Bruges is one of those destinations I never gave much thought to. It is close to other noteworthy cities that are more well-known (Amsterdam, Paris, Brussels) so it always seemed just outside of the realm of my journey-planning. Having visited it this spring, I now wonder what took me so long to get there. This UNESCO World Heritage-listed city is a short train ride from London with the Eurostar to Brussels, whereupon one changes to one of SNCB’s (Belgian Railways) trains to Bruges and beyond. It is such an easy trip in that it doesn’t require too much planning if you are from any of the surrounding countries, and is not too demanding culture-wise – perfect for those times when you neither have the time, inclination nor resources to be adventurous.
Market square. This is possibly Bruges’ most famous, most crowded point of interest. It’s always pulsating with activity no matter what time of day you visit it: From the colourful guild houses on the one side, to horses waiting to transport eager patrons around Bruges’ cobble-stoned streets, to the imposing presence of the Belfry Tower on the other side – it is a people watcher’s paradise. I personally happened upon it on the first of my three days in the city, loved it but decided that after having seen the square and climbed the 366 steps to the 83-meter high Belfry Tower (panorama views over the city and the surrounding hinterland), I would try my level best to not come back to this one point.
Burg & City Hall: Just a short walk from Market Square is yet another of the city’s beautiful squares, which is also home to the 14th century city hall from which Bruges is governed. Not as eternally crowded with eager picture-taking tourists but a sight to behold nevertheless.
Acquired by the cloth merchant Jan Mouscron in 1506, The Madonna and Child inside The Church of Our Lady (Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk) is the only sculpture by Michelangelo to have left Italy in his lifetime. The church also displays countless paintings, 13th-century painted sepulchres and the tombs of Mary of Burgundy and Charles the Bold.
Getting there: I travelled from London to Bruges courtesy of Eurostar which offers return fares to Bruges from just £79 with their Any Belgian station ticket. Eurostar also offers connecting fares from more than 200 stations in the UK. For more information or to book, visit eurostar.com or call 08432 186 186. My on the ground arrangements were taken care of by Visit Flanders (www.visitflanders.co.uk, Tel +44 (0)20 7307 7738 ) who offer a wealth of information to help plan your visit to Bruges and other towns/cities in the Flanders region.