Friday, August 9, 2013

A Visit to Bruges (Belgium) - Part I




The breathtakingly beautiful City of Bruges, Belgium is one of my very favorite places to visit so we went for a one-day visit - what a lovely birthday present from my family.




Bruges is called the "Venice of the North". This splendid medieval city is one of Belgium's crown jewels. In no other European city are the feel and the look of medieval times so present as here in this city close to the North Sea.

For centuries the canals of Bruges have linked the city to the sea, a guarantee of wealth and prosperity. International merchants built up Bruges into one of the largest Hanse cities.




Today Bruges has a population of about 45.000 people (the old center) or 120.000 people (center together with the suburbs). These numbers clearly show that Bruges is not a tiny miniature city. It ranks, even today, among the important cities of Belgium. It is also the capital and the largest city of the Belgian province of West-Flanders. 

It is quite poular with tourists to take a  half-hour carriage ride along Bruges´ historic winding streets.




We started our visit with a stroll to one of the many monasteries.




And paid an obligatory and fun visit to my favorite kitchenware store - you can only find DILLE & KAMILLE (dill & chamomile) stores in Belgium and the Netherlands - last August (also around the time of my birthday) I did a whole blog post about one of these amazing stores in the equally charming City of Middleburg (NL).




This is the beautiful red brick wall of a monastery or "Klooster" with wonderful pink and white hydrangeas in full bloom...




...and carved angels watching over the wooden entrance door.




Dominique Persoone, the man who runs The Chocolate Line, is a legend both at home and abroad. The Chocolate Line is one of the three chocolate shops that is mentioned in the Michelin guide. The Chocolate Line delivers pralines to "Hof van Cleve" and "Oud Sluis",  top restaurants in Belgium and the Netherlands.




Bruges is a chocolate city par excellence. The city has more than 50 passionate chocolatiers. Bruges is a place where established names and fresh up-and-coming talents certainly complement each other. Here you can both sample the traditional chocolate craft and many new chocolate creations. It is said that nowhere in the world will you find better chocolate.

This is a picture of the seal of the Bruges Chocolate Guild which depicts the Bruges swan (Brugsch Swaentje), a local specialty creation. The exact recipe remains a secret, but amongst the key ingredients are almond paste, "gruut" (a local type of spiced flour) and "kletsekoppen" (a local Bruges biscuit). Created in January 2006, the Bruges swan has been sold in the shops of the city’s officially recognised confectioners, all of whom are members of the Bruges Chocolate Guild.




In one of the countless chocolate stores, you can chose from many varities of chocolate truffles such as these. These lovely truffles are a chocolate confectionery, traditionally made with a chocolate ganache centre coated in chocolate, icing sugar, cocoa powder or chopped toasted nuts (such as hazelnuts, almonds or coconut), usually in a spherical, conical, or curved shape. Other fillings may replace the ganache such as cream, melted chocolate, caramel, nuts, almonds, berries, or other assorted sweet fruits, nougat, fudge, or toffee, mint, chocolate chips, marshmallow, and, popularly, liqueur.




In many of the chocolate stores you will also find very pretty mendiants, a traditional French confection composed of a chocolate disk studded with nuts and dried fruits representing the four mendicant or monastic orders of the Dominicans, Augustinians, Franciscans and Carmelites. Each of the nuts and dried fruits used refer to the color of monastic robes with tradition dictating raisins for the Dominicans, hazelnut for the Augustins, dried fig for Franciscans and almond for Carmelite  - you just cannot resist these treats, trust me. I think, David, you know what I am talking about!




There are countless stores and unbelievably pretty buildings to marvel at...




...and countless Cafés and incredible restaurants (there are presently eight star-studded restaurants listed in the Guide Michelin 2013 and thirty-six in the Gault Millau 2013).




Colorful huge flags were on disaplay in many streets throughout the city - this particular one was one of my favorites and it depicts the very popular fiets (bicycles) - although almost all streets of Bruges are one way, they are both ways for bikes. Therefore the bicycling is a very popular way  to visit Bruges and its surroundings.




A view of one of the many narrow and utterly charming alleyways...




...and pretty gables.




Bruges is truly a city of bicycles enthusiats, these were parked in the main market place.




World-famous Godiva Chocolatier originated in 1926 in Belgium. The founder and chocolatier Joseph Draps developed a unique formula for a very rich and smooth chocolate and shell-molded designs. In 1926, Draps opened his first Godiva Chocolatier shop on a cobblestone street on Grand Place, Brussels’ central square. Today the GODIVA brand is known – and loved – in over 80 countries around the world. Godiva owns and operates more than 450 boutiques and shops worldwide but this picture was taken in the Godiva store in Bruges - look at these paper cones filled with lovely ripe strawberries dipped in delicious white Godiva chocolate.




For those who prefer treats without chocolate, there are famous macarons, a sweet meringue-based confection made with eggs, icing sugar, granulated sugar, almond powder or ground almond, and food colouring. The macaron is commonly filled with ganache, buttercream or jam filling sandwiched between two biscuits. The name is derived from the Italian word macarone, maccarone or maccherone, the Italian meringue.In Bruges you can find them in every conceivable color and flavor combination - actually, they are even available in four different varieties at that rather famous fast food restaurant with the golden arches - that´s Belgium.




More bicycles and sight-seeing in the main market square or Markt - it is dominated by its Belfry, for centuries the city’s foremost edifice and the perfect look-out in case of war, fire or any other calamity. You can still climb to the top of this medieval tower as a narrow, steep staircase of 366 steps leads to the top of the 83-metre-high building, which leans about a metre to the east - for those of you who are interested in not so mainstream movies, this is the building that was a central feature of the 2008 film "In Bruges" a 2008 British-American black comedy.




At the foot of the Belfry is the statue of Jan Breydel and Pieter de Coninck. These two popular heroes of Bruges resisted French oppression and consequently played an important part during the Battle of the Golden Spurs in 1302. Their statue looks out onto the Gothic revival style Provinciaal Hof (Provincial Palace).




Bruges local police - on bicycles! "CSI: Bruges", no doubt!




You can also choose to take a rather romantic and individual tour in the heart of Bruges´ medieval centre, a tour in a horse-drawn carriage will take you along the canals and over the typical small bridges (you can hear them throughout the city and they are fast). The coach driver will explain the city to you, and halfway through the tour, the horse (and the passengers) get a rest...




...at the Beguinage or "The Princely Beguinage Ten Wijngaarde" with its whitewashed house fronts, tranquil convent garden and beguinage museum that was founded in 1245. Today the nuns of the Order of Saint Benedict inhabit the site.




More alleyways and Cafés...




...and a visit with Tintin and his dog Milou - "The Adventures of Tintin" ("Les Aventures de Tintin") is a series of comic albums created by Belgian cartoonist Georges Remi (1907–1983), who wrote under the pen name of Hergé. The series is one of the most popular European comics of the 20th century.




More chocolate wrapped every so elegantly in golden paper...




...or placed in paper cut-outs resembling the old buildings in Bruges...




...or with papers that looked like paintings depicting one of the many bridges and more buildings in the city.




And, of course, there is the artisinal Belgian beers and ales with the most delightful names, labels, bottle designs and flavors you will ever taste and see or ever come across - did you notice the "Hercule Stout" - a nod to Hercule Poirot a fictional Belgian detective, created by Agatha Christie - along with Miss Marple, Poirot is one of Christie's most famous and long-lived characters.




This was just one if the countless glasses - there seems to be a different glass for almost every kind of beer that is available at this famous Bruges beer store...




...and quite a few of them can be marveled at when walking along the so-called "Wall of Beers" - quite popular with tourists I might add (Mary, do you recognize the three girls wearing the Aspen caps...).




This stately, late Gothic building is called Perez de Malvenda House. This striking 15th-century mansion was restored from the rafters to the cellar in neo-Gothic style and nowadays accommodates the shop that sells not only local specialties like the famous Avocaat (egg liquor) but also many of the above mentioned beers and chocolates.




If you rather not take the bike or tour the city by horse-drawn carriage and prefer to see the city from a different angle, why not take one of the frequent canal boat tours. During the half-hour boat trip you are treated to some fantastic views of monuments and historical buildings. A tour through the canals of Bruges takes you through a major part of the city - also extremly popular with the many tourists that were visiting that day, actaully every day.




This is a statue of Saint Nepomuk watching over the bridge with the same name....




...more lovely gables.




Golden statues gracing the Basilica of the Holy Blood (Basiliek van het Heilig Bloed).




This double chapel consists of the Romanesque Church of Saint Basil (1139-1149) on the ground floor and the Basilica on the first floor, rebuilt in Gothic revival style in the 19th century. The Relic of the Holy Blood is kept in the Basilica.




After this virtual tour of some of the most wonderful places and things to visit and look at and things to taste while in Bruges, all that is left to say at the end of PART I of my Bruges post is that "when visiting Belgium, make sure to stop by Bruges - this Belgian city is certainly worth a visit"!

Part II of my two-part mini series will feature one of the most beloved and famous and utterly delightful Speculoos bakeries in Bruges...




49 comments:

  1. My sweet friend, what a wonderful city! Unfortunately, Bruge is not nearly as close to me as to you, so I had to live vicariously through your pictures. I didn't realize how prominent chocolate was in Belgium culture. I need to start saving up for a trip now! Thank you for sharing yet another lovely post! I hope you have a blessed weekend.

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    1. Monet, you would not believe the number of chocolate stores that you will find in the city - unbelievable, I have never seen so much chocolate in one place in my life - and the smell when you enter these stores is almost unreal - chocolate heaven for many visitors but there is so much more to this city and although we have been there three times now, I still cannot get enough of it - I shall be back for more.

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  2. Dear Andrea, I ve been there in 2002. Thank you so much for bringing me back. A lovely stroll down Memory Lane.

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    1. Carola, thank you so much for the nice comment - maybe you should visit again some day if you get a chance - it is an utterly charming place to visit.

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  3. Wow - what a great photo collection! Happy Birthday to you! I have never been to Bruge, although I have traveled elsewhere in Belgium, and I loved it. I just love the old cities. Here in Los Angeles, we have absolutely nowhere near the history, nowhere near the atmosphere. I am oh-so-ennvious! Thanks for the terrific armchair tour!

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    1. Adri, you are quite welcome - maybe you will come back for yet another "virtual visit" and take a look at maý second post that will feature one of the most delightful Belgium speculoos bakeries - I loved that place even more than the chocolate stores.

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  4. -----Oooo, what a stunning feast for the eyes.
    The magnificent colors, lush macaroons, chocolate, golden statues, did I mention CHOCOLATE?
    Thank you for the tour, dear.

    Happy Birthday!! xx

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    1. Kim, thank you very much for the lovely comment and the birthday whishes. Chocolate rules in Bruges!

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  5. What a lovely city to visit Andrea, I'm glad you had a great birthday. Looking forward to part 2 of this post.

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    1. Laura, glad that you liked this "virtual visit" - I had been waiting to go back to Brugge for over a year now, so this visit was more than a lovely surprise "gift".

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  6. Andrea - it is so beautiful, and your photos show it off exquisitely! I have always wanted to go to Bruges but only made it as far as Brussels. And all that chocolate... Belgian chocolate is my favorite and I am (happily) jealous that you got to try all those different kinds! And the macarons are so beautiful, too... Alles Gute zum Geburtstag, mein liebe Freundin! Herzlichen Glückwunsch! ~ David

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    1. David, vielen lieben Dank für deine netten Wünsche zu meinem Geburtstag! Next time you travel to Belium, try visiting Bruges - just do not go on August 15th, a national holiday - I did not know that everything was closed on that holiday but learned the hard way last year when we tried to visit the equally lovely City of Ghent.

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  7. Andrea, how fortunate you are to have all these experiences - and the photography skills to capture and share them. Every time I read your posts I feel like I just took a mini-vacation. What a beautiful city.

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    1. Christy, glad you enjoyed my tour of Bruges - I took the liberty to celebrate my birthday a bit instead of making the FFwD recipe but there is "make-up" Friday next week, so I shall try to participate then.

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  8. Andrea, you've got me dying to visit Belgium. I was there many years ago but your photos are just spectacular and have given me terrible (or wonderful) wanderlust!!!

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    1. Chris, Bruges is one of the most exiting and beautiful places to visit in Belgium - we have been there three times and still have not even seen a fraction of the amazing places that one should visit while there - we will return in fall for a visit.

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  9. Wow! What an incredibly beautiful city to say the least! Love the gold statues - well, every thing actually. How lucky you are to be so close to such a wonderful place. What a fabulous way to spend your special day. Thank you so much for sharing. Happy belated birthday, Andrea!

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    1. Cathlenn, thank you for the birthday wishes - I love these kinds of birthdays - a trip to one of my very favorite cities, incredible sight-seeing, amazing food and lovely desserts - what more could one want?!

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  10. I hope you had an absolutely wonderful birthday celebration, Andrea. We were in Bruges, several years ago...my favorite city in Belgium. We loved touring the city and did so by bus, carriage, boat, car and by foot. Each tour provided us with wonderful sights around the city. My gravatar photo that you see was taken on a very tiny street in Bruges where I could literally touch the walls on both sides of the street. Your lovely photos brought back so many memories. Thank you for sharing your birthday adventure with us. :)

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    1. Karen, thank you very much for the birthday wishes - now I finally know where that lovely picture of you was taken - the mystery is finally solved - seriously, I had guessed that your picture was taken in France, how nice to learn that it was taken in Bruges, a city you also really enjoyed visiting!

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  11. warm & happy wishes on your Birthday...thanks for making all of us travel the beautiful Bruges virtually with your stunning snaps of the place...awesome clicks, your camera has captured the beauty of the place so wonderfully...HAVE A WONDERFUL DAY!!! :-)

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    1. Kumar, thank you very much - so glad that you enjoyed my little tour of beautiful Bruges!

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  12. thanks for sharing a great pictures. I have never been to Belgium. A great place to visit.

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    1. Belgium is certainly worth a visit - and this day was no exception - the weather was also quite perfect for picture taking which is always an added bonus!

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  13. What a wonderful birthday trip. Looking at all your lovely photos brings back memories of our trip there. Such a gorgeous city. Hubby and I spend 3 nights
    in a lovely little hotel and we didn't miss a thing. Thank you so much for your birthday wishes, and I wish you a very happy year too.

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    1. Nana, I did not realize that our birthdays are just one day apart - how nice to know that! And I had no idea that so many of my very kind and talented blogger friends had visited Bruges as well - actually makes me quite happy to think that we walked along the same streets, just different years!

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  14. The happiest of birthdays to you, Andrea! I adore Bruges! We were there several years ago. One of my favorite things was watching the lovely ladies making lace. Fascinating! Your beautiful pictures took me back to this absolute gem of a city! My only regret is that we only spent one day there. We stayed in a Bed and Breakfast outside the city, and was directed by the owner to one of the best dinners we had in all of Europe. Thanks for sharing this wonderful post and bringing back such fabulous memories!

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    1. Kathy, thank you so much for your kind birthday whishes - how nice that we share another "passion", we both adore Bruges and its food! This is really special and thank you also for letting me know about your trip there - whenever we arrive in Bruges and I get out of the car, the first thing that comes to my mind is that this city is so pretty that it almost takes my breath away!

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  15. Bruges is such a beautiful city. I was lucky enough to visit it 25 years ago, and I still remember what a highlight it was. I spent the whole day on foot, walking around the city, and was sorry when the day was done. Thanks for taking me back!

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    1. Beth, you are quite welcome - again, I am amazed that so many of my fellow bloggers actually visited Bruges - what does not surprise me however is that all of you actually loved this incredibly beautiful city.

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  16. So Beautiful!!! Love all the character!!! Haven't been to Belguim yet but its on our to do list

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    1. thank you so much - you would love visiting Belgium, I am sure - I also enjoyed all your wonderful pictures that you took in France.

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  17. How lovely! Happy birthday Andrea. I have been to Bruges once about 10 years ago and thought it very beautiful.

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    1. So kind of you - thank you for the birthday whishes - so many fellow bloggers have visited Bruges - how nice that you all liked it there so much.

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  18. Thank you, thank you for taking me to places that I will never be able to visit. Such a personal tour I just had. Loved every photo. Thanks again.

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    1. Cindy, you are so very welcome - you know that it really fills my heart with joy to read that you enjoy these virtual tours of mine! Thank you for your wonderful support, it means a lot to me!

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  19. Hallo Andrea!
    Sorry for my looong abcense, I've been working on other things (such as my semester in Munich!) and had to leave the cooking blogs for a while :( I'm back now, and I headed here straightway. I see you are having great vacations in Belgium! I've also been there a few years ago, and it is quite beautiful and interesting :) Hope you enjoy your holidays!

    ...and now I'm going to scroll down and see the delicious things I've been missing.... ;)

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    1. Dear Nizz, so glad to hear from you - I wish you all the very best for your studies in Munich - we will be able to converse in German soon - that ought to be fun! I will be haeding over to your blog now and look at your latest post!

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  20. Now "I" want to go to Bruges for my birthday!!! What a marvelous city. My girlfriend brought me some Belgian chocolates home from her trip last fall...heavenly. Lucky you...and belated birthday wishes, my friend.

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    1. Liz, thank you for the nice birthday whishes - maybe we should have a blogger meeting in Bruges - that would be more than fun!

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  21. Happy Birthday Andrea! Such a great post, you have highlighted what a magnificent city Bruges is and I would love to visit one day.

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    1. Karen, thank you very much for the wonderful birthday whishes! You are such a kind person - we should just all meet up in Bruges one of these days - it is a food lovers paradise!

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  22. Europe is so lovely! Wish we lived there and could visit other countries. There's so much history and charm.
    Andrea, your pics are awesome. You should have your own travel magazine. xo

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    1. Colette, you are certainly right about the charm of Europe - it never ever ceases to amaze me how many places I have yet to vist - I seem to have a never ending wish list of must see places in many countries!

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  23. Happy Belated Birthday Andrea!! What a lovely gift indeed! I cannnot get enough of these pictures and wish there are more pictures. :) My Japanese friend just moved to Belgium (she left two days ago) with her husband and I'm so jealous! I really hope to visit them (and you!) one day.. :)

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    1. Nami, how fun that would be for you to visit your friend in Belgium and then have the opportunity to meet you!!! One day, I am quite sure, we shall meet!

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  24. Thank you for sharing your birthday trip with me!! 50 chocolate shops sounds like heaven!!
    Happy Birthday my friend!

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    1. Cindy, thank you so much for all your wonderful comments, dear friend!

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  25. What a amazing city Belgium is and Great job for publishing such a beneficial article. Your blog information isn’t only useful but it is additionally creative with high content too. Now a days everyone looks for deal of the day products like booking online tickets and hotels in online shopping.

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