Saturday, 8 February 2014

Bruges (Belgium) day trip,

Bruges belgium

Located just across the English channel from London, Bruges is a lovely little city that sits in the country of Belgium. It was meant to be a pitstop enroute back to UK from Amsterdam, and it truly did more wonders than to alleviate the horror bus ride syndrome. This hidden gem spots one of the cleanest cobbled streets and well-preserved heritage buildings I've seen in Europe; and with it's calming waterways and a Belgian chocolatier at almost every corner, it's hard not to fall in love with this beautiful city - I quote Z, my companion for the trip: I want to live here forever.

Bruges houses a predominant flemish community and needless to say, flemish (also known as belgian dutch and mostly spoken by flanders in North Belgium) is widely spoken. This was extremely confusing for me because I tried interpreting everything French, but while flemish has an extensive french influence, there are dutch elements in it as well.

Being a small city 7 times smaller than the size of Singapore, Bruges is a comfortable day trip destination and we mainly explored the town by walking. Cycling would be perfect for indulging in romance of the city, but the cobbled streets and narrow alleyways may set you thinking otherwise. We wandered from the historic centre of Bruges, where we followed a guide into a private courtyard who gushed about 16th century old house which was the only wooden house that survived a great historical fire. We then slowly rippled to the perimeters of the city.

Bruges belgium

Bruges belgium

Bruges belgium

Bruges belgium

Now that I'm back home in Singapore, I really miss the quaint shophouses and cobbled streets of Bruges -  such unspeakable charm that Europe possesses! And of course, not to mention the endless chocolatiers and tea rooms along the way.

Bruges is often labelled as the "Venice of the North" with its canals and waterways throughout the city, much like Amsterdam. Some merchants offer boat rides, which unfortunately seems to be turning the place to be rather commercialized. Nonetheless, sitting by the waterways would be really calming and peaceful for a break from all the walking (or inspirational for some poetry perhaps haha). Even in winter, the swans and ducks are out frolicking and gracing the waterways with their elegance.

The Church of Our Lady is the tallest structure in Bruges and the second tallest brickwork tower in the world. Remaining visible at many angles, it stands majestic in the heart of the city and dates as far back as the 13th century. Similar to much of the architecture in Europe, it has a gothic brickwork style.

As it was winter, the old medieval town square was not brimming with many activities and was mainly filled with people getting on with their lives and routine. The architecture surrounding it was amazing nonetheless, with grand buildings such as the town hall and the belfry staring down on you. Perfect for people-watching and restaurant/cafe hopping ♥ 

One of the grandest structures in the historical centre of Bruges is the belfry, a medieval bell tower which watches over the town square. It is now used to observe for fire or related hazards, but you get to climb up for a nominal entrance fee.

Built in 1376, the Bruges town hall is one of the oldest cityhall in Netherlands. It has housed the government and 19th century gothic chambers for over 700 years and continues to do so!

We had to stop by for directions from a friendly ice cream vendor to get to the Basilica of the Holy blood, which sits at the corner of one of the smaller squares. It's a Roman catholic minor basilica and allegedly displays the venerated relic of the Holy Blood. Unfortunately, it was closed and we didn't manage to get in.

More wandering around:

One of the chocolatiers we were recommended was Chocoholic, and we loved it! We weren't too sure of the price comparison with the others but we got to try samples and the staff were really friendly :) I don't have a sweet tooth myself, but I loved loved loved their hazelnut pralines because they melted in my mouth into little drops of heaven. Bought a gourmet mix of truffles, pralines and whatnots (could pick them selectively myself) for R back home in London. They charge by the weight and not pieces.

But of course, we couldn't leave without trying these highly raved Belgium waffles!! Popped into a random shop to rest our dying feet and these waffles were so, so good - hands down one of the best waffles I've tried (post note: went back to Brussels a month down and had my Belgian waffle fix all over again hehe). Food is exceptionally expensive in Bruges, so we had a filling breakfast in Amsterdam before coming down and ate knick knacks like waffles in Bruges.

Bruges is also a lace lover's heaven because of their lace industry (in the past mainly for the English market) and their intricate designs which adorn the street shops. We didn't have enough time to look around, so I ended buying an embroidered handkerchief for mumsie the second time I returned to Belgium.

Prominently placed in the town square, the Salvador dali museum exudes a quirky charm even from its exterior. It was closed by evening so we didn't get to explore much of it, to our dismay.

A last shot with our newfound Californian friends! (which we forgot to exchange contacts with, noooooo)

Other places worth checking out in the area include the Boudewijn seapark, Mineewater lake and the B├ęguinage of Bruges, but it was nice to just enjoy time by the waterways and exploring the historical center at your own pace. Headed back to London by evening across the English channel after a good weekend, good bye Bruges you'll always be a gorgeous part of my memory ♥


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