...it's in BELGIUM.
From the moment I heard this very line (from the opening scene of the 2008 movie In Bruges), I knew I had to go one day. The city's 12th century canals, cobblestone streets, and medieval architecture provide the perfect backdrop for this surreal movie that manages to be insanely offensive with over the top politically incorrect dialogue, yet serious at the same time - by the end of the movie, I was in love (with Bruges that is)....and seven years later - I finally got to go!
There's no real plan for the day, except to take the 6 am train from Brussels to Bruges (55-min ride) and just walk around. We weren't in any hurry, just enjoyed walking around - everywhere you look, there's something interesting, and the city is so small you can walk everywhere within a couple of hours. One of Europe's best-preserved medieval towns and also known as Europe's Venice of the North, Bruges is so incredibly beautiful and enchanting and....you just need to go there!
Walking down Oostmeers
Not a soul in sight
Still wandering down Oostmeers, enjoying the peace and quiet
Nothing better than wandering around here and noticing the details, like the lace curtained windows and the quaint wooden doors
I am soooo glad we came here before all the other tourists
Looking down Zonnekemeers (where do they get these street names??)
It's like stepping back in time, everything is so beautifully preserved
Every side street - this is Bakkersstraat - is insanely cute
I mean, look at this!
So old, but so pretty
YOU'VE GOTTA SEE...
Just down Mariastraat is the oldest hospital in Europe. Though we didn't go in (since it's 7 am and nothing's open), it's still sight to see from the outside. A working hospital for over 800 years, it now houses the Memling Museum that contains a treasure trove of many beautiful paintings.
CHURCH OF OUR LADY
The Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk (try saying that 3 times fast!) was high my list of sites I wanted to see because this is where Michelangelo's famous sculpture Madonna and Child is housed. It's also home to the tombs of Charles the Bold and Mary of Burgundy. Again, since it's 7 am, we missed all the art treasures inside and settled for walking around the exterior and gazing up at its 122-metre tower (the tallest in the city, and the tallest brick tower in Europe).
A house with beautiful overflowing gardens
Walking around the grounds of the Old St. John's Hospital (Sint-Janshospitaal)
You can see the tower of the Church of Our Lady - tower stands 122.3 metres tall is tallest structure in this medieval city
Wonder where this will bring us...
Doors to the Sint-Janhospitaal - one of the oldest hospitals in Europe, it now houses the Memling Museum, the hospital museum and the old pharmacy
View of Sint-Janhospitaal from the bridge on Mariastraat
I can't get over how cute everything is here
I wonder how much one of these houses go for...?
The popular Gruuthuse Hof restaurant in Bruges
Ah crap, looks like a tour group up ahead...was enjoying having the city all to ourselves!
Maybe we should rent a bike (they're only 6 EUR per hour) to stay ahead of the incoming crowds
YOU'VE GOTTA SEE...
The central square of Bruges - and the scene of where many interesting things happened in the movie - is called by many names...Market Square, Central Square, De Markt, Grote Markt. Whatever it's really called, it's the heart of the city, and one of the most picturesque. It's here you'll find the Belfort (Belfry Tower), the Provinciaal Hof (Provincial Court) the statue of Pieter De Coninck and Jan Breydel, and the colourful row of guild houses that seem to pop up in every photo of the square.
Finally reached the historic centre - Bruge's Grote Markt, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
In the square's centre stands the statue of Jan Breydel and Pieter de Coninck
Belfort - the Belfry of Bruges on market square
Row of colour guild houses on the square
The Neo Gothic-style Provinciaal Hof (Province Court) in Grote Markt
Horse-carriage rides in Grote Market
Historium - a fairly new museum/experience that brings to life the history of the city
Love this colourful row of guild houses!
Time for a quick coffee and off to see the rest of Bruges
Maybe I could do with some chocolate too.....
Old building after old building, but these gingerbread/candy-looking houses makes you feel like your in a fairytale
Every time you walk down a street, you find another building (buildings!) of incredible beauty
There isn't one spot in Bruges that's not photo-worthy!
YOU'VE GOTTA SEE...
CANALS & BRIDGES
Bruges is not called the Venice of the North without a reason. Dominated by tons of picturesque canals and bridges - picture perfect scenery can be found around every corner. It's like a smaller, sweeter, more compact version of Venice or Amsterdam. I'd have to say, that walking along the canals of Bruges (before the crowds) is what you should really come here to do.
I did not do my research very well before travelling to Bruges. In fact, besides seeing the movie, I had no idea what to see. Sometimes this is a good thing because we came across something unexpected - who knew there were windmills in Bruges? Not like a field of them or anything, but there's four to be exact - Bonne Chiere, Sint-Janshuysmill, Nieuwe Papegaai, Koeleweimill - 2 of them are operational and open to the public. It's always nice to be surprised and find something unexpected!
Then, you turn another corner and you get this....
This is just a beautiful place to be
Impossible to find one ugly street in this city!
As you can see, Bruges is known as the Venice of the North for a reason
The canals definitely add to the atmosphere and character of this tiny city
Even on an overcast, dreary day, you can still see the incredible beauty and charm of Bruges
The houses and bridges along the canals are picture perfect
It's like walking on a movie set....everything is too perfect
No one locks up their bikes here
So peaceful, such an air of tranquility.... I could definitely live in this city - in a house like this!
Our wandering has taken us to get a glimpse of Grootseminarie (Major Seminary)
Walking down Peterseliestraat to see the Sint-Janshuysmill (windmill)
Cute resto - Storme / Veronique - on the corner of Peterseliestraat and Carmersstraat
View of St Sebastiaan(Kon.Hoofdgilde)vzw - a private archery guild
Sint-Janshuysmill - built in 1770 and is still a functional windmill
Another of Bruges 4 windmills - Koeleweimill
Walking along the Kruisvest (canal path)
Seems bikes can go anywhere here!
Back on the streets of the historic centre - I assume this translates to "Bakery"
A quick peek into some shops, then it's time to head back to the train station - next stop - GHENT!
Photos taken | written by JENNIFER MAHON
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