The delightful Belgian city of Bruges is ever popular as a short break destination and is particularly well suited to a rail break for visitors travelling from the UK. You can travel by Eurostar from London St. Pancras to Brussels, from where you take a local train the short distance to Bruges. You will be in Brussels just 2 hours after leaving London and the onward journey to Bruges takes less than an hour.
Bruges’ medieval city centre charms tourists with its canals and bridges, medieval Flemish architecture and higgledy-piggledy cobbled streets. The Markt, or market square is one of the liveliest in Bruges and has been used as a market place since 958. For a wonderful view over the city it’s worth tackling the 370 steps of the 13th century Belfry, with its carillon of 47 bells.
One of the most photographed sights in Bruges is the Begijnhof, a pretty cluster of 13th-century whitewashed houses, a pigeon tower, and a church surrounding a green at the edge of a canal. Today the site is occupied by Benedictine nuns and visitors are asked to respect the order’s vow of silence. The horse-and-carriage rides around the town have a 10-minute stop outside the béguinage – long enough for a quick look round.
The city of Bruges enjoys its festivals. One of the most popular and colourful folklore events in Belgium is Bruges’s Procession of the Holy Blood which dates back to at least 1291 and takes place every year on Ascension Day. During the procession, the bishop of Bruges proceeds through the city streets carrying the golden shrine containing the Relic of the Holy Blood. Residents wearing Burgundian-era and biblical costumes follow the relic, acting out biblical and historical scenes along the way.
Every 3 years the Reiefeest takes place on the canals of Bruges, combining historical tableaux, dancing, open-air concerts, and lots of eating and drinking. The Festival takes place on 6 non-consecutive days in August.
The Golden Tree Pageant takes place every five years at the end of August, and commemorates the great procession and tournament held on the Markt to celebrate the 1468 marriage of the duke of Burgundy, Charles the Bold, to Margaret of York.
Finally, it’s difficult to talk about Bruges without mentioning chocolate. The city is a chocoholic’s delight – there are reputed to be 42 chocolatiers and chocolate shops within the city boundary. The ChocolateMuseum is well worth a visit and few tourists can resist the mouthwatering displays of chocolates in shops all over the city.