Bruges has a well-known reputation for being one of Europe’s prettiest cities. From its quaint canals to its picturesque squares, Bruges looks like it belongs in a fairy tale, and it had been on my list of places to visit for years before I finally had the chance to go.
So during a recent business trip to Brussels, I knew that I couldn’t travel all the way to Belgium without visiting Bruges. On my last night in Brussels, I spontaneously decided to change my flight home so that I could wander the medieval streets of Bruges myself. As soon as I decided to spend a couple of days in Bruges, I pulled up HotelTonight’s app to search for a hotel. Within minutes, I had booked a fantastic last-minute hotel in Bruges, so I quickly packed my bags and headed toward the train station.
Located smack dab in the middle of Bruges and surrounded by beautiful canals is the Historic Centre of the town, which seems to have been untouched for centuries. As I wandered the cobblestone paths throughout this historic center (which has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site), I passed by charming art galleries, cute cafes and incredibly maintained medieval buildings. The walls surrounding the Historic Centre date back to the 11th century, and inside the center you will pass by buildings from various periods in Belgian history.
Located in the Historic Centre is one of Bruges’ most iconic attractions, the Markt, also known as Market Square. This large medieval square has seen so much over the centuries, from festivals and fairs to uprisings and executions, which is why it’s one of the most fascinating spots to visit in Bruges. Also, Bruges’ most famous landmark, the Belfry Tower, is located in Market Square, and you can climb to the top of this tall, narrow tower for a stunning view of Bruges. I was lucky enough to be in Bruges on a Wednesday, which is market day, so I got to browse the stalls of fresh produce and handmade products throughout the square.
After spending the morning walking through the historic center of the city, I felt the need to sit and relax for a bit, so some locals pointed me toward Minnewater Lake. This beautiful body of water is surrounded by park benches, canals and weeping willows, making it the perfect place to rest and bask in the beauty of Bruges. With a warm cup of coffee in my hands, I sat down on a bench and watched the swans swim in this picturesque lake.
Bruges is a bike city, and it’s rare to walk down a street without seeing a handful of bicyclists riding past. Because of this, I decided that to really experience Bruges like a local, I too needed to hop on a bike. This was ideal, since I needed a bit of exercise after all of the waffles, chocolate and French fries I had eaten that day. I rented a bike and started pedaling along the canals toward Damme, a small medieval village located six kilometers northeast of Bruges. I biked past windmills, cows grazing in fields and idyllic stretches of canal. By the time I reached Damme, I was far away from the tourist crowds of Bruges, and I felt that I could really get a sense for the lifestyle and culture of this Belgian community.
The St-Gilles district is located on the other side of the canal from the old town, which means you’ll be able to escape the throngs of tourists here. The showstopper in this neighborhood is the Church of Saint-Gilles and its surrounding square, which consists of well-maintained buildings dating back to the 13th century. The streets around the church are quiet and peaceful, yet there’s still so much to learn about this historic district. I spent the evening wandering these quaint cobbled streets and felt like I had been transported back in time to medieval Europe.
I finally made it to Bruges, and this medieval European city was everything I expected and more. Bruges is full of beauty, charm and history, and this compact city is easy to explore on both foot and bike. From its idyllic streets to its mouthwatering cuisine, Bruges is a treat for the senses. I was so glad that I finally made it to the charming town of Bruges, and I knew I wouldn’t have been able to plan such a stress-free, spontaneous getaway to Bruges without the help of HotelTonight. As somebody who loves to plan last-minute trips, HotelTonight is a lifesaver, because HotelTonight makes it easy to book hotels all over the world in just a few clicks on your phone or computer. I definitely dream of returning to Bruges someday in the future, and I’ll be sure to simplify my trip planning process by booking my hotel through HotelTonight.