Spend the night, the weekend, or the week
While many tourists are inclined to tackle the whole of Belgium in once fell swoop, often visiting Antwerp, Bruges, and Ghent in day trips leaving from Brussels, Culture Trip recommends at least one extra night spent in the “Venice of the North.” While the city core may be relatively small, day-trippers run the risk of dropping their jaws at the (admittedly gorgeous) Burg and Markt squares, clambering up the Belfry, devouring a waffle, and being on their way again. And all of this when Bruges’ core – medieval and UNESCO-labeled as it is – hasn’t even begun to reveal its most charming secrets or its sumptuous hotels.
The best things in life are free: an evening stroll along the canals
Another idyllic experience you’d miss out on if you had to hurriedly catch your train or bus is a walk along the canals as evening falls. Once the streets, with its illuminated lampposts, have quieted and you’ve found your way to the Groenerei, Sint-Annarei or Gouden-Handrei, prepare to feel like the only person in this enchanting world.
Don’t expect thumping dance parties
In keeping with the slumber that rests over its medieval center once the sun sets, Bruges’ nightlife isn’t so much about wild parties as it is about bar hopping. Besides the Eiermarkt, with its student bars and the odd brasserie that hosts live DJ sets at night, it’s pretty much cozy terraces and cellar pubs all the way. Bruges fixtures such as De Garre, ‘t Brugs Beertje, and ‘t Poatersgat and their endless supply of great Belgian beers always set the right tone.
It’s proposal central
As your handheld saunter along the canals will attest to, there’s hardly a place that has sent more hearts aflutter than Bruges. Romantic sceneries are unavoidable, so commitment-phobes might want to opt out of this one, lest your partner gets the wrong idea. You’d certainly want to sidestep Café Rose Red, a charming little dwelling where roses dangle from the ceiling and many lovebirds emerge newly engaged.
Surrendering to comfort food will make your life easier
Your upcoming trip to Bruges, a gourmet kind of town in a Burgundian kind of land, is not the time to stick to that well-intentioned diet. Either it will fail, or you will make yourself miserable walking past about 50 chocolate shops, numerous waffle places, and the country’s only museum dedicated to its beloved fries (yes, samples are involved). Homey restaurants such as Den Amand, Den Huzaar, Ganzespel, and Gran Kaffee de Passage serve top-notch comfort food of the Flemish kind.
Know your tourist refugees
Of course, there’s one problem with well-preserved Bruges: everyone is in on the secret. The cat’s been out of the bag since before the 20th century even started when the French and the English came in droves to witness the medieval splendor for themselves. Yet even in summer, there are certain spots you can count on to be (relatively) safe from the masses. The hidden urban orchard Hof De Jonghe is one, and so is the tranquil but beautiful Sint-Anna Quarter. Though the beguinage might be a tourist classic, quiet reverence still reigns supreme there.
If you can’t stand crowds, go during wintertime
If being packed like sardines in summer isn’t your thing, early December and the whole of January are real sweet spots in Bruges’ busy schedule. In both cases, the city bears all the markings of a winter wonderland, though you don’t want to push it too close to actual Christmas if flocks of tourists are your biggest pet peeve.