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Thanks to the 2008 Colin Farrell film In Bruges, some people think that Bruges is a quaint little historical city that also doubles as a holding cell for the souls of the damned. I’m pleased to report that this is only half true: Bruges is quaint, historical, and almost comically pretty. If Disney’s Epcot World Village had a Belgium section, it would look like Bruges. As we were spending our trip headquartered in Brussels, we only had a few hours to spend in the Bruges but we could have easily done another day.

Belfry of Bruges

First on our speedy itinerary was the bell tower and central marketplace. It was frosty, frosty cold but after climbing the 366 steps of the Belfry of Bruges, or Belfort en Hallen (with a three-year-old on one parent and a one-year-old and a backpack on the other), we had worked up a decent heart rate. The belfry has dominated the city for several centuries, and those willing to take on the climb can get exceptional views of the city and into the inner mechanisms of the lovely bells.

After that, we took a long, looping walk down past the city canals and meandered back toward the city, and were feeling a mite parched. We headed down to the Half Moon Brewery (De Halve Maan) for a few very potent beverages. Word to the wise: this is not the raucous beer hall that my husband remembered from the early aughts. It’s a fairly nice, respectable establishment with cloth napkins and prices to match. You can stay in the outer area and just get beers, and the food is really quite good, but this is not a budget beer hall. The beer is stellar, so if money is tight have a pastry or a schwarma sandwich somewhere else and then go get yourself an award-winning beer. My favorite was the Straffe Henrik Tripel, while my husband favored the Straffe Hendrik Quad. (Obviously, the children had water and we limited ourselves, as responsible parents do.)

Fidel, the mascot of Bruges

Word to the wise: beer is a beverage you merely rent, so your next stop should be a restroom…especially if you choose a post-brewery afternoon to take a tour of Bruges’ canals. These tours are all over; I can’t recommend one over the other (they all pretty much seem the same). If it’s a sunny afternoon and you get to see Fidel the Dog hanging out in his window perch, plus the sun sparkling off the water…well, you’ll see why I think Bruges is beautiful enough to be in a Disney showcase. From there, find a Neuhaus chocolatier and get some snacks for the trip back to Brussels.

Do you have a favorite little city that surprised you with its charm? Where?

All photos by author

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