While staying Ghent, Nik and I took a day trip to the charming town of Bruges. We knew it was a small town and as part of our larger trip, we decided it would be best to go for the day.
Getting to Bruges
Ghent has a very good public transit system and the local tram was a block from our hotel. We hopped on that for the short ride to the Gent-Sint-Pieters railway station where we caught the train to Bruges.
Built for the 1913 World’s Fair, the Gent-Sint-Pieters station is beautiful. The interior of the station is decorated with murals and ceiling paintings of 13 Belgian cities.
If you find yourself in this train station, make sure to look up.
In medieval times, Bruges was known as a commercial metropolis in the heart of Europe thanks to its port. The city escaped two world wars with minimal damage and underwent an urban renewal project in the 1970s. Bruges is a prominent UNESCO World Heritage Site and now millions of people visit the city each year. It’s a pretty compact city and it was easy to make our way around by foot.
Belfry of Bruges
You may be familiar with the town of Bruges from the movie “In Bruges” starring Collin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson as two Irish hitmen hiding in Bruges. The movie was filmed in the city with a big scene at the Belfry of Bruges, a medieval bell tower in the centre square and one of the city’s most prominent symbols.
Nik and I set out walking towards Grote Markt, the central square of Bruges, where the Belfry is. We walked along the lovely canal stopping at Rozenhoedkaai (Rosary Quay) which is said to be the city’s most popular spot for photos. It’s the perfect turn in the canal and has the Belfry in the distance. I would love to see this spot on a sunny day.
A short while later we arrived to the square, which was also host to the Christmas Market so space was a little tighter to walk around.
The market was actually best viewed from above. We did pop in and walked through it but didn’t stay long enough to eat or drink there.
I love going to the top of cultural landmarks and other buildings to take in views of cities from above. The Belfry offers one such view but I read that an alternate view is from the Historium Tower.
The tower is not as high as the Belfry, but you see the Belfry! The Historium is a unique museum that tells the story of medieval Bruges, but we skipped that and only climbed the tower stairs.
The climb was 145 stairs and let’s just say I need to do more stairs at the gym. Once we reached the top, the exterior observation space was narrow and windy. It’s circular, which was cool because you can see all sides of the city, but there’s only one direction to walk so you’re only moving as fast as the people ahead of you are.
Leaving Grote Markt, Nik and I walked a different route away from the area which took us under an impressive arch. Researching this after the fact, the arch commemorates the residents of Bruges who perished in World War I.
As we started down the street (Kartuizerinnenstraat) we came upon a crypt that had a plaque on the facade.
It translates to:
Here in this crypt
rest the ashes of
from the Dachau concentration camp
We had no idea this crypt existed in Bruges and it’s proving challenging to find any additional information about it.
Further down the road on the facade of the building are seven plaques. Five are dedicated to the victims of World War I and two are in memory of victims of World War II. Depending on the plaque, the sections are broken up with text signifying who everyone was: officers, political prisoners etc. and if they were executed or deported.
Eating in Bruges
Our visit to Bruges was just for a few hours so we didn’t eat or drink in many places. As Nik and I walked towards the Markt, we got a delicious waffle from Laurence topped with chocolate sauce and powered sugar. It was the perfect size for sharing.
A friend gave me the name of a beer bar, Brugs Beertje, but it wasn’t open yet so we stopped into Brewery Bourgogne des Flandres. They had several beers on draft and small bites to snack on. The brewery also has a terrace along the canal, which had it been a nicer day, would’ve been great to enjoy.
Wanting to avoid a possible storm, we stayed for a drink and then headed back to the train station. We were so close and then it began to downpour on us.
Overall, we enjoyed our day trip to Bruges. I wish there was a little more sun, but the gray and overcast sky is what you get in December. We wanted to get back to Ghent for dinner, but easily could have spent a few more hours exploring Bruges.
Have you been to Bruges? What did we miss and should do next time?