Bruges is around 20 minutes away from Ghent, and you’ll know when you have arrived as it’s quite a popular destination and half of the train will offload at the stop.
People generally speak Flemish here but they are super friendly and helpful when trying to give directions in English. An example of this friendliness would be my bus journey from the station to the hostel; I roughly communicated where I needed to go to the bus driver who acknowledged my destination and laughed whilst telling me that I looked heavy… I assumed that he was talking about my luggage. But as the journey went on and I anxiously looked at every bus stops name in hope that the driver hadn’t forgotten about me; the people on the bus communicated that I still had time. They were speaking Flemish but my excellent charades skills along with my minimal French was telling me that I was ok. Eventually we arrived at a stop and 20 people simultaneously smiled at me and told me that it was my stop. They were just great!
Now, the city of Bruges is stunningly beautiful. It has the old buildings, the cobbled streets, the smell of waffles/ beer in the air (the brewery is nearby) and the odd scent of sewage that wafts by occasionally… but it also has a lot of tourists.
If you’re imagining scenes from the film “In Bruges” then you will be disappointed because in the film they edited out a lot of the touristy things that are in the market centre square and there are obviously no crowds in the shots. (They also made some of the buildings taller it seems) But in reality there are people and horses (carriages) everywhere. Literally everywhere. If you get up early then you’ll be able to miss them but if you’re heading out at midday, then brace yourself.
Bruges is an easy city to walk around in; there are two main free walking tours on offer which also give you a map (I would personally recommend the "Legends of Bruges- free walking tour" because this one really delves into the medieval history of Bruges), or there are bike tours available from 18 Euros. (It’s also possible to hire bikes separately and navigate the city yourself) Any of the above options are excellent ways of getting around the city. (A car would be unnecessary)
In general Bruges is a great place to visit as long as you don’t mind the crowds. It’s a fairy-tale kind of city that will truly amaze you with its beauty but if you want to avoid tourists whilst on your weekend getaway, I would suggest that you avoid Bruges during tourist season (June-September) and visit in April/May.
Things to see:
- Markt (Central plaza)
- Church of Our Lady
- Begijnhof (Beguinage)
- Bike around the city
- Drink a Brugse Zot beer
- Legends of Bruges- free walking tour (www.legendsofbruges.com) I simply cannot recommend this enough! My tour guide was Simon and not only was he informative but he entertained us throughout the tour with his humour and wit.