Bruges- A Love Affair That Started With a Movie

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It wasn’t until I saw the 2008 Colin Farrell movie “In Bruges”, a black comedy about two Irish hitmen in hiding, that I became aware of this Belgian town. I went from first hearing about it, to being absolutely in love with it, in only 107 minutes. | Bruges: A Love Affair That Started With a Movie

The film did a great job of showcasing Bruges, so much so, that I couldn’t stop dreaming about it for weeks (Bruges that is, not the movie, even though it was very good). As the characters go about their business, you get to see a lot of Bruges- the wonderful architecture, Grote Markt and the famous Belfry, old bridges and beautiful parks. The locations are so much a part of the film, it’s like Bruges itself is playing a leading character’s role. | Bruges: A Love Affair That Started With a Movie

Falling in love with a place you see in a movie can be both a blessing and a curse. For one, it will probably inspire you to seek out more information, maybe even visit one day. On the other hand, it can set the bar very high. If you do visit one day, there is always the possibility that the place won’t match your expectations. After all, Hollywood is very good at making the ordinary extraordinary.

So, having now done a trip to Bruges, was Bruges everything I expected and hoped it would be? Before I tell you, here’s a look at how we spent one day in Bruges. | Bruges: A Love Affair That Started With a Movie

One Day in Bruges- Things to See and Do in Bruges’ Historic Centre

The historic centre of Bruges is compact and easily walkable. Even with only one day in Bruges, we managed to see and do everything we came here to experience. Here are some of the main tourist attractions in Bruges that we saw during our self-guided walking tour of Bruges’ Old Town.

Grote Markt

The largest of Bruges’ two central squares, Grote Markt was everything I had envisioned and dreamed about since 2008. I love buildings with character and colour, so the hugest smile came on my face when I stepped out from under the Belfry into the market square. Nineteenth century gabled buildings edge three sides of the square, the fourth side flanked by the impressive Belfort. | Bruges: A Love Affair That Started With a Movie | Grote Markt

Horse drawn carriages wait in the square for tourist to whisk around Bruges (and I do mean whisk- those horses trot people around so fast, I failed to see how it would have been romantic). Still, their presence contributed to the overall charm of the Markt. | Bruges: A Love Affair That Started With a Movie | Grote Markt

Now, unfortunately charm does not come cheap these days. The carriages were expensive. The restaurants were expensive. Plus the food was mediocre, at best. The waffles we had in the Markt square were a disappointment after having indulged in some delicious ones in Brussels the day before. We had much better priced and higher quality food just a short walk off the main square. | Bruges: A Love Affair That Started With a Movie | Grote Markt

The Belfry

One of the first things we did in Bruges was visit the belfry where we climbed 366 steps to reach the top of the 83 metre tall bell tower. | Bruges: A Love Affair That Started With a Movie | The Belfry

The belfry dates back to about 1240, when Bruges was quite prosperous thanks to the Flemish cloth industry. A bit of an unlucky place, the tower has fallen victim to fire three times, the last of which destroyed the wooden spire in 1741. It has never been replaced.

On the way to the top of the tower you can stop on different levels to see displays of old bells, plus admire the big bell and see the carillon in action. Today there are 47 bells making up the carillon which rings out in song every quarter hour. | Bruges: A Love Affair That Started With a Movie | Inside the Belfry
The drum room inside the belfry.

While the carillon was interesting to watch, the best part of the belfry was the panoramic views you get of Bruges. It’s just amazing! | Bruges: A Love Affair That Started With a Movie
Grote Markt as seen from the top of the Belfry. I had to switch from my DSLR to my point and shoot so I could fit my camera through the safety fence! | Bruges: A Love Affair That Started With a Movie | Bruges: A Love Affair That Started With a Movie

Canal Cruise

I loved the canal cruise because we passed by a lot of very beautiful buildings, saw some swans gracefully floating at Minnewater park, and went under some very low bridges (our captain told us to duck, but I don’t think they were low enough to start taking off heads!) | Bruges: A Love Affair That Started With a Movie

At the same time, I hated the cruise because we breezed by everything so fast! I was trying so hard to savour the moment, take it all in, burn the experience into my memory. I just don’t feel like that happened. While we saw a great deal and went down a few different canals, it was at such a fast pace. Too fast to be romantic and too fast to remember with a fond vividness. | Bruges: A Love Affair That Started With a Movie

I am thankful though that we got to go on the cruise at all. Just like my experience with the gondolas in Venice, it stopped raining only long enough for us to have a comfortable ride. | Bruges: A Love Affair That Started With a Movie

Was Bruges as Good as in the Movies?- Final Thoughts on Our Trip to Bruges

Our one day in Bruges was not perfect. It rained…a lot. I was cold. And of course, there wasn’t enough time to do everything I wanted to do, even though all I wanted to do was wander around the historic centre of Bruges and casually explore the streets. Oh, and eat more chocolate. The chocolate in Bruges was the best we had in Europe (and I eat A LOT of chocolate). | Bruges: A Love Affair That Started With a Movie

Even though my experience was not Hollywood perfect, Bruges was as beautiful in person as it was on the big screen. The stone buildings, crow-stepped gable roof lines, a canal always nearby, swans swimming around- I loved it all! After only one day in Bruges, I was convinced that it was one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. | Bruges: A Love Affair That Started With a Movie

I much preferred Bruges over Brussels because it was quieter and more mellow. There were tourists of course, but it didn’t feel as touristy and busy as Brussels did (even though I’ve heard Bruges’ charms are often overwhelmed by visitors). Maybe it’s because of the rain, maybe it’s because we were there in September, but there were no big crowds at all. | Bruges: A Love Affair That Started With a Movie

In the end, our day in Bruges was peaceful and wonderful and I would do it all over again. Especially that boat cruise. Maybe I will ask the driver to slow down next time! | Bruges: A Love Affair That Started With a Movie

Tips for Visiting Bruges

  • The train station is about 2 kms from the historic town centre and adjoins the bus station. Local buses can take you from the train station to the Markt. We took a cab and didn’t have any issues.
  • The belfry is on the south end of the Markt. It is open from 9:30 am-5:30 pm and costs €8.
  • Avoid eating at Grote Markt and Burg square. Prices are high and the food is mediocre. You will find far better food and prices down the small streets leading away from the Markt.
  • Do take a boat tour. They are less than €8 and will show you places which are otherwise unreachable, since not every canal runs next to a street.

* Prices and hours were correct at the time of publishing but can change without notice. Please confirm directly with service providers.

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Canal cruise in Bruges, Belgium

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  • FrankNice post! I too only heard of Bruges after seeing the movie. The photos are great though and I’d love to climb that belfry!
    Frank (bbqboy)November 29, 2013 – 1:39 pmReplyCancel

    • Rhonda KrauseThanks! I loved the belfry and kind of didn’t want to come down because the views were so beautiful!November 29, 2013 – 6:34 pmReplyCancel

  • CarolynGreat post, Rhonda and your photos are amazing. The views from the top of the Belfry look fantastic. I think I’d even persuade myself to overcome my fear of heights to check that out! I’ve definitely added Bruges to my must-visit list now.December 3, 2013 – 1:31 amReplyCancel

    • Rhonda KrauseThanks, Carolyn. I hope you make it to Bruges one day and go up the Belfry! It was one of my favourite moments of our visit!December 3, 2013 – 9:46 amReplyCancel

  • MileneWhen I’m seeing your pictures I feel like I’ve been in the wrong village :/ Probably I went to Bruges in the wrong time of year. I love the movie though, it’s one of my favourites but I think I’m more like Colin Farrell than like Brendan Gleeson. But again, I think I visited in the wrong time, when I was there most places were closed, it was cold (well I’m from the Netherlands so am used to that) and I felt that I saw it all in one day. However, after reading your post I think I should go again on a warm sunny day ;-) Thanks for sharing!December 3, 2013 – 9:30 amReplyCancel

  • JenniferBummer that it rained nearly your whole visit. We had a sunny day when we visited Bruges and the sunshine does make a difference. We did a guided tour, with free time, from Brussels and enjoyed that because the guide pointed out good places for lunch and told us a lot of the history.January 4, 2014 – 3:24 amReplyCancel

  • LizzieI’m heading to Bruges in March so this was a great post to stumble across with some great ideas for things to do! So, thanks (and great photos)! It really does look like a beautiful place.January 23, 2014 – 8:28 amReplyCancel

  • EsmeYour photography is outstanding. I need to start taking my SLR on vacation again. I just purchased the Sony RX 111 point and shoot and really like it. I also went to Brugges after seeing the movie. This was many years ago-I returned last year and was a little disappointed-I thought it had become very touristy.

    Have you been to Ghent-about 20 minutes from Brugges without the tourists.March 5, 2015 – 9:40 pmReplyCancel

  • AshleyYour pictures are fantastic! I keep finding Bruges popping up in my life in different places so I think it’s a sign that I am meant to go there. Your pictures showed me exactly what I wanted to see. :) Hope to get there someday soon!
    Thanks!July 9, 2015 – 8:42 amReplyCancel

  • ElliottFunny, I only found this blog post because of the movie which made me also want to go to Bruges. 2016 here I come! Thanks for sharing. Pics are awesome. can’t wait.August 1, 2015 – 4:26 amReplyCancel

  • The slow paceWe also visited Bruges after watching that film! ;) The director of photography must be really proud oh his/her job! We were lucky with the weather and the food. Actually we discovered a great restaurant that has become one of our all time favourites: Tanuki. Maybe you can pay a visit next time you are in Bruges?
    August 5, 2015 – 4:02 pmReplyCancel

  • AudreyMy first glimpse of Bruges also came from watching the movie ‘In Bruges’. I finally visited this past summer and it was cool spotting some of the locations where they filmed. :)November 17, 2015 – 5:03 pmReplyCancel

  • MariI have been reading about your Interrail adventure and can’t help wanting to go again myself. It seems like you have captured Bruges amazingly in these photos. Thanks for this awesome blog! :)November 26, 2015 – 11:54 pmReplyCancel

    • Rhonda KrauseThanks so much, Mari! Glad you enjoyed my post. I too am always dreaming about another trip to Europe. I can never get enough!December 2, 2015 – 7:17 pmReplyCancel

  • TimIt’s so funny running into your post we are going this September for the exact same reason, I fell in love with Bruges 10years ago when I saw that movie .March 16, 2018 – 4:52 amReplyCancel

  • GregBruges, I just love this city.
    Great tips to visitJune 16, 2018 – 5:24 amReplyCancel


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