If you have a couple of days in Brussels, I definitely suggest you to take a train and visit one of the charming Belgian cities. As the country isn’t huge, the distances between these cities are relatively small and within an hour you can find yourself in one of them. Our choice was Bruges thank to its fascinating architecture and special medieval atmosphere.
Bruges or Brugge (whatever you prefer) is the capital of West Flanders with roughly 118 000 inhabitants and often referred to as the Venice of the North (beside the couple of other cities which got this title as well). The historic center is on the list of the UNESCO World Heritage Site and I am not exaggerating when I’m saying that at every corner you can find a famous attraction.
We left Brussels around 8:00 in the morning and after roughly an hour the impressive tower of the Belfry showed up at the train’s window. Our way from the train station led straight to The Markt or Market Square.
It is so easy to be lost in the beauty of the buildings surrounding the place, just to mention the most important ones: the Belfry and Cloth Hall and the Provincial Court. In the rest of the buildings cafés and restaurants follow each other which gives an extra excuse to sit down next to a waffle or beer to enjoy the fascinating atmosphere of this place. The square still gives home to a market on Wednesdays with local products, in addition medieval festivals and tournaments. If you accept the challenge, do not miss to climb the 366 stairs of the Belfry which lead you up to the top of the 83 meter high building.
With a short walk you can reach the Basilica of the Holy Blood, where according to the legend the Blood of Christ is preserved. The relic can be viewed by the public on every Friday or every day between the 3rd and 17th of May.
After these interesting pieces of history, it is time to turn our attention again to the Belgian cuisine. I was never really a fan of beer until I found out that there is a whole new world waiting to be discovered beside the pilsner. Since then I cannot imagine a perfect summer day without drinking a witbier. The BeerWall gives you a great glimpse on the Belgian beer culture. It is a pub and store at the same time and with its great variety of beers it is impossible to leave the place without drinking at least one glass of beer while enjoying the view on the canals. Since you’re sitting there, you can easily understand why the town is called the Venice of the North.
If you want to put the sightseeing in a different perspective, it is a good idea to take a canal cruise and discover the cobblestone buildings on water where you can get some more historical insights.
Don’t miss the Beguinage either, this complex was once a home of religious women who lived in community, but did not have to entirely retire from the world or take vows. Walking around in the garden it is prohibited to make loud noises or take photos which gives this place a ceremonial atmosphere.
It is a very good idea to finish your day in one of the world famous chocolate shops, there are plenty around the town and if you are on a diet, it is still satisfying just to check out the beautiful products.
If we visit Belgium for the second time, we'll definitely book a hotel in Bruges, because there are much more to see here than in Brussels. I don't want to look down on the merits of Brussels, because that is a beautiful and interesting city too, however it is so much easier to fell in love with Bruges at the first time.
Check out the visitbruges.com where you can find more useful infos about the seasonal events as well.