We had a wonderful trip to Bruges. We arrived around 6 PM on the train from Brussels. We checked into our hotel the ETAP by the train station. We liked the hotel. It is a very basic hotel with small rooms. We had no problems with noise or other issues. I would say the bathroom set up, or lack thereof, leaves very little privacy. I liked the fact there was a small grocery store next to the hotel and it was very easy to use the bakery and frites stand in the train station for breakfast and late night snacks. The walk into the main part of the city was very easy. One of the biggest draws to the hotel was the price and the location as we had a 6:20 am train on Saturday to Paris.
Our first night we took a walk and ended up at the Minnewater Lake. It was very beautiful and peaceful at that time of night. That area is probably one of my favorite parts of Bruges. We wandered around the town and ended up getting a little lost but that was okay because we ended up seeing some cool courtyards and back alleys of Bruges. We went back to the Minnewater area and had dinner outside at the Minneawater Tea Room. The food was fine, the beer and cider were good, but the service was a little slow.
The next day we got up a little late and bought our Bruges City Cards (we wanted the Bruges Ballooning discount). We went to the Burg and took pictures and listened to the carillon play a few songs. We then went to the Frites Museum, the Chocolate Museum and the Lamp Museum. They were included in the Bruges City Card. I would skip the Frites and the Lamp Museum. The Chocolate Museum was pretty good and you get some free chocolate. We took a lot of pictures in the square where the Van Eyck statue is located.
After lunch, I went off to do some shopping and then to the Sound Factory at the Concert Hall. Parts of this exhibit are really cool (I think kids would love it) and the view from the top of the Concert Hall is great and would be worth the 6 euros. I loved playing the electronic bells and making all kinds of sounds with the pipes at the end of the exhibit. The part of the exhibit that creates music with the computers needs more directions. Later after a rest we had wonderful dinner at De Stopa. The food and the beer were great. I had a quiche and a salad which I loved.
Our second full day in Bruges started out at Boniface bridge next to the Church of Our Lady. We were there before the church opened and it was wonderful to have the garden by ourselves to take pictures and before all the noise from the tour boats on the canal and other tourists show up. The Michangelo statue is beautiful and I found the rest of the church was very interesting. I especially liked the story of the woman who dressed up her cat and why she donated one of the holy objects on display behind the alter. We next went to the Gruuthuse. It interesting to see the private chapel in the house that is connected to the Church of Our Lady.
Our next stop was the Groeninge Museum. There is currently a large exhibit on loan from one of the museums in Vienna that makes the Groeninge worthwhile. An audio guide is a must for this museum. My travel partner and I separated for a while and I wandered around shopping and taking pictures in the Burg.
We took a break that afternoon and then got picked up to go ballooning before sunset. This was one of the highlights of our trip. I have wanted to go ballooning for a long time and the trip was perfect. We had clear weather with sun. The winds took us in the right direction and we got a little extra flight time because we had to find a better field to land in.
Our last day in Bruges started out with an early trip to the Beguinage. It is really beautiful and peaceful early in the morning. We next went to the Basilica of the Holy Blood. It was Friday so they brought out the Relic of the Holy Blood. We got there right at 10 am and saw the relic before the school groups came in. You could tell there were more people and more school groups on a Friday in Bruges. We did a little more shopping and then went on the canal boat ride. We were squeezed in the back and on the side of the boat with very little legroom. My foot fell asleep and the entire boat ride I was trying to move and get feeling back in my foot and leg. If you go on the boat ride try to get a seat up front with more leg room. We saw the diamond cutting exhibit at the Diamond Museum and then had lunch in the square where the Half Moon Brewery is located. After lunch we did the brewery tour which is really interesting (but lots of winding and narrow steep steps) and you get a beer at the end of the tour. I did some more wandering on my own and later we went to the Markt so I could have one last serving of frites from the frites stand there and took some great night photos of the Markt and the Burg.
Bruges is a wonderful small city with lots of things to do. I enjoyed wandering around and seeing what you could find. My biggest suggestions would be visit mid-week and get out early before the crowds and you can find some wonderful quiet experiences around town. We did not get to do everything we wanted to do so I have an excuse to go back.Edited: 20 October 2011, 09:01