Do not believe everything you heard about Bruges, Belgium in the British black comedy In Bruges. Visiting Bruges in not like being exiled as the hit men in the movie famously expressed after being sent to Bruges after bungling a hit. On the contrary, if you like local beer and you like artisan chocolate shops, you will love beautiful Bruges and its old world vibe.
In fact, Bruges located in Belgium, in the northwest, and the most well-preserved medieval city in Belgium, is a favorite stop for a night or two. It is a day trip from Paris, or 50 minutes by train from Brussels. The city center is a UNESCO world heritage site with stunning medieval buildings, turrets, and rooftops, and because of Bruges' many canals, it is nicknamed the "Venice of the North." Once you arrive, an Off the Beaten Path suggestion is to grab a map from the tourist board, and walk the cobblestoned streets through all the film In Bruges' iconic locations. It is also a nice stroll or bike ride (rent bicycles at the train station) along the canals, complete with swans, to get a sense of Bruges.
The medieval market square, or Markt, is the heart of Bruges. Grab a table at a cafe, and enjoy people watching, a mug of the local Straffe Hendrik beer, fresh mussels, and frites (Belgian fries are twice-fried and thick, Indulgent and Delicious.) The square is surrounded by architecturally stunning buildings, including the Provincial Court and the Belfry Tower, built in 1220! That's old. Climb to the top, all 366 steps, for the 360 degree view of the city, and the bell concert of the chimes at the top. On a clear day you may even be able to see The North Sea. Sounds odd, but St. John's Hospital, built in 1188, and now the Hans Memling Museum, is home to some of the best works of the Flemish artists, including six by Memling hanging in the small chapel. Nevertheless, the artistic treasure of Bruges is Michelangelo's marble Madonna with Child located in the Church of Our Lady, and the church has the distinction of also having the tallest structure in the city. It is one of Michelangelo's only works to leave Italy during his lifetime. The church is a five minute walk from the market square.
Take a walk outside of city center to see the four beautifully restored windmills on the river. From the St. John's House Mill, there is another beautiful vista of the city. A couple nice hotels included the Kempinski Hotel Duke's Palace with recently renovated rooms and a spa with a hammam. Then, there is Hotel Heritage, a Relais & Chateaux, which is within walking distance of all the sites also. Or, Hotel Tuilerieen, in a 15th century residence on one of the canals, and a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World group.
Foodies, Be Inspired suggestion- If you can score a reservation, there is a three Michelin starred restaurant just outside of town, Hertog Jan, for you to try.
What to pack:
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