There’s no doubt about the romantic vibe of a place when a “lake of love” is listed as one of its must-visit spots. In Bruges—a city in the Flanders region of Belgium—a swan-filled lake is the central attraction of a pristine complex called Minnewater. It attracts lovers who kiss on a bridge over it in order to ensure their love is eternal. But what if you’re not interested in all of that mush. What if you’re single but still want to explore Bruges without the romantic FOMO? Is it possible to get past the lovers riding horse-drawn carriages and kissing at every corner? The answer is YES. Here are some things to do when you’re travelling alone in one of the most romantic cities in the world—and, who knows, maybe you will find love there too?
Here’s some history to go with your beer. According to legend, Maximilian of Austria gained control of Bruges after the death of his wife. There was growing discontentment in the region owing to bad governance. The people of Bruges managed to lock him up for more than four months and when he banned them from celebrations, they tried to appease him by honouring him with parades and even asked him to build a mental asylum. To this, Maximilian replied that they may as well put gates on the boundaries of the city because Bruges is filled with fools anyway! “The fools of Bruges” is what the locals are commonly called.
Make sure to visit the Brewery De Halve Maan—they brew beer and call it “Brugse Zot” or “Bruges Fool” as a fun way for people to remember their past. Go on, head on a tour of the brewery, sip some blonde beer, and indulge in lots of fooleries!
It’s almost criminal to visit Belgium and miss out on delicious waffles and crispy frites! Every corner of Bruges has amazing cafes and stalls where you can hop by and buy a round of waffles and frites (Our tip would be to get one of each so that the sweet and savoury tastes are taken care of!). While in the city, do not miss out on a meal at Bistro Bruut. Flemish food with a contemporary flair and some of the most Instagram-worthy dishes you have ever seen (and eaten!). What’s not to love?
Often considered to be the most silent place in the city, the Béguinage or “Begijnhof”, as it is called in Flemish, is a symbol of women’s independence from the days of yore. It’s ironic that this complex is situated not too far from the dreamy swan lake. Established in 1245, it served as a refuge for the “beguines”—who were, essentially, liberated single women who chose to live life on their own terms. The premises, along with several Béguinages across the country are collectively listed on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list. During the Middle Ages, women weren’t given much freedom but these Béguinages proved to be a safe haven for them. Over the course of many years, opportunities across Europe increased for ladies and today, the complex houses an order of Benedictine nuns. Apart from the lovely gardens, other points of interest here include a museum, a Baroque Church and an altarpiece painting of St Elizabeth by the 17th-century Bruges master Jacob van Oost the Elder.
A great deal of your vacation will also involve lazy mornings in your hotel room. Choose wisely and yes, treat yourself! Bruges is peppered with gorgeous boutique and heritage hotels that are located at a stone’s throw away from the city centre. Opt for the Grand Hotel Casselbergh Bruges for a guaranteed luxurious time and rich doses of history considering it is built in three of the city’s most historic residences: Casselbergh, Zeven Torens, and ‘t Fransch Schildt.
Bruges’s river Reie is lined with canals. A good way to see the city is to go on a canal tour. Not only will you be bunched together with other tourists for company, but you will also be treated to the various sites along with great commentary. A trip on these canals will reveal why the city is also called “the Venice of the North”. The canal tours last for about half-an-hour and can be accessed from the landing ports of Michielssens, Huidenvettersplein and Coudenys, Rozenhoedkaai.
Everyone knows that Belgium is known for its world class chocolate. In Bruges, too, the sweet treat is much revered. With more than 50 chocolatiers calling the city home, you will definitely be spoilt for choice. Don’t just indulge your sweet tooth: rather, sign up for a chocolate-making course and get chocolatey! Head to Chocolats by Daphne: “Chocolats are a girl’s best friend.”—doesn’t the name say it all? Another must-visit is The Chocolate Line by Dominique Persoone.
Brussels is considered a heritage city and a lot of it has got to do with its gorgeous architecture. Its historic centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Much of the city’s beauty lies in the fact that most of its medieval architecture is still intact. Spend some time roaming through the Markt area, don’t miss out on clicking loads of pictures of the Bonifaciusbridge, Belfry, the Provincial Palace, and City Hall, amongst many other gems.
Last but not least, go all out and splurge on some of the wonderful items on offer in the city’s quaint stores. It’s common to get lost in the cute streets—each brimming with many a charming shoppe. On Saturdays and the first Sunday of every month, the areas of Zuidzandstraat (except for public buses), Steenstraat, Geldmuntstraat and Noordzandstraat remain traffic-free from 1 to 6 PM! Head to Depot d’O for quirky finds, De Clerck Antiques for historic gifts, ’t Apostelientje for local handmade lace, and Ginkgo for silver jewellery.
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