Thursday, 20 June 2013

Brugge. To all who said '7 days is too long.' I now totally agree.

This aims in no way to be a complete guide to the sites of Brugge.  There were plenty of sites we chose to skip in this tourist mecca.  We did what worked for us.  Touring museums as a 5 year can get pretty darn boring so we took it slowly and enjoyed some of the more informal sites.

To-Do List:

  • Climb Belfort for an aerial view of Brugge.  Perfect to help get your bearings in this maze like town.
  • High on the list, Groeninge Museum which houses a fantastic collection of Flemish artists and a very meditative exhibit by French artist Fabienne Verdier 'Homage to the Flemish Painter'.
  • Minnewater, the Lake of Love, is a beautiful spot to sit and people watch.  Guys practising their tightrope walking, groups in hammocks, couples, frisbee throwers...& the tourists.
  • While you are down at Minnewater stop in at Sint-Janshospitaal one of the oldest preserved hospitals in Europe and check out Hans Memling's Shrine of St Ursula
  • Hiring bikes to not only get around Brugge but to get out of Brugge!  Head to Damme along the canal.
  • Quasimundo bike tour around Brugge.  Our entertaining guide, Jan, provided insight into some of the local culture.....the bricked in windows on many of the houses is due to the fact that they had to pay tax on the amount of windows in their houses, the more windows the more tax.   The very first European stock exchange, bourse, was established in Brugge around 1309 by an Italian family from Genova........etc etc 
  • Toyo Ito's controversial beehive like sculpture in the Burg.  Unfortunately, the moat no longer surrounds it as the water started leaking into the underground car park and had to be removed. The platform was also removed after a tractor(?) drove over it doing irreparable damage. Originally it was only intended to stay in it's position for the year 2002 when Brugge was the Cultural Capital of Europe.....however one imagines it will be staying on for quite some time now that Toyo Ito has landed The Pritzker!
  • The 1970's built Biekorf, main library, if you need to refresh your eyes with something a little more contemporary.  The beautiful light filled, spacious library is worth a visit. It really is a brilliant refuge.
  • The great playground towards the back of Astridpark.  There is a distinct lack of children playing in the streets of Brugge.  You can hear them behind high facades in their internal playgrounds or yards but you just can't see them.  It's a little eerie.
  • Morning coffee and Pain au chocolat on the communal table at Le Pain Quotidien
  • The Wednesday food & flower market in Markt Square 8am-1pm. Is full of great local produce and a bustling vibe.
  • A day trip (or even overnight trip) to Ghent.  A busy university town with a distinctly French feel.  It is no Unesco Heritage city  however the emerging architecture is, for the most part, beautifully incorporated in with the old and......refreshingly different!!
  • A visit to the Sound Factory at the Concertgebouw Brugge is a must!  We only discovered this on our last day and it was fantastic.  We all totally enjoyed the interactive installations, especially the Kilo Ohm and the OMNI.
I know everyone has their own favourites here in Brugge but here are a few of our food recommendations:
Breydel recommended by our bike tour operator for a restaurant the locals go to eat fish. It was a family friendly place close to De Garre!
Brasserie Raymond: serves Belgian-French cuisine....& yippeee bouillabaisse.
Ryad, Organic Moroccan & Indian.  We loved it.  The one guy does front of house rather impressively and his wife cooks upstairs.
Le Pain Quotidien a fantastic bio organic store dedicated to making hand made bread, incredible pastries and great coffee.
Real Belgium Fries at Chez Vincent.
The Chocolate Line: authentic Chocolate made in house with love.
Delpa Chocolatier as recommended by Beautifully Suddenly.
Sweertvaegher more chocolate goodness.

Beer lovers:
De Garre for a glass of their Garre 11% beer and the atmosphere of this tiny pub.
Bierbrasserie Cambrius for a glass of their house cherry beer.  I've never much been in to cherry beers before but this one is good.  They also do tasting plates of beer.
The oldest pub in Brugge, Cafe Vlissinghe. Established in 1515.
't Bruge Beertji a sweet little beer house in the back streets of Brugge who also serve up a satisfying nibbles plate with their select of over 300beers.

Online Guides:
Visit Bruges
Enchanted Bruges NY Times.
Tourist attractions for kids, Brugge.
Heritage walking tours

3 days....4 maximum is the perfect amount of time to spend in Brugge with kids.  There are only so many waffles, chocolates and friets a kid can take.
We have pushed this town to our limits.   We have had a great time.   Now we are SO ready to move on.  Paris here we come.

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