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On my first full day in Bruges, I awoke to a sparkling clear day. The cold had not subsided, but the sky was clear and blue.
With the sky being cloudless, my first stop after eating a requisite Belgian waffle was obvious: the Belfry of Bruges, AKA the Belfort. It sits right at the Markt (Market) square in the center of the old city, and served as one of the key focal points of In Bruges. If you’re visiting the city, it’s a must visit, as the view from the top is unparalleled.
The Belfort is one of 16 locations that are part of Musea Brugge, a collection of museums and other historical sites in Bruges. For just 20 Euros, you can buy a 3-day pass that gives you unlimited visits to all of the sites. Since I had a few days in Bruges and figured the individual admissions fees would cost more money, I went ahead and bought it.
Following my rule of always climbing to the highest point of a city, I climbed my way up. the tower. There were a couple of stopping points with exhibits on the way, making it one of the easier climbs I’ve made. When I reached the top, a guy was there proposing to his girlfriend. Not a bad option, though I might have picked a slightly more secluded spot that didn’t have some travel blogger stumbling into it 🙂
I admired the views from the top of the tower for a while and took in the sound of the belfry, then headed back down to the city.
I wandered around for a while, then realized I’d only had a small waffle to eat so far, so I ducked into a place called ‘T Brugsch Friethuys, a place specializing in Belgian fries. I ordered 4.90 Euros worth of fries, which in hindsight was a ridiculous amount. Add in the traditional mayo that was served with the fries and it was even worse. I needed to keep moving, so I set off to hit as many museums as I could.
My next stop was the Archeologie Museum. I ended up only spending about 15 minutes here, as not much was written in English, and most of the exhibits were geared toward children.
After that, I was off to Church of Our Lady Bruges (Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk), which sits just across the street. Despite the church’s relatively small footprint, it was spectacular. It was clearly constructed with sunlight in mind, as it was the brightest old church I had ever been in. In addition to the architecture, the church is also known for housing one of Michaelangelo’s only works outside of Italy, Madonna and Child. I admired the beautiful stained glass windows for a while, lamenting that there was no access to the tall tower that rises above the building.
Following the visit to the church, I headed back across the street to the Sint-Janshospitaal (Saint John’s Hospital), an old hospital that now houses art & exhibits about the healing that took place there over the years. In addition to the older artifacts, the building was also housing an interesting modern art installation called Forty Part Motet by Janet Cardiff. It’s a 40-piece choral piece that plays over speakers arranged in a 360-degree circle in a large room. Below you can find an selection from the piece (though the photos are not from Bruges):
Right next to Sint-Janshospitaal sits Apotheek (Apothecary), a small pharmacy that holds more historical medical artifacts. It’s easy to miss since it’s tucked behind it, but it’s worth a quick look, plus the area behind both buildings is a nice quiet place for a break.
From there I headed back northeast toward the Market Square, along the way buying some chocolate souvenirs from Chocolaterie Dumon for friends and family back home. In addition to being beer heaven, Bruges is also chocolate heaven. You can’t go wrong with any of the local chocolate, but Dumon has especially nice higher-end creations that are more unique than what you might find in older shops. After my purchases, I headed back south.
Along the canals just south of the Market Square, you can find more museums that are featured as part of the museum pass. I stumbled upon the Arentshuis, which houses work by British artist Frank Brangwyn & other modern artists. From there, my intended final museum of the day, the Groeninge Museum, which houses more Flemish art, was a short walk a way through a nice small park.
Twilight was near by the time I finished with my final museum. I slowly made my way back to my hotel, taking special care to crunch my way through as much fresh snow as possible. I arrived at my hotel only to find that the power was out. Not just in the building but in much of Bruges. I had been so distracted by taking photos on my walk that I didn’t notice the lack of unnatural light.
The power was out for a good while, so I relaxed in the lobby for a bit. Once it came back on, I dropped my bag off in my room and headed to dinner.
My main destination for the evening was Bierbrasserie Cambrinus, one of the greatest beer bars in the world, never mind Bruges. The bar has an amazing lineup of Belgian beers, with fantastic food to match. I had a few beers and for 10 Euros, what I thought was going to be a small platter of beer cheese, pate, salami, and bacon, but ended up being a massive feast that I ended up sharing with several people around me. Some of the dishes at Cambrinus are pricier (more on that in my next post), but their assortment of cold “snacks” is a steal. After one more stop for a couple of drinks in De Stoepa, I headed back to my hotel.
Winter in Bruges is a special time. Like York or Sevilla, much of the city is still similar to how it was hundreds of years ago, especially during those moments where no cars are in sight. I regretted not having more time to stay, but at least I had one more day left to enjoy before moving on.
More posts from this trip:
Europe 2013: And so the trip began
Europe: London, Day 1
Europe: London, Day 2
Europe: London to Paris, Day 3
Europe: Paris, Day 4
Europe: Paris, Day 5
Europe: Paris, Day 6
Europe: Paris to Nice, Day 7
Europe: Nice – Cote d’Azur, Day 8
Europe: Nice – Monaco, Day 9
Europe: Nice, and Nice to Rimini, Days 10 & 11
Europe: San Marino, Day 12
Europe: Rimini to Lake Como, Day 13
Europe: FARTing around the Alps – Locarno & Domodossola, Day 14
Europe: Como to Zurich, Day 15
Europe: Liechtenstein & so much more, Day 16
Europe: Zurich to Luxembourg to Bruges, Days 17 & 18
Europe: Bruges, Day 19
Europe: Bruges, Day 20
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