Bruges (Brugge -bru guh- to the locals)
A Little history
Bruges like Siena is a city that became stuck in time. While Siena's misfortune was due to Florence and the plague, the North Sea is to blame for Bruges. It was, up until the 1500's a thriving commercial powerhouse. Many of the goods destined for the mainland, came through Bruges' canals. The merchants, workers and of course city tax collectors made their money and Bruges prospered. Beautiful homes, city buildings, shops and Cathedrals went up.
During that century, as their access to the North Sea silted in, business and 75% of its population headed out. Many went north to Antwerp. Bruges just sat and waited, and finally we came. The rush to Bruges started as wealthy French and British travelers put it on the must see list in the late 1800's. We've been pouring in from all over the world ever since.
The Historical Center
Today the Old City Center - a World Heritage Site - survives on tourism. But even though it's packed with tourist shops, cafes and tourists it's an outstanding place to visit.
Bruges, like Siena, doesn't have any single Colosseum size attractions. The main attraction in Bruges is Bruges. There are art galleries, museums, breweries and lace shops to visit and of course a Michelangelo sculpture to see, but Kim and I, like many others we saw and visited with, simply wandered the streets day and night (it was too cold in December to rent bicycles). We didn't pay a single entrance fee in 3 and a half days, not being cheap, there was just so much city to see. There's an excellent tourist information center in the train station, full of tips to help you on your way.
Chocolate, chocolate, and chocolate
With all of our tourist trekking we didn't feel the least bit guilty indulging in one of the favorite pastimes in Bruges - eating fine chocolate. The shops seem to be everywhere. They are all a little different with their own specialties and were all busy. Chocolate in Bruges is formulated to be eaten fresh daily, like bread. The best doesn't travel well. Ask at the shops for the "made to take back home" treats, for all the chocoholics in your life.
Early Christmas in Bruges?
If you want to see the Christmas Markets and the city all lit up, early December is a good time to visit. The markets and ice skating rink are set up and running, but you will be in and out before the big rush right around the holidays when the city and its lodging fills up. Take warm clothes. The combination of the North Sea breeze with high humidity can make it feel bitterly cold especially along the canals. Be sure to sample the Belgian Fries and sip or gulp some Gluhwine. It does help keep you warm!
Great Public Transport
Bruges has excellent public transportation with buses running all over the old city and to outlying attractions like the WWII memorials. Purchase tickets - individual, daily and other choices - just in front of the clean train station. Out the front doors to the left. The station also has lockers. We used them on our last day after checking out of the Bed and Breakfast Bariseele early. We hopped a bus, dumped the bags and headed back into the city for a few more hours of tourist trekking while waiting for our train. The station is on the edge of the old city, less than a mile or so from the main square.
And Finally a Great Place to Stay
Bed and Breakfast Bariseele , in the northeast section, is a good choice for lodging. Benny is an attentive, informative host overseeing 3 clean rooms. It's 15 minutes from the main plaza, away from the hubbub of the center. And he sets an excellent breakfast table. A link is on the links page, naturally. Book ahead, it's getting popular.
From Bruges Fans -----
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