After visiting Paris, my husband and I headed to Belgium for three nights where we were to stay with a close family friend of mine, before finally heading back to Israel. After a good night's sleep, our first stop in Belgium was Bruges, Belgium's romantic canal-lined city near the northern coast. One of the first things you will notice upon arriving into Bruges is how well maintained this historic city is; indeed every little detail seems polished and fresh, despite the city dating back literally thousands of years.
We woke up to a lovely day in Belgium, as you can see in the pictures below. Our family friend lives out in the Belgian Countryside close to the border with France. In fact, this village is very typical of the rural landscape you will find throughout most of Belgium, aside from its big cities.
And yes, you will see cows everywhere you go, or it seems that way at least. Because of the beautiful weather, Bruges was packed the day we were there. So, after circling around and around looking for parking, we finally found ourselves strolling into Bruges's Central Square, a classic European plaza.
If you've ever seen the film In Bruges staring Colin Farell and Brendan Gleeson, you will recognize the famous Clock Tower below in which the openings scenes were filmed. This courtyard and clock tower can be found just off the main plaza, show above.
Strolling through the Alleyways, you can easily get lost as one street veers and curls into another. Street after street, you will find chocolate shops, waffle stands, souvenir gift shops and tea-rooms galore.
And before you know it, you've run into your first glimpse of Bruges's Canal System which is extensive and lengthy. Comparable to Amsterdam and Venice, Bruges is a city that is known for its beautifully unique waterways.
And just like you can't go to Venice without riding a gondola, you can't go to Bruges without taking a romantic Canal Cruise. It will cost you about 7 Euros and it will be well worth it. Riding through the canals really is the best way for you to see the entirety of the city before you start wandering everywhere by foot. The ride will last about 30 minutes and you will be dropped off right where you were picked up.
The beautiful Architecture of Bruges can be appreciated from various vantage points on your cruise as your guide details the history behind several of the key buildings. We learned that the real estate along the canal is worth several million dollars each. Riding through the canals and appreciating its beauty, you can really see why the sticker price is so high.
Once you reach this Park below filed with beautiful swans and ducks, you will know that your guide is going to turn around and begin heading back to the starting point. We really felt lucky to be there on such a blue, clear day especially since Belgium is a country known for its endless gray skies and rain.
After our canal cruise and some strolling around, we headed back to the Main Plaza for lunch. Our Belgian friend informed us we needed to get the Belgian classics, shrimp croquettes and fries with mayonnaise. So, we did and they were both delicious. We were deliriously happy to have the sun shining on us during our outdoor meal.
You know, you can't come to Belgium without visiting a Chocolate Shop. You will have endless shops from which to choose, so it's always good to ask around as to which ones are the best in town. No matter where we went, locals recommended for us to try Leonida's Chocolate and I can tell you that it did not disappoint. See below for some of the treats we saw along the way, including chocolate pops, hot chocolate cubes and truffles.
Hopefully you saved room for a Belgian Waffle, because you can't go to Belgium without having one (or two...). You will have an abundance of locales from which to choose, each one just as delicious as the last place. Order a fresh Belgian waffle topped with dark chocolate sauce and powdered sugar and then enjoy your special treat.
After devouring our waffles, we walked and walked and walked until our feet couldn't walk anymore. Bruges was one of the most special places I've been to in a long time and it's somewhere I could easily see myself going back to when I have the chance. I can see why my Dad loved Belgium so much (he spent seven years there in his medical school days and always speaks of it fondly). Tomorrow, onward to Antwerp and then we'll finish up in Brussels. Then, we will have finally caught up to speed!