Bruges – Too Pretty For Its Own Good (Photo Essay)

The adorable medieval town Bruges was almost a surreal place – with old traditional buildings, narrow cobbled streets and weeping willows dipping their branches in the canals, and as many horse carriages on the streets as there were cars – Bruges was a town taken out of a fairytale.

The only thing that kept me from pinching myself were the hordes of tourists around me that kept poking me in the back, as they elbowed their way trying to get the best photos.

For some reason, all the tourists seemed very stressed, and they were all running around with waffles in one hand and a camera in the other. With only a couple of hours in this cute town, we were moving pretty fast too. First stop was a boat tour along the canal, which was one of the best ways to see the city (had it not been for the heads popping up in every picture).

After that, we joined the other tourists as they raced around the streets snapping photos, yelling and eating – making our way to the beer brewery.

Beer is very important in Belgium, and has a long history – today, Belgians are the fourth heaviest beer drinkers in the world, flushing down 90 L per person per year.

In the Medieval days, people in Belgium drank beer as if it was water – literally – because the water was so polluted, everyone drank beer instead – including the children… 

This resulted in 400L per person per year, but in those days the alcohol was much weaker than it is today.

Trying the many different beers is one of the top things to do in Belgium, and every local you talk to will ask which beers you’ve tried and tells you which ones you must have. A brewery tour is definitely a highlight on a visit to Bruges, so most tourists who were rushing around had also had a couple of beer glasses throughout the day! There was no question whether Bruges was pretty, but looking around yourself and being surrounded by so many tourists, the question was rather if it was perhaps too pretty for its own good… (note: Special thanks to VisitFlanders for providing our trip to Belgium – our opinions are, as always, our own)

25 Responses to Bruges – Too Pretty For Its Own Good (Photo Essay)

  1. Michael October 7, 2012 at 9:31 am #

    Thinking about making it to Belgium for a weekend in October – any suggestions? What was your favorite city? Any chance of avoiding tourist traps?

    • Sofia October 7, 2012 at 10:30 am #

      Hi Michael,
      Great to hear you’re planning a visit to Belgium.

      The great thing about Belgium is that the country is pretty small so you can easily explore a few cities in just a few days.

      We only visited the Flanders region, so I can only speak about that part of the country.

      Everyone has their favorite, depending on what you enjoy the most, but to sum it up:

      Antwerp – The trendy city with lots of shopping, cafes and good museums, but you need two days to really enjoy it.

      Bruges – A small medieval town that’s incredibly beautiful and has a fun brewery to visit, but also touristic (maybe less in October but I can’t promise). Can be enjoyed in one day.

      Ghent – Has lots of beautiful medieval architecture and some great sights, is larger than Bruges and less touristy. It was my favorite, and I would spend two days there.

      Brussels – The capital has of course some great restaurants, bars famous for its huge selection of Belgian beers, and the most amazing square. I think Brussels is good for two days.

      You can’t see all these in one weekend, but maybe Brussels and Ghent is a good idea.

      • Nigel October 10, 2012 at 11:35 am #

        Don’t Forget Ypres (Ieper) ;-))

    • Alma October 30, 2012 at 8:25 pm #

      Hello Michael,

      I know this is a little late for your posting date but I would like to give you some tips on Belgium.

      I am currently an au pair here for three months now & will continue to live here for another year. In this short time I have had the opportunity to visit quite a bit of this small but charming country.

      If you want the true Belgian experience stay away from the most touristy cities (i.e. Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent…but Bruges is something you definately can´t miss!) I am in no way saying that these cities are not worth the visit because they all have their own brand of beauty and attractions, but they are a little comercialized and packed with tourists pretty much the whole year round.

      Go to the other less well known regions, like the Hageland (home to the country’s best beer brands!), small historic towns like Tongeren (which is one of the oldest cities in Europe, and it once was a Roman trading town) and of course make sure you visit one or two cities in Wallonia, the french speaking region of Belgium. My favorite city/village in Wallonia is Coo, it´s a tiny town nestled in the Ardennes and can offer you great hiking routes and breath taking, panoramic views from the top of the mountains.

      Do some research and really pick what you want to see and what kind of experience you really want to have here. Like I´ve said before, Belgium is small and not that well known in all the world as a top travel destination but it has so much to offer! A lot of history, great people, traditions, foods and beer.

  2. Jan October 7, 2012 at 6:58 pm #

    I always think it’s interesting when some of the most peaceful looking photos we take on a vacation bring back stressful memories from trying to capture the image with hoards of tourists around. It’s always a fun challenge to make it look like you’re the only couple on an incredible beach when the reality is quite different!

    • Sofia October 8, 2012 at 8:26 am #

      Haha yes, and these days literally everyone carries along DSLR cameras with massive lenses like professional photographers all fighting for the right spot, I wonder if it’s a fading trend or if it will continue this way..

  3. Michael October 7, 2012 at 7:31 pm #

    Thanks so much for the advice! I look forward to making it there!

  4. Mary October 8, 2012 at 1:28 pm #

    Who would not fall in love with Bruges? It looks a dreamlike paradise.By the way, beer plays a big role in Belgium. My husband orders beers from that country via online. It’s because of the distinct tangy taste.

    • Sofia October 8, 2012 at 7:45 pm #

      Hi Mary,

      Good idea to order the beer online. I’m not usually a big fan of beer, but Belgian beer is different, they really do make the best beer in the world!

  5. Dean October 9, 2012 at 6:36 am #

    Bruges looks absolutely beautiful. Love the photos, but the crowds sound a little too much for me.

    • Sofia October 13, 2012 at 11:36 am #

      Yeah, I think they are worse during summer, but in the shoulder season it would probably be less, so now would be a good time to avoid the crowds.

  6. Eva October 9, 2012 at 2:18 pm #

    I have been in Belgum last summer. I have been in Antwerp, Brusel and Bruges. These all cities are very different from each other and all have their own interests.

    • Sofia October 13, 2012 at 11:36 am #

      Yes they are all so different from each other and all have their own charm. Which was your favorite?

  7. Tom @ ActiveBackpacker October 9, 2012 at 11:02 am #

    Awww, I liked Bruges. It is a bit too pretty for its own good though 😉

    There is NOTHING better than a delicious Belgium Beer (except maybe a German one :D). I love La Chouffe and the one with the Joker on it (I forget what it’s called, Brugezot or something).

    When it comes to beer….the Belgiums know their stuff!

    • Sofia October 13, 2012 at 11:35 am #

      Yes they really do. We had the joker beer as well, Brugse Zot. I loved how everyone in Belgium were so proud of their own beer. Our taxi driver kept going on and on about all the different beers he liked, haha.

  8. Kristin October 9, 2012 at 9:53 pm #

    I was in Bruges last year – a wonderful trip. I had the most delicious spaghetti and meatballs there! ) We loved the boat tour along the canal as well.

    • Sofia October 13, 2012 at 11:40 am #

      Looks delicious, if you like meatballs you have to visit Sweden 😉

  9. Gabriel October 9, 2012 at 8:28 pm #

    Bruges really is a beautiful place. It reminds me of some of the small cities in Germany that I got to visit a couple years ago.

    • Sofia October 13, 2012 at 11:38 am #

      Yeah they do kind of remind you of Germany, but with a mixture of Dutch architecture too.

  10. Tom Miller October 10, 2012 at 5:19 pm #

    This place is amazing. I love river cruises and I bet the boat tour will be as worthwhile as any experience I had. Thanks for the heads up!

    • Sofia October 13, 2012 at 11:42 am #

      Bruges is becoming popular with cruise travelers, especially those who prefer mini-cruises. Check it out next time you plan a trip :)

  11. creative nomad October 17, 2012 at 12:52 pm #

    I have heard only good about the lovely city! I cant wait to visit!… you didnt mention which beer you would recommend?

  12. Eva October 17, 2012 at 4:08 pm #

    Oh, yes Brugge is a small but very nice city. I’m just amazed with its gorgeous views ! :)

  13. Eva October 17, 2012 at 4:10 pm #

    Oh, yes Bruges is a small but very nice city. I’m just amazed with its gorgeous views ! :)

  14. Benjamin Finck November 4, 2012 at 1:15 pm #

    Bruges is a very beautiful city. It’s true that there is a lot of tourist (I agree with Sofia). It’s our “Venice” (i’m from Belgium). Gent is also very nice with less tourist and a younger feeling (there is a big university). Brussels has one of the most beautiful square in the world (the Grand-Place). Antwerpen is the trendy city. All these cities are interresting. And you can travel from one to the other very easy by train. (
    To Alma. I live near Coo (in Remouchamps, small village at the beginning of the Ardennes). It’s a very peaceful area with a nice and green nature.

    At any place you go in Belgium, you have to try Beer and chocolate :-)

    I wish to everybody nice travel and discovery. Enjoy.