It’s like stepping back in time. Walking down its gothic streets you can feel the past coming to life. Full of artistic and architectural treasures, Bruges is an urban museum, a veritable time capsule and a tourists dream.
Anyone who comes here for just a day will be cheating themselves of time well spent.
The City of Cloth Merchants
Bruges is the capital of the Flemish Region in northwestern Belgium. Inhabited since pre-Roman times, Bruges became a textiles super power as well as a renowned port city in the 13th century.
Today it is a small city with little more than a hundred thousand residents and boasts an old world charm unrivaled in Europe. It is also one of the best preserved medieval towns in the world.
The pedestrian only streets in the historic center are chalked full of important sights, including The Church of Our Lady whose brick spire is one of the tallest in the world, as well as Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child.
The cities most outstanding feature is the striking Belfry with 47 bells.
Bruges Balloon Ride
While walking Bruges ancient streets or gliding along its wonderful canals will astound you, the sheer number of tourists can overwhelm. The incredible beauty of Bruges is no secret and its small city center gets over run by visitors each summer.
For this reason, one of the best ways to escape the throngs, is by taking a hot air balloon ride.
Up Up & Away
Hot air balloon rides are a popular way to see the city, offering spectacular vantage points otherwise unavailable to tourists. Start this four-hour adventure by meeting in a field just outside of town. As soon as the balloon is full of air you take flight and spend an hour above the city marveling at the picturesque skyline.
Your view is not limited to Bruges, however. You will see an amazing panorama which includes the Atlantic coastline, several surrounding villages and the Belgian countryside.
What to Expect
Anywhere between two and ten people will share this amazing experience with you, while your pilot enlightens you on the cultural heritage of Bruges. Flights are typically enjoyed at sunset or sunrise, though all day flights can be arranged.
A Romantic Getaway
This flight is romantic in general, but more private rides can be organized for couples. It’s a popular way for people to enjoy special occasions. All of the rides end with a Champagne toast, some Belgian beers and a certificate of achievement.
No trip to Bruges is complete without a cruise on the lovely canals and another great way to see Bruges and its surrounding areas is on a bike. Don’t forget to sample the excellent food and world-class beers and make sure you buy some of their famous chocolates.
In the market-place of Bruges stands the belfry old and brown; Thrice consumed and thrice rebuilded, still it watches o’er the town. - The Belfry of Bruges by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
When To Go
Take a hot air balloon tour in Bruges from April until September.
Bruges is famous for its bad weather. The average temperature in April, May and Septermber is between 51-59ºF (11-15ºC). In the summer, average daily maximum temperatures rarely exceed 73ºF (22ºC), rain is common even in Summer, so take layers.
Getting There & Around
Brussels (Zaventem) International Airport is about two hours from Bruges by train.
- Mid-range accommodations: $80-120
- Meals: $20-30
- Beer: $3
- Walk up the 366 steps to the top of the Belfry with its incredible views overlooking the city.
- Take a half day cruise to Dame. It is a pretty village close to Bruges.
- Visit the Groeninge Museum, and it’s wonderful collection of fine art.
- Dress warm when you go with a hot air balloon, it’s 5 to 10 degrees colder up there.
- Mention the language problem. It is a touchy subject between the Dutch speaking (Flemish) north and French speaking south.
- Forget to go to the bathroom before the tour and take some water with you.
- Eat at the Central Market or Burg Square. It’s a tourist trap with high prices, low quality and scams (overcharging).
- There are over 800 types of beer made in Belgium
- Belgians consume 150 liters of beer per person, per year.
- The first health resort in Europe opened in the city of Spa, Belgium.
- The first casino (La Redoute) was in Belgium as well.
- NBA basketball player Tony Parker was born in Bruges.
- 80% of billiard players use balls made in Belgium.
Feature Image Credit: Benjamin Rossen