Bruges (broozh) in English, or Brugge (BROO-ghah) in Flemish, is a popular tourist town in Belgium. Through small, less than one square mile, Bruges is packed with charm. Our family visited there the summer of 2009. It took about three hours with fast train from London. The train dropped us right in the center of the town, and there were plenty taxi at the station to take you to hotel.
We stayed at Hotel ter Reien, at the top floor suite overlooking the Huidenvettersplein Canal. I highly recommend this family-owned budget hotel: great location at the town center, although in the center of the action, the hotel was quiet; the owners were very friendly, they served delicious home-made breakfast.
For sights and attractions, the Bruges by Boat was a must. It was a relaxing and scenic tour with the captain narrating. Bruges was quite photogenic from the canal.
There were two renowned Squares. Burg Square was the political and religious heart of the town, a popular place for outdoor concerts during summer night. Carillon bells could be heard every fifteen minutes. Make sure to visit “Basilica of the Holy Blood” at the square (below, left). This church was built by the crusaders who had brought back the drops of Christ’s blood in 1150. For a small donation, we touched the vial containing the blood! Tourist trap or not, we WERE tourists. 🙂
Talking about church, another memorable one was Church of Our Lady (above, right), made famous by the white marble Madonna and Child by Michelangelo. This was the only Michelangelo statue to leave Italy in his lifetime, a testimony of the wealth and power of Bruges in her heyday.
Bell Tower (Belfort) stood over the Market Square. Around the Market Square, you could find many eateries and shops. Make sure to try frites, the Belgian-style fries. As detrimental to health as frites actually were, Belgians took pride in creating the frites. They were deep fried twice, first round to cook the potato strips, second round to crisp and brown them, the frites were traditionally served with mayonnaise, not ketchup. They might clot my arteries, but boy, they were heavenly with a capital H!
Another snack to try in the Market Square was the pickled herring, and ate it the Dutch way!
For dinner, moules, the Belgium mussels, were a must dish. We ordered ours with white wine (vin blanc), and with shallots (mariniere). Ever since the trip, the Belgium way has become the only way for me to cook mussels at home. Of course, pair them with dark Belgium beer.
Another delicacy, and great gifts to bring back home, was Belgian chocolate. Freshly made and sold the same day, Belgians know how to make divine chocolate. The best ones were from Dumon just off Market Square. After Belgium it was hard to go back to American chocolate, no offense Hersey.
My last advice was to pack a warm jacket even in the summer months. We were there in mid July, the highest of the day was in the 60s. We had to cancel our biking trip because it was too cold!