A is for Architecture.
For me, there is nothing better than the beauty of what occurs naturally in the world; mountains, rivers, open fields. Yet, I was expecting Bruges to be a pretty city and I was not disappointed. The architecture is at times absolutely stunning. I loved the “stepped” nature of the roofs and the grand buildings on Grote Markt were very impressive.
B is for Beer.
Well, obviously. Belgium is well known for the thousands of types of beer you can drink there and I definitely tried a few of them! I enjoyed a beer tasting in my hostel on the first night, but made the mistake of not eating dinner and the effects soon went to my head! Pretty much every beer you can buy (if we exclude the awful lagers on tap) was a minimum of 7% which is what I define as a strong beer in the UK! But they were so tasty. Some of the Trappist beers made in monasteries were some of my favourites.
C is for Chocolate.
Again, this is obvious. The chocolate is so, so, so good. It’s so smooth, so rich, so moreish. So naturally I went to Choco Story to see how it was made. It was a really good museum and had 4 floors to explore. There was lots of information on the history of chocolate from the Mayans and Aztecs, right through to ages to present day. And there was the all important demonstration and tasting. It was also a bonus as they literally give you a bar of chocolate when you arrive, then chocolate drops and then more chocolate at the end. Well worth the €8 entry fee.
D is for Dali.
I’m not really sure what the link is between Bruges and Salvador Dali, but there is an exhibition of his work in the Belfort on Grote Markt. I wouldn’t normally pay to go into an art exhibition, but I have often appreciated Dali’s work (The Persistence of Memory is a favourite) so I decided to go in. It’s quite a small venue, but there are loads of pieces I had never seen including a short film and statues; the audio guide was a great addition to the experience. One of my favourite collections was the collection of illustrations that Dali created for a publication of Alice and Wonderland. Does anyone fancy buying me one?
E is for Everything!
I really did love everything about Bruges! It is up there with Reykjavik and Ljubljana as my favourite cities in Europe. It’s laid back, beautiful, full of good food, good people, good drink and there is plenty to see and do. I loved it.
F is for Festival.
I was lucky enough to experience Wintervonken; a little street festival the city puts on to celebrate being halfway through winter. I only attended one evening but it was very entertaining. I froze my butt off watching a street theatre act which used a bus as it’s stage in Burg where acrobats wowed the audience with audacious moves on a tightrope. There was music, fire, water: everything I could have wanted from a bit of street theatre!
Good views were in abundance. Bruges is an urban area, but as urban areas go the views were brilliant. I wandered around Minnewaterpark in the south of the city and watched the swans. It was lovely and I think that when the trees turn green in the spring it must be absolutely stunning.
H is for Hat.
Sadly I lost my favourite hat on the train as I left Bruges. I was in such a hurry I left it behind 😦
At Choco Story there were some interesting pieces of chocolate “art”. People made of chocolate who loved it so much they ate their own arms… Some were less weird though, like this little smiling egg/hedgehog/something who just loved chocolate!
I stayed in the St Christopher’s Hostel at Bauhaus. The social area was really randomly decorated and it gave a really cool, independent vibe which fitted well with the myriad of travellers staying there. One of my favourite parts of the decoration was a giant, antique clock face in the restaurant. I imagine it must have been on the front of a clock tower on a town hall or similar as it was that large!
K is for Kids.
Or rather, a lack of. I really didn’t see many children during my short stay in Bruges. Which was quite odd, but also very refreshing as sometimes other people’s children can be quite overbearing when you are all frequenting the same attraction. Those children I did see were friendly, happy and actually brightened my day, like the little boy on the path by the windmills who had a huge smile and waved up at me on the small hill beside him.
L is for Lots of Canals.
I know, I’m pushing it with that use of the alphabet! Bruges is a canal-based city and they are really useful to help a visitor navigate the city. I did not go on a boat tour as it was so cold I wanted to warm myself up by walking everywhere. Some of the vistas where the canals are framed by an ancient bridge and fabulous townhouses were stunning. I could wander around the canals for hours.
The hostel had two candleholders that had been devoured by years of melted wax from candles. They were quite impressive, yet strangely a bit morbid to look at. The one in the photo had been made over the past 12 years!
Not only did I like the architecture, but I took a real shining to the house numbers that were painted on the front of many of the older residential, or formerly residential buildings. There were some more “extravagent” (if you can call them that) non-painted ones, but I liked these better.
O is for Oil Lamps.
At Wintervonken there were around 100 oil lamps hanging off wires overhead, one big vat of oil that was lit to provide warmth for the people stood around watching the music and around 50 large lilies which were a beautiful cross between art-installation and practical street lighting.
P is for People.
The people I met in Bruges were awesome and they definitely helped me to leave thinking about how much I loved the city! Everyone I met in the hostel, the people I shared a bench with at the winter festival, the man selling me a waffle. Everyone I encountered was friendly and kind.
Q is for Quirky.
There were a few quirky things about my hostel, as inevitably there are with most hostels. I like how all Belgian beers come with their own glass. Apparently each glass is designed to be paired with it’s named beer to enhance the taste. This glass for Kwak was my favourite: it was shaped like a flask you would see in a crazy scientist’s lab and needed to be supported by a wooden stand. Awesome.
R is for Roads.
A bit random but it makes the list because lots of the roads were cobbled and I loved them! Both the streets and the pavements were cobbled and as I had chosen to wear only practical shoes for all of my sightseeing I could appreciate them even more! I have a bit of a thing of taking pictures of my feet when I’m walking on interesting surfaces, hence the photo…
S is for Steps.
Climbing to the top of the Belfry’s 366 steps was a nice mini-workout on my first afternoon in Bruges. The view that you get as a reward for navigating tiny spirals as other visitors squeeze past on the way down is something special. I was lucky enough to visit on a clear winter’s day so was treated to wide panoramas. I particularly liked the way directions and distances to key cities were engraved in the windowsills.
T is for Town Hall.
Bruges Town Hall is on Burg square, the heart of city administration and is a rather impressive building. I did not pay to enter, but from outside one can really appreciate the intricacy of some of the gothic detailing on the facade. The architecture on the square is all rather different: next to the Town hall is the Old Civil Registry which is in Renaissance style and really stands out and there are plenty of other buildings with far less interesting style so I won’t mention them here!
U is for Ugly.
I’m scraping the barrel here as Bruges generally is not an ugly place. But, the train station is really nothing to shout about; it’s quite small and very incongruous with the historical buildings in the city centre. Likewise, it is a bit of a shame that the ring-road to the city centre is only separated from the pedestrian circular path by a canal so it’s quite noisy.
V is for Very Relaxing.
Relaxing is definitely a word I will always associate with Bruges. Even when hungover after a beer tasting I enjoyed wandering the city for hours, stopping in a cafe for a hot chocolate, to read my book and people watch. It is quite a slow paced city, but not in a sleepy, quaint English village way. Bruges has a character; it’s just laid back, personable and endearing.
W is for Windmills.
Bruges is flat. Very flat. Which made it an absolute dream to walk around for hours on end. I walked around the path which circled the main part of the city so I could visit the Windmills. I thought they were a very Dutch thing, but the Belgian ones were very pretty. Shame about the main road behind them though!
Well they’re made of chocolate, but boobs are pretty X-rated. That qualifies for this alphabet of Bruges, right?
Y is for Yummy!
For dinner on Friday night after Wintervonken I decided to eat at one of the restaurants on Grote Markt. I know these touristy restaurants often aren’t great, but I really enjoyed the “Flemish rabbit stew” with frites. The rabbit was really succulent and the gravy was just what I needed having sat outside in the freezing winter air for an hour and a half!
Z is for Zzzzz.
As hostels go, St Christopher’s Inn at the Bauhaus was a good all-rounder, even if they didn’t have enough plug sockets in the room! I certainly had no problem catching my zzzzz’s on the two nights I was there.