Brugge, Belgium

With braces, thick unruly hair and a naive impression of the world I traveled to Brugge, Belgium in 2007 with my family. I have fond memories of riding my bike through the cobblestone roads, admiring the gothic architecture from a boat ride through the canals and enjoying beglium waffles with my sisters.

Time somehow manipulates fond memories to make them even fonder. This is the case with Brugge, and I booked my train ticket to the medieval village a few weekends ago with high hopes of a perfect weekend.

Brugge did not disappoint.

Some consider Brugge to be the best-preserved medieval city in Europe with some structures dating back to the 12th and 13th centuries. It has a rich history as a major medieval trade city – learn more about the history of Brugge. The town is connected by cobblestone roads and canals, but tourists can be a frequent roadblock when trying to navigate main centers of the town. The best way to travel around Brugge is to toss the map and get lost – once you escape the main tourist roads the fairy-tale type charm of Brugge comes to life. Getting lost is more fun than worrisome due to its small size and large buildings like the Belfry Tower make it easy to naturally navigate and get back on track.

The Market Square

Last time I was in Brugge I climbed the 366 stairs of the fourteenth century bell tower in the Market square. It provided a great view of Brugge, though I would recommend opting for a different view of the town from the top of the De Halve Man Brewery. For six euros you can tour one of the oldest standing breweries in the world and sample a beer at the end. Belgians are proud of their selection of over 350 different types of beer, and the De Halve Man Brewery tour sheds light on the world of Belgian beer. Plus, at the end of the tour, you get a fantastic view of Brugge from the top of the brewery.

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The tour includes lots of stairs so be prepared to walk and duck through short doorways.

The Begijnhof 

This park is near to the De Halve Man Brewery and is a great next destination after the tour. Go for a walk through the park or do as the locals and enjoy a picnic in the grass.

Groeninge Museum

Strolling around museums has always been interesting to me, but the Groeninge Museum experience was a new level of “museuming.” Gil and I spent hours in this fairly small museum, and I was amused and interested for the entire timespan.

It is always a treat to hear a friend talk about something they are passionate and knowledgeable about. In China, my friend Tim randomly busted out extensive engine knowledge at a Shineray Motorcycle factory. Turns out he worked as an engineer before the trip to China. With Gil, he busted out extensive art knowledge at the Groeninge Museum. He’s from Israel and has been working as a lawyer for the past few years. Turns out he once had a client in Jeruselum and he lives in Tel Aviv. For this client, he would have to take a taxi between the two cities. During these long drives Gil would study art on SmartHistory: a multimedia web book about art and art history and has taught himself a very, very extensive knowledge set about art history. I admire him for using the taxi time to learn, and I’m thankful that much of the knowledge has now been passed to me! Learning is a wonderful experience, and it is even more fun when your best friend is your teacher.

Other Museums 

If pressed for time, I recommend ranking your museum list as follows:

1. Groeninge Museum

2. Memling Museum

3. Chocolate Museum

4. Lace Museum

If pressed for time, I recommend ranking your church visit list as follows:

1. The Church of Our Lady (Michelangelo statute of Madonna and Child)

2. The Basilica of the Holy Blood

Windmills

Very far out of town, but it is a nice destination for a long walk through endless cobblestone streets. Expect to go through more residental areas on the way. Great destination if you’ve rented bikes – the Windmills are also near the College of Europe for any academic people who are interested in seeing a well-respected European University (Dr. Christy, looking at you!)

Throw your diet out the window in Brugge. Endulge in some of the many, many chocolate shops around town. Enjoying a hot chocolate is a must. Belgian waffles – also a must eat. Stroopwaffles are typically Dutch, though I saw some around Brugge – also worth a try. Remember, no diet in Brugge! French fries are a Belgian food, despite the misleading name. There is a Frites Museum in Brugge, though I have never visited it because it seems like a tourist gimmick and a grand waste of time. There are two frites stands in the Markt square, I tried the one of the left and thoroughly enjoyed the frites. Be sure to eat with the mayonnaise sauce! Mussels are a local specialty, and many restaurants have a set price for dinner courses that include mussels. If seafood isn’t your favorite, go for waterzooi – a stew with meat.

TIP FOR STUDENTS TRAVELING TO BELGIUM: Buy the Belgium GoPass. It is a hugely discounted ticket and is worth the extra hassle of booking online. Round trip from Maastricht to Brugge cost me 12 euros with the Belgium GoPass.

My good friend Gil and I decided on a Thursday night to head to Brugge the following Friday. The whole booking process was hasty and somewhat careless. Cheap accomodation, train tickets, pack. It is difficult to mess up a trip to Brugge – the city is small so location isn’t a very important factor. Though, I can HIGHLY recommend the accomodation Hotel Adornes where my family and I stayed years ago.

As a student I am always staying in hostels and cheap hotels. Accomodations are typically just a bed and a place to meet new friends; hopefully a wifi spot and maybe a free breakfast if I’m lucky. While in Brugge for the second time, I actually made the trek just to see Hotel Adornes. It is easily my favorite accomodation that I’ve stay in (this time around, the hotel was our of my price range so we stayed at a much more affordable accomodation.) Hotel Adornes still has a special place in my travel memories. It is one of those locations so closely linked to goodness that it was worth a trek across town just to look at. In Morocco there is a perfect terrace that my friends and I enjoyed tea on. In Missouri there is a perfect spot on the MKT bike trial that I always stop to enjoy. What is better than collecting physical souveniers is to collect spots around the world – places where everything is perfect. Hotel Adornes happens to be one of those places for me.

brugge

It was special to enjoy Brugge first with my family, and then return to the city I love so much with someone I care about. Until next time, Brugge, stay the same and never lose your old town charm!

Posted on by Reagan J Payne in Part I, Uncategorized

One Response to Brugge, Belgium

  1. Nancy Raney

    thanks for the travelogue, Reagan! I love hearing your adventures!

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