Four irresistible reasons to visit Bruges

Punita Malhotra


This Belgian beauty, located just hour-and-half by bus from Brussels, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site dripping with undiluted charm. Swan-dotted canals, pretty medieval architecture, decadent artisanal chocolates and age-old crafts are just a few reasons to bookmark Bruges. Prepare to be carried away into an adorable fantasy.


Bruges has been lovingly named the Venice of the North for its medieval waterways. Once instrumental in the commercialisation of the town, its canals were the epicentre of Europe’s textile trade during the 14th century. Today, the labyrinth of these picture-perfect waterways along the Reien has become an irresistible magnet for tourists. Amble along the riverside or partake in a slow river cruise to soak up the quintessentially European atmosphere of the medieval town. Feast your eyes on the graceful swans skimming over the surface of the shimmering waters.

Wander into cobblestone streets and cross the ancient stone footbridges to search for aristocratic, flower-draped manor houses. Admire the Flemish canal houses decked with gabled roofs and brickwork facades. Look for mythological elements in the stone gargoyles and decipher the stories in the wall reliefs that display apprentices at work. Hours can flit by without an agenda in mind. 


The town is a mecca for the ardent chocoholic. Some of the most unmissable chocolate shops have a home in the warren of cobbled streets. Interestingly, Bruges is known as the chocolate capital of Belgium and boasts over 50 chocolatiers spread over a small area of 50 square miles. Bruges has its official city chocolate, the Bruges Swan, made of almond paste, spiced flour and a local Bruges biscuit. Dive into the history of cocoa and chocolate at Choco-Story, the Chocolate Museum and witness the fascinating process of chocolate making.

Later, head to Wollestraat, the city’s chocolate hotspot, where dozens of shops beckon with enticing displays of pralines, figurines and slabs. The variety of goodies is mind-boggling. Think classic milk and almond praline to liqueur-filled gourmet delights with unthinkable flavours and ingredients. Stock up on favourites and try out unique options like black olive, eggnog, cola, wasabi, bacon and basil. 


The well-preserved historic Old Town is a treasure trove of original Gothic constructions dating back to the 13th century. The heart of the area is the Markt, a medieval square lined with Dutch architecture and well-preserved gabled buildings. Ascend to the top of the Belfort (Belfry), a 13th-century bell tower, to gawk at stunning town views from 83 metres. The vista of red roof terraces broken by a maze of canals snaking through and the surrounding landscape of wind farms is a photographer’s dream come true.

Back on ground level, venture to the tallest structure and the second tallest brickwork tower in the world, the 122-metre-high Church of Our Lady. The monument’s claim to fame is the black statue of Madonna and Child by Michelangelo. Sightseeing sorted, grab an outdoor table at one of the restaurants in the square to enjoy Belgian beers with luscious steaks. Let jugglers and street musicians offer amusement till the tranquillity of the afternoon is pleasantly interrupted by the regular quarterly chimes of the 47-bell carillon of the square’s belfry. 

Flemish crafts

One can shop for exquisite handwoven Flemish lace products from the many artisanal shops in the cobbled alleys of Bruges. The ancient craft goes back to when wearing lace was a mark of nobility in society. The town was the epicentre for lace and textile production. There was a time when a quarter of all the women in Bruges were lacemakers. In the mid-19th century, Bruges boasted the highest number of lace schools in Flanders. Those interested to learn more can book a walking tour of the old lace schools in the St Anna District.

The Lace Centre, located in a renovated lace school of the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, offers multimedia installations and exhibits about the various types of lace and the lace industry. You can even witness live demonstrations or enrol in a lace workshop here. Wrap up a fulfilling by shopping for intricately handcrafted doilies, tablecloths, napkins, cushion covers, wedding veils, and handkerchiefs. There are enough choices to spoil you silly, from affordable machine-made copies to expensive vintage buys. 

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