Europe off the Beaten Path!!

On the Canal Cruise  Courtesy: Toerisme Brugge, Jan Darthet

A walk along the canal in the evening when Bruges is emptier is a must! Courtesy: Toerisme Brugge and Jan Darthet

  Contents
  1. About Bruges
  2. Must see in Bruges
  3. Approximate Travel Costs
  4. Best way to see Bruges
  5. How to get here
  6. Where to stay
  7. Where to eat
  8. Itinerary - Day 1
  9. Itinerary - Day 2
  10. Itinerary - Day 3


Below - Catch the Harpist Luc Vanlaere in a live concert!  

Below - Enjoy Lissewege - a quintessentially Belgian village just half an hour north of Bruges! Courtesy: Toerisme Brugge and Jan D'Hondt

Understand the chocolate story - the history of the Belgian chocolate! Courtesy: Toerisme Brugge and Jan D'Hondt

Expensive but out of this world - For the Best Belgian chocolates, do not miss to shop from the Chocolate Line! 

Day 2: Bruges

AgendaCost (In Euro)
The Belfry for panoramic views of Bruges8
Walk around the town centre Priceless
Visit the excellent churches Priceless
The Chocolate Story - Understand the history of the Belgian chocolates and shop for chocolates7
Luc Vanlaere Concert - A Harpist concert (A must see even for the non-music lovers)Free but tips recommended


Get up early and move straight to the Belfry, right in the middle of the town. The Belfry is the bell tower  towering above the city, it has a symbolic presence and a reminder of the medieval age. To have panoramic views and excellent photo opportunities, one can climb up the 366 narrow and winding stairs.

​Once back down, enjoy the Historic Centre of Bruges, the Markt also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Sit down in a café, have a glass of beer, grab some brunch. For those who still want activity, go ahead and visit the numerous churches which remind one of gothic architecture. Take a walk along the cobble stone paths.  For those inclined towards arts, check on the Groeninge Museum which have excellent work by many Flemish artists.

​​Belgian chocolates are world famous. And Bruges is the nirvana for the chocolate lovers. Let’s start with a tour of the Chocolate Museum which will bust a few myths that most of us carry – chocolate caused cholesterol (wrong – chocolate actually reduces it), chocolate caused fatness (dark chocolates do not). It also tells us about the history of the chocolate (right since the 16th century) and how the conversion from cocoa into actual chocolate that we consume has evolved, the discovery of the dark chocolate and many other things. Understand the recipes too to make the perfect chocolates! Overall, most people give this a miss and directly head into the chocolate shops. In our view, the visit to the Chocolate Museum is not to be missed.

​​Once done, make a beeline for those outstanding chocolate shops. There are plenty of them in the Markt, in fact almost all over Bruges - all of them very good. The most well known one was The Chocolate Line, just a couple of minutes of walk away. The chocolates are amazing, the spread is insane. There may be more than a hundred varieties of chocolates on offer. Specifically check out the pralines – hard chocolate shells with nuts garnished. They just melt in the mouth. It’s a shame that there are no free samples given out. Belgian chocolates are expensive but they are hand-made and the quality is just outstanding. Each piece costs 50 cents so choose well. For cheaper versions, buy from the supermarkets - "Jacques" where chocolates are much cheaper. Generally expect to pay Euro 3 for 100 grams of Belgian hand made chocolates. 

​​Very few shops offer free samples. In that context try “Dumon Chocolatier”, right around the corner from the Markt. The mother and daughter duo are super friendly and will offer you some free samples. And the chocolates are yum!! We get pralines, chocolate biscuits, dark chocolates, white chocolates, liquor chocolates, with nuts etc. At a general level, we found the walnut chocolates yum!! But do not miss on the pralines either. They’re excellent.

​​Belgians are proud of their chocolate quality and pedigree and rarely every offer discounts to attract customers. Based on prices, try “Lady Chocolates”. They offer discounts and finer prices and one may find it crowded at most times.

Round up your day with a visit to the harpist, Luc Vanlaere in Oud Sint Jan, about 200 metres from the Markt Square. While music and Bruges don’t really go hand in hand, Luc Vanlaere connects them. We stumbled upon his concert pretty much by chance but funnily, in the land of canals, it was this concert which was the highlight!! The concert house is not very big – about 40-50 people at best which makes the performance more personal. And the entry is free!! However, tips and donations are recommended. There are usually three performances in the day – starting at 3 pm and the last one at about 6 pm. For the music lovers as well as non-music lovers - NOT TO BE MISSED!!

Bruges - Team Europe Unexplored's Suggested Itinerary

Day 1: Bruges - Orientation


DetailsCost (In Euro)
Quasimundo Bike Tours
26
Canal Cruise7.6
Bruges by nightPriceless


To get a basic orientation of the city, it is essential to take a guided tour. Plenty of options are available – cycling, walking, segway, boat and horse carriage and we would recommend you definitely take at least one among them - preferably the Biking Tour. It is a fun way of seeing the city, quality of guides is top notch and one can cover a lot more area in the same time using a bike. Biking is not very tiring either as Bruges’ landscape is very flat with no inclines. 


DetailsBike TourWalking TourHorse CarriageSegwayCanal 
Price per person (In Euro)26939508
Duration4 hours2 hours35 mins2 hours35 min
Area covered20-25 km4-5 km2-3 km8-9 km10-12 km
Quality of guidesExcellentVery goodGoodVery goodGood
Value for moneyExcellentVery goodAverageVery goodVery good


Post-afternoon, take a Canal cruise. This tour offers a much closer view of the canal and must do in our opinion. Check schedules at www.welkom-brugge.be


Go back to your hotel, take rest and come back refreshed for an evening in Bruges. Filled with day trippers during the day, Bruges is quieter and much more beautiful in the eveningThe moonlight shining on the calm canal waters where one can see clear reflection of the surrounding structures can be poetry in motion. Keep it simple, take a walk along the canal, and soak in the atmosphere. Enjoy Bruges at its simplest best!





  ​You have not been to Bruges if you have not:


  • Seen Bruges by night

  • Taken a walk in the Historic City Centre called Markt, a UNESCO World Heritage Site​​

  • Taken a Canal Cruise

  • Cycled around the city to experience the fairy tale houses and countryside

  • Taken a bite of the rich Belgian chocolate

  • Seen the concert of the Harpist - Luc Vanlaere

  • Had Belgian beer and waffle in whipped cream in a cafe opposite the Belfry 

How to get here:

The excellent Belgian and European train system means the most efficient way to access Bruges is by train. Please check out the tentative time and cost involved:


FromHowCost
Brussels
Direct trains twice every hour. Takes less than an hour to reach
Euro 13.80 one-way
Amsterdam
Takes 3-4 hours with change at Brussels on Thalys
Advance booking (minimum two months)  - Euro 29  + Euro 13.80 = Euro 42.8
London
Eurostar to Brussels and change to Bruges should take between 3-4 hours
Advance booking (minimum two months)  - Euro 48.50  + Euro 13.80 = Euro 62.3
ParisDirect train takes less than 2.5 hours
Advance booking Euro 29 


Inputs taken from Suresh Hariharan for this article. 

Experience the Horse Carriage ride with a local guide to take you around the medieval town  Courtesy: Toerisme Brugge and Jan Darthet

A walk along the canals - full of romance! Courtesy: Toerisme Brugge and Jan D'Hondt

Cobblestone streets & medieval buildings​! Courtesy: Toerisme Brugge , Jan Darthet

Enjoy the romance of the canals! Courtesy: Toerisme Brugge and Jan D'Hondt

Another view of the Brugge canal! Courtesy: Toerisme Brugge and Jan Darthet

Head to  Zeebrugge for a beach experience! Courtesy: Toerisme Brugge and Jan D'Hondt

Best Way to see Bruges:

  • On Foot! Bruges is a small compact town and even walking from one end to the other would take less than an hour! 
  • Another attractive option is  renting a Bike (cycle). Easily available at Euro 12 per day, cycling would allow one to cover a lot more of Bruges than walking. Check www.brugesbikerental.be
  • Buses are operated by the Flemish public transport. A carnet of 10 tickets can be bought for approximately Euro 11. 
  • Taxis are available in plenty but are the most expensive option! Expect to pay Euro 10 for small distances


Have a sip of the Belgian Beer in the many cafes opposite the Belfry in the Markt! Courtesy: Toerisme Brugge and Jan Darthet

Visit some of the numerous churches all adorned with gothic architecture! Courtesy: Toerisme Brugge and Jan D'Hondt

Below -  view of the Main Markt with the Belfry​ Courtesy: Toerisme Brugge , Jan Darthet

Day 3: Optional
DetailsCost (In Euro)
Discover the history of World War I (take the Quasimodo Flanders Tour)63
Flanders Battlefield Day Tours65
Zeebrugge - 15 kms north of Bruges for the beach
Go cycling to Damme - beautiful little Belgian town for relaxation
Air Balloon  - helicopter view of the city170
Go cycling to Lissewege - a quintessential Belgian town


While there is much to do in Bruges, there is indeed a lot to do in Flanders! And there are plenty of options. For the history buffs, relive the First World War with the Quasimodo Flanders Tour which takes you across Flanders – into Ypres and back to Bruges (www.quasimodo.be). For those inclined to nature get into Damme, a fine little town about 7 km east of Bruges or just follow the canal north on a cycling trip to Lissewege, another quaint little village on the way to Zeebrugge. For people looking for relaxation on the beach, head to Zeebrugge and spend some quality time on the beach. 

Where to eat:

​​For a small city, Bruges has a surprisingly high number of Indian restaurants. Word of caution though – they are very expensive. It is difficult to find a good Indian meal for two at less than Euro 30-35. The Taj Mahal is a good option and probably the cheapest amongst all Indian options just 250 metres from the Markt. They have lunch menus which are significantly cheaper. Food quality is quite good and portions are large.Check http://www.tajmahalrestaurant.be/


​​However, we would love to recommend Hotel Bhavani just 300 metres walk from the Markt. Owned by a Belgian lady and a half Indian gentleman, they served up authentic Indian food. A word of caution though, this place is more expensive than Taj Mahal and we paid in excess of Euro 40 for a meal for two. However, the highlight was “Masala chai”. Absolutely Indian taste, though expensive.


Plenty of options for pizzerias. Expect to pay about Euro 12-15 for a reasonably large pizza.  

Where to stay:

Stay in Bruges is relatively expensive. In peak season, expect to pay not lesser than Euro 100 per night for a 3 star hotel close to the Markt. However, the bed and breakfast options by far exceed the hotels and we would recommend families and couples alike to stay in them. These accommodations are  not cheap and rooms offering view of the canal go for a premium but this is a much better way of grasping the allure of Bruges.


​For hotels, we would in particular like to recommend Grand Hotel Casselbergh (www.grandhotelcasselbergh.comor Oud Huis de Peellaert Hotel (http://www.depeellaert.com). Both these hotels have ideal location - right in the heart of the UNESCO World Heritage City Centre,  and on the higher end side (Upward of Euro 125 for 2 per night)


Amongst the good B&B options, we would recommend The Canal Deluxe (www.canaldeluxe.com) or Cote Canal (www.bruges-bedandbreakfast.be). For a more budget version, try Bariseele (www.bariseele.be). 


For hostels, try www.hostelbookers.com or www.bauhaus.be. This allows for options within Euro 25 per person per night. There are plenty of them in Bruges which allows even backpackers to have a good time without taxing their wallet a lot! 


For cheap hotel options, try the Ibis right next to the railway station. Check www.ibis.com

About Bruges:


Where: West Flanders, Belgium


Why: Cobblestone streets, fairytale and colourful buildings - a throwback to medieval times and Belgian chocolate


For whom: Nature enthusiasts, relaxation, history and culture buffs, chocolate fanatics and music lovers


Good for how many days: 2-3 days


Best season: Between March and October


Families: People of all age groups would enjoy


Likely cost per person: ~Euro 200-250* (INR 16,000-20,000) (see details below) including accommodation, food, sight seeing and internal travel. 


Details (For 2 day trip per person)Cost (In Euro)Cost (In INR)
Accommodation (Four star hotel or Bed & Breakfast)1008,000
Food 504,000
Internal travelling10800
Sight seeing49

3,920

​​

*Figures are indicative only. Actual spends may vary from person to person

Bruges, Belgium

Bruges (or Brugge as the locals call it) is a fairytale town in the Flanders region of Belgium also known as the "Venice of the North".


Cobblestone streets, canals, horse carriages, colourful buildings, Bruges is a throwback to the medieval times. Undisturbed by the bombings in the second world war, Bruges has retained its charm across centuries. Incredible history, terrific scenery and super friendly locals, Bruges is the picture perfect stop on any tour to Europe.