European Travels on a Budget: Exploring Bruges

July 20, 2017

Navigating the city

After the maze of endless streets, buses and trams of Amsterdam, I came to a city with such relief that walking was the gateway to endless destinations. Bruges, a medieval town located in the north of Belgium, is a lovely –walkable – maze of hidden streets and canals, impossibly small alleyways and plenty of beer. You have only to embark on a simple stroll through the town to witness the major sites.

Bruges

The Markt Square: the central square engulfed by medieval beauty & Old St John’s Hospital: Hospital turned museum dating back to the 11th century.

Each corner you turn, gives way to a wonderful canal. Each canal features perfectly situated houses that lean gently over the edge of the water.

Where to visit?

Legends of Bruges

When first exploring a city, I love to discover the layers of history living within. A walking tour is an excellent way to learn these historical tales from the locals. The Legends of Bruges walking tour offers free tours approximately 2 hours long. Guiding you through history dating back to 800 AD and showcasing the best spots to explore further after the tour is finished.

Legends of Bruges is a free walking tour that runs twice a day, starting at the Markt square.

Budget tip: There are plenty of free walking tours across many European cities. Always keep an eye out for people advertising them in central areas. Alternatively, Googling is always an excellent source of information for such things.

Nunnery

Hidden within this historic medieval city, is another small and walled city, where the nuns of old would reside. Behind the walls reveals a small collection of quaint cottages, running alongside each other and through the middle is a array of yellow daffodils; creating a visually delightful surrounding.

Church of our Lady

To witness the marvel of Michelangelo’s sculpture the Madonna and Child simply walk over to the Church of our Lady. This church is a lovely spectacle of spires, a garden and of course, the Madonna. It is, however, undergoing major restoration, so it’s best to call ahead or check the website to make sure you know which exhibitions are open.

Historic footnotes

The city has a rich history of both fortune and poverty; beginning as a town raided by the Vikings to creating a cloth trade financing the fortification of the city. The Zwin Channel was Bruges’ port for trade, giving the city enormous wealth. Mother Nature took over in the 1500s destroying the channel and plunged the city into poverty.
The town was rediscovered by tourism in the 20th century. There was – and still is – high demand to see the wonderfully preserved medical architecture and culture. The town was named a World Heritage Site to protect and preserve the history living amongst the people.

Quality Eats

For lunch/dinner

Soup

One can only be overwhelmed with the amount of choice available when walking to the Markt Sqaure. Soup, located just off the Markt Sqaure, is a great alternative to the restaurant hustle on the square. Lovely warm soups are a local favourite for a chilling day. Soup offers a range of soups and also paninis, with a combination deal to have both soup and half a panini.

Budget tip: Supermarkets are a fantastic snack joint to grab fruit, muesli bars or water when feeling a bit peckish.

For traditional snacks

Waffles van

When searching for a sweet treat, after a day of exploring the town, authentic Belgium waffles is really the only fitting choice. A van located opposite the Belfort declares to be the best waffles in Bruges. Much like the gelato shops that line the streets of Western Europe, the option for waffles is overwhelming. But when you are dealing with such a delicious snack you must choose carefully. There are endless options for toppings and freshly cooked waffles paired with a beautiful whipped cream is my go-to favourite.

Coffee Hit

Vero Caffé

Vero Caffé is located outside of the city’s central tourist attractions. It offers a fantastic range of coffee treats, including slow brews. They offer to types of slow brews, a Kenya blend and filter brew of the week. If you’re just after an espresso, the price is steep – in comparison to the rest of Europe – at 2.50 euro, however if you’re searching for that perfect pour over in Bruges, then this is a great find.

Bruges is a lovely city, with its winding canals and medieval architecture and history. I recommend a two night stay in Bruges to experience the medieval ambiance, delightful soups and waffles and discover the town’s fantastic array of history. Next time I venture to Belgium to would make a stop at Ghent on my way to Bruges; another city with great architecture and history tied to Bruges.


AUTHOR: Hannah Tate
Images courtesy of Hannah Tate



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