A tiny city home to only 22,000 inhabitants, Bruges prides itself on welcoming more than 3.5 million tourists every year. Located in Flanders, only a few miles from the North Sea, the city feels as though it was designed for couples in love - well, that's if you go there out of season! The city's maze of narrow streets are packed at the weekend and during school holidays. Though the city that we affectionately call the 'Venice of the North' has little in common with its Italian counterpart (above all in terms of climate!), the Belgian version undeniably deserves its classification as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You'll find no advertisements or electrical cables here: strict rules and regulations protect the city from all visual pollution. It is incredibly enjoyable to wander around the city's cobblestone streets, visit its museums, admire its monuments, and sail down its canals.
Wander aimlessly in the maze of cobblestone streets and admire the brick houses.
Go for a horse and carriage ride, which is very touristy (and therefore expensive) but also very romantic!
Visit 'De Halve Maan', the city's unique distillery and taste some of the local beers.
Climb the 366 steps that lead to the top of the Belfry. On a clear day, visitors can make out the north coast from here. You may also be interested to know that a concert takes place at the Belfry three times a week: from 9pm to 10pm in summer and from 2pm to 3pm in winter.
A boat tour on the famous canals is the ideal activity for admiring the monuments standing along the water's edge: the Church of Our Lady (home to the Madonna of Bruges by Michelangelo and the tomb of Marie de Bourgogne), Hôpital Saint-Jean (currently exhibiting works by a Flemish painter), and Begijnhof (a famous monastery dating back to the 13th century).
The city's 18 museums. Both original (Folklore, Chips, Chocolate, etc.) and traditional (Groeninge, Gruuthuse, etc.), there really is something for everyone.
The fish market and its colourful stalls.
The basement of the Crowne Plaza hotel. This hotel is home to the archaeological remains of a cathedral destroyed during the French Revolution!
Give yourself a relatively high budget if you really want to enjoy this city to the fullest: as in all tourist cities, there are many activities and temptations that will have you constantly reaching for your wallet! Note that the restaurants are expensive, especially of an evening. One advantage, though, is that most of them have cheap lunch deals.
Don't forget to squash some winter clothes into your suitcase. Although the sun can be warm at times, it can be chilly in the evening in summer and cold in the winter.
You shouldn't expect to spend much time alone with your other half if you come to Bruges in summer or for a weekend in spring! It would be better to plan to visit during the week or on a weekend outside of the school holidays.
The cars in the city centre have to give way to horse-drawn carriages, pedestrians, and bikes. It's also a nightmare finding a parking space, which are far from free! What's more, although all of the hotels in Bruges (or almost all of them) have a car park or a garage, the price to park your car in these will leave you dumbfounded. An alternative solution would be to take the train. Thalys offers a daily return ticket from Paris Gare du Nord, as well as connections via Brussels.
All weight-loss diets will go straight out of the window if you come to Bruges, as the helpings here are more than generous! Among the best dishes that can't be missed are 'moule-frites' (mussels and chips) and the exquisite Flemish stew, similar to beef bourguignon but made with beer and served with chips. Make sure you try the fish too, such as brown shrimp or eel in green sauce.
In addition to the hundred or so restaurants, the city is home to museums that are both fun and delicious: such as one dedicated to chocolate and one dedicated to chips, pretty much inevitable considering this is a Belgian city!
Lace: every lace shop has two display windows, one showing less expensive items and the other showing more expensive ones. Another option is to visit the lace schools, as some of these sell the items they have produced.
Chocolate: the city boasts some excellent chocolate makers, like that of Dumon.
Beer: in addition to the famous distillery here, there are many places where you can buy a whole host of Belgian beers.
Flemish biscuits: speculoos, 'noeuds de Bruges', lace biscuits, etc.
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