Occasionally nicknamed as the 'Venice of the North' owing to its gorgeous canals, Bruges appears to be have come out of a fairytale. With its Flemish architecture, soaring towers, historic churches and ancient whitewashed almshouses, the capital and the largest city of the province of West Flanders, Belgium, is a perfectly preserved medieval town. Thanks to its awe-inspiring natural beauty, unique cultural legacy and illustrious heritage, Bruges is a popular tourist hostpot and has no problem in drawing millions of visitors to its fold.
Kick-start the trip by trekking over to the top of the 83-meter-high (272 ft) Belfry. It is one of the best bell towers of Belgium. Those who reach the top can catch a magnificent panoramic glimpse of the city and the surrounding countryside. Do admire the amazing clock mechanism and a carillon of 47 bells, which used to warm the citizens of any enemy advance. On your way up, do stop by at the Old Treasure Room in the second floor where civic documents are placed behind wrought-iron grills. Dating as far back as 1376, do marvel at the Town Hall whose Gothic council chamber is open to the public and displays splendid ceilings adorned with medieval carvings.
When it comes to religious shrines, drop by at the magnificent Church of our Lady. Piercing high into the sky at 122m (400 ft), it is one of the most intimidating and ethereal structures in Bruges. Do visit this church to wander through the collection of art including Michelangelo's world-famous masterpieces. Housed in the Burg Square, the Basilica of the Holy Blood is home to two stunning chapels: St. Basil's Chapel which dates back to the 1100s, and the Holy Blood Chapel, where one will find the holy blood of Jesus Christ.
Belgium is known for its delicious and mouth-watering chocolates. Keeping in line with the traditions, Choco Story is a must-see for all the die-hard chocoholics. One can learn about the journey of chocolates from the period of the May and Aztecs to modern manufacturing process. A visit to this place comprises of chocolate-making demonstrations and shop where you can dig into the sweet treats.
There are several museums in Bruges that cover different aspects of the city and the country. Some of them are: Historium Bruges (multimedia museum; where we can experience Bruges during its golden era; life in the 15th century), Lace Centre (devoted to Bruges's best-known industry - lace), Groeningmuseum (art gallery; displays a comprehensive collection of Flemish, Belgian and Dutch art) and Frietmuseum (dedicated to the history of potatoes and the production of Belgian Fries).
Bruges is a haven for choco-holics. The city houses plenty of chocolatiers who are successful in drawing many tourists to visit their displays. A great one is the Chocolatier Van Oost on Wollestraat who makes superior-quality artisanal chocolate. There are several extensive amounts of chocolate stores at Kathelijnestraat as well. Beer enthusiasts can make a trip to the Old Town's only working brewery, De Half Maan ( Half Moon) where one can chug down several bottles of local brew.
The stay options in Bruges are abundant with the best luxury hotels, rental apartments and cheap accommodations available for the tourists to decide which kind to opt for depending on their budget and taste. The best time to visit Bruges is during the summer when the weather is relatively warm and pleasant.