Have you ever had a perfect day trip? Our trip to Bruges was just that.
When I planned our Brussels weekend trip my husband suggested we spend a day in Bruges. I was against it since it was just a short trip but I’m so glad that he managed to change my mind. Bruges is a perfect picture postcard town. And it kind of reminded me of English countryside towns and I seriously love the English countryside.
So, on a beautiful Sunday morning we boarded our train to Bruges from Brussels Midi station. The train was packed full with tourists and somehow after walking through several carriages we eventually found ourselves a place to sit. It was only a short train ride since Belgium isn’t really big and on our way to Bruges we passed near several other tourist-worthy Belgian towns such as Ghent. There was an older Belgian gentleman sitting opposite me and he struck a conversation with me. I have to say that I speak some French and I tried to use my French as much as possible during this trip but everyone we met spoke good English. So we talked briefly about Brussels and Bruges and Belgian coast and about French and Flemish language representation in Belgium.
Soon we arrived to Bruges and followed the mass of tourists out of the train station and into the town. However, the groups of tourists dispersed quickly since everyone obviously had another idea of how to get to the strict center of the town.
We walked past a row of old small houses which looked more like they belonged in a fairy tale book than in a modern-day world. Passing the St.Salvator’s Cathedral we found ourselves in a busy street leading to the main square Markt. And what a sight to behold! The square is surrounded by colourful picturesque buildings from different periods. There’s also the majestic Provincial Court building which can be mistaken for a town hall and of course looming over the square is the 83-meter-high Belfry tower from 1248. There was also a kind of carnival at the square which I must say looked a bit out of odds with the beautiful square. You could spend hours at the square just admiring the beautiful facades of the buildings or watching the world go by from one of the many café terraces on the square. But the first thing we did in Brugge or Bruges was to climb 366 steps up to the top of the Belfry tower to see the whole town. However, it wasn’t an easy climb since the passage was often very narrow and steep and we had to wait in queue for half an hour before. There’s not much inside the tower except from the big wooden chest in the Treasure Room and the intricate clock/bells mechanism further up. Nevertheless, the view alone was worth the climb and the hefty 8 euros ticket.
Did I like Brussels? I’m not really sure. Yes, it’s got a lot to offer, and we’ve only experienced a fraction of it since it was just a weekend trip. Would I like to come back? I don’t know. Would I like to live there? Not really. These are usually the questions that I ask myself after I’ve returned from a trip to determine whether I really liked the city or not.
What I liked: chocolate shops, waffles, the cartoons graffiti on the walls, the Atomium and other major tourist sights, our hotel, the dog police in the Laeken park (didn’t see the actual dogs but heard them and the sight of the small station was super cute), the surprise sunset
After a hearty breakfast we set off into the rain and cold to visit the Atomium. Despite the weather I felt upbeat and ready to give Brussels a second chance .The Atomium, one of the symbols of Brussels, was built in 1958 for the World Fair exhibition. It struck me as very contemporary, furthermore even slightly futuristic. It consists of nine spheres that contain different exhibitions such as the story of the construction of the Atomium or the display of the furniture of the 70’s. There are also some fun and spaceship-looking escalators that take you from one sphere to another. The best part was the view of the city from the top sphere. The Atomium experience was really enjoyable.
the view from the Atomium
Chocolates, waffles, Brussels sprouts, French,pardon, Belgian fries, beer, EU institutions; all these clichés and more make up our image of Brussels. It’s been my wish for a while to visit Brussels (the capital of Europe in a way) and we finally did it in April (2015).
I’ve come to realize that my view of a city and the whole experience of a trip depends little on the city/trip itself but much more on the other subjective circumstances such as myself and my state of mind, my travel companions, the weather and other variables. So, this weekend trip wasn’t supposed to happen actually. Our honeymoon was to be our last trip for a while but things didn’t go according to our plan and we decided to go to Brussels. I’m telling you this because my experience of Brussels was tainted by the fact that my mind just wasn’t into travelling anymore.
the Halle gate-remnant of Brussels old city walls
My first impression of Brussels wasn’t great simply because we got slightly lost after exiting the train station Brussels Midi and ended up in some slightly dodgy area on our way to the hotel. I reluctantly admit that my husband possesses better orientation skills than I do. Or is it just that I get confused when I’m on a trip with him because I usually pride myself on never getting lost. So, after finally arriving to our hotel and after some nap time for him we ventured out to explore the city. Our hotel was in Saint-Gilles area in the Louise shopping district and near the Palace of Justice, which according to Wikipedia is bigger than St Peter’s Basilica in Rome (Vatican). The building is being renovated but I liked the view of Brussels’ Lower Town from the square in front of it. There is also a lift which connects the Palace of Justice and the square (Upper Town area) with the Lower Town (where the famous Grand Place is ).
you can see the Atomium and the Town Hall’s spire