“I forgot to mention that Memling’s pictures in the Hospital of St. John were presented to the Institution by that stunner in return for the care bestowed upon him when he was received here, severely wounded and in great want, after the battle of Nancy. The interior of the hospital has undergone since his time but very little alteration. His pictures are not painted with oil —he having preceded Van Eyck—but with some vehicle of which brandy and white of egg are the principal components. They have cracked very slightly indeed; and one cannot conceive the colours to have been more brilliant on the day of their completion.”
— from a letter by Dante Rossetti dated 25.October.1849, sent from Hotel du Commerce, Bruges
Between the Welcome Church of Our Lady and the Gruuthuse, tucked away in a corner of a courtyard is a small colonnaded, domed temple; I called it the Temple of Love. Sheltered within are two marble putti, playing. This sweet bit of romance was serendipitous.
Spend half a day making the walk from the north east corner of Brugge, along Damse Vaart Zuid, to the small town of Damme (about 5km distance each way). The entire walk is along a serene, tree-lined canal. Break in Damme and grab a drink at one of the many cafes, and head back on the opposite side of the canal, along the horse path.
I really suggest to take a walk all around the city, don't stay right in the main square or in the most walked area, take advantage of this truly nice city and walk every street and bridge.
No worries even during the night, i felt really safe even late in the night.
You can easily take the bell tower as reference to go back in the main square.
You can rent a bike and take a tour outside the city, the surroundings are called "Het Brugse Ommeland" (only in Dutch: http://www.brugseommeland.be/bol/index.aspx).
There's a map that interconnects locations with trips from around 1 to 5 km. Ask your hotel-staff for a "Fietsknooppuntenkaart". If they have never heard about it make sure you find the "Tolhuis" where you can buy the map. Tolhuis is at Jan Van Eyckplein 1-2.
Wander the city streets and take a look not only at the "big" things, those mentioned in the tourist brochures, but those little things that give a town, city or village its "flavor", things that many tourists miss either because they have no time or are told constantly by a tour guide to look only where they point.
We loved walking around Brugge. The tourists were pretty clustered right in the downtown area so we would branch out to avoid the crowds. One day we walked the outer ring- not the one near downtown- but the one which encircles the town. We found the windmills and a park bench under a big tree next to the canal. We pulled out our lunch our landlady had made for us and we had a feast. Who says you can't picnic in the rain?
If you want to see some of the "real houses" of the Bruggians, try to look out carefully when passing some gates and narrow doors on your way, have a look here and there and you'll see small and very colourfull buildings that look like from a fairy tale...
On the corner of Schaarstraat and Zwarte Leertouwerstraat (Black leather currier street) a sign that says that there was a God's house (a church) in 1636. Probably one of the smaller religious groups.
Coupure is along the canal that turns off from Groene Rei. The area between Coupure and Queen Astrid park is not touristic, very quiet and you see little treasures there.
I think this is of old the quarter of leather and clothemaking craftspeople.
Coupure means the coupon of cloth or the cut itself (couper is French for cutting).
We were in Brugge on a Saturday and had the happy chance to find a street market. This particular one sold antiques, jewellery, hangbags, old war helmets, stained glass thingies and various knick knacks.... I spent a wonderful hour hiding from hubby looking at all the treasures....
For me, this is an ideal way to spend a weekend, a lazy lunch, then a wander home...
I gave this a miss as I don't have a thing for fish, much less raw herring fillets served with onions! But if you don't give a heck for popularity or keen to play a trick on your kissy spouse, try this local specialty at the Bruges Fish Market.
Ah yes, I was told by my innkeeper that this specialty is sold at the Vismarkt (fish market)from Tuesday to Saturday (8am to 1pm). He told me quite animatedly that sea creatures will be laid out for sale in this ancient market, on stone slabs, beneath the classical domes and columns...
How to go there:
At the station in Bruges you take bus nr. 6 or 16 till the 'Vismarkt' 'fish market
If you want to know where all those horses take five, pop down to the area where the lovely Minnewater and the Beguinage are. You'll see tired horses taking a breather and stopping to quench their thirst from a quaint.....horse head fountain!
I took a sepia shot of this scene so spot the real McCoy...
This nice park is less than a10 minute walk south of Burg Square. It is well kept, quiet and lovely. There is a nice playground for the kids. It happened to be just across the street from our wonderful B & B (Astrid's) and the owners' children met up with their buddies in the afternoons. It is large enough that you could go to a quieter area if you just want to picnic or relax.
In the Oud St.-Jan complex this little shop offers light snacks, excellent coffee and reasonably priced internet access. It is off Mariastraat and there is usually a sign on the sidewalk pointing the way. I don't remember the exact charges, but they were quite reasonable.
You can see this turret in the picture above (view from the Vismarkt / Fishmarket) as well, from afar.
Now, I have to admit I'm a sucker for turrets : )
It never ceases to amaze me just how many of these funky little towers you can spot if you look at buildings from different angles. In order to fully appreciate these architectural artifacts - or any other intricate details in facades and buildings - it helps having a good zoom on your camera (ideally, the number to look out for is optical zoom, not digital, as the latter just blows up pixels).