Though Brussels is a beautiful city, we decided to take advantage of our Eurail pass to take a side-trip to Bruges and Ghent. The train ride to Bruges (or Brugge, if you prefer the Dutch name) is around an hour. Ghent (or Gent) is approximately halfway between Brussels and Bruges. We decided to go to Bruges first, then visit Ghent on the way back. At least, that was the original plan.
The train stations here in Brussels do not seem to be as well laid out as the ones in the other countries we’ve visited (with the exception of the Czech Republic!). The signs on the platforms do not show the train number, just the terminus. Not that big a deal, but unlike the other trains we have been on, there is only one place on the train that displayed the train number. All of the other train lines have the train route on each car of the train, so you feel confident that you are getting on the correct train.
Our train seemed to be running late. About 5 minutes after it was due to arrive, it pulled up to the platform. But, the doors were locked and no one was able to board. I am not sure what the problem was, but apparently, we were not going to be able to ride this train; the platform was changed at the last minute. No problem, except the announcements for the platform change were made in French and Dutch; we had no idea. Fortunately, a kind local pointed us in the correct direction and were able to board before the train took off.
A couple of things I do like about the Belgian trains:
- The cute caps the train employees wear
- The awesome signs on the train telling you what you should and should not do
The train ride is quite lovely, passing through flat farmland. Many of the crops have been harvested, but we did aplentymany fields of corn. There were also cows a plenty!
We arrived in Bruges and were a little surprised to find that the train station wasn’t in the center of town. There is a lesson here – we did not properly do our homework. The walk isn’t that far, only about 15-20 minutes to the town square.
Apparently, not everyone is a Manneken Pis fan!
Bruges is a UNESCO Heritage Site and is known for its many canals. Historically, it was an important city because of its location at the crossroads of the northern Hanseatic League route and the southern trade routes. Eventually, Antwerp overcame Bruges in terms of importance and the city fell into decline. It was occupied by the Germans during both WWI and WWII, but did not sustain any damage. Now, it is very popular with tourists.
We were surprised by how expensive meals were here. We had originally planned on eating lunch in town, but the prices were, in my opinion, ridiculous. A typical menu price was between 22 and 25 Euros, which is double what we would pay for the same thing in Brussels. Obviously, the good people of Bruges have geared their prices toward the tourists that descend upon their fair city.
There are two large churches, The Church of Our Lady, and St. Salvator’s Cathedral. We briefly stopped in The Church of Our Lady. There was a museum inside that cost 4 Euros to enter; we opted not to visit it.
Here are some pictures of the town:
Architecturally, these buildings were outliers:
Bruges is very walkable, but was a bit more spread out than we were expecting. One of us is getting a little travel weary and decided that rather than visiting Ghent, that we should just go back to Brussels. This sometimes happens; we are not always on the same page in terms of how much walking we should do, or what we should visit, or how long we should spend in a new town. But, that is true of any couple, I am sure. So, we headed back to the big city.