FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

How to Have a Romantic Day in Bruges, Belgium, a City Known as the Venice of the North

by Kelly Magyarics

Oct 19, 2023

© Sorin Colac | Dreamstime.com

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A few months after meeting via a chance encounter in the United Polaris Lounge at Washington Dulles, my Belgian boyfriend, Janick, took me to Bruges on our first date when I visited him in Brussels before a trip to France. To say this northern city oozes charm is as much an understatement as declaring Belgians merely “like” mussels, frites or chocolate. With its canals, cafés, gardens and pedestrian bridges (including one literally named for lovers), Bruges evokes comparisons to Venice. Like its Italian counterpart, Bruges’ swoon-worthy sights are best enjoyed hand-in-hand. Go ahead: accompany your crush, your new flame or the love of your life, and stroll this endearing city while giving in to the urge to be unapologetically affectionate. This is Europe, after all: passionate kisses and embraces are expected.

Bruges

Burg Square © Kelly Magyarics

Bruges is a city where it’s fun to simply wander, as turning every corner seems to unveil something quaint and scenic. There’s Burg Square, lined with medieval buildings topped with brick Gothic gable roofs, and Begijnhof, a 13th-century convent with a courtyard where dozens of towering Carolina poplar trees lean in formation after decades of being bent by the wind. But by far, the most romantic spot in the entire city is Minnewaterbrug, or “Lovers’ Bridge,” which crosses the “Lake of Love.” The bridge is adorned with planters of brightly blooming geraniums in the warmer months, but it remains just as pretty in any season. On one end of the bridge, you’ll see Poertoren, or the Powder Tower, a 60-foot brick building built in 1401 formerly used to stock the city’s supply of gunpowder. The ammunition may be long gone, but kiss on this bridge and you’ll still see sparks fly; legend has it if you cross the bridge with your amour, you’ll enjoy eternal love. (We did. Twice.)

Grab a small table outside or inside for lunch at De Vloamse Trine, a quintessential Belgian café. It was here Janick introduced me to tankbier, served out of very large tanks instead of kegs, and Blanche de Bruges, a spicy, bitter wheat beer made with raw, unmalted wheat and Belgian Magnum hops. We also tried a trio of local specialties: fried croquettes stuffed with cheese; salted and cured Ganda ham from Ghent; and small, succulent local pink crevettes (shrimp). You can also order a croque monsieur or croque madame; a selection of tapas; and waffles topped with sugar, whipped cream or chocolate sauce.

croquettes

© Kelly Magyarics

For one of the best views of the city, climb the 366 steps of the 272-foot-tall Belfry of Bruges , a 13th-century tower that housed the city’s charters, seals and coffers during the Middle Ages. We opted instead to climb the 145 steps of the 115-foot-tall neo-Gothic Historium Tower so we could snap some cute selfies with the Belfry and Burg Square as the backdrop.

Taking a half-hour boat ride along the canals is a must-do. Five shipping companies operate around the city; just ask anyone to point you in the direction of the closest as they all follow the same route. There’s a capacity of around 40 people per boat, with narration provided in the languages of nationalities of those onboard. Trips run from early March to mid-November, and at other times of the year, individual operators decide whether to open. Note: Most cease daily operations at 6 p.m., though; we were almost disappointed but luckily managed to catch the last tour of the day. Hold your beloved’s hand as you pass under bridges (some of which are so low you need to duck), watch a flock of majestic swans floating by and marvel at the city’s medieval architecture. Even with all those other people on board, it’s an incredibly romantic experience.

canal

© Kelly Magyarics

End the afternoon with a toast at Brewery Bourgogne des Flanders, which crafts its signature Flemish beer onsite in its loft, blending it with lambic from Timmermans Brewery aged in wooden barrels. You can visit the brewery, but we snagged a table on the terrace right on one of the canals to drink in one last glimpse of those views. As we shared a flight of some of the artisanal brews and nibbled on Oud Brugge cheese with mustard, I thought about how it was so easy to fall for this city — and just as easy to fall in love here.

 

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