A beginner’s guide to Bruges
When I was growing up in Australia, I always imagined Europe as an incredibly historic, cultured, and un-reachably other-worldly kind of place.
Bruges is exactly how I imagined all cities in Europe would look - narrow cobbled streets, old bridges over quietly flowing canals, big impressive churches, and solid stone houses that have stood the test of time. It’s a beautiful and strangely un-modern city. At night the streets of Bruges have a calm, quiet stillness. The ancient town feels safe, untroubled by the world beyond its walls.
Although now largely part of the state of Belgium, the region of Flanders continues to operate with relative autonomy and has always had a strong sense of its cultural, political, and economic identity - linking back to the Catholic provinces of the medieval Low Countries. One of the key commercial hubs for Flanders, Bruges held a strategic location on European trade routes.
In the 15th century, Philip the Good, duke of Burgundy, set up court in Bruges – attracting a number of artists, bankers, and other prominent personalities from all over Europe.
If you’re interested in art, make sure that you visit the Groeningemuseum - a small museum organised to provide an overview of art from Bruges through the centuries. Along with works by local favourite Jan van Eyck, the museum holds a strong collection of his contemporary artists collectively referred to as the Flemish Primitives - notable for their realism, attention to detail, and use of oil paints.
How to get there
Bruges is an easy train ride from Brussels.
Where to stay
I stayed at Hotel Jacobs which was cheap and cheerful. If you want to stay somewhere a bit more comfortable then try the Hotel de Orangerie, or the Kempinski Hotel.
Where to eat
Breakfast at Gingerbread
Lunch at Maria Van Bourgondie
Hot chocolate and waffles at Prestige Brugge
Dinner at Brasserie Souffleur, or Restaurant Jan van Eyck.
Where to drink
The best bar that I found was Bar des Amis.