Bruges: a medieval Flemish beauty

Our very last city on our Euro Trip 2017 was the beautiful Belgian city of Bruges. I never knew anything about this city, just that it was the birthplace of Doctor Evil. I had no idea how gorgeous it was and I’m so happy we fit this visit into our last stop in Belgium.

Bruges is a medieval town, which looks like it came out of a fairy tale. The cobbled stone streets are lined with old Flemish homes, the gothic-styled buildings and churches loom from overhead and the dreamy canals bring a touch of whimsical beauty. Flemish language and culture still dominate this Belgium city. Bruges is also home an extensive amount of museums and hosts numerous music festivals throughout the year.

 

To get to Bruges we caught a train from Brussels, which took about an hour. Once we arrived we walked through the lush Kong Albert I park and crossed past the Poertoren (Powder Tower). This small tower was built in 1401 by master mason ‘Jan van Oudenaerde’ and is a part of the original Middle Age city wall. It has been used as stock gunpower, later as an ice cellar and is now a UNESCO site.

We crossed the bridge past the tower, which took us into the Minnewaterpark. This park is just as green and lush. It overlooks the beautiful Minnewater or Lake of Love. On the lake, there is a small little building called Sashuis (home of the lock keeper) and a bevvy of swans. From here we took Begijnhof and walked into the through the inner city gates.

 

We then explored the nearby little shops around Wijngaardstraat and south of the canal. In this area, you can find many small boutique stores, perfect for souvenirs, as well as chocolate shops, and little restaurants. I was a little hungry at this stage so I stopped into Tea-Room De Proeverie for a little cupcake. However, I had to eat on the run since the Canal Boat Tour was just a few doors down and there was no line.

 

So we all quickly got in the line for the Canal Boat Tour. This is a quick cheap and lovely way to see the city canal and get a bit more information about the city. Since we didn’t organise any other tours, it was nice to get a bit more insight into the city and the architecture. The tour only took 30 minutes and the driver gave an interesting commentary and answered questions passengers had. The canal is so picturesque and it is obvious why Bruges is known as the ‘Venice of the North’.

 

After we did a bit more exploring the city. We came upon the Church of Our Lady (Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk), however, it was closed, so didn’t get a look inside. We then made our way to Simon Stevinplein Square. Apparently, this is where you can find the best Belgium chocolates and pralines, as well as more restaurants. Everyone had brunch at Le Pain Quotidien Stevinplein, but I was holding out for something Flemish. Just off this square is Streenstraat, which is known as an important shopping street and is one of the oldest roads in the city.

 

After we made our way into the central square of the city, Grote Markt (Market Square), which dates back to 958. The square is about a hectare in size and is surrounded by many historical buildings. Most notable is the medieval bell tower, the Belfry looms over the square. Other interesting buildings include the Provinciaal Hof (Provincial Court), Posterjen (post office building) and the old guild houses. The Historium Museum is also located in the square. We didn’t get end up visited it, but we did have a sticky beak inside. As for the square, it was hard to get a good look at it because there were barriers in the middle. I think this was because of the bike race on this day.

Around the corner from the Grote Markt is Burg Square. This square has been used since the second century and has been a base point for the Court of Flanders, since the 9th cenutry. The important buildings in this square include the gothic Bruges City Hall and the Basilica of the Holy Blood.

 

The Basilica of the Holy Blood (Heilig-Bloedbasiliek) in Burg Square is quite a small building so only some people can go in at a time. It is actually a double church and is dedicated to Our Lady and Saint Basil. The lower chapel is very medieval, it fell like we were in a cave. The upper chapel is quite stunning and extremely colourful decorated.

This basilica is famously known for a repository of a venerated phial, which is said to contain a cloth with the blood of Jesus Christ. Although this is highly unlikely it is shown to the public every Friday. Next door to the basilica is the Holy Blood museum, which contains the shrine for the Holy Blood and other treasures.

 

For my lunch, I chose the historical bierbrasserie, Cambrinus. I loved the decor in this place and the boys were just excited to stop and sit for a beer. I was determined to have a Flemish fish soup so that what I ordered. I ended up actually receiving the entree Fish Soup with “Rouille (spicy garlic sauce) and Garlic Bread, instead of the classic Flemish soup. I wasn’t upset though, the soup was so delicious. The garlic bread was also really nice and crisp and the sauce just also so flavoursome. While we were sitting there we saw some men and woman riding bikes and unicycles.

Afterwards, we stopped by Julie’s Chocolate House for dessert. Marco, Octavia and I sampled a selection of amazing chocolates and bought a box of chocolates for my sister-in-law for her upcoming birthday. These chocolates were so much cheaper than the chocolate stores in Brussels and just as well made.

 

After we were started making our way out of the city to get to the station. We took advantage of this beautiful spot on the Dijver canal. There is actually an antique Flea market along the canal on the weekends.

 

The last site we saw as we were on our way out of the city centre was Begijnhuisje. This silent place is the only preserved beguinage in the city and was founded in 1245. The convent garden is surrounded by white-coloured houses, the Begijnhof museum and Begijnhofkerk Sint-Elisabeth (church). This was originally the home of beguines (emancipated lay-woman). However, today it is resided by the nuns of the Order of St Benedict, along with several unmarried Bruges woman. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any nuns going about their daily life. However, they do hold daily services in the church.

 

Before we left we could help take some more scenic photos as we exited on Begijnhof and along the Lake of Love.

 

That concludes my travel stories for my Euro Trip for 2017. It was a pleasure to revisit the beautiful places with you all.  If you missed a post and want to see where else we visited, see my next post.

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