Bruges, any reasonably cultured Irish person will know, is a fairy-tale town, isn’t it? All those canals, bridges, cobbled streets and those churches, how could it not be somebody’s thing?
Despite having just ripped off an entire quote from the magnificent movie ‘In Bruges’, it remains true. Bruges does have a fairy-tale vibe to it.
It feels like the whole city is welcoming you with open arms and while you know you’re a part of the droves of tourists, it doesn’t feel like you are one.
The most dominant feature of the city is the ‘Belfry of Bruges’, a striking bell tower located in the very heart. Despite the steep entry fee of twelve euro, the tower is a must see.
The 366 narrow winding steps are fun to navigate with oncoming traffic from other people, eventually leading you to a stunning view of the city. Notches on the ledges show you how far away major cities are and on a clear day you might almost believe you can see them.
Need you be reminded that Bruges is in Belgium, so cheap and good quality beer is in no shortage (and chocolate of course). Indulge and ‘immerse’ yourself in the culture, or at least tell yourself that. That being said, be wary of how much you’re paying close to the bell tower square. Luckily, the receptionist at our hostel warned us that prices are ramped up in and around the square for food and drink so make sure to ask your receptionist for some insider knowledge and tips.
Another feature that adds to the vibe are the small, intertwined cobbled streets. One of the tourist maps recommended to go walking through the city with the intention of getting lost in the fascinating nooks and crannies of the city. By doing this, you stumble upon things which seem sweeter since you didn’t intend to go see it.
While you are intentionally ‘lost’, you can’t really ever get lost. If you do begin to worry or panic that you don’t know where you are just keep walking. The streets will eventually lead you back to somewhere familiar.
If not, just look up and around until you see the bell tower. You can then make your way to the main square and use that to retrace your steps.
Despite being pleasantly surprised that Bruges turned out to be so beautiful, there was one disappointment.
The lack of swans.
Cathal Mc Cahey