Brugge, you are a charming, medieval town dream. Ever since Alex and I saw the movie, In Bruges, we have dreamt of visiting Belgium. From the cobble-stoned streets to the endless canals and 13th century belfry tower, I could not have imagined a more beautiful destination to start our European adventure.
Flying from New York City, we landed in Brussels, where we caught the InterCity train to Brugge. I know I’ve mentioned it before, but I have to say it again: the European rail system is absolutely amazing. Not only are the trains C-L-E-A-N, but they actually show up on time! (I honestly cannot remember the last time I rode a train in New York City that wasn’t delayed!) And, if you’re worried about using public transportation in Europe, do not fret! You will be surprised by how easy it is to get around — I promise!
At some point between arriving and leaving the Brugge train station, Alex unknowingly dropped his passport. (I’m still cringing at the thought of this memory!) Jet-lagged and half asleep, we made it to our AirBNB, when a complete stranger from France sent Alex a Facebook message, letting him know she found his passport! Needless to say, running back to the train station woke us from our stupor, where we were then energized for a full day of sightseeing! Here are some of our favorite memories from our trip to Brugge!
Ahhh, the thought of Belgium chocolate makes me wish I could get back on a plane straight for Brugge. There are so many different chocolatiers in the city center, but at the end of the day, you can’t go wrong. Our first stop was at Chocolatier Dumon, which we actually went back to (at least twice) because we might have eaten the gifts we bought for friends and family… but, no shame!
Delicious chocolate at Chocolatier Dumon
Speaking of Belgium delicacies, you absolutely cannot visit Brugge (or Belgium, for that matter) without trying Belgium beer! Our first night in Brugge, we went to Le Trappiste, an underground beer cellar with hundreds of different types of Belgium beer. Unable to make up my mind, I asked the bartender for his favorite local beers, and boy, they did not disappoint! A word of the wise… Belgium beers are very, very strong!
Our second night in Brugge, we went to Brouwerij De Halve Maan, a family-run brewery dating back 6 generations. The brewery is unique in that it sits on top of a 2 mile long underground beer pipeline. Famous for its Brugse Zot, we enjoyed a glass or two before heading back to Le Trapiste. (What can I say, we couldn’t stay away!)
My sampler at Le Trappiste
Brouwerij De Halve Maan — brewery tours are offered every day of the week, with free beer samples at the end!
The Belgium Canals
Brugge is often referred to as the Venice of the North, and there is good reason why. At every turn, you discover beautiful views, picturesque bridges, and secret gardens. And, as you move away from the city center and leave the crowds behind, Brugge gets prettier and prettier. Some of my favorite canals were Gouden Handrei, Augustijnenrei, and Pottenmakerstraat. The Quay of the Rosary (Rozenhoedkaai) also offers amazing views, and there are plenty of bars and restaurants with outdoor seating to soak in the views.
Exploring the canals near Begijnhof
Quay of the Rosary
Canal tours — another way to experience Brugge
Getting lost along the canals of Brugge
The canal leading away from Minnewater Park
One of my favorite things about traveling is discovering hidden gems, and let me tell you — there were so many in Brugge. One of the most picturesque spots we found was at the St. Bonifacius Bridge. The Begijnhof — a convent founded in 1245 — was also extremely beautiful, with its well-kept garden and white-colored homes. Today, the Begijnhof is inhabited by nuns of the Order of St. Benedict.
We were lucky to visit Brugge during the Brugge Triennial Contemporary Art & Architecture Exhibition. This year, 15 artists from around the world worked to create and install art based around a theme titled “Liquid City”. The theme not only refers to the canals in Brugge, but also how the city has changed throughout time. We saw the Selgascano Pavilion, an art installation in stark contrast to the medieval backdrop of Brugge.
Exploring the cobble-stoned streets of Brugge
Discovering secret gardens
One of several convents in Brugge
I still can’t get over how beautiful the architecture is…
…or how cute these homes are…
…or this home with its bike!
I read about this secret garden online (pictured on the right side of the photo) — you enter an old structural building to find a community garden, but sadly, it was under construction when we visited. If you’re heading to Brugge later this year, definitely stop by the Pottenmakersstraat canal to see if the secret garden is open!
The Selgascano Pavilion
The Selgascano Pavilion
The Brugge Windmills
Looking for an escape from the city center, we ventured out to the Kruisvest to see the windmills of Brugge. Windmills have been apart of Brugges’ history since the 13th century, and today, there are 4 remaining. The Sint-Janshuismill, built in 1770, is the oldest mill, and the only windmill with a museum inside open to the public. The mill is still in use today — responsible for grinding flour!
I climbed to the top…not thinking I’d have to climb back down!
The Nieuwe Papegaai Mill — named after the parrot that is placed on the roof
Although I love hidden gems, you can’t travel without at least stopping by the touristy sites. Some of our favorites were Grote Markt (Market Square), Belfry Tower, Basilica of the Holy Blood, and Minnewater Park. All of these sites can easily be seen in an afternoon, but definitely leave more time if you plan to visit a museum.
One of the many public squares in Brugge — watch out for bikers!
Basilica of the Holy Blood
The colorful bars and restaurants surrounding Grote Markt
The flags of Brugge and Belgium
Transportation: Whether you’re flying into Brussels or visiting from another European city, you’re likely to take the InterCity train through Brussels. There’s no need to purchase a train ticket ahead of time — the cost is the same whether you purchase 3 months in advance or right before the train departs. Also, make sure to take the direct train from Brussels — this way you skip all the local stops and you get to Brugge faster!
Where to Stay: Brugge is relatively small — and as such, there aren’t many large or big-name hotels. B&Bs or AirBNB are popular choices, especially as most visits to Brugge are shorter in duration. We stayed at an AirBNB that we absolutely loved and would highly recommend! My biggest piece of advice is to pick something central and within walking distance to the Markt Square.
You Can Walk Everywhere: If you’re anything like us, you can walk all of Brugge without the need for public transportation. And, if your feet need a rest, there are plenty of canal tours, offering beautiful views of the city!
How Long to Stay: I read a lot of reviews online that Brugge can be done as a day trip, but I am so happy we spent more time here. While the city center is relatively compact, there is a surprising amount to be seen, and even more Belgium food and beer to try! We had two and a half days (2 nights) in Brugge, and we felt this was the perfect amount of time.
Feel free to reach out or comment if you have any questions regarding your upcoming trip to Brugge! I would love to hear from you!