Romance should be about comfortable silences, lots of laughter, green places, open spaces and chocolate- lots and lots of chocolate. Barely any of this resonates with Venice. But it seems to be the forte of all canal towns to be called 'Venice of XYZ direction'. And so the darling little town of Bruges in Belgium, is often (And in my opinion, unfairly) called The Venice of the North. But to me, Bruges is so much more than the actual Venice of Italy.
A gorgeous, medieval town with umpteen canals crisscrossing across the River Reie, Bruges is an experience of a lifetime. My journey to Bruges was motivated by my lifelong love of sculptures and Michelangelo and one of the cathedrals in this tiny town houses one of the most famous works by Michelangelo. While I fulfilled my wish to see this sculpture, I came away utterly charmed by this town and have revisited it a few times since.
I traveled to Bruges from Brussels by train. The moment you leave the train station and walk towards the main market square, you come across the Minnewater Lake - an absolutely gorgeous lake surrounded by green patches of land and lined by beautiful trees and surrounded by swans and ducks. It is called the most romantic place in Bruges and I found it to also be a great spot for devouring a good book. Right after the Minnewater you can go towards the Beguinage of Bruges which originally used to be a monastery and is now a group of medieval white houses and a rather popular places with folks with those fancy cameras and selfie sticks!
As you approach the center you will be able to see the Belfry tower looming large. It is perhaps the most famous monument in Bruges. There are 366 steps that lead to the top of the tower and you must make this climb to experience the stunning medieval carillon that is played at the stroke of every hour. While the ringing of the 47 belfry bells can be heard across the market square, being at the top of the tower, under the carillon, watching the vintage, cast bronze, cup-shaped bells playing chords serially is melodious and magical. And on a clear day, as a bonus for climbing the 366 steps, you are also rewarded with a breath-taking and unforgettable panoramic view of Bruges and the surroundings. Bruges of course has much more to offer to every kind of traveler.
View of the Market Square from the top of the Belfry Tower
The nearest airports to Bruges are in Brussels, Charleroi (Brussels South) and Lille and then you can board a train or rent a car to Bruges.
The easiest (and eco-friendly) way to get to Bruges. There is a train to Bruges from Brussels every half hour. The trip is under an hour (50 min). If you are traveling onwards later, you can also store your luggage at Brussels.
There are regular ferries from Amsterdam. Check the timetables while visiting as they change according to season and weather.