Some more sights and attraction around Bruges
by jipp05 on July 19, 2012
To be honest we only visited the chocolate story museum because as part of the package at our hotel it included free entrance. The normal price for entry is 7 Euros for adults and 4 Euros for children over the age of 4. Children under 4 get in for free. I’m not sure how happy I would have been had we paid the entrance to get in as there really isn’t a lot to this museum and I found it a bit boring to be honest. Bruges is famous for its chocolates and the chocolate story aims to inform people about how chocolate is produced. The museum itself is housed in an old building and is very small and because there were quite a lot of people in our group when we visited it felt very claustrophobic. The museum has lots of information on how chocolate is important to Belgium and Bruges in particular and also information on how chocolate has been viewed throughout history. There are a few nice exhibits but they are presented in a way which is quite twee and dull. Chocolate is a treat and the museum is missing a sense of fun at least in my opinion. There also isn’t really all that much here to see and it is sorely lacking in some interactive exhibits. My favourite part to see was the stautes that were made out of chocolate but even these were a little stuffy. At the end of the tour there is a short film about chocolate pretty much going over what was learned in the museum and I felt that this was a little unnecessary as there is only so much you want to know about chocolate and to be completely honest everyone just wanted to get to actually tasting some chocolate by then. Luckily at the end of the tour was the part everyone was interested in which was the demonstration of how chocolate is made. I actually found this part of the museum to be the most interesting and the smell was absolutely delicious. At the end of the demonstration there was a small sampling of chocolate and it was just as nice as it smelt. The only problem was there wasn’t enough chocolate to taste for my liking. There is also a small shop where you could purchase some chocolate to take home with you but I personally would advise to skip this as it was expensive and had a poor selection and with excellent chocolate shops all over the city you can easily find better for less money. Because it was free I don’t regret going to the museum but unless you have an overwhelming desire to know more about chocolate production then I really would probably just skip this and go to a chocolate shop and buy some instead.
From the outside the Church of Our Lady is one of the most impressive looking churches I have ever seen purely from an aesthetic viewpoint. The building is absolutely stunning and I spent ages just admiring the façade of it. The church was started in the 13th century and completed in the 15 century and today is famous for having the tallest brick built spire in the world at 381 feet high. The tower of the church was actually one of the things we used as a guide while exploring Bruges as it could be seen from nearly every part of the city so if we got lost we just headed in its direction to find our way back to our hotel. As well as just being a beautiful building it also has some gorgeous grounds which are like something straight out of medieval times (if you ignore the throngs of tourists everywhere). It is especially stunning at night when it and the grounds are all lit up and it really is picture postcard perfect. Bizarrely when we were visiting the city they had an outdoor art exhibit going on with art works dotted all over the city and just outside the church they had a sculpture of a plane which was made to look as if it had crashed into the ground. It was quite bizarre seeing this plane in the grounds of this old church but I actually liked the juxtaposition of the old and the new. I would have been quite happy just to have admired the outside of the building but as I am a history buff and love the architecture inside old churches and cathedrals we decided to venture inside and have a look. Now I am not religious but you couldn’t fail to be impressed with the inside of the church as it is almost as stunning as the outside. The atmosphere inside the church is really serene and although I have seen much more lavishly decorated churches this one had a really special feel to it. The stain glass windows were wonderful and the church has another claim to fame in that it has the only original Michelangelo statue to leave Rome in his life time. The Madonna and child statue is worth seeing but it isn’t the most impressive of his statues so don’t be expecting it to rival some of the ones in Rome. The altar is a more a piece of art than anything and I loved looking around at the statues adorning the walls and marvelling at the level of workmanship that it must have taken to get the church to look like it does. There are also two sarcophaguses of Mary of Burgundy and her father Charles which are really beautiful though slightly eerie to look at. There is quite a lot to see in the church and I would recommend that you give yourself enough time to really appreciate everything and take it all in. The church isn’t free to go round but at only 4 Euros it is a small price to pay to see all it has to offer. Once you have finished exploring the church make sure and go explore the grounds as for me these were the real highlight of my trip to the church.
Because we were lucky that when we were in Bruges we managed to get some lovely sunny weather I wanted to make the most of it and sit outside on a terrace to eat. Looking around there were plenty of restaurants in the centre of Bruges which had lovely terraces though they were nearly all extremely busy. We decided to stop and eat at the Tom Pouce restaurant which was located in the Burg Square as there were a couple of empty tables and we thought the view when eating would be worth the no doubt expensive prices. I was a little wary that with it being right slap bang in the Burg it would be extremely touristy but the food that we could see people eating looked nice enough. We entered the terrace and got the attention of one of the waiters who told us where to sit. I didn’t really like the table he put us at so we just moved to a different one and let the waiter know when he was passing. The waiter brought us some menus and while we were deciding on what to eat we ordered some drinks. These came out pretty speedily but as we still hadn’t decided what we wanted to eat we asked for a few more minutes to decide before ordering. This was clearly a mistake as it took us about 20 minutes before we could get the waiters attention again. When we finally got the waiters attention and places our orders we didn’t have all that long a wait for food which was surprising considering just how busy it was on the terrace. The terrace itself is huge with easily enough seating for over 100 people and probably more. Nearly every table was full with people enjoying the nice weather. There were plenty of waiting staff but getting their attention was difficult and they were a little surly. The menu selection wasn’t bad and consisted of loads of different international dishes and a few local specialities. The prices were on the steep side but we expected this considering that it was in such a prime location. What I wasn’t expecting was all the extras that needed to be paid for on top of our meals. I ordered a steak and I had to pay extra for both a sauce and some chips to go with it. I was also shocked to find out that mayonnaise for the chips would be 1.50 Euros extra which I thought was ridiculous. When my steak arrived it was cooked lovely and I had no complaints about it. The chips however were not very good they were little thin frozen chips which seemed a travesty considering that we were in the land of the frite. My partner ordered muscles and these came steamed in a bucket and were not only presented lovely but were also cooked to perfection. We opted not to get deserts since it had took so long to get served and eat our food. The bill for two main meals, chips, accompaniments and drinks came to 80 Euros which I thought was expensive but not surprising for a restaurant in the centre of Bruges. It is a difficult one deciding whether or not to recommend this restaurant to people. On the one hand the food was fine but I thought it was scandalous that they charged extra for things like mayonnaise and the portions were a little scant with no vegetables or potatoes with the main meals. Watching the sun set over the Burg though was absolutely beautiful and made up for the bad service and so so food.
by jipp05 on July 18, 2012
We decided to visit the Archeologie museum because I am interested in all things concerning history and I thought that a city with as much history as Bruges would have an amazing archaeology museum. Unfortunately I was wrong and it was in comparison with the rest of the city a real disappointment. To be completely fair to the museum it is probably more aimed at children but this isn’t made very clear until you are actually inside the museum and looking around and to be honest I can’t imagine that even children will find much of interest here. The museum is located about 5 minutes from the Market Square and is close to the Church of Our Lady. It’s actually quite difficult to find the museum as it is only advertised by a tiny little plaque on the door. Once inside there is a small desk where you pay and then you head through some curtains into the museum proper. My first impression of the museum was that it looked unfinished. I’m not sure if this was the feel they were going for or if it was actually just not finished right but it did look a little grotty in places. The level of the so called artefacts on display was really poor for example in one room there was nothing but a plinth with a CD on it under a box. Now I understand the significance of the CD as it was trying to portray what future generations might find of our generation but does a CD really need its own room. The rest of the items were mainly reproductions and although it is supposed to be an interactive museum a drawn with some gravel does not really cut it. I feel really bad criticising the museum so harshly but it really was bare and the level of the items was terrible. I have been to lots of museums before but I have never been to one that was so barren and unloved feeling and a city like Bruges deserves a much better museum than this. Never once did we see any members of staff other than the man who took our money at the entrance nor for that matter did we see anybody else in the museum even though the streets outside it were packed. The only redeeming thing about the museum was the price to visit was reasonable and it only took about 20 minutes to make your way completely around it. It was only a couple of Euros to visit but to be honest even this small amount was too much for this particular museum. Bruges is gorgeous and well worth visiting but the Archeologie museum should be left of your list of places to visit.
Bruges is a beautiful city and for lovers of history there is something literally on every corner. For architecture buffs the two main squares in the city offer the most impressive buildings and whilst the larger Market Square may have more of them the more intimate Burg Square has in my opinion the more impressive ones. The Stadhuis or Town Hall as it is more commonly known in English is my favourite building in all of Bruges purely from an aesthetic point of view. Built in 1300’s this impressive gothic marvel is a reminder of Bruges bygone Golden Age and has been wonderfully preserved over the years and remains in use as a functional seat of local government to this day. It is of course also open to tourists who can go in and admire the preserved hall and find out more about the history of the building and about Bruges in general. The outside of the building really is impressive and there is so much to catch the eye. I love architecture with my favourite style being gothic so the Stadhuis was one of my first ports of call. On the outside of the building there are several niches with statues built into them. Most of the guidebooks tell you what these statues are and what they represent. The statues look authentic but are actually modern reproductions as the original statues that adorned the building were torn down and destroyed during the French Revolution. Although there was lots of talk about who deserved a place on the façade the council eventually decided to stick with the original sovereigns and biblical figures. The last statue was laid in 1989 and it is the first time in the history of the building that all the niches now have statues. Once you have admired the outside of the building you can visit the inside for a small fee. The lower floors of the Stadhuis are actually free and you only have to pay to visit the hall upstairs and the small museum. On the ground floor of the Stadhuis there is an information desk and several large paintings depicting famous characters from Bruges history. They are interesting to look at but I personally have never been all that interested in old portrait paintings. For people who like that style of art then the fact it is free is a nice bonus and there is a lot packed in to the smallish space. It is only the main entrance hall where people can visit for free as the rest of the ground floor is taken up by administration rooms where the local government actually sits in council. The main attraction of the Stadhuis is the medieval gothic hall upstairs. To visit this costs 2.50 Euros which I thought was a very reasonable price and something which I would recommend that you do as it is well worth seeing. The information desk has self-guided tours which are included in the entrance to the hall and these are worth having as they explain what everything in the hall is. Using the guides is easy and just involves putting it to your ear and pressing the corresponding number on the artwork that you want to know more about. The level of detail that the guides give is impressive and they tell you everything that you could possibly want to know about the hall and its decoration. When you first walk into the hall it is certainly impressive due to its vaulted ceiling and lavish decoration and it gives a good idea of just how wealthy Bruges must have been in its heyday. The level of detail is so impressive that even those people who aren’t really into buildings and architecture can’t fail to be impressed with it. There is lots of gold paint as would be expected and the level of detail in the murals would put a lot of painters to shame. Although I don’t normally like old portraits and landscapes I actually enjoyed seeing these ones as every one of them told a story about the city and its history and I enjoyed listening to the guide to find out more about them. Looking about the hall I did have to wonder about the people who designed it and the time and imagination it must have taken to complete it. Adjacent to the hall is a small museum and when I say small I mean tiny. It is just one room and it contains artefacts from the city from its golden age. They were interesting enough to look at for a couple of minutes but there was nothing particularly striking in this part of the building that warranted more than a passing glance. Besides I had no idea what most of it actually was as the descriptions to the items was all in Dutch with no English descriptions accompanying them. To be honest even if there had been English descriptions I doubt that I would have bothered spending any more time there as it was all just a bit stuffy and dull. After visiting the hall we made our way back down the stairs and had another look around the ground entrance hall. With the accompanying guide I was much more interested in seeing the portraits that adorn the walls as the guide did a lot more than just tell me who the people were, it also delved into their history and as to why they were actually important to the city and what they had done during their lifetimes. We only spent about an hour in the Stadhuis as there isn’t all that much to see. The public parts of the building are pretty much restricted to the entrance hall and the stunning gothic one upstairs. I discount the small museum as that only took a couple of seconds to look round. Had it not been for the self-guides then I doubt we would have spent even 20 minutes looking around as once you have admired the hall there isn’t a lot more to see but with the guides it really expanded it and turned it into more of a learning experience of the history of the city which I really did find fascinating. I’m glad we went and for the price I cannot fault it as the small entrance fee is worth every penny to be able to go upstairs and admire the gothic splendour of the hall. Because the downstairs is free anyway then I would recommend that you pop in but make sure that you get yourself the free guide to enhance the experience.
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