Wednesday, 20 March 2019

 

How to Spend a Rainy Day in Bruges


The Belgian city of Bruges is known for its picturesque beauty; filled with cobble-stoned winding streets and stunning architecture showing its rich history. On our visit we were planning to spend a lot of time walking throughout the compact town and get lost in its charm. Unfortunately the weather had different plans, and the day we visited it was cold, pouring non-stop with rain. We'd also managed to coincide our visit with a festival, which meant the iconic square was obscured from view by large white tents. Not ideal. We are planning a do-over in sunnier weather, but in the meantime here are my top tips for making the most of a rainy day in Bruges, as there is still plenty to see and do when trying to avoid the cold and rain.

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Wander through the weird and wonderful world of Dali

Surrealist Salvador Dali is known for his unique art work; hugely fantastical, some of it PG, some of it not so much. While I was familiar with some of his most famous works (The Persistence of Memory, The Elephants), I knew little about the vast scope of his art and his imagination. In Bruges, there is a permanent exhibition exhibition in the Cloths Halls of Dali's graphics and statues on display, which create a wonderful and weird journey through the artist's mind.

My favourite series I discovered was an Alice in Wonderland collection, because Dali illustrated a 1969 edition of the famous Lewis Carroll children's book. I had no idea, but it was such a lovely surprise to come across this unexpected literary connection in Bruges! At first glance the collection doesn't immediately shout Alice, but as soon as you look a little closer you can spot the Queen of Hearts, caterpillar, and other famous faces from the fantastical tale. A true delight.



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Discover the origins of Belgium's world-famous fries

If you're a potato, chips or fries lover, then this one is for you. The Frietmuseum (fries museum) take you on a journey of the humble potato's history from 10,000 years ago right down to today's modern uses. There is a lot of information on display and you can easily spend a good few hours going through the exhibition in detail.

I'm a little less patient than that though, and focused on some of the interesting fun facts. For instance, did you know that French fries are called this way because during WW2 American soldiers mistook the French speaking Belgian solders for Frenchmen? Or that the crisp was invented by accident when someone in a restaurant complained their chips were too big and the chef in return tried to cut them as thinly as possible? If it hasn't been for that one moany customer we may never have had Pringles 😱 Thanks, mate.

We finished our visit by having lunch in the basement cafetaria which, suitably, served everything fried. The fries were okay, but the wealth of sauces available is what made it stand out. We had the sour pickle one and it completed the greasiness of the fries beautifully.




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Chocaholic? Visit The Chocolate Museum and Chocolaterie Spegelaere

Chocolate is of course one of the greatest inventions ever, and when in Belgium you have to schedule in some time for the cocoa treat (otherwise, have you even been in Belgium at all?!). The chocolate in Europe is hands-down the best in the world, and in Belgium it's particularly delish. And while there's plenty to enjoy for the chocaholic in Bruges, there are two spots that are absolutely unmissable.

The first is the Chocolate Museum, Choco-Story, (yes, there is a museum for everything and we loved it). Chronicling the history of the sweet treat from the hot chocolate type drink brewed by the Mayans and Aztec all the way to today. Super fascinating and educational, and also very delicious. Because not only do you get to sample different kinds of chocolate throughout the historic journey, at the very end there is a demonstration on how to make filled chocolates, temper chocolate, and more, and once finished you get to try all the different types they made on the spot. A brilliant way to finish a tour about all things cocoa.

If you're not yet all chocolated out at this point (and who would be?!), definitely wander into one of the many chocolate shops in Bruges to stock up on some authentic Belgium chocolate. Not only to enjoy while there, but also to take home as a delicious memory of the trip. We chose to visit Chocolaterie Spegelaere, and what a treat it was. This one isn't a touristy hot spot as it's slightly away from the city centre (but still less than a 10-minute walk, Bruges is very compact and walkable), but it's a favourite among the residents. Dating back to 1954, it's the chocolate shop in Bruges with the longest family tradition in making chocolate, so not only will you be able to stock up here on some deliciousness to take back home, you'll be enjoying a piece of history too.



 
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Come face-to-face with a Michelangelo in the Church of Our Lady

Peeking out above the buildings as you make your way into the city centre is the Church of Our Lady (or Onze-Lieve-Vrouwenkerk in Dutch). Dating back all the way to the 13th Century, this 115-metre high building in Scheldt Gothic style isn't only a visual standout because of its size, but it's a beautiful architectural delight too, inside and out. The church took an astonishing two centturies to build and the striking tower still stands tall in Bruges to this day.

Within the church there is a museum, which you can access for a small fee (some parts of the church are free to visit). While the Church of Our Lady boosts a large art collection to admire it is Michelangelo's Madonna and Child that is the most famous piece you can visit. Because of ongoing renovations, there is currently a replica on display, but the original should be viewable again soon.




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Braze the weather and walk around anyway

It's such a beautiful city and you may only visit once – don't miss out by being huddled up indoors the entire time. Be brave and go on an adventure; rain or shine.






For more tips on this picturesque city, check out the official Visit Bruges website. And if you're in Belgium anyway, why not make a day trip to Antwerp as well? 


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