I’ve come up with a list of tips for travelers when visiting Belgium’s fairy-tale city of Brugge (or Bruges as it is known in French).
1.) Stay overnight: Brugge is inundated with day trippers from other Belgian cities along with those coming from Amsterdam and Paris. Your experience in this northern European city dubbed the “Venice of the North” for its many canals will be a lot more memorable when there’s actually room to walk along its cobblestone streets and to take in the Gothic architecture of the buildings in the Markt (market place). You’ll have an entirely different experience if you remain in Brugge after the sun has gone down.
2.) Order street food on the street and not in restaurants: While in Brugge, be sure to try waffles and fries, two foods Belgium is famous for worldwide. Just don’t order them in a restaurant. Not only will they cost more, but they won’t taste nearly as good either. I ordered a Liege waffle in one of the restaurants in the Markt and it tasted very mediocre compared to ones we had eaten from stands along the street earlier on in our stay. (Obviously one needn’t worry about health and sanitary conditions of street foods in a country like Belgium). The same “logic” goes for fries and be sure while in Belgium to NEVER call them “French” fries.
3.) Rent a bike: Although automobiles somehow miraculously maneuver through the city’s narrow streets, bikes are still the preferred form of transportation for many of its residents and tourists who are catching on to the Benelux biking craze. Biking is a great way to see the city especially when exploring beyond the city center. Rental sites are plentiful throughout Brugge and inexpensive (it’s around 10 euros for a three hour rental).
4.) Avoid taking a taxi from the train station to the city center if possible: If you have either no or minimal luggage, walk, rent a bike, or take a public bus into the city center after arriving at the train station. The cab ride D and I took from the train to our hotel which was a couple of blocks away from the Markt ended up costing 21 euros for a mere 10 minute ride. The high tariff is due to the historical center being enclosed by the main circle of canals and a network of one way streets, so final destinations take a lot longer to get to.
5.) Take a canal boat tour: Tourists are packed on like cattle, the commentary is hard to hear at time due to the rapid speed the tour guide is delivering it (he or she speaks in four different languages depending on the riders’ nationalities), and yet one cannot go to Brugge without traveling along its canals . For centuries Brugge was one of Europe’s most important trading ports and traveling today by waterway will help in providing visitors with a sense of the city’s past. Tickets are inexpensive (around six euros for adults) and the ride lasts just under an hour.