Whether you’re looking for chococlate, medieval charm, or swans, Bruges, Belgium needs to be on your “must go” list! Steve and I had a great time on our trip, but as always, we learned a few things, too. Here are the top things we learned, and the most important things you need to know before you go.
1. The local language is Dutch.
The local language is not the same all over Belgium! Some areas speak French, others Flemish, and still others, like those in Bruges, they speak Dutch. Belgium, roughly as it is now, has only existed since the 1830s. The regions that make up Belgium formerly belonged to either the surrounding countries, or they were their own entity, which is why “local language” is not the same all over.
Some people could be offended if you try to speak the incorrect language, but you won’t have any trouble if you just speak English. It’s the one common language that most people in Belgium speak, especially in the touristy areas and larger cities.
2. It’s a 1.5-hour train ride from BRU (Brussels Airport).
Unless you’re coming from a surrounding country, you’re most likely traveling to Belgium by plane. And you will most likely be flying into Brussels (BRU). Bruges is just a 1.5-hour train ride from there. Thankfully, there was an attendant eager to help us buy train tickets at the station and get on the correct train in our jet lag-addled state! It was very easy, and the trains are so smooth and easy to navigate. Depending on your timing, you can take a direct (not non-stop) train, or you can change trains once, and possibly arrive in Bruges faster. Check the Rome2Rio app for more options!
More here: The Best Apps for Travelers
3. The best way to get around is walking.
Once you arrive in Bruges, the best way to get around the tiny, cobbled streets is on foot. Everything is close, as is the case with most historic cities, so you’ll be able to see a lot of things without a car, and without depending on other transportation. Not needing a car is one of our favorite things about visiting Europe!
Essential info: The Ultimate Guide to Travel and Your Feet
4. It’s very well-preserved.
In fact, Bruges is one of the most well-preserved Medieval towns in Europe. A fort was built here as early as 865 A.D., but people have lived here since pre-history. The historic center of town is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the town’s iconic Belfort Belfry was built around 1240 A.D. You can still climb it today for a bird’s eye view. You’ll find architecture here from every era, and in a variety of styles, making it an architectural dream come true!
More to come: The Top 10 Things to Do in Bruges, Belgium
5. It’s a solo traveler’s dream.
If you’re looking for a safe, easy, enjoyable solo trip, put Bruges on the top of your list. I traveled there with my husband, but he decided to take a nap the first day to deal with jet lag, while I needed to get outside and move around to help me stay awake. I walked around Bruges by myself for hours, and I never felt unsafe or encountered a “bad part of town.” It’s easy to get to, easy to get around, and practically everyone speaks English. Plus, there are so many fun things to do, you’ll never have time to feel like you’re alone!
6. Save money with the Best of Bruges Deal.
Why is there not more information about this on other travel blogs?! This is a huge money saver, and it’s absolutely FREE! The only requirement is that you have to be staying in Bruges for at least two consecutive nights. Just fill out a form online, upload a screenshot of your hotel reservation dates, and then go pick up your deal worth €50! You can choose from three types of deals, all of which are worth €50, and all are a wonderful introduction to Bruges!
Get all the details: Your Guide to the Best of Bruges Deal
7. Know the best souvenirs to look for.
I’m not a big shopper. However, I am a huge advocate for shopping local and doing my Christmas shopping throughout the year–and throughout my travels! So, I always do a little research on what’s local, what’s authentic, and what’s culturally significant about the places I’ll be visiting. It’s my favorite kind of research!
For Bruges, of course you have chocolate, but did you also know that lace was first invented here? It’s true! The Bruges legend (as opposed to the Venetian legend) says that a local girl got the idea from a spider’s web, and the patterns and intricate details only grew from there. Be sure to visit the Kantcentrum, or Lace Museum, while you’re in town!
Read on: How to Shop Local in Your Travels
8. Know where to get the best chocolate.
For real, there is no bad chocolate in Belgium, but my two favorites are The Old Chocolate House and Chocolalino! The Old Chocolate House is a family-owned shop with a tea room upstairs (with hot chocolates to die for), and it’s been serving chocolate since 1997. Chocolalino is a newer chocolate shop, so their prices are actually a little lower than the more famous ones that have been around for several years. No matter where you get your chocolate, just make sure you get some to bring home with you!
9. Download the COVID Safe BE app.
Hopefully this particular point won’t be relevant forever, but who knows?! For the moment, you really should download the COVID Safe BE app, which is specific to Belgium. Visitors and citizens alike can upload their vaccination card status if they have it, but for visitors, the app-generated QR Code is only good for one month. You’ll be asked to show it at museums, restaurants, the hotel, etc., and it’s much easier and less stressful to deal with than putting the wear and tear on your paper vaccine card if you’re American, like I am.
Get the app, and don’t forget to apply for the Passenger Locator Form, which will generate a QR Code for you a couple of days before your trip.
Want more? Check out my dedicated Belgium Page for everything you need to know and more!
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