From Brussels, I hopped on a train to Bruges for a day and did my own walking tour. I arrived at the city’s train station around 10 in the morning and wasted no time. As soon as I exited, I went right away to the Tourist Information Office. I asked for a map and the lady behind the counter was very helpful. She gave me a map of the city’s attraction and recommended that it’s best to go on for to discover the city. I told her that it’s what I intended to do. Since I’m bad at reading maps, I sat down for a while and pinned all the places on my google maps for convenience.
All About Bruges
Bruges is a quaint little town in Belgium that has wonderfully preserved Romanesque and Gothic architecture. It has such a romantic atmosphere with old world charm that you will immediately come under its spell. Bruges is a spectacularly endearing place. Bruges feels like a place that popped out of a fairy tale storybook and dropped in today’s world. The cobbled streets, the grand squares the scenic canals and soaring ancient towers make you wonder, why were you not there before? As you wander around and behold the sights, you can nibble on luscious chocolates, munch on scrumptious waffles and binge on crunchy fries with a variety of sauces, to keep your hunger at bay.
Walking Tour on My Own – A Day in Bruges
Once you get out of the train station, go across the street and you’ll find a green park with a lake in it. This is where I started my own walking tour. Here’s what I did in order of my discovery.
Located near the southern end of town is the beautiful Minnewaterpark which has the tranquil and romantic Minnewater lake. It is also called the Lake of Love. Large flocks of swans swim the water of the lake to give it a serene look.
The Begijnhof is a housing complex for a closed community of women who have dedicated their lives to God but not withdrawing totally from the world. Today, the Benedictine nuns occupy the place but I didn’t see one of them. Amazingly, the place is quiet and the tree shades can be your refuge during summer months. Across the bridge, you’ll find an array of restaurants that serve Belgian cuisine.
In the middle ages, the wealthy townspeople funded hostels for the poor and the old. These are small, low, modest whitewashed brick houses built in rows which scattered across the town. Some of these are still occupied by poor, elderly and widows.
If you’re looking to get a taste of local art in Bruges then the this is the perfect museum to visit. It has one of the most important art collections of Belgium. It displays Belgian masters from Jan van Eyck to Marcel Broodthaers and other neoclassical masterpieces of expressionism and postwar modern art.
Statues of the Four Horsemen of Apocalypse
The Arendt’s Garden is the place to visit if you want to see the unique modern sculptures of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. These riders are described in the Book of Revelations, in the New Testament of the Bible and symbolize; Conquest, War, Famine, and Death.
Church of Our Lady / Notre Dame Church
This Gothic church was built in the Middle Ages. At 115 meters, its church tower is the second highest brick tower in the world. It is a beautiful church but its main attraction is ‘Madonna and Child’, a white marble sculpture by Michelangelo.
The Markt is the historic market square in the center of the city that has restaurants, shops, hotels, museums and you can spend hours exploring it. There are many fascinating medieval-style buildings around it like Provincial Palace, the statues of Jan Breydel and Pieter de Coninck, but it is dominated by the 13th-century Belfry.
The 83-meter tall tower of the belfry is visible from all over Bruges and is its most visible landmarks. If you dare to climb the very narrow and steep staircase of 366 steps all the way to the top, you get a grand panoramic view of the city and surrounding countryside. In the movie, the Belfry appears in key moments of the film.
Salvador Dali Museum
Located right below the Belfry, you can admire a relatively unusual collection of authentic works of art, graphics, and statues by the great Spanish artist Salvador Dalí. The décor of the exhibition space is Daliesque with mirrors, with colors of gold and pink.
This small square is the ancient heart of the city. There are many attractive buildings surrounding the square, built in a variety of architectural styles. There is the majestic Town Hall, Basilica of the Holy Blood, the Palace of Liberty and the Court of Justice.
Basilica of the Holy Blood
Built in 1557, this basilica has remarkable frescoes and stained glass windows, which depict the journey of the most important relic in the basilica – a vial which contains purportedly, real drops of blood of Jesus Christ.
This canal and street have become famous being one of the most photographed places. Buy a postcard in the city and there’s a fat chance that the photo was taken from here. In the 18th century vendors used to sell rosaries along the street. It is a very picturesque scene with the canal and belfry looming up in the background.
Voormalige Hanzekwartier Windmills
The windmills of Bruges are located at the edge of the city boundary. It is a long walk but worth it, for the spectacular view of the city. Some of the windmills are open to the public and are still in working condition.
Canal Boat Trip
I didn’t do this but it looks like most tourists would do this. If you find time to take one of the half-hour boat tours in the canals. The scenic view is breathtaking and the city appears glorious, from a different angle. It is a very enjoyable cruise dotted by wry humor of the captain of the boat who will tell you the history of the passing landmarks, mixed with his funny anecdotes.