Bruges is a gorgeous city that seems painted
On our last visit to Brussels, apart from enjoying this magnificent city, we decided to take a side trip to Brujas and Gante, to see the beautiful things that these two Belgian enclaves hold. Although in this article we will concentrate on Brujas, its worth saying that Brussels is very well organized and its pretty easy to get to both cities.
In our case we went to the “Gare du midi” station and asked at the ticket window what the best option was. There is a ticket that allows you to go from Brujas to Gante in whichever order you want (of course, once you get off the train in one city you can´t return with the same ticket). We chose to go from Brussels to Brujas, Brujas to Gante and finally Gante to Brussels.
We left the Brujas station and as soon as we saw the street (we were lucky and it was a beautiful sunny day) you can let yourself be wrapped in the aroma of the city which is like something out of a children´s book with each corner offering picturesque landscapes. There are two things that really get your attention. The first is that you realize that you are no longer in the francophone territory and you will get farther using your English (a language that everyone speaks perfectly and that they prefer to French). The second is the social consciousness about the environment, cleanliness and using the bicycle as the most important mode of transportation.
We crossed the bridge and enjoyed some gorgeous views of one of the many Canals that border the city and on the left the KonigAbert I Park, where we would return later. Once we started to walk along the streets, we began to get a real feel for the centuries of history. Our first visit was the Church of Our Lady (Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk), the second tallest brick building in the world. The church is full of rich cultural history and architecture, and you can find the famous sculpture of “Madonna and child” by Michelangelo inside. You can also see lots of impressive paintings and other objects of great value.
Near the church is the Cathedral of San Salvador (Sint-Salvatorskathedraal), and on the way we can admire the houses and streets of the city. The cathedral has gone through numerous changes and you can see its different styles of architecture including the roman, gothic, neogothic, gothic-florentine. Inside the building you will find numerous works of art and it is worth going inside to see it.
We continued walking towards the south and found a unique place called the Beguinaje Ten Wijngaerde. It is a large garden that is well tended with beautiful flowers, and is surrounded by numerous white houses and a monastery. In the past, it was a convent for nuns. Inside it was important to be completely silent and you could see the nuns going about their business. It was interesting to me that the nuns would leave the convent and rode their bike to do their business in town.
Brujas is known for its Canals and extensive vegetation, and its really worth it to visit one of the parks by the canal to take a rest and relax in nature. Although there is a lot of tourism in the city, you never feel that its an overwhelming or noisy environment, or at least that was the impression we got. One of the activities that we didn´t want to miss was to take a boat ride on one of its canals, so we looked for one of the places that offered rides and waited.
It was probably one of the least original and most touristy things you can do in Brujas, but the boat ride was well worth it. It is a great way to see the city from a different perspective, and at the same time you can learn about the history of Brujas. The house and hotels that you see are really unique and they told us about how it is common to go from one city to another by canal.
After getting off the boat and meeting some nice English people, we went to the heart of Brujas where we found the main plaza (Grote Markt). There we found a bell tower (Belfort) and we tried to go up it to get a view of the city, but we decided to skip it after seeing the long line. It is used as an administrative center and a look out tower. There was also a covered market (Hallen) where they sell wool and towels, as well as statues of Jan Breydel and Pieter de Koninck, local heroes in the Battle of the golden spurs in 1302.
Near the main plaza you will find the Plaza de Burg which was impressive because of its buildings and the moldings that you can see on the facades. It happened to be that we coincided with a band that was playing songs like “Gonna Fly Now” from “Rocky.” In this plaza we could see the Town Hall (Stadhuis van Brugge) in a Gothic-florentine style which is one of the oldest in the Netherlands. The Basilica of the Holy Blood, a renaissance basilica and former palace is located there, all of which adding to the rich beauty of the plaza.
We come to the end of our route, not before enjoying a great meal in the main plaza, although we had other options, we chose to enjoy the beautiful plaza while we ate. The restaurant we chose was La Civiere d´Or with the daily menu including stew with apple and cherry sauce that was really good. Before leaving for Gante, we took a nap in the Konig Albert I Park, ending our visit to this storybook city.