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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.

Belfry of Bruges (Belfort)

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 serves 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.

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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 sites. Since I had a few days in Bruges and figured the individual admissions fees would cost more, I 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 writer stumbling into it 🙂

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I admired the views from the top of the tower for a while, took in the sound of the belfry, and then headed back down to the city.

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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 exhibits were geared toward children.

Church of Our Lady Bruges (Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk)

After that, I was off to Church of Our Lady Bruges (Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk), 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 known for housing one of Michaelangelo’s only works outside 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.

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Sint-Janshospitaal (Saint John’s Hospital)

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 also housed 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 a selection from the piece (though the photos are not from Bruges):

Next to Sint-Janshospitaal sits Apotheek (Apothecary), a small pharmacy with 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.

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Other Bruges Museums

Along the canals just south of the Market Square, you can find more museums 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 away through a nice small park.

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By the time I finished with my final museum, twilight was near. I slowly returned 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.

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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.

Dinner & beer at Bierbrasserie Cambrinus

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 and fantastic food. I had a few beers and, for 10 Euros, what I thought would be a small platter of beer cheese, pate, salami, and bacon, but it ended up being a massive feast that I ended up sharing with several people around me. Some of the dishes at Cambrinus are pricier, but their assortment of cold “snacks” is a steal. After stopping for a few drinks in De Stoepa, I returned to my hotel.

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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 when 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.

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