Bruges, a city in the Flemish Region of Belgium, can be summed up as a tiny metropolis of cobbled streets, canals, windmills and houses with crow-stepped gable roofs.
There aren’t really any ugly parts of the city, but there are some areas that are prettier than others. It’s pretty small, to the point where you could cover the sights within two to three days if you mustered up enough energy.
Not counting origin-questionable French Fries, Belgium is famous for three foodstuffs: beer, waffles, and chocolate. Bruges delivers on all three, especially chocolate. There’s an entire museum (called Choco-Story) dedicated to the history and making of chocolate, while the city itself is chock full of chocolate shops (pun intended). I found that the big brand name stores like Leonidas and Godiva tended to attract the most attention. They were the ones with crazy window displays (because no one can resist a chocolate fountain); the unique molds and shapes (because everyone needs a toolbox set made out of dark chocolate); and free samples inside and outside of the store. Then there were the local, family-owned places that have gained enough popularity over time to rival the crowds of the brand name stores. Chocolatier Dumon (or simply Dumon) was established in the center of Bruges in 1996; in 2008 and 2014 respectively, the new owners were able to expand their business to two more locations within the city. The least crowded places were the smaller, less flashy shops that lacked the presentation of the brand name stores and the history of the older shops.
In addition to Choco-Story, Bruges is home to a number of small museums and in turn, great pieces of art. One of my personal favorite works was The Last Judgement, a triptych by Hieronymus Bosch, housed in Groeningemuseum. Additionally, museums aren’t the only places in Bruges to find artwork. In the Church of Our Lady, visitors can pay to view Michelangelo’s “The Madonna of Bruges”, a sculpture depicting Mary and the baby Jesus. At the Vismarkt (a stone structure where fishermen used to sell their catch of the day) local artists bring out their paintings for sale. But one of the best collections of art (in my personal opinion) was the pop-up Salvador Dali gallery housed on the ground floor of the Belfry of Bruges. The exhibit featured some of Dali’s lesser-known works, including his illustrations for the children’s book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. It’s all very extravagant and vulgar, but as one of Dali’s framed quotes says, “Modesty is not exactly my specialty.”
Of course, there is more to Bruges than just chocolate and art. The city accommodates literally dozens of stores, selling products from Smurf and Tin-Tin merchandise to Bruges’ traditional flower lace (available at almost every shop). Additionally, the city itself is something to look at; as I stated earlier, there are no ugly parts of Bruges. You shouldn’t stress if you’re unable to find accommodation near the Markt (the center square of the city), because everything is within reasonable walking distance. I personally preferred my stay at St. Christopher’s at the Bauhaus near the edge of the city because in the morning I was able to wake up early and take pictures of the city’s windmills as the sun rose. My advice is to visit during the colder months; in addition to avoiding the bulk of tourism, you’ll also get to see the already magical little city strung up with holiday decorations.
Featured Image: Beautiful Bruges. Photo Credit: Talia Military