If you want a picture postcard-perfect picture to send back to your loved ones, or to share online… there’s no better place to get one than in Bruges. Located in the Flanders province in the north of Belgium, the town center of Bruges is lined with cobbled-stone streets, beautiful canals, gorgeous towers and churches, and centuries-old buildings. Bruges is so pretty that it gives you the feeling of walking into a real life fairy-tale town.
Getting to Bruges from the capital city, Brussels, is pretty easy. The train from the main railway station in Brussels runs every 30 minutes. The ride takes about an hour, and stops outside the town center at Station Brugge. From there, you can either take a taxi or board the public bus to central Bruges. I took the bus, which runs very frequently; paid for the tickets on board, and kept my eyes peeled for the huge Belfry facing Markt Square. I was only in Bruges for a day, and the main square was my first stop.
One Day in Bruges
The beautiful historical center of Bruges is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the 1-hectare wide Markt Square lies in the heart of it. The square is surrounded by a stunning collection of medieval buildings, and of course, the belfry. It was drizzling when I visited, but that didn’t stop the sense of joie de vivre that filled up the Christmas Market that was being held in the square.
Belfry of Bruges
After walking around the Christmas Market and joining in the fun and merriment, it was time to climb those 366 steep stairs up the belfry for sweeping views of Bruges. The 13th-century Belfry of Bruges is a medieval tower, and the most significant building in Markt Square, as well as the city. There is a carillon in the belfry– made out of 48 bells to make melodies when played through the hand keyboard.
It was a long way up to the top of the belfry. The climb was often halted to make way for the people going the opposite direction, as the stairs are too narrow to fit two people at a time. Good thing they have resting platforms, and the beautiful view of Bruges from the top was worth every step.
A short walk from Markt Square along a cobbled lane with horse-drawn carriages trotting by, is another famous square in Bruges, the Burg Square. This is the administrative square of the city because it is where the Gothic Town Hall stands, build way back in 1376. There are also many other administrative buildings showcasing many different European architecture around the square to admire. It a gorgeous 360 degree view, and perfect for photos.
Basilius Church and the Chapel of the Holy Blood
This famous church is tucked in a little corner of Burg Square. It was built in the 12th-century and houses the venerated phial said to contain a cloth with the blood of Jesus Christ. The phial is only shown to the public at specific times during the day, so check before you visit.
When I visited, there was a long queue outside the church just before the afternoon opening time. At exactly 2pm, the church doors opened and the crowd was ushered to the upper chapel. Everyone was so quiet, you could hear a pin drop! A few minutes later, the priest walked in and uncovered the phial. He sat next to it while we walked up to the alter one by one to see it– it was a surreal experience.
After viewing the relic, I walked around the chapel, which is a feast for the eyes. It is so beautiful and majestic with its gold trimmings, colorful artwork and intricate stained glass windows. The lower chapel on the other hand, is much more austere.
Walking around Bruges
Winter time is such a lovely time to visit Bruges– the cold weather and chilly atmosphere adds a mysterious and magical air to the surroundings. I half expected silver snowflakes and sparkling stars to start swirling and dancing around me.
I had a fun time exploring the shops that line the quaint narrow lanes; walking into the many chocolate stores that lured me in with the smell of dark cocoa wafting through the air. Their gorgeous window displays were a tease to my rumbling tummy… it increased my chocolate cravings, so I had them for lunch.
The canals around central Bruges add to the city’s fairytale-like atmosphere with its small stone bridges over the waters, and climbing trees hugging old pink-bricked buildings. One of the most photographed places in Bruges is the Rozenhoedkaai (pictured above), where the Groenerei and Dijver canals meet.
My favorite part of the trip was sitting by the banks overlooking the canals and watching the canal cruise boats pass by. The boats are another way to admire the canals, but I preferred strolling along it– it was more peaceful and romantic.
I left Bruges in the early evening just before the sun set. Honestly, a day isn’t nearly enough to experience the entire city but that was all the time I had. A night’s stay would have been perfect– I would then be able to witness the beautiful lights flooding the city at night, without the crowds.
The thing about traveling is that something equally awesome always makes up for the missed moments. On the one-hour train journey back to Brussels, I was treated to a stunning canvas of pretty village houses, golden fields shining from the setting sun and… a double rainbow.