Oh, Bruges! Confession. I fall in love with almost every new city I visit. Europe is home to so many unique towns! Bruges is no exception. It might be one of the most fairy tale-esque places I have ever visited.
My husband, Paul, and I visited Bruges on a (too) short day-trip from Brussels. Bruges is a short train ride (just over an hour) from Brussels and is the capital of West Flanders, Belgium. The city is a UNESCO World Heritage site and boasts cobble-stoned streets, canals, and medieval buildings. Her famous city center square is home to the City Hall (from the 14th century) and the Belfry, from the 13th century, mind = blown!
BRUGES MARKT | CITY CENTER SQUARE
The city center square, or Markt as it is referred to, is the central part of the old city of Bruges. The square is lined with the most charming buildings. We hopped into one to grab a hot chocolate to keep our hands warm on that cold morning.
Be sure you have plenty of room on your camera’s memory card, this is a place you won’t want to forget!
Climbing the 366 steps to the top of this 13th-century tower is exhausting. Luckily, you are rewarded with panoramic views when you reach the top! The Belfry is 83 meters high (about 272 feet) and is one of Bruges’ best-known landmarks. Construction began in 1281 and was completed in 1482. Today you will still find a carillon of 47 bells hanging in the tower.
TOWN HALL OF BRUGES
If you continue to read about Bruges, you’ll notice a theme… it’s home to some of Belgium’s oldest buildings. The Town Hall is no exception. Constructed in 1376, this Gothic stunner houses timber-vaulted ceilings and paintings depicting the history of the town. It also serves as a great backdrop for photos with waffles – ha!
Now I know I said the Belfry is one of the most iconic landmarks in Bruges, but the Dijver Mansion along the Dijver canal is a close second. This picturesque spot is home to the 15th century Heren van Gruuthuse mansion. In 1471, it is said fugitive King Edward IV took shelter here. This is a very popular photo spot. The view is so magical!
CHURCH OF OUR LADY
Did you know you can see a Michelangelo original in Belgium? His sculpture, Virgin and Child (1503-1504) is among the many other treasures residing inside the Church of Our Lady. The spire is 112 meters high, making it the tallest in Belgium. Construction on the church began in 1230 and was completed within the 14th and 15th centuries.
LAKE OF LOVE
Visit the Minnewater or “Lake of Love”, on the far end of Wijngaardplein. The Gothic Lock House on the north side is still standing today and provides a serene view of the bridge to the Beguinage. Today the Beguinage is home to Benedictine nuns. You’ll probably see many swans swimming in the lake and watching over the area. It’s a great spot to take a break and relax before heading off for lunch and a couple of beers!
DE HALVE MAAN BREWERY
You didn’t think I was going to write a whole post about Bruges and not once mention beers, did you? I would hope we know each other better than that by now! De Halve Maan brewery, owned by the Maes family, has been brewing beer along the Walplein for centuries. They offer daily guided tours of the brewery and have a great selection of food and beer!
Growing up, I would spend a lot of time at my aunts house. Memories of playing with my cousins are still fresh in my mind. One of my favorite items in her house was her kitchen witch. Yes, it sounds weird. My aunt always had this little witch, hanging in front of the window above the kitchen sink. I was always intrigued by her (the witch, although my aunt is interesting too). I loved getting up in the middle of the night for a glass of water while she kept watch over the kitchen.
The history of the kitchen witch is an interesting one. Some believe she originated in Norway while others believe Germany. While no country has ever been given official claim to her, it is confirmed she originated from old european customs. What’s her purpose you ask? She is said to be a good witch, a witch who will ward off evil spirits and brings good luck to all who enter her kitchen. Her powers keep your food from burning and pots from boiling over.
A little silly some may say, but I’ve always wanted a kitchen witch of my own. I happened to see a display of kitchen witches hanging in a shop window and knew I’d found my chance to own one myself!
And for those of you who wonder if her powers are true… you’ll have to get one for yourself!
EXPLORING THE STREETS OF BRUGES
As you end your day in Bruges, wander the streets and take in the sites, sounds, and smells (warm waffles with melted chocolate, anyone?).