Why Bruges, Belgium should be on your Travel Bucket List
Bruges is probably one of my favorite little spots on the planet. It’s rarely a place one thinks to travel to, but Bruges Belgium is kind of a best kept secret and definitely a place to add to your travel bucket list! Nestled between France and the Netherlands, Belgium rarely gets a second look but for travelers looking for a quiet, safe place, Bruges is the perfect destination. Whether you are traveling to Bruges from Amsterdam or going to Bruges from Belgium or the US, it’s relatively easy to get to.
This medieval, quaint, romantic, friendly, quiet, clean and safe town is the perfect place for women’s solo travel or for couples to visit. I spent about 3 days in Bruges before heading to Brussels and I could have just stayed there forever.
Bruges is the capital of West Flanders in northwest Belgium. The historic area of Bruges is an idyllic village, distinguished by its canals, quaint shops offering the world’s finest chocolates, cobblestone streets and medieval buildings. It is an easy (and preferred) village to walk in but if you prefer, you can rent a bicycle.
Booking Your Room
I stayed at a cozy boutique hotel, located in the historic square above a bistro close to city center. I always use Booking.com for my rooms. They have the option to ‘book now, pay later’, which I LOVE since I’m kind of sporadic at times and I just might change my mind. 🙂
Boutique Hotel Recommendations: Guest House Huyze Die Maene and Hotel De Castillion
I was already in the north of France, so I took the train from Lille to Bruges, which is about an hour and a half train ride and 17 Euros. If you take a train into Bruges, you may need to hop on a bus or a taxi for a quick ride into the Bruges city square, or if you can, you can walk from Brugge Centraal Station into the city center. Transit is between 5-9 minutes. If you are up for the walk, it’s a nice one at only 18 minutes into historic Bruges.
If you fly in, the Brussels airport would be your best choice, followed by a quick train into Bruges.
The Village of Bruges
When you first enter the town, you will first feel like you’ve stepped back in time! The endless ribbon of medieval buildings than line the cobblestone streets are breathtaking and perhaps the best preserved medieval village I have ever seen. Nearly every tiny side street and main street in Bruges is pristine and maintained to it’s original glory. All the way down to the doors and windows.
Safety in Bruges
For women who are traveling alone, (or any group or family) Bruges is the perfect safe travel destination. As with any place you’ll visit, however, always practice caution and don’t wander out alone late at night or display flashy items. Bruges is known as a major tourist destination and while the locals do treat tourists very well, and police are proactive, there may be scammers and pickpockets who prey on unsuspecting tourists. The police (aka Politie) station in Bruges is located nearby the city square. Call 101 for emergency or to report suspicious activities.
There is no shortage of amazing food in Belgium. Bruges is sprinkled with quaint little cafes and wonderful restaurants for Brunch and Dinner. Like France, the food in Belgium is superb, although Belgian food looks odd and not as pretty as most French dishes.
The waffles (Wafel), fries (Frites) and mussels are a treasure that only Belgium can take credit for. Sorry France, Belgium owns fries.
The waffles are unlike any you’ll ever eat (anywhere) so if you’re planning to go to Belgium, you’ll have to try one. But don’t feel like you need to pile it with “stuff”. Waffles are best when they’re eaten plain (Most Belgians consider waffles a street food to eat with your hands and generally eat waffles as a snack or dessert pastry).
I found a great little cafe called Prestige that was totally ‘me’. It was the prettiest little breakfast spot, complete with fresh squeezed orange juice, a perfect croissant and pastel colored plates and floral tea cups. Very feminine decor.
No place on earth does chocolate the way the Belgians do! And no visit to Belgium is complete without sampling the many chocolates from the chocolatiers there in Bruges. You can’t go wrong with any of them. Leonidas is of course excellent, but there are others you have probably never heard of that are totally worth a taste, such as Chocolatier Van Oost located at 11 Wollestraat.
Keep in mind, the Belgians have QUITE a sense of humor, so it’s not unusual to find chocolates in the shape of a penis or boobs.
Belgium is known for its beers. They do things a lot differently there than in Germany. The variety is endless, and the ingredients vary based on each brewery, locality and even available ingredients. Belgium has appx. 180 breweries with some being Trappist brewed (meaning, brewed by Monks) to Abbey beers. Beers in Belgium can range from Amber, Blonde and Brown Ales and Flemish Reds to Lambics, Dubbels to Champagne Beers and even Chocolate and fruity beers. It is true, the Belgians are very proud of their beer and host a whole slew of beer festivals to celebrate it throughout the year.
Being a fashion designer, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see Belgian lace being made. You will gain a whole new level of appreciation for Belgian lace when you witness it being woven by hand. Lacemaking is an artisanal industry which employs about 1,000 lace workers, all of them ladies between the ages of fifty and ninety years old. Do not expect to find lace factories in Brussels or Bruges, as they don’t exist. If you get the chance, make sure you stop into one of the lace shops and pick up something to bring back home, even if it’s only a handkerchief.
The Weather in Bruges, Belgium
The weather in Belgium is pretty mild, overall. During the Summer months, the weather in Belgium is pretty comfortable for most. I found myself a little on the cool side, but as I have previously stated in other posts, I am a lightweight when it comes to any weather temps below 73 degrees. I went in September and it was very nice, but cool for me. I think it’s a safe bet have a shawl, cardigan or scarf in your backpack or purse.
The weather averages in Bruges vary with August being the warmest month with an average temperature of 63°F (with 70 being the warmest), and the coldest month being January at an average of 39°F. That being said, the weather has gotten a bit “off” everywhere, so you’ll want to consider all possibilities before packing. Even now as I write this, the weather in Bruges is surprisingly warmer for January than I would expect at 45 degrees. Whereas, it is currently 19 degrees here in New England.
What to Do in Bruges
The best things to do in Bruges are in my opinion, the simplest.
- Strolling through the city streets is quite heavenly. Bruges is a walking city, and you really see more when you take a few hours to stroll. You’ll find yourself next to old shops, churches, cafes, chocolatiers, lace shops, in front of funny store windows, next to scenic parks, on bridges overlooking canals and next to The Lake of Love (Minnewater) watching swans or on Lovers Bridge.
- Food. Yes, eat. The food is superb. Find yourself a quaint cafe and indulge in the deliciousness of Belgian food and beer.
- Tour a brewery. You are in Belgium. Of course you must do this! Check out De Halve Maan Brewery
- The Burg. Of course you’ll want to visit the city square, also known as the Burg.
- Visit the ocean and watch the shrimpers on horseback. Odd, right? If you’re looking for a quiet and scenic stretch of continental sand, look no further than the Flemish coast. Check out Knokke-Heist
- Take a detour into one of the ancient architectural buildings or churches for awe-inspiring inspiration. Check out Holy Savior Cathedral (Sint-Salvatorskathedraal), St. James or St. Walburga’s Church, or Stadhuisfor the magnificent architectural details, rich history and art. You won’t be disappointed.
- Poertoren Tower for the magnificent views of Bruges and beyond
- Shopping in Bruges is exceptional if you love to shop. And if you are there around the holidays (Nov. 25-Jan 1), the Christmas markets in Bruges are among the top 5 in the world!
Being in Bruges, I felt right at home. I’m sure if you get the chance to visit someday you will fall in love with Bruges just like I did. <3