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Bruges: A Romantic getaway to Medieval Belgium

written by An Eternal Escape April 3, 2018
Bruges: A Romantic getaway to Medieval Belgium

“Bruges- quintessential Belgium” is the capital of West Flanders and the Flemish-speaking part of Belgium. It is one of the most beautiful and perfectly preserved medieval cities in Europe. The Historic centre of this small town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This quiet provincial city, having enjoyed the affluence during the middle ages, showcases plenty of architecture and art. But the true beauty of the city lies in its open spaces. The canals crisscrossing their ways through the town, edged by the cobbled streets make for an ideal postcard beauty. A cityscape that is abundant in cute narrow lanes, abandoned little stone bridges, adorable canal houses, and a swarming population of White Swans, is sure to make an everlasting impression in your heart and is the reason why Bruges is on my list of “The Most Romantic Destinations in Europe”.

A Romantic Route itinerrary for Bruges Old Town, Belgium, , canals of Brugge

A view of Brugge with its beautiful canal

A visit to Bruges is a visit past in time, where every stone path leads to its squares and the lanes are still trudged by horse-drawn carriages. The buildings alongside the canals give you a glimpse of its past glory. My love for the medieval cities of Europe and their architecture literally started with Bruges. It’s a city that has frozen still in time and looks no younger than 14th or 15th century. The Architecture pre-dominantly is Stone Gothic. The buildings with their burnt orange, yellow and brown toned bricks bring about the romantic essence. The elaborately carved stone facades and the crow-stepped gabled roof will hook you into the city’s charms. You will be hard-pressed not to feel romantic in Bruges or Brugge, as the locals call it.

A Romantic Route itinerrary for Bruges Old Town, Belgium, Gabled Facade and Brick Gothic Archtitecture

The roofline in Bruges with its architectural gems

Known for its Chocolate, Waffles, and Fries; Bruges is jam-packed with tourists in summer. Being only an hour train ride away from Belgium’s Capital Brussels; visitors mostly come for a day trip. But I would beg for you to stay at least a night. The charms and the magic of the place are quadrupled post the Touristy throng. There is nothing more romantic than a stroll on a deserted cobbled street beneath the calm canals when the sky rolls in its saffron hue. Feeling the soothing breeze by a small curved stone bridge, overlooking the town’s famous gabled architecture; is an irreplaceable memory.

A Romantic Route itinerrary for Bruges Old Town, Belgium,

Brugge – Quintessential Belgium

Bruges is an all-rounder in terms of keeping you busy with its highlights. It has its share of beautiful churches, magnificent Art collections, and splendid ornate municipal buildings, which you should definitely do. (Here is a link to a Perfect One-day Itinerary and a Weekend-itinerary to Bruges). But today’s Blog is all about the crowning feature of Bruges, and that is the “City’s intimate relationship with Romance”. I have said it before and will repeat myself that the city will have an over-powering effect on you, which makes it so difficult to not feel romantic.

Here is a list of charmingly beautiful parts of the town that you have to visit in your upcoming trip to Bruges (which I highly recommend), as part of a Romantic-route, that passes through the most picturesque and delightful corners of the town. Sit back and enjoy as this blog is going to be an overload of photos and interesting facts alongside.

Few Pointers:

  • For the convenience of visitors using local commute, the route starts from the Bruges Central Train station, which is going to be the ideal starting point for anyone visiting the city as part of a day-tour from Brussels or nearby cities.
  • This is a walking route with every stop just a few minutes away from the previous one.
  • This route is a total of 4.6 km long and easily doable in 2 hours or more (depending on how many selfies you take!).

 

Click to see the Animated Route Map

 

(1) Minnewater O Lago del Amor – Lake of Love

A Romantic Route itinerrary for Bruges Old Town, Belgium, Miinnewater Lake

The Minnewater Lake, bordered with Flemish buildings

 

The minute you get out of the train station, you are greeted with this scenic area. Cute little bridges connecting the various channels, medieval Flemish buildings bordering the body of water, several big trees giving a nice canopy to space and the peaceful weeping willows hanging on to the canal side; Minnewater is the perfect picture-postcard entry to this beautiful city. The area harbors a lake, literally called as the “Lake of Love” and according to the local beliefs, once a couple walks on the bridge over the lake, they will be bonded forever. Historically, however, this place used to be the entry point of the many trading ships that used to carry the valuable Lace made by the skilled craftsmen of this city; famous throughout Europe.

The Major highlights of the area (in the order of visiting includes):

Poertoren Tower

Or the Powder Tower, as the name suggests is the place where the city used to store its supply of Gun Powder, and is actually a remnant of the medieval city walls. Standing tall at a staggering height of 18 meters above the water line, this tower was built in 1401 by a famous Mason of the era named Jan van Oudenaerde. Well, particularly not very attractive but this tower marks the entrance to the minnewater area and takes us to the next point of interest.

A Romantic Route itinerrary for Bruges Old Town, Belgium, Minnewater Powder Tower

The Powder Tower in Minnewater Park

Minnewaterbruge & Lago Minnewater

This bridge, also known as the Lover’s Bridge over the Lake is the pivotal part of the Minnewater experience. Bordering the Lake on one side, the bridge gives the perfect backdrop for many impressive photos. The view of the Kasteel Minnewater (The castle) from the bridge is a spectacular one. You can either walk along the lake or enjoy the view and the tranquillity from the many benches alongside the lake.

A Romantic Route itinerrary for Bruges Old Town, Belgium, Minnewater Castle from the Lover's Bridge

View of the Minnewater Castle from the Lover’s Bridge

Minnewater Park

Close to the lake, this small park is an idyllic oasis in the middle of the bustling city. You will always find a quiet place for yourself amongst the colourful flower beds, close to the lake, with the whopping dwellers of the city, the Big White Swans!

A Romantic Route itinerrary for Bruges Old Town, Belgium, Minnewater Park

The Flower beds in Minnewater Park,. Brugge, Belgium

(2) Sashuis 

A Romantic Route itinerrary for Bruges Old Town, Belgium, Sashuis

The Sashuis in Bruges, Belgium

Bruges has a knack for surprising you with delightful settings, set at every corner of the city. An example of such is the Sashuis, which is actually a house for the Lockkeeper (Something like Hagrid’s house in Potter movies!). It is a very pretty brick gabled house; equivalent of which can be seen throughout the city but what makes this place so beautiful, is its quaint setting. With the Minnewater Park on the background, canal on the side and plenty of beautiful swans nearby, this place is a magnet for photographers and couples alike. You will have umpteen opportunities of taking photos and can spend an hour just looking at the cute birdies resting, diving and floating on to the water or at the succession of boats passing by the canal.

 

(3) De Vos Almshouse (Begijnhof) 

     A Romantic Route itinerrary for Bruges Old Town, Belgium, Begijinhof

The entrance to the Begijinhof, Bruges, Belgium

A Romantic Route itinerrary for Bruges Old Town, Belgium, Begijinhof

The Almshouses near Sashuis, Bruges, Belgium

Built in the 14th century, by the rich guilds for charity and social service, these series of one-storied white-washed row houses gave shelter to the poor, elderly, widowed or single women. While there are more than forty of such Almshouses in the city, this one near Sashuis is particularly interesting and pleasing. Separated by high walls from outside and a courtyard with beautiful gardens in the middle, entering into the complex instantly puts you at ease and delights your senses. The real charm of the place is in its sanctity and its simplicity. A stroll through this small complex is sure to make you feel rejuvenated. 

(4) Stoofstraat 

A Romantic Route itinerrary for Bruges Old Town, Belgium, stoofstraat

Beautiful streets of Brugge, Belgium

 

The next stop in our tour is actually a street, literally translated to “The Stove Street”. This lane does not exactly share a romantic past but rather a very notorious one. Rich and wealthy men used to frequent the rather infamous bathhouses, tactfully concealed in hidden alleys such as this, for pleasure. Closed by the church later, these narrow alleys now are thriving tourist attractions, with cute and small shops to match the size of the street. A walk through the street’s cramped, tapered and slender alleys gives you a new outlook to the city. At times the street becomes so narrow that you can touch on both sides of the walls at the same time. You will love the svelte feel of the street for sure and offers great photo ops too.

 

(5) Bonifacious Bridge 

A Romantic Route itinerrary for Bruges Old Town, Belgium, Bonifasciuos bridge

View of the canal houses from the Bonifasciuos bridge, Brugge, Belgium

This is one of the hidden gems in the city worth seeking. Visiting the bridge in the dusk or dawn has a magical appeal and mystical allure. This small bridge is located in an exemplary location with rather remarkable views around it. Tilted canal houses with ivy-covered walls, views of the roofline of Bruge’s famous architecture, the string of boats passing by the bridge, and the lovely gardens of Arentshof beside the canal; this bridge demands slow pace. Just drop everything for few minutes, relax on the built-in seats and absorb the breath-taking panorama. Sometimes places and frames as stunning as these are lost out of the mind if you just pass by, give it some moments and you will be rewarded with a lifetime of incredible memory; not to mention the innumerable stunning photos coming back with you.

(6) Canal Boat Tour 

A Romantic Route itinerrary for Bruges Old Town, Belgium, Canal boat tours in Brugge

Canal boat tours in Brugge, Belgium

At this point, you should luxuriate in a relaxing canal tour. Sailing on the water is always so romantic and an unwinding experience for me. To top it off, if the ever-changing vistas of the city are so rustic and exquisite, there is no excuse to leave this escapade, while visiting Bruges. Rather a boat tour in Bruge’s canals happens to be the most fulfilling experiences than the boat tours in many other famous capital cities in Europe. Passing by the narrow canals on a small boat, crossing the houses so close, being almost in the level of the water with little duckies floating beside you, you feel being a part of the city already. 

(7) Sint-Jan Nepomucenus Bridge 

A Romantic Route itinerrary for Bruges Old Town, Belgium, Sint-Jan Nepomucenus Bridge

View from the Sint-Jan Nepomucenus Bridge, Brugge, Belgium

After finishing the boat tour and walking next towards the most famous corners of Bruges, you will come across this beautiful bridge. The bridge is named after Saint Jan Nepomucenus, known as the patron saint of bridges and protector from floods. The bridge has a statue of the monk from Nepomuk, with five twinkling stars over the head, signifying the stars that shone in the waters of the Vltava on the day of his death, according to the folklore. Even if the bridge itself is not very grand, but the views unfurling around are beautiful. The gothic townscape nearby and the view of the Rozenhoedkaai is brilliant and gives you a new angle to try out the typical Bruges must-have picture.

 

(8) Rozenhoedkaai

 

A Romantic Route itinerrary for Bruges Old Town, Belgium, Rozenhoedkaai

The view of the Roofline for Rozenhoedkaai, Bruges, Belgium

A Romantic Route itinerrary for Bruges Old Town, Belgium

These Quays of Rosary, Bruges are the original ones from centuries ago

If there is just one place that you have time to visit in Bruges, then it has to be definitely this. Rozenhoedkaai is the meeting place of the Groenerei and Dijver canals, which brings about a beautiful mise en scène for this short stretch of street. Hugging the canal this street makes for the most-photographed frame in Bruge’s. Every day no matter shine or rain, winter or summer, this place is packed with visitors trying to immortalize their perfect postcard selfie in Brugge. A stroll in this area is customary, which you have to do, during your visit to Brugge. Just the view of the street with the majestic medieval buildings all around rekindles your senses and you are sure to spend hours just looking at the raw magnetism of the place. I would strongly recommend coming back to this place once in the night or in the Dawn, where there are virtually no one around. The charisma of the place which looks straight out of a fairy-tale medieval setting is sure to hypnotize you. You will have an uninterrupted time in this timeless beauty which will leave an eternal impression on you. Visit the place at dusk, and you have a separate story altogether. A festive feeling will surround you with all the happy people around, local artists showing off their talents, beautiful musicians filling the atmosphere with their warm tones; it is a place to celebrate and express your love and had to be in our Romantic route.

 

(9) The Markt

A Romantic Route itinerrary for Bruges Old Town, Belgium, Market place of Bruges

The center of the Old-town in Bruges, The Markt place

 

A Romantic Route itinerrary for Bruges Old Town, Belgium, Market place of Bruges

A panorama of the market place in Bruges

This part of Brugge is in all its 12th to 15th-century glory. The Golden era of Brugge, with all its power and richness, is displayed in the market square. Houses of various guilds from different centuries, trumpet ornately decorated facades; boasting their past repute proudly. The market is archetypal Belgian. This Historic centre of Brugge also gives a glimpse of all the cultural influences it welcomed and infused, at a time when Brugge used to enjoy being the economic and commercial capital of Europe. The best example of such amalgamation is the Brick Gothic architecture, which I am a big fan of. An outstanding example of the architectural excellence of the medieval times, the Market square of Brugge, will take you back in time and set your pace to a primordial one. Go with the flow and immerse yourself in the marvel of the pastel coloured brick houses and gaze at their splendor.

 

(10) Jan Van Eyck Square

A Romantic Route itinerrary for Bruges Old Town, Belgium, Jan van Eyck Square

View of the neighborhood surrounding Jan van Eyck Square, BrugesJan van Eyck square, as the name suggests is a piazza dedicated to the famous world-renowned painter Jan van Eyck, who revolutionized the history of painting from 1420-1441. Having spent a majority of his life in Bruges, the town showcases its proud lineage via a statue dedicated to the painter. But this square is so much more than just about the artist himself. This nneighbourhood used to be a major hub for hard-working porters and traders, as it served as a pivotal port in the medieval times. Now, however more like a working-class zone, the locale offers you with the same enchanting roofline of magnificent facades as anywhere else in Bruges, but without the hustle of regular tourists, as a lot less really make the effort to meander beyond the marketplace. Walking those extra blocks, helps you see the unadulterated parts of a town still untouched by the glimmer of tourism. Take a walk along the canal and marvel at some of the most exquisite gothic buildings at this side of the town.

 

(11) Gouden-Handrei

 A Romantic Route itinerrary for Bruges Old Town, Belgium, Canal tour of Bruges

Magnificient Artchitecture around Gouden-Handrei , BrugesI have always found that there is much more to a city than the ones just published on the tourist map. Hidden places aka the locally known pretty corners of a town usually make me more excited and have never disappointed me in giving me that one last perfect shot, which has not already been clicked. Gouden-Handrei is one such destination in our route. Quays in Bruges are plenty, but the only one that’s mostly visited is the famous Quay of Rosary or the Rozenhoedkaai. While that’s a favourite spot of mine as mentioned in the route already, but the sheer amount of tourists might make your perfect pic by the quay a little difficult. If you want an equally attractive romantic place but quieter and peaceful one, Gouden-Handrei may be it. Just reach there by sunset or before to get that flawless nonphoto-bombed pic of you with the vintage Bruges.

 

(12) Sint-Annarei 

If you thought Gouden-Handrei was the only one hidden gem that we could fit in this romantic route of ours, then let me just correct you there. The thing is, with genuinely beautiful places like Brugge, it’s actually hard to keep the list smaller than otherwise. Another such soothing and relaxed nook is Sint-Annarei. More than the place, I really like the walk from Gouden-Handrei to Sint-Annarei. Much broader channels of the canal with benches on the sidewalk; the ideal thing would be to just lounge and let the world pass by you. This way you can traverse the route according to your pace. You will see more even if you miss a place or two in the route.

 

(13) Sint-Janshuis Mill 

A Romantic Route itinerrary for Bruges Old Town, Belgium, , Sint-Janshuis Mill

The Sint-Janshuis Mill in Bruges, Belgium

A lovely windmill in the midst of town, sitting on its mound and surrounded by a little park, Sint-Janshuis Mill is a perfect getaway from the crowd.  There are four windmills in the town that remains from the dozens that were used before for providing flour to the entire town. These are (from north to south) Koelewei Mill (Coelweymolen – 1765 moved here 1996), Nieuwe Papegaai Mill (1790 moved in 1970), St Janshuis (Sint-Janshuismolen – 1770), and Bonne Chiere Mill (1844 rebuilt 1911). These well-restored wooden stilt windmills can also be visited from inside for a small fee. But I found the park around the mill to be more than occupying and gave us a good picturesque atmosphere and some relaxing stroll.

(14) Kruispoort gate 

Back in the 13th century, the whole of Brugge was a fortified city with a city wall around the canal. Even though everything has been demolished now, the ones surviving are the four gates of that era. Kruispoort gate was built at the beginning of the 15th century and gives an attractive background photo opportunity. Being minutes away by walk from the windmill, this gate is easily accessible. The path leading to the gate from the mill is alongside the canal and takes you through another windmill. However, if you have time, or if you are taking a bike to do this tour, you should not miss the more attractive and old Ezelpoort gate. As it is a bit further away (around 3km along the canal) we kept it off this route.

 

(15) Groenerei 

A Romantic Route itinerrary for Bruges Old Town, Belgium, Groenerei, Meetsraatbridge

View of the beautiful Almshouse De Pelicaen in Groenerei

The last spot in this tour is by far the most beautiful and best corner of Bruges, according to me. Still near to the heart of the old town, but at a conveniently spaced less-crowded zone, Groenerei Street has quite a few of my favourite spots in the town. The first is the street itself, which runs as you guessed, alongside the canal! It has the most beautiful brick gothic almhouses alongside. The view of the Meestraat Bridge from the street is amazing.

All in all, it’s a really good way of ending this romantic route. I am sure by the end of this route you have touched and seen everything that this pretty little town has to offer.

 

 

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10 comments

Amiya April 4, 2018 - 9:40 am

This info is very useful for new travellers and need a little time to understand the place..Very handy information..

Reply
An Eternal Escape April 4, 2018 - 9:47 am

Thank you so much Amiya..

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Nupur April 4, 2018 - 4:05 pm

Very nice article ! Will refer this someday when I plan a trip to Europe. Thanks 🙂

Reply
An Eternal Escape May 4, 2018 - 8:56 am

Thank you so much, Nupur …Look forward to your visit..

Reply
Shakti May 11, 2018 - 1:54 pm

Another good one among many others. 🙂

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An Eternal Escape May 11, 2018 - 2:02 pm

Thank you so much Shakti..

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Karthikeyan May 14, 2018 - 11:29 am

Very useful and handy route info. Shall definitely refer this, to plan.

Reply
An Eternal Escape May 16, 2018 - 5:05 am

Thank you so much… I am glad it was of help..

Reply
Ashirbad June 30, 2018 - 10:02 pm

Have never seen such detailed itinerary in any of the sites or blogs… you are an inspiration for new travellers..

Reply
An Eternal Escape July 1, 2018 - 8:59 pm

Thank you so much Ashirbad. I hope some of my Blogs really help you in your travel through Europe.

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