Comparing Bruges and Ghent half a century ago, a friend recently told us that he liked the latter better because it felt like a real city where ordinary people lived. Bruges, on the other hand, struck him as a tourist city that existed solely for the enjoyment of foreigners. We’re sure that a similar charge could be leveled against Bruges now. As visitors to this magnificently beautiful city, however, we could not help but be completely taken in by its many enchantments.
We skipped the horse-drawn carriage rides and canal cruises, but did get the three-day museum pass, immersing ourselves in a bit of city’s history and culture in between frequent culinary and playground stops to keep the kiddos happy.
Waiting in line to ascend the belfry was a bit of a pain, but well worth it, as the views were considerably more striking than the ones on offer in nearby Ghent.
Of the many historic buildings one can visit in Bruges, the city hall and adjacent aldermens’ chambers were particularly noteworthy. We also enjoyed the small arts museum, which had a fascinating exhibit on Bruges’ early printmaking.
We wound up doing more than our fair share of sightseeing and museum hopping, but honestly the city’s greatest enjoyment is simply wandering its cobblestone streets and admiring its well-preserved historic facades. Touristy though the old town may be, we would return in heartbeat.