Els Van de Cauter(22) gives you the best tips from her hometown Brugge (Bruges) in Belgium.
SO FAR, SO GOOD: That is what Els Van de Cauter(22) says about her hometown Brugge. She has been living there her entire life. Els has just graduated as Criminologist at the University of Ghent, and has now started searching for work. Here she is sitting in front of the Concert Building in Brugge.
Without bragging too much, Brugge is the perfect starting point because of the direct connection with other interesting cities in Belgium such as Gent (Ghent), Antwerpen (Antwerp), Oostende (Ostend, the beach) and Brussel (our capital Brussels).
I recommend the youth hostel Bauhaus to anyone who wants to spend the night over at Brugge, but doesn't want to waste too much money on it. Bauhaus is at about 10 minutes from the big market (the place with the belfry). You can rent bikes at Bauhaus, use the internet, and there is a bar attached to the hostel.
REITJES: The canals of Brugge.
Things to see
The Reitjes are the canals that run through the city. At the place where the picture above was taken, you can buy tickets for a boat tour on those canals. The tour takes about one hour and the boat driver gives information about several building and interesting details.
The place called de Burg is pretty much of a showcase of different European architectural styles: from gothic, to renaissance and baroque. In 2002 (the year in which Bruges was the so called "cultural capital of Europe") they also placed a modern monument at the Burg: the Japanese pavilion made by Toyo Ito.
In this area you can find the city hall. Most rooms are not open to the public, but when you are in the main hall you can already see the interior and a few paintings and tapestries. The building next to it is the Deanery (the one with the golden finishing touch in the pictures below), the former house of the Deans of the St. Donatius church. Another important building in de Burg is the Holy Blood Chapel.
CITY HALL: On your far left side you can see a part of the building where the information centre is. Next to it is the golden Deanery, and on the right side you see the city hall.
Steenstraat is the biggest shopping street in Brugge. It is a pretty long road full of shops that connects the big Market place with a place called 't Zand. At 't Zand you can find a fountain and the newly built Concert Building.
The small sidestreet of the Katelijnestraat used to be the red-light district (Whorehouses) in the middle ages, but now there are only harmless chocolate shops there...
Beside chocolate and a wide range of beers, lace is the third common product from Bruges. Especially in the street that leads from the big Market place to the Burg you will find lots of shops that sell lace.
The Belfry is also worth a visit. The top of the building changed a few times though. The tower used to be higher, but many years ago there was a fire and they didn't restore that part ever since. You can climb to the top of the tower by the 365 steps of a small staircase and have a nice view all over the city afterwards. When you walk through the city you can also hear the carilloneur playing some classical pieces of music every hour.
Places to eat
I must admit that Brugge is a pretty expensive city in every way, so also when it comes to restaurants. I recommend you to go to "De Republiek" (the Republic), which is a bar where you can also order food. The prices are pretty reasonable for the amount of food you get. You can find the bar (café) at the Sint-Jakobsstraat 36 and it's open every day starting from 11 o'clock in the morning.
Other restaurants I recommend:
Tratattoria Trium (Italian restaurant at the Academiestraat),
Pasta Presto (Italian take-away at Sint-Amandsstraat)
El Churrasco Argentino (Argentinan restaurant in Vlamingstraat 76)
And there are the usual places like Quick (same as McDonalds, but Belgian) and Pizza Hut. Don't forget to have an ice cream at Da Vinci... ah, when I think of all the different tastes of self-made ice cream they have... I melt!
Bars and nightlife
Brugge has a lot of nice bars, where you'll love hanging around with your friends and/or travel mates. I'll name a few bars:
Opus Latino, lounge bar. (Galerij ter Steeghere 15) You can find an entrance of this gallery at the Burg. To get to the Opus Latino, you'll have to go down a few steps.
Bauhaus (Langestraat 133-137). You can take bus n° 6 or 16 from the station to get there.
de Republiek (Sint-Jacobstraat 36). This is a big bar, good when you are with big company.
Brugs Beertje (Kemelstraat 5) A typical Belgian bar: not too big, but nice to relax at. They have about 200 different types of Belgian beer.
B-IN (Mariastraat 19) A lounge bar with design interior... so be aware and dress in a rather chique way when you go there.
De Coulissen (Jacob van Ooststraat 4) No sport shoes allowed...
Wijnbar Est, international wine bar, (Noordzandstraat 34)
Nocturne (Kuipersstraat 23) Cocktail and pianobar.
de Versteende Nacht (Langestraat 11)
Joey's Café (Zuidzandstraat 16A)
The sad part is we don't have discotheques... You can only dance at the bar "de Coulissen", but it's only open on weekends and it's quite expensive.
THE THEATRE: The main theatre in Brugge.
Things to do
There is a cinema attached to the bar "De Republiek". Here they mostly show alternative and foreign films. Be aware: films aren't dubbed, but subtitled in Dutch and French. For more commercial (American) films, you should go to "het Zwarte Huis" (Kuiperstraat 23).
In Brugge there are two theatres. The small one is attached to the library. The main theatre has a quite charming inside, with red chairs and big chandelier. Perhaps you once saw the artistic nude pictures Spencer Tunick made in Bruges? There were two pictures taken inside this theatre building.
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