You would expect any Unesco World Heritage site to be spectacular, to instantly capture your heart and provide you with a sense not only of history but of the achievement of the people who built it. What you might not expect is to feel that you have never quite explored all of it, that some part remains elusive, unexplored and draws you back again and again.
Brugge, or Bruges is one of those places. It’s easy to define the appeal and no end of praise for the city can be found wherever you look on the internet or in travel books. Flemish architecture has a charming appeal as does anywhere built on and around water. Towering buildings, many heavily decorated, brick, plastered or timbered rise up from cobbled streets, jagged crow-stepped gable facades make for picture perfect street scenes and a photographer or painters paradise. Tucked in-between, some now even hidden, yet essential to the cities identity are the waterways. These days they ply tourists amongst swans, ducks and coots; the winding channels provide an allure that only watery settings can kindle in human hearts. Is it something primeval that dwells within all of us or just an acquired romantic image we nurture? Calm reflections of sunlight and foliage touch an inner peace and send a calmness through us, a release from the pressures of modern life.
The magic of Brugge for me is the sense I always get of discovery. It doesn’t matter how many times I visit, there always seems to be a new street to find, a new scene to enjoy. I realised early on that although there are a finite number of streets, alleyways and parks to wander through, what changes the feel of the city is the route you choose to approach from. By the nature of the architecture and growth of the city, although much is uniform, so much is not. Approach a square from one side and be captivated, the next day enter it from another direction and be enthralled by how it takes on a completely different character.
Brugge is beautiful in the sunshine but see it with snow on the rooftops or rain glistening on the cobbles and you discover another aspect of its personality.
I never tire of its charm and love introducing it to new people.
There are things to do aplenty there, visit museums, galleries and historic buildings. If you enjoy shopping or have a passion for chocolate then you can lose many a happy hour here.
Take a carriage ride around the streets or explore the waterways on a boat tour to see the city from a different angle but do make sure you make time to saunter the side streets, cross the main thoroughfares and perhaps pick up some street food to see you through to your next stop, pause in a cafe and watch the world go by as you idle a moment away, do explore the city, look up and around and you’ll soon find why so many people adore this wondrous place.
I’m very fortunate to live so close to Dover and Folkestone. Getting to Brugge is incredibly easy.
You can go on Eurostar via Brussels or choose to take your car on Eurotunnel.
I’m something of an old-fashioned person and still enjoy a trip above water. There is a satisfaction in seeing land recede and water stretch out, psychologically I know I am leaving on an adventure and there’s a sense of anticipation that builds as we get further from England. Yes the ferry is a slower way to cross and probably won’t be your first choice if speed is your only concern. For me nothing beats sitting down at a table in The Brasserie, ordering a full cooked breakfast and watching the white cliffs recede as I sip an orange juice. It’s a great way to start an early journey and for me the perfect start to a trip. If you fancy a more leisurely start to your holiday visit the P & O Ferry Website and I would recommend you give them a ring just to see if there is a last-minute special offer on.
On our most recent visit we stayed at The Pand Hotel a delightful 18th century building right in the heart of the city. The staff are delightful, incredibly helpful and the breakfasts, if you choose a cooked one are done on the Aga.
There are a wealth of wonderful places to stay around the city and part of the charm of planning a visit is finding one that suits you.
For more information on Brugge
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