Friday, 18 March 2016


Anne C here.
Visiting the medieval city of Bruges is like stepping into a Disney film set. With perfectly neat cobbled streets and unbelievably pretty buildings, you expect to see Belle wandering the streets before she becomes entrapped by the Beast!

My trip - with daughter Louise - was a Mother's Day gift and of course she accompanied me on our mini-break.  The weather was very cold but clear and sunny, so perfect for sight-seeing.

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Rather than fly, we took the P&O overnight ferry from Hull to Zeebrugge, which not only works out much cheaper, but is a less stressful way to travel, with hardly any queues, and no baggage restrictions.  Our suite on the way out was very basic and tiny, so we upgraded to a larger suite on our return journey, which was a little more spacious, and perfectly adequate.
We arrived in Bruges fresh and relaxed before a coach took us into the city and dropped us off by a pretty park. Unfortunately it was a bit of a hike to the hotel, but probably our own fault as we didn't have a map.


Now a world UNESCO Heritage site, the city of Bruges was a thriving trading centre in the Middle Ages, trading in exotic goods from throughout Europe.  As a prosperous city built on the back of the textile trade, the merchants built their magnificent buildings, and art and culture flourished.

Today there are museums to suit just about every taste and interest, from history to health, but since we spent only a couple of days there, we had to make do with a whirlwind tour.

The first thing we did was about as touristy as you can get - we went for a ride in a horse-drawn carriage.The carriage driver spoke perfect English and gave us a running commentary of all the buildings as we passed. Starting with the bell tower in the main market place (shown in a scene from the film "In Bruges" starring Colin Farrell (more of which later), to the various museums, to the oldest buildings and the fine art in the local churches.

Top of our list was the Chocolate Museum - Choco-Story.  For 8 Euros each, we learned how chocolate is harvested and made into the favourite sweet in the world, and watched a demonstration of a chocolatier making praline - with lots of free samples of course. You can even take part in a chocolate-making workshop.

Staying with the chocolate theme, we did our best to sample as many hot chocolates as we could in the numerous pavement cafes.  Top of the list must be at the delightful Old Chocolate House, where the menu is just chocolate, and of course, there is a shop downstairs where you can buy - yes - chocolate!

Bruges Chocolate House

So back to the Bell Tower, which we were told had 366 steps to the top.  The stairs were very steep, with very little to hold onto, and it was awkward to pass those coming down the stairs.  I managed to get to the 128th stair before admitting defeat and coming back, but my fit young daughter carried on, but even she struggled towards the top, where she was almost on her hands and knees because the steps were so narrow and steep. I saw the pictures she took at the top, which were stunning, but I knew I wouldn't have made it up there.


Our hotel - the Duke's Palace - had a huge turret outside, so when we were looking for it, I thought it would be easy to spot.  Wrong - just about every building has a turret! The accommodation was absolutely stunning.  Our twin room was huge with amazingly comfortable beds, while the bathroom was unbelievable, with large bath, huge separate shower and sumptuous L'Occitane toiletries.

Bruges Hotel Dukes Palace

The friendly receptionist easily switched languages from German, to French to English as he answered questions from guests and chatted to his colleagues. In fact, everywhere we went, everyone spoke perfect English so we didn't even need our Flemish phrase book.


Later in the afternoon, we took a boat trip around the canals, which surprisingly used to allow the massive trading ships in, until they silted up and became too small for anything other than boats.


Almost every shop in Bruges sells either chocolate, Belgian beer or lace and tapestry - the latter being something the merchants' wives took up to pass the time, but the tradition continues today and creates a thriving tourist industry.

If we went looking for local fashions, we were a little dismayed to find the shops were mainly the same as at home - Zara, H&M, New Look - and a blast from the past with C&A.

I did manage to do some shopping (of course!) We found a pretty shop called " Gifts At Home" off the main market place, which sold kitchen gadgets and pretty nick nicks.  But I fell in love with a luxe quilted and diamante soap and make up bag set which I just had to have for my next travels. I also found a 4711 perfume shop in the main market place, which gave me a touch of nostalgia.  I remember my mother wearing the original 4711 perfume when we lived in Germany some 50 years ago.  Now they have a whole range of delicious fragrances which were too hard to resist.

We only managed a couple of meals out, but discovered fries with mayonnaise at Ellis Gourmet Burgers - especially delicious mixed either with tarragon or mustard!  Beware of eating in the main market square, however as the prices are much more expensive than the side streets.

One thing I didn't manage to see was the diamond museum as we simply ran out of time. 

Sounds like a good excuse to return!



  1. Sounds like you had a wonderful time. Your photos are beautiful - Bruges is so pretty and the chocolate alone is worth visiting for :)

    1. Thank you. Bruges is definitely worth the visit and although chilly at times, the hot chocolate remedied that.

  2. It looks lovely! Bruges has been on our list of places we'd like to visit for some time now. My Monsieur would love the chocolate ;-) . Thanks for sharing these photos.

  3. It is a lovely city and everyone is very friendly - we would definitely go again. The chocolate is just amazing - whether you're having a hot chocolate in a pavement cafe or buying to eat, there is chocolate everywhere so he would absolutely love it!


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