Eternal love

Bruges is a fairy-tale city, full of romantic tales about eternal love and chocolate shops, where sugar can end up being just as important as its Belfry Tower.
When the bells used to ring it meant that something had happened. And it wasn’t something good. The lookout of the Belfry Tower in the marketplace used to play the carillon of 47 bells if he noticed any danger for his neighbours from his 83-metre-high watchtower. Nowadays the threats are less obvious, as the bad guys don’t arrive on horseback carrying axes and screaming and the bells do not sound, except for concerts held in summer. However, you can still picture what Medieval Bruges used to be like by climbing to the top of its most famous tower. Although there are 366 steep steps ahead of you!
Minnewater, the lake of love

Museums for all

The Belgians claim to be the inventors of ‘frietjes’ (chips) and in Bruges there is a specific museum dedicated to them, the Frietmuseum. However, if looking for something more sophisticated, we can pay a visit to the Diamond Museum and see if diamonds really are such good friends as Marilyn once sang!

Today the city continues to be called the ‘Venice of the North’. However, Bruges has its own identity: its neighbourhoods and canals, its bridges and narrow cobbled streets, its architecture that appears to be frozen in time, like halfway up the Belfry Tower…Above all it is the perfect destination for those seeking a romantic getaway, the picture-perfect postcard or, if given the choice, eternal love. Bruges has all three.
Back on solid land, just a few minutes from the centre is Minnewater, or as hopeless romantics call it, the Lake of Love. This nickname comes from the forbidden love between the young maiden Minna and Stromberg. Pressured to marry a man she didn’t love, she decided to escape. They say that when Stromberg found her, Minna died in his arms and he built a dam to drain the river and bury his love, who rests eternally under the waters of Minnewater Lake. These are not the only ones to carry a legend with them: the swans of the lake also have their own. It is said that the city of Bruges ordered one of its administrators, Pieter Lanchals (Lanchals means ‘long neck’), to be executed and that the city’s population was punished by being sentenced to feed the swans of the lake for eternity. Anyone who crosses the bridge today can still fulfil this sentence, although not enforced anymore. Another, more recent legend says that if you feed the swans as a couple you are guaranteed eternal love. Can you handle more romanticism? If so, there is nothing quite like having dinner next to the lake at the Maximiliaan Van Oostenrijk restaurant.
Traditional but also essential: a ride along the canals
Sira Anamwong / Shutterstock.com
However, Bruges has even more sweet history. Especially with regards to its chocolate shops, such as Chocolate Line, whose owner, Dominique Persoone, is considered to be one of the best chocolatiers in the world. His shop is one of just three sweet shops that appear in the Michelin Guide. However, local Belgians prefer the Spegelaere chocolate shop, which has a long family tradition and is less well known, famous for its typical bunches of chocolate grapes.
Carriage in Grote Markt
Emi Cristea / Shutterstock.com
To finish, because we need to control our sugar rush from the chocolate and excitement from the legends, we recommend two rides: one along the canals and another in a horse-drawn carriage. With someone special, of course (now you won’t regret having crossed the bridge and having fed the swans)! The first, in a boat from Rosary Quay (Rozenhoedkaai) that is the most photographed location in the city. The second, in one of the carriages from the Grote Markt market square. Time for some final drops of romanticism? The carriage drivers recommend that you snuggle up under a blanket. Traditional? Perhaps. Essential? Definitely.

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