Belgium Part II: A Day in Bruges
Bruges is a nice city! But honestly, nowhere near as nice as Ghent. Brussels had exceeded my expectations, but unfortunately Bruges did not. Not to say that it isn’t beautiful! – With all of the old, brick buildings with ivy, the small canals and the narrow houses lining the streets… No one can deny that it is super charming! But for that very reason, I think that the tourism is getting the best of the city.
Bruges is a very small city. There is only one train station, and it does not take long to walk to the city center. A round trip ticket from Ghent was only 6,70€ and it only took about a half hour to get there, so it is ideal for a day trip.
Nicole and I for some reason walked the wrong way onto a crowded, local shopping street, so initially we got a little confused. But we eventually made our way through the narrow, residential streets to the center by following the crowd of people and the top of a cathedral.
All of the action in Bruges culminates in the heart of the downtown, the Grote markt (or Old Market), the main plaza of the city that dates back to the late 17th century. But the market place and the canals have actually been used for trading by the fishmongers since at least the 1300s! In the Grote markt is the 12th century bell tower, called the Belfry, the Provincial Court and this small row of cute, fairy tale, gingerbread buildings.
During the Christmas season the Grote Markt is full of stands of traditional Belgian fare, crafts and products, an ice skating rink, and not to mention HUNDREDS of tourists. It was almost to the point that we couldn’t enjoy ourselves because we were getting pushed around. We were able to get our hands on some local treats, a cheesy potato dish called tartiflette and some hot gluhwein.
In effort to escape the crowds of the main plaza we decided to wander outward. We walked down Steenstraat, a main shopping street and found another Christmas market (where Shakira was playing on the loudspeakers) cute shops, book stores, and our favorite bakery from Brussels, Aux Meiveilleux de Fred.
We wandered north of the downtown to more of a quiet residential area. (Almost too quiet…) But I enjoyed taking a break from the jolly, tourist Christmas hype and getting a chance to image what living in Bruges would really be like. The city is very clean. The buildings are well designed and well preserved.
So by the time late afternoon rolled around, we we’re ready to be heading back to Ghent. On the way out of the city we were able to catch the beginning of the sunset while walking by the canals. It was a nice way to part with the city.
Everyone says that Bruges is the Belgian fairy tail, but I’m going to have to disagree. While Bruges is really a nice city, my heart still lies with Ghent! I think that I would enjoy visiting Bruges more on a random midweek day during the spring or early summer, instead of during the thick of the touristy winter season. But regardless, it was still a great day in Belgium!