Bruges is a fairytale paradise in the tiny European country of Belgium. Stepping off the train at the station, you are immediately transported back in time to medieval Europe, a period when the primary mode of transport was by horse and carriage. The city is popular with visitors worldwide for its canals as well as locally produced lace, chocolate, and beer.
Bruges is called the ‘Venice of the North’ because of its canals. In the Middle Ages, these canals were used by ships to deliver goods to the city and to take exports from local merchants. For this reason, Bruges was a very rich and prosperous town. Today the canals are used primarily for tourism and leisure. Try a canal tour when you first arrive, as it gives a good orientation to the city.
Lace is a popular purchase in any Bruges shop. In 1717, nuns established the first lace school in Belgium; today you can visit the Lace Centre (Kantcentrum – Peperstraat 3A) to learn more about the production of lace. You will find housewives on the streets of this charming city making and selling handmade lace creations.
Delectable Belgian chocolates can also be easily found here. The Choco-Story Museum (Wijnzakstraat 2) provides an informative overview of how cocoa is transformed into chocolate. Be sure to stop by the chocolate-making exhibition during your visit and take advantage of the free samples. Bruges is dotted with chocolate shops throughout, but without a doubt the most famous is the Old Chocolate House (Mariastraat) which sells fantastic chocolate and steaming cups of creamy hot chocolate.
Those who know little of Belgium at least know of its status as the world’s undisputed champion of beer. The country has been brewing quality beer since the Middle Ages, and in Bruges it goes without saying that great brews are easy to find. The first stop should be at The Halve Maan (Walplein 26), a local brewery which explains the Belgian brewing process. Entry includes a nice view of the city from the tower as well as a beer tasting.
As an historically rich city and having gracefully aged from its days as a medieval trading centre, Bruges rightly deserves its status as an enchanting tourist mecca. With the beautifully maintained canals and shops full of beer and chocolate, the city seems too good to be true. Perhaps fairy tales really do come true.
Frequent trains from Brussels airport / Brussels city centre to Bruges take approximately 90 minutes.