3 must-see cities in Belgium: The chocolate city – Bruges

After Leuven, I had one day to visit a city a bit more distant than Brussels, and really hesitated between Antwerp and Bruges. But, since Bruges is famous for its chocolates, and I’m a big fan of Belgian chocolates – the decision was made 🙂

 

Bruges is just 100 km northwest from Brussels, and takes an hour and a half to reach by train (due to heavy snow the train was the better option). You basically need 5-6 hours to stroll through it and visit its museums.

The historical center of Bruges has amazing Gothic architecture, thanks to which it’s a Unesco world heritage site. In the center is the Markt square – a square with hundreds of little gift shops. There’s a permanent french fries stand there (open and crowded regardless of the weather), and the place is said to be really lively during the summer.

The Markt

The Markt

Speaking of fries, my Belgium friends had recommended seeing the French Fries museum in Bruges, so that was the first stop. The museum was quite impressive, starting with the origins of the potato, then the different types of potato, how the potato was brought to Belgium and…the fact that French fries were actually Belgium fries! How come?

 

During WW II, the Belgians gave the Americans some fried potatoes. Since those Belgiums were speaking French, the Americans thought that they were French people, and called the fried potatoes ‘French fries’…

 

The story of how Belgium fries appeared was even more interesting, their origin is referred to the Mosane region in Belgium. The people who lived along the river Meuse were used to catching small fish and frying it. In the 1750s the winters were very harsh, the rivers froze and no fish could be caught. The inhabitants of the region decided to cut the potatoes in small pieces resembling fish and try to fry them. That’s how fries were born 🙂 Below you can also see the different variations of frying machines over the time.

 


At the end of the museum you could have a portion of delicious fries, which, I specifically asked, were fried in beef fat. They tasted very different than what I am used to, and did not seem fatty. And see below tips on how to prepare better fried potatoes.

Why are Belgian fries so delicious

 

Definitely a recommended stop in Bruges.

 

What else was impressive in Bruges? The roofs. All roofs had a very specific shape. To keep the original appearance of the city, the residents here are obliged to preserve the original facade of a building, even if it gets entirely reconstructed on the back end.

 

Roofs have specific shape characteristic of Bruges

The whole city is also crossed by canals, and those add so much charm to it! The houses are stepping on the very canal, just like in Venice, and there are even boats parked at the front of them here and there.

 

House fronts on the canal

And of course, there’s nothing more in Bruges than ..chocolate shops! Every second shop sells chocolates, and there are literally hundreds of different types in each. There are choco pills, chocolate letters, figures of all kinds, alcohol-filled chocolates..the pricing ranges from 12 eur/kilo to 30 and more (so, don’t buy from the first shop!).

 

Even with lots of discipline, my Bruges tour ended up with more than 3 kilos of chocolates in my bag

Also impressive was the fine lace sold in almost every tourist shop.

Fine lace is sold in almost every tourist gift shop

And of course, as in every city I visit, the most attractive part is the non-tourist area. In Bruges there’s not much of it, but the winter season gave plenty of opportunities to stroll around the small streets and simply enjoy the beauty and quietness of the city.

Definitely Bruges is a place I would like to visit in the summer too. I’ve heard there are amazing bike tours Amsterdam – Bruges, so hopefully I will be back on a bike, one lovely summer day 🙂

Stay tuned for my next post: Brussels, and how to bike it.

 

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