A Self-Guided Walking Tour of Bruges, Belgium

A Self-Guided Walking Tour Of Bruges, Belgium

A good alternate title for this post would be ‘Bruges In Mostly Black & White’ because what else do you do with your photos when they’re all gloomy-looking from a day where the rain just wouldn’t stop?

After our day of rain and hail in Ghent, we were really hoping the sun would come out for our next day trip to Bruges, but it wasn’t meant to be.  While we didn’t get caught in any more freak hail storms, we did have to hide under our umbrellas for practically the entire day. Not such a big deal until you see something you’d like to take a photo of and are forced to balance your umbrella overhead by using your chin and your shoulder because your hands are busy fixing your camera settings and composing the shot. Do that enough times, especially in high winds, and you’ll really start to analyze how photograph-worthy that scene actually is.

Anyway, the day we went to Bruges was our last full day in Belgium. From Brussels, the train ride to Bruges only took a little over an hour, and we were pretty close to the center of town where the train let us off. The only thing I had planned for us to do here, besides eat chocolate, was take a photography walking tour of Bruges I’d put together using tips from a few other sites, which leads into what today’s post is actually going to be about – our self-guided walking tour of Bruges, Belgium.

A Self-Guided Walking Tour Of Bruges, Belgium

A Self-Guided Walking Tour Of Bruges, Belgium A Self-Guided Walking Tour Of Bruges, Belgium

The Church of Our Lady

When we exited the station, it was raining cats and dogs and the wind was blowing so hard that it was turning our umbrellas inside out, so instead of trying to start our walk straight away, we ducked into one of the first tea rooms we saw and spent the next hour or so drinking hot cocoa and wondering if reverse rain-dances were a real thing.

Eventually, the rain let up a little and we made our way to the starting point for our walk, Onze-Lieve-Vrouw, aka the Church of our Lady, on Mariastraat. It’s free to enter, and so we did, but were surprised to find the entire inside under construction. I’d hoped to see the Madonna & Child sculpture by Michaelangelo, but due to the restorations it was unavailable at the time we visited. Since we weren’t there to admire scaffolding and plastic, we only stayed a whopping five minutes. At least they were a dry five minutes.

A Self-Guided Walking Tour Of Bruges, Belgium

A Self-Guided Walking Tour Of Bruges, Belgium

A Self-Guided Walking Tour Of Bruges, Belgium A Self-Guided Walking Tour Of Bruges, Belgium

A Self-Guided Walking Tour Of Bruges, Belgium

Markt Square

After leaving the church, we walked to Markt Square, one of the two main squares in town and a UNESCO world heritage site. You can see the tall tower of the belfry from all over Bruges – simply walk towards that and you’re in the square. Speaking of the belfry, for a small fee you can climb the 366 steps to the top and get a panoramic view of the city. Seeing as we’d just climbed the Ghent belfry the day before, our legs weren’t up for the task and we decided to skip it this time.

Instead, we just stood in the middle of the square and made out. Kidding. Lexie only tolerated that kind of behavior long enough for one photo, and then we were off to our next location, but we did return later in the evening to have one very overpriced dinner on a restaurant patio overlooking the pretty gabled houses and guildhalls of the square.

A Self-Guided Walking Tour Of Bruges, Belgium A Self-Guided Walking Tour Of Bruges, Belgium

The Burg

Walking down Breidelstraat, we quickly found ourselves in the Burg, the second of Bruges’ main squares. Not quite as large as Markt Square, the Burg is essentially a “business district” made up of gothic and Renaissance buildings housing the courts of law, the City Hall, administrative offices, and a small basilica. A huge stage was set up outside the City Hall, so we didn’t take many photos here before skipping along to our next destination.

A Self-Guided Walking Tour Of Bruges, Belgium

A Self-Guided Walking Tour Of Bruges, Belgium

Rozenhoedkaai Canal

Our next stop was Rozenhoedkaai, one of the most photographed streets and canals in Bruges. The name comes from the 18th century when vendors once lined the street here selling rosaries. While the scene is certainly very picturesque, especially with the belfry looming up from behind, I still liked one other spot along the canals a little bit more – I’ll get to that at the end. If you’re hungry, there are lots of little cafes around here with pretty views, but if they’re anything like those in Markt Square, sitting down for a meal in one will probably come at a premium.

A Self-Guided Walking Tour Of Bruges, Belgium

A Self-Guided Walking Tour Of Bruges, Belgium

A Self-Guided Walking Tour Of Bruges, Belgium

De Meulenaere Almshouse

Everything we’d seen up until this point had been within a few steps from each other, but our next stop took us a little further out from the center of the city, giving us the opportunity to wander down much quieter streets than those around the squares.

From Rozenhoedkaai, we turned left down Eekhoutstraat, and at the end, turned right onto Nieuwe Gentweg. It’s here, at number 22, where we entered the pretty courtyard gardens of the De Meulenaere, a 17th century almshouse still used as housing for elderly widows today. Visitors are allowed inside, but it’s important to be respectful – these are people’s homes, not a public park.

A Self-Guided Walking Tour Of Bruges, Belgium

A Self-Guided Walking Tour Of Bruges, Belgium

A Self-Guided Walking Tour Of Bruges, Belgium

The Begijnhof

From De Meulenaere, we walked to the Begijnhof, sort of a much larger version of the almshouse we’d just seen. The Begijnhof is a béguinage, an enclosed 13th century community built for the Béguines, women who dedicated their lives to God without withdrawing completely from the world as nuns do. The béguinage was essentially a miniature town, open to the real city by day, but closed up at night for the safety of the women living there. Life in a béguinage was characterized by simplicity and humility, as it still is today, now that the “town” is occupied by Benedictine nuns.

It’s a beautiful, peaceful place to visit, but make sure you arrive before sunset because the Begijnhof still closes itself off from the outside world every evening. Combined with other Flemish béguinages, this spot is also listed as a UNESCO world heritage site. To get here from De Meulenaere, take a left on Katelijnestraat, and then a right on Wijngaardstraat, following that until you get to the canal in front of the Begijnhof.

A Self-Guided Walking Tour Of Bruges, Belgium

A Self-Guided Walking Tour Of Bruges, Belgium A Self-Guided Walking Tour Of Bruges, Belgium

Quiet Canals Behind the Church

As we brought our walk to a close, we headed back towards the Church of our Lady where we began, along the way stopping to take some photos by the canals behind the church. This area was my favorite – the houses lining the canals were so full of character, and I loved the little bridge connecting both sides of the canal. I could have stayed here, sitting on the side of the canal with my legs swinging over the water, for quite some time if it hadn’t started to rain heavily again. But after walking for over two hours, it was time to find something to eat anyway, and so we ended our walking tour of Bruges with big plates of seafood and a little people-watching in Markt Square.

So why the photo of my shoes? I made a rookie mistake on our Bruges day trip, a big one – I wore new shoes. I had assumed that being flats, and super comfortable to boot, it wouldn’t be a problem. Ohhhh, I was wrong. By the end of our walk, I had blisters covering the back of both my heels that were bleeding into my shoes. I wanted to cry, mostly because I was ruining my new shoes, but the pain thing, too. And there was nothing I could do about it because my other shoes were an hour away in Brussels. Moral of the story – never ever bring new shoes on holiday, no matter how cute or sensible you think they are.

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A Self-Guided Walking Tour Of Bruges, Belgium

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  • Shut Up and Go
    April 10, 2015 at 1:00 PM

    Ironically the one day we spent in Brugges it was P-O-U-R-I-N-G as well! And yes, never bring new shoes when you travel (hehe) – that’s why our shoes always look tore up from the floor up (and our parents are not so happy)! :D

  • Sunny in London
    October 20, 2014 at 11:36 PM

    LOVE LOVE LOVE your use of black and white against colour pictures. You are so talented! And the strike through was hysterical. I think we missed each other in Brussels by a weekend! I found the food there to be super over priced, and apparently where we live is the most expensive in the world. Hope to see you at the next tea or an event very soon! I’m posting about Belgium beer this week and chocolate next week… ;-) Have to space out the gluttony.

    • Sarah Shumate
      October 22, 2014 at 2:31 PM

      Too bad we weren’t there at the same time – we could have met up for dinner or something! We ended up eating a lot of chocolate and waffles in Brussels because proper dinner food was so expensive in the areas we went to. Not that eating waffles and chocolate was a big burden or anything… :)

  • rorybore
    October 1, 2014 at 8:58 PM

    The black and white photos are actually just perfect for the setting! It gives it such a timeless feel — these pics could have been taken 50 years ago…. or even hundreds of years ago it seems.
    Sorry about your feet! I would have thought flats would be no problem too. yikes.

  • Miwa
    September 29, 2014 at 12:16 AM

    These photos are gorgeous! I especially like the one with the carriage. I would never have guessed that you took these from under your umbrella! I hope I can visit Bruges some day…it looks beautiful.

    (And can I just say, Lexie is so grown up! Is she almost as tall as you?)

    • Sarah Shumate
      September 29, 2014 at 8:08 AM

      The carriage was my favorite photo, too. They are all over the place in Bruges, but we didn’t end up taking one anywhere. I always prefer to walk. :)

      Ahhh, she is, isn’t she? I’m trying really hard to accept that she’s not my “little” girl anymore. We are the exact same height right now – 5’3″, but I’m positive that won’t last for long. She’s got a good three more years of growing to do!

      • Miwa
        October 1, 2014 at 11:10 AM

        You’re the same height!? I can’t even imagine E being the same height as me–although I’m sure it’ll happen one day. And for some reason I imagined that you were like 5’10”. haha. I’m 5’4″ so I guess I’d fit right in with you two ;)

        • Sarah Shumate
          October 5, 2014 at 1:37 PM

          It never fails that when I meet someone through the blogging, the first thing they always say is, ‘I thought you’d be taller’. :) I have no idea why everyone thinks I’ll be tall. Maybe the camera adds 10 pounds, but it also adds a few inches? :)

  • Lizzy
    September 28, 2014 at 12:08 PM

    Ah, i just fell in love with Bruges all over again!

  • Emma @ AdventuresofaLondonKiwi
    September 27, 2014 at 6:58 AM

    I do adore the black & white photos – they add a sense of drama colour doesn’t always capture.

  • Claire (@Kurea_San)
    September 26, 2014 at 7:43 PM

    Great post. I’m heading to Bruges next weekend for a few days so this post is very timely. I really like your colour photos of the city – they have a bit more life than the b/w ones.
    Claire xx

    • Sarah Shumate
      September 29, 2014 at 8:01 AM

      I appreciate your honesty! Color photos are always my favorites, too, but in this case, the photos I turned B&W were rather poor photos to begin with. That’s probably why they seem a little dull. :)

  • Melanie Fontaine
    September 26, 2014 at 7:03 AM

    I’m sorry to hear that you had such bad weather in Belgium, but Bruges looks really beautiful in black and white and white gloomy skies as well! :) I’ve made the mistake of wearing new shoes while traveling as well… never fun!! You’d assume that flats don’t have to be broken in, but I’m slowly starting to learn that they’re sometimes worse than heels! ;)

  • Dannielle @ Chicadeedee
    September 25, 2014 at 8:42 PM

    I’m loving the black and white photos, it’s making me want to go take some! I’ve never thought of turning rainy day photos into black and white, it adds so much.

  • Jo
    September 25, 2014 at 9:59 AM

    That photo of the swans just reminded me of something. Recently there was a huge commotion in Brugge all because of a black swan.

  • Tee @ Rotten One
    September 25, 2014 at 7:32 AM

    Hi Sarah! I stumbled upon your blog while browsing the depths of the internet, and am glad I did. Am now a follower! I was in Bruges last year and I felt like i was in a Disney storybook setting – isn’t it a charming city? P.S. Your daughter is so cute!

    • Sarah Shumate
      September 26, 2014 at 4:36 PM

      Hi Tee! Nice to meet you!! Thanks for reading! :)

      You are exactly right – Bruges is straight off the pages of a storybook, even in the rain! I can’t wait to get back there again under sunnier conditions!

  • Pinay Flying High
    September 24, 2014 at 1:27 PM

    I love Bruges! I went there as a day trip from Paris and as soon as I arrived and sat at a restaurant in the middle of the square, a hail storm started. It lasted for about 20 minutes. I love your photos!

  • Katrin
    September 24, 2014 at 12:31 PM

    I just love Bruges! Your pictures are so beautiful! Have you seen the famous dog sitting in the window? I am sorry about your shoes! They are really cute!

    • Sarah Shumate
      September 26, 2014 at 4:34 PM

      I didn’t see any famous dogs! Although, if I did, I probably wouldn’t have recognized him – I’m terrible at placing celebrities. ;)

      Kidding…but no, I hadn’t heard of the famous dog in the window. I’ll have to google that…

      • Katrin
        September 27, 2014 at 9:54 AM

        Haha, he is indeed famous. :) He’s a labrador and you can see him in the movie In Bruges. We saw him on a boat ride, he is very cute.

  • Tina @ Girl-Meets-Globe
    September 24, 2014 at 9:21 AM

    Beautiful! I love the black and white and the color! I love anything you take photos of, my friend! Oh the shoe thing!! I have had such difficulty with shoes over my lifetime!! I know that kind of pain! No fun! They are awfully cute! Have you worn them since or have you not brought yourself to do that? Were they ruined? You poor thing, ouch!

    • Sarah Shumate
      September 26, 2014 at 4:32 PM

      Thank goodness they weren’t ruined! I bought them to replace my zebra print flats that I wore until the holes in the soles were too embarrassing to keep wearing them. :)

      I wear them all the time now – I guess I broke ’em in pretty good the first time and haven’t had a problem since. Who knew cloth flats could be so painful?!