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In August 2018, my son and I spent a few days in Europe together. Going back through my trip reports, I realized I never reported on our time in Bruges, Belgium. Naturally things may have changed in the time since we’ve been there, especially if you are planning to visit during COVID. So check on these attractions to see if they are still open and how COVID has adjusted their operating hours or procedures. Still, I wanted to take some time to show what we did in Bruges and things that are fun to do in Bruges for kids and families.
Getting to Bruges
There is an airport in Bruges (OST), but it does not handle much passenger traffic. You’re much more likely to fly into Brussels or another city and then drive or take the train to Bruges. Bruges is about an hour from Brussels, about an hour and 15 minutes from Antwerp and about 3 hours from Amsterdam. We had flown into Brussels and visited Antwerp and the enclave towns of Baarle-Hertog, Belgium; and Baarle-Nassau, Netherlands.
We had stayed the night before at the Holiday Inn Express Antwerp City North, and then made our way to Bruges early in the morning. As I mentioned, it was about an hour drive, so we got to Bruges fairly early in the morning. Bruges is a city best explored on foot, so we parked our car at the train station on the south side of the city. There is also a Radisson Blu hotel here if you’re looking to stay near the central city on points.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Our first stop was exploring some of the UNESCO World Heritage sites in Bruges. I’m a sucker for checking things off lists, so of course I track the number of World Heritage Sites that I’ve been to. There are many sites that allow you do to this — personally I use Most Traveled People, which tracks UNESCO sites in addition to countries and other travel-related things.
(SEE ALSO: Most Traveled People gets a face lift!)
The city center of Bruges is itself a World Heritage site, but there are also two other UNESCO World Heritage sites that you can visit in Bruges. The Belfries of France and Belgium consist of 56 different belfries, one of which is in Bruges. Also, there are 12 Flemish Béguinages that are also inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage sites.
A Béguinage is a complex of buildings similar to a convent or nunnery. The Béguinage of Brugge is one of those, and it was a quick detour on our way from our parking spot to the city center.
The belfry of the cathedral of Bruges / Brugge (pictured above) is on the list of the belfries of France and Belgium UNESCO site.
After exploring the city center and central square, we made our way to Choco-Story, a museum about the history of chocolate. They had a variety of informational signs and exhibits about the history of chocolate, along with chocolate sculptures
We also attended a demonstration about the making of filled chocolate
Our favorite part, which sadly is probably a COVID-casualty, were the dispensers of literal all you can eat chocolate. They actually had 3 different ones on the 3 different floors of the museum – white, dark and milk chocolate.
The signs next to the dispensers said that you really could eat as much as you wanted, but asked that you please not fill any bags or pockets. I ate probably more chocolate than I needed to. 🙂
Canal Ride and the Sculpture Made Out of Plastic Garbage (Yes, Really)
We then took a canal ride through the city. There are a variety of places that you can get a canal ride, and I believe they’re all run by the same company (different stops throughout the city). It was 10 euros for an adult, with lower prices for children. We got on in the center of the city at the Nepomucenusbrug bridge.
There was a short wait before we were able to get onto a boat with enough capacity for us.
Again, it seems likely that this may operate differently with COVID. The canal boat ride was interesting itself, with the guide pointing out the various architecture and history of Bruges. Towards the end of our tour, he pointed out a gigantic 38-foot-tall whale sculpture made completely from plastic waste from the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans.
5 tons of plastic waste were used to make this sculpture, which was made for the Bruges triennial celebration in 2018, so I’m not 100% sure that it’s still there. Kind of a depressing commentary on the state of the world…
The Bottom Line
After having a picnic lunch, it was time to head to our car as we were staying the night in Brussels before our flight back to the United States. Still, it was a great trip with great memories of Bruges.
Have you been to Bruges, Belgium? What are your best things to do? Leave them in the comments.
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