Walking around Bruges, or Brugge as it is known in Flanders, is like walking around a fairy tale. The town is simply enchanting, with beautiful houses with delightfully stepped roofs (no boring triangles here), picturesque cobbled lanes, charming bridges spanning leafy, tree-lined canals and, more importantly still, chocolate shops occupying every fourth shop in sight. Shop numbers one, two and three consist largely of 1. Lace – which adds to the cute, doll-like effect of the town, 2. Beer – which is by no means less pleasant, with shops selling dainty and delicious bottles of fruit-flavoured beer, and 3. Food shops selling famous Belgian frites with a good old dollop of fresh mayonnaise, mussels galore and Belgian waffles smothered in, what else, but hot Belgian chocolate – the Flemish obviously had their priorities right!
Apart from the eating, there’s also plenty to do and see in Bruges. The Market Square, which used to be the commercial heart of the Medieval town, is surrounded by magnificent buildings including the neo-gothic Provincial Court, the Cloth House, and Bruges’ landmark tower, The Belfry, which sounds a carillon of 47 bells and, for those who wish to digest Bruges’ delicacies or work up an appetite for eating more, can be ascended by climbing 366 stairs which rewards the climber with breathtaking views of the town.
The neighbouring Burg Square is smaller but no less impressive. The striking gothic town hall stands strong along with the Chapel of the Holy Blood, which is reached by climbing a flight of stairs and past original and beautiful stain-glass windows. Inside the dark, vaulted chapel resides a small piece of cloth, which, it is claimed, has a trace of Jesus Christ’s blood on it. There is also plenty to see beyond the centre, with churches, markets and windmills all on the list of sights to see.
Part of Bruges’ charm rests with its pedestrian-friendly ethos. Not only are cars banned from the squares, but the horses that pull the traditional open-topped tourist carriages are fitted with specialised bags at the rear to save themselves, and unsuspecting walkers, from embarrassment. A boat trip down the canals, a ride in a carriage, or a tour in a mini city-bus are therefore good ways of seeing the town, but, the best way is definitely to stroll along its streets and savour the atmosphere of this quaint and unique place, and of course, walking affords the best opportunities to stop at will and savour the beer, the frites and the waffles, and oh, did I mention the chocolate…?
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