Sandra Scott Travels: ‘The Venice of the North’ Beckons

Last week I asked: What European city reveres swans?

Bruges.

Thinking of visiting Europe?

Canal with swans

Consider Bruges (Brugge in Dutch) this spring.

It is a fairy-tale medieval town in the northwest of Belgium often referred to as “The Venice of the North.”

Wandering the cobbled streets past medieval buildings and canals is a step into the past.

It is one of Europe’s best preserved cities.

Architecture

1. Getting acquainted: The best way to soak in the ambiance of the city is by walking around. The streets and laneways are well marked and there are plenty of walking maps in hotel lobbies, cafes and also from one of the three tourist offices.

2. Canal Boat Tour: One of the easiest ways to see the city is from the water. It is designed for picture-taking with overhanging willow trees, bridges, historic homes, and swans. The canals pass through the historic area and the ride is very romantic.

The Belfry:

3. The Belfry: It is “only” 366 steps to the top of the 272-foot Belfry but the dazzling view of the city is worth it. The building dates back to the 13th century and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Originally it was built as part of the medieval town hall with a carillon with its 47 impressive bells.

4. Basilica of the Holy Blood: Joseph of Armiathea brought the blood of Christ to Belgium from the Holy Land. At certain hours every day visitors can get in line to touch or kiss the cloth with the holy blood. Architecturally the basilica is interesting. The treasury room has the jewel-studded reliquary which is part of Bruges’ large annual parade on Ascension Day.

Madonna

5. Church of Our Lady: Only one of Michelangelo’s sculptures left Italy during his lifetime and it is in Bruges. The sculpture is of Mary holding the infant Jesus and is different from some of his others in that it shows Mary looking lovingly at Jesus. Appropriately, it is located in the Church of Our Lady.

6. Salvador Dali: The Museum-Gallery Xpo: Salvador Dali, located in the Cloth Halls, is home to an amazing collection of works by Dali. It is an audiovisual spectacle that highlights not only Dali’s work but his character and vision of life. It is an unforgettable as his works.

Lace Center

7. Lace Center: Bruges is world renowned for its lace. The Lace Center is located in an old lace school run by the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception. The multimedia displays explain the types of lace, the industry, along with demonstrations and various courses. There are plenty of lace stores displaying all types and sizes of lace for sale.

Chocolate maker

8. Chocolate: Lace isn’t the only thing the city is noted for. The Chocolate Museum has everything you wanted to know about chocolate from its beginnings in the Americas to today. Learn why Belgian chocolate is considered to be healthy and of high quality. The tour ends with a demonstration and tasting. There are plenty of places to buy chocolate.

Brewery

9. Beer: There is only one brewery in the center of the city – Halve Maan Brewery. The family business stretches back six generations to 1856. Try their famous Bruges Zot (Brugge Fool) named after a visit by Maximilian of Austria who declared Bruges to be “one large madhouse.”

10. And: Don’t miss the Groeninge Museum, strolling through the market, and the small commune of Beguinage. For many the secret is already out; during the busy summer months, you’ll be sharing Bruges’ magic with a constant stream of tourists in the medieval core. The best time to visit is in spring.

Beer

Travel Trivia Tease™: What area in Florida is known for oysters?

Look for the answer next week.

Sandra and her husband, John, have been exploring the world for decades, always on the lookout for something new and unique to experience. We have sailed down the Nile for a week on a felucca, stayed with the Pesch Indians in La Mosquitia, visited schools in a variety of countries, and — to add balance to our life — stayed at some of the most luxurious hotels in the world. Let the fun continue!