Bruges was always on our “must” destination list if we visited Europe. Expecting to see a small medieval city with the iconic Bell Tower as featured in the movie, “In Bruges”, we were shocked to turn the corner of the winding brick road into the city and find a commercial boulevard with a Zara, McDonald’s, Claire’s and all the modern stores found in the local mall. What?
That being said, parts of Bruges were well preserved and, if you get off the main street, you can find quaint historic houses from the 9th century as well as 17 churches (16 Catholic/1 Protestant) to wonder through and lovely bridges over canals for picture-taking. The train station is conveniently located within walking distance of this town which used to be on the sea until it retreated. Global warming may one day make it seaside again-you never know.
The highlight for my husband Thom was walking up the 336 steep steps to the Belfry tower on the main square. In the movie, someone is pushed off the top and lands SPLAT in the square below in the film. Not my kind of movie but whatever-it was an interesting climb up teeny, tiny stairs with only a rope in certain places to cling to. Just like the Great Wall, this is not ADA friendly and if you fall and get hurt, good luck getting back down those stairs because no one is helping you down and there isn’t an elevator. Still, the view was stunning from the top!
I talked Thom into a horse-drawn carriage ride around town. While he has never consented to one of these in NYC, he relented and ended up enjoying the guide’s history lesson as we galloped through the narrow streets. You definitely could imagine days past when horses were the only mode of transportation and, when the final bell of the evening sounded from the tower, the gates to the city were closed to protect against marauders.
Though it was a long ride with a stop in Brussels to change trains, the 8 hours of train ride were just another part of the Bruges adventure. Arriving home tired and ready to get a good night’s sleep, we were glad we had finally been “In Bruges”.
Time your trip to arrive on market day in the town square. The waffles are to die for and local arts and crafts are perfect gifts to take home.