve the world’s best chips – with a side of mayonnaise Belgian style. There’s also the Diamantmuseum where you can see how diamonds are cut and polished and the Lumina Domestica, a museum dedicated to lamps with 6000 of them on display.
7. Visit the WWI battlefields
Less than an hour outside of Bruges are Flanders’ First World War battlefields, museums and memorials. A 45-mile driving route takes you in a loop through the sites of the front line’s fiercest fighting. Along the way is the historic city of Ypres – nicknamed Wipers by the British troops – as well as the largest Commonwealth cemetery in the world at Tyne Cot and the Memorial Museum in Paaschendaele. Finish the day at Ypres where the Last Post is sounded each evening at 8pm – a moving experience not to be missed.
Eurotunnel are full of inspiring ideas, such as these, so check their site for more details of other amazing European destinations.
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