With very little time in the city of Bruges, we were determined to fit in as much as possible. Luckily for us, there isn’t a great deal to do other than just soak up the city.
When we arrived in the afternoon, we checked into our hotel, freshened up and headed back out. By this point it was dark, so we wandered over to the main square to check out the Christmas market. It wasn’t quite as good as those we’d seen in Germany, but still had a fair bit to offer. There was a large ice rink in the middle too, with only about eight people on it. I didn’t really fancy it (I tend to end up just holding onto the edge) but insisted my boyfriend had a go. He didn’t fancy it too much either, so we decided to head off and explore!
A gentle stroll took us down several of the streets from Grote Markt and we actually saw a lot of the city. We walked down a street, saw what was going on before finding another street to make our way back to Grote Markt, and then heading down a different street. We eventually decided there’s only so much you can see in the dark, so grabbed a bite to eat from the Christmas market for dinner before heading back for an early night to make the most of our next, full day in Bruges.
Yet another early morning meant we were up and out bright and early. First stop was to check out the church we could see from our hotel room window. It looked like some kind of tomb, which freaked me out a bit. Upon closer inspection, we found out that it was a memorial tomb, and there was a video on loop playing telling the stories of people. We didn’t hang around there long – not only was it incredibly small, but I felt weird being there, kind of like walking through a graveyard. Can’t explain it, but we moved on quickly to the Basilica of the Holy Blood.
We had a bit of trouble finding the church, but after perusing the market in the square outside, we stepped in to have a look around. Unlike any of the other churches we had seen before, or indeed have seen since, there was a lot of decoration in the Basilica of the Holy Blood. I’m talking detailed wallpaper, lots of paintings, and several intricate statues. It was really interesting to visit, with free entry to the church and just a few euros to visit the museum, where what is claimed to be a vial of Jesus’ blood is held. We didn’t visit the museum as I didn’t realise the vial was there – I was under the impression it was in one of the statues.
Never mind, onwards we moved to carry on exploring the city. After a quick croissant and coffee for breakfast, we walked to the Jan van Eyck square. Jan van Eyck was a high-profile artist in Bruges, and the square where the statue stands is so interesting! There are buildings there that are hundreds of years old, and used to be used as customs buildings for the trade from the canals. After reading the information boards and hunting out a hidden statue of a bear, we continued with a walk along the canal.
Although Bruges reminds me of Amsterdam, the outer streets are so much quieter and there’s a sophisticated and calm feel to the city which I didn’t get in Amsterdam. As we carried on along the canal, we saw on the map that there was a windmill. I’ve never seen a windmill before, so we ventured to the outer city, had a quick snap with the windmill before heading back to the main square through the back roads. All I can say, is that the houses in Bruges are gorgeous and although we didn’t happen upon any large supermarkets, the small, local deli and butchers that we stumbled upon were amazing!
It took us a while, but we finally managed to find our way back to Grote Markt. And now for the big challenge – we were going to climb the Belfry Tower. 366 steps of sheer fear! There’s a separate post in the pipeline for the Belfry Tower because a few words just wouldn’t do it justice.
Once we’d made it back to the ground floor, I thanked my lucky stars and we retraced our steps from the night before to see everything in the daylight. We strolled down to Het Zand, which is a square about a 5-minute walk from Grote Markt. It’s just next to the Concertgebouw, and has a really pretty fountain, with some questionable statues. The square strikes me as a great place for a Christmas market, but there were no stalls when we visited – might have been because the square isn’t exactly buzzing, although there are loads of restaurants surrounding the square if you’re looking for a bite to eat.
A few photos taken, it was time to check out the churches! I really wanted to find Ouze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk, but the first church we found (which I initially thought was Ouze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk) was in fact Saint Salvadors Cathedral. I love churches, so of course loved looking around the church! By this point, we were getting a bit peckish so thought it was only right to find a tea shop and sample some famous Belgian waffles! Luckily for us, there was a tea room right next to the church, where my boyfriend and I shared a crispy Belgian waffle, covered with caramel sauce. I just wish we’d decided to get two waffles – one crispy and one sweet…yum, yum and more yum!
Time out over, we continued on our quest along the cobbled streets to find Ouze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk. Finally we found it, so had a look round before heading to the museum to see the famous Madonna and the Child. Unfortunately, we had just missed the opening times of the museum, so would have to see if we could pop in before heading off to Brussels the next day.
By this time we’d pretty much ticked off everything on our Bruges list, so had a look around the shops, treated ourselves to some yummy Belgian chocolate and grabbed a bite for dinner from the Christmas market in Grote Markt before turning in for the evening.
Bags were packed that evening in the hope it’d give us time to stop by the church in the morning. Unfortunately we just aren’t the most motivated people early in the morning, and we didn’t end up having time to revisit the church. Instead we decided to just head straight for Brussels to make the most of our time there. We also didn’t fancy trying to work out the buses again, and having seen how close the station was realised that it was well within walking distance. We just didn’t take into account the cobbled streets with a suitcase. Regardless, we made it to Bruges train station in just under half an hour (it can be done a lot quicker) and made our way to the platform for the train back to Brussels.
As we arrived on the platform, there was a double decker train sat waiting. I wasn’t silly enough to get my hopes up as I had on the journey to Bruges, only to be disappointed when a single decker actually came. It was getting close to our departure time, so I asked a member of staff where the double decker train was heading, and he said Brussels. Brussels? A double decker train to Brussels?! Excited didn’t cover it, and as we jumped on I couldn’t decide whether to sit upstairs or downstairs. I’ve never had the choice before! Upstairs was the winner, and after the ticket inspector had made his rounds I went to explore the different decks – didn’t take long. I’m glad I finally got to travel on a double decker train, although it wasn’t as exciting as I thought it might be.
Regardless, we arrived in Brussels, and got ready for the final leg of our trip!
- It’s possible to walk from the train station to the city centre, but if you want to get on the bus there are several that go through Grote Markt.
- A visit in winter means you get the Christmas markets, while a visit in the summer means you can take a boat tour.
- Pack your walking shoes – it’s such a lovely city to explore!