Getting drunk at 11am on Trappist beer and eating dark chocolate until you pass out on a park bench is the other activity of choice. But first, here's an introduction to the city.
A travel writer, I am not, but I do know that there are some amazing places in the world and I have been to some of them, so allow me to take on a trip to Bruges. This medieval city still has it's old world charm while it enjoys the style and culture that makes Belgium famous. Welcome to Bruges.
For starters, you should have already seen the movie In Bruges. If not, check out the link and watch the movie instantly right now on Amazon. Go ahead, I can wait. Trust me, it is worth the hour and a half of your life. As well you need to watch it now before you continue reading this page as I am going to continuously give away keys moments of the movie throughout.
Thank you for watching the movie. Let's move on. Brendan Gleeson jumps off the Bell tower to save Colin Farrells life and that dwarf guy is accidentally shot by Ralph Fiennes which is ironic because it makes him think he killed a kid which is the reason he wanted Colin Farrell dead in the first place and the plot of the movie. Wow.... That felt great. Aren't you glad you watched the movie before reading this?
The infamous bell tower is the striking high point of the city. You can even see it as you walk into town from the train station on foot because you're too cheap to by a cab and too lazy to learn the bus system. It is a beacon reminding you which direction you need to walk and at the same time calling out to you that Colin Farrell was here. The city center is a UNESCO world heritage site, and rightfully so.
Sadly the belfry was closed for renovations on this fateful voyage. If only it was closed when Colin Farrell was in town, maybe then his friend would not have been able to jump off.
It sucks that I couldn't go up to the top, but that is the risk when travelling in the off season. Things are often closed during low season to prepare for the tourist crowds who flock here in the months to come.
On the plus side, I did have very little frustrations as the towns pulse was a beating at a very laid back pace. Sure, we had a few tour groups and there was plenty of life, but at least we didn't have to elbow our way through crowds.
Bruges is a very navigable city, you'll find that walking from the center of town to the windmills is easy. Take your time and get lost in the architecture of Bruges. These are some very old buildings and they aren't getting crowded by new contemporary styles. Bruges is staying medieval.
The Bruges canal tour is also a must do, as it takes you throughout the canals of the city. The guys who guide the tours look like men of experience, and are very knowledgable with one exception. He didn't know Ralph Fiennes or Colin Farrell. On the plus side I swear to you, Howie Mandel was on our boat. Well, he sure looked like Howie Mandel. Although most bald guys look the same to me. But seriously, Howie, if you are reading this and were on that boat in Bruges in March 2012, I want to tell you something. I loved Bobby's World and your ridiculous hair. What's up?
Beyond that, you have the walking and bike tours which are offered throughout town. Really, though, you don't need more than a good map and a guidebook that hits the historical aspects of the city. I suggest Rick Steves' Amsterdam, Bruges & Brussels. Why, you ask?
Simply put, Rick does an excellent job with Europe and he should not be overlooked. Yes, he is a bit of a "dork", but he understands his product. Lonely Planet is OK, but I think it spreads itself too thin and lacks some of the content that is needed in a city like Bruges. As well, I have been burned more times than I can remember with poor information from LP and I am no longer an LP traveler. I have graduated.
Bruges is an excellent place to spend a bit of time, and time is what you need as there is a lot to do in the city. As well, I found Bruges isn't really on the way to anything and it is a pricier European city.
These factors make Bruges a perfect place to get away from the backpacking hordes who spend their time vomiting on the sidewalks in the early hours of the morning. That you can find in Prague if it's your thing. If you want old buildings, history, and Old Belgium, than Bruges it is.
In the mean time, watch the movie In Bruges instantly on Amazon.com. If you can do that and not want to go there, than you don't deserve to be reading this website.
You may be wondering how I came all this way in Bruges without mentioning Chocolate, Beer or Belgium Fries. Well, I have dedicated a whole page to those beautiful creations of glory. That's coming soon.
The world is too amazing not to share.