The One with Bruges, Belgium

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Our plan this day was to see both Bruges and Ghent before heading back to our rental. We decided to drive to Bruges first. Rick Steves recommended parking near the train station and then hopping a free bus into the city center. We did just that.

Inside the Bruges train station.
The bus dropped off us right in the heart of Bruges. With pointy gilded architecture, stay-a-while cafes, vivid art, and dreamy canals dotted with swans, Bruges is a heavyweight sightseeing destination, as well as a joy. The name Bruges, or Brugge in Dutch, comes from the Viking word for wharf. Right from the start, Bruges was a trading center. By the 14th century Bruges had a population of 35,000 (as big as London at the time) and was an economic powerhouse. Unfortunately, by the 16th century, the harbor had silted up and the economy collapsed. Belgium on the whole became a minor Habsburg possession and Bruges' golden age abruptly ended. Today, Bruges prospers because of tourism: it's a uniquely well-preserved Gothic city. 
The Markt, or market square, is ringed by the post office, restaurants, great old gabled buildings, and the bell tower. It is the modern heart of the city. In the old days a canal came right up to this square making this area the center of commerce and trade. 
Most of the bell tower has stood over the Markt since 1300. The octagonal lantern was added in 1486 making it 290 feet high. The tower combines medieval crenellations, pointed Gothic arches, round Roman arches, flamboyant spires, and even a few small flying buttresses two-thirds of the way up.
Despite the fact that it was 366 steps to the top of the tower, and a fairly hefty admission price, I couldn't resist the chance for epic views of this charming city. I headed into the interior courtyard and found the entrance to the bell tower. 
Totally worth it! Bruges in all its glory. 
While climbing you can see into the carillon room. The tower has 47 bells that are played mechanically or with the manual keyboard. 
Fun to see the not-straight-streets from up high!
I used an instagram filter to achieve this "miniature" effect!
The Evans Family in Bruges, Belgium on Thursday April 16th, 2015.
Aren't these buildings adorable? So cute!
The statue in the square depicts two friends, Jan Breidel and Pieter de Coninc, clutching sword and shield and looking toward France as they lead a popular uprising against the French king in 1302. 
Gothic Bruges.
I need to get me one of these pretty floral bike backpacks! And a bike while we're at it...
Even though the kids got a huge cone-o-fries while I was climbing the tower (with delicious curry ketchup!), we decided it was time for waffles. We were proud of maximizing our time in Belgium with excessive waffle, fry, and chocolate consumption. These waffles from Chez Albert just off the Markt were Chris' favorite. Especially with the hot cherries and whipped cream.
Looking back to the bell tower from Burg Square.
This opulent square is Bruges' historical birthplace, political center, and religious heart. Panning the square you can see 600 years of architecture: Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque.
The Church of the Holy Blood is a unique double-decker church build by a brave Crusader to house the drops of Christ's blood he'd brought back from Jerusalem.
The upper chapel's original Romanesque decor was redone by 19th century Romantics in a neo-Gothic style. The nave is colorful, with a curved wooden ceiling, painted walls, and stained-glass windows of the dukes who ruled Flanders.
Down Blinde-Ezelstraat you can see an original iron hinge from the city's south gate from when the city was ringed by a moat and closed nightly at 22:00.
A mini "Bridge of Sighs".
The fish market sells fresh fish from the North Sea which is just 12 miles away. Along with fish, it mostly sells souvenirs.
Beautiful Bruges!
Huidevettersplein is a tiny, picturesque square filled with restaurants. It was originally the headquarters of the town's skinners and tanners.
Oh how I'd love to just sit here for a couple hours, sip hot chocolate, and people watch!
A postcard-worthy view! Can you see the bell tower's tilt? It leans about 4 feet. The tilt has been carefully monitored since 1740, but no change has been detected.
The view is the essence of Bruges: a quiet canal lined with old houses with the bell tower in the background.
Down the street loomed the huge spire of the Church of Our Lady, the tallest brick spire in the Low Countries.
Walkin' along, passing a cute bookstore.
I love when you can look down both sides of a street.
If you've seen Monuments Men, or read the book, you know that Bruges is home to a Michelangelo sculpture, his Madonna and Child from 1504, housed in the Church of our Lady.
As Michelangelo chipped away at the masterpiece of his youth, David, he took breaks by carving this piece. 
This church stands as a memorial to the power and wealth of Bruges in its heyday. I mean, they got the only sculpture by Michelangelo that left Italy while the artist was alive!
There was some renovation going on in the church, but I liked how the wood panels blocking off the work seems to slice right through the stone church.
A beautiful canal view. The canal was part of the city moat.
Stop looking at me SCHWAAAAN.
Minnewater and Beijnhof are two quiet locations filled with sun, shade, water, and swans. When locals see these swans they recall the 15th-century mayor - famous for his long neck - who collaborated with the Austrians. The townsfolk beheaded him as a traitor. The Austrians warned them that similarly long-necked swans would inhabit the place to forever remind them of this murder. And they do...
So peaceful and lovely.
I really liked this fence.
I could walk around this place forever!
I love how the river and land are almost the same level.
After enjoying the tranquility we found some lunch near the train station then headed off to our next stop: Ghent!


  1. Dude, those Chez Albert waffles? In-freaking-credible. I could have eaten nine of those. And the curry ketchup with the fries from the little stand right in front of the bell tower? Delish. Cute town. Anywhere that I has a piece by Michelangelo is alright with me.

  2. I love "traveling with" your family through these gorgeous places. Thanks so much for taking the time to blog about your travels. It always puts a smile on my face to read through them and often takes me on my own "travels" as I do more online research to learn more about some of the places you mention!

    I know your blog will be a family treasure one day about these yrs in your lives, but they are so much for your readers as well!


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