Even on a business blog, summertime comes at some point and what is the best thing to do? That’s right, with an ideal place to relax for stressed-out achievers. In my case, that place is not a tropical island in the Pacific, but an idyllic city in Belgium called Bruges.
Fortunately, not much damage was done to the facades of the city during World War II, so the medieval city center was even declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2002.Grundsätzlich lässt sich Brügge in drei Worte fassen: Historisch, märchenhaft und romantisch. Click To Tweet
The old town is surrounded by ramparts and canals and can be explored both on foot and by boat.
A room with a French ambience and a fabulous breakfast
My partner and I stayed with Thierry, an extremely personable and accommodating host who provided us with a lot of warmth and service in addition to a beautiful room in his Bed & Breakfast(St. Jacobs B&B – Chambres D’hôtes – Guesthouse, Oude Zak 20).
From Aachen to Bruges usually takes 2 ½ hours by car. It took a little longer for us because we had to stand in a traffic jam. Accordingly, we arrived in Bruges overtired and a bit stressed and were all the happier when we met our host and looked at our beautiful room.
From Thierry we had received many (mostly French) restaurant recommendations and every morning we had a delicious breakfast at a large table, together with all the other guests. Homemade bread, homemade jam and freshly squeezed orange juice were just a few highlights of our morning refreshment.
Bruges pulsates and that on every corner
For our first meal together we chose a nice Italian restaurant called Carlitos(Gistelsesteenweg 483). One could watch the pizza maker at his work, listen to Italian music in the background and enjoy a lively and stimulating atmosphere. The food was a treat for the palate, the price-performance ratio unbeatable and the service very courteous. One was almost sad that the portion was so big and that one could not eat more, accordingly we followed our evening walk full to bursting and very happy to carry the relaxed mood with us into the night.
Since we find Aachen rather tranquil on weekend evenings, we were surprised by the vibrant life that opened up to us in Bruges. There were dance events on the fish market, cafes, bars and restaurants were open until late in the evening and on the town hall square concerts delighted the ears of the numerous listeners throughout the weekend. I would describe the music here as “alternative”, although I (as a Pole) really liked the Balkan flair and marveled in envy at the dancing interludes of many older locals and tourists.
The list of our photo spots was very long. Here we were less bothered by the numerous tourists with whom we shared the city, but rather the cars, bicycles and carriages, which we had to avoid in breakneck maneuvers.
The landmark of Bruges and a film you have to see
Anyone who has seen the movie “See Bruges and Die” with Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson knows that the first stop on any visit should be the famous Belfry (Market 7). My personal tip for sightseeing: Go up between 09:00 and 10:30, otherwise you can expect a lot of waiting time due to the newly awakened and invigorated tourists. Since the tower is 83 meters high and you have to climb a total of 366 steps to reach the vantage point, you should not only have a certain basic physical condition, claustrophobic fear would unfortunately be misplaced, since it gets very tight, especially towards the end.
First sightseeing, then a beer or a snack: welcome to Bruges
However, the view compensates for any physical exertion, which is why I would definitely recommend a climb. Afterwards, it is definitely worth trying a Belgian beer, as there is no shortage of choice with over 100 different varieties to choose from. The bar Le Trappiste (Kuiperstraat 33) is recommended.
My friend and I are not art fools, but we admire masterpieces of great artists with great zeal and attention to detail. Accordingly, the Groeninge Museum (Dijver 12) appealed to us very much and we were surprised that not only works with a classical theme are exhibited (e.g. The Last Judgment), but also works of art that address the current political situation worldwide.
Of course, so much art and culture makes you very hungry. If you have a sweet tooth like mine, you’ll find paradise on earth at Lizzie’s Wafels (Sint-Jakobsstraat). The waffles are clearly not meant as a small snack for in between, but as a complete meal and refined with homemade chocolate sauce, strawberries, cherries, bananas and much more that the heart can desire. Unfortunately, the waffle was gone faster than the camera would have made it out of the bag. Therefore, I cannot offer you a picture on this, but perhaps I will manage to do so during our next visit.
By boat through the waterways of the city
If you decide to take a boat tour, you will also take part in it in the morning or on a Sunday. At this time you have almost no waiting time and it is not too crowded. In any case, a boat tour is an absolute MUST for anyone who really wants to claim to have ever really seen Bruges.
Here you can see the Rozenhoedkaai (THE No. 1 photo spot for all couples), the Church of our Lady (Mariastraat) and my personal highlight: the Minnewaterpark (Love Water Park).
In the Benedictine monastery you can experience an extremely idyllic place, where the sound of bells and the rustling of trees invites you to linger. Minnepark captivates with a dreamy setting consisting of old walls, tranquil lakes and trees that look as if they have been painted.
If you need an alternative to Minnepark, we recommend a visit to Queen Astrid Park (just off Stalijzerstraat), which is used mainly by locals as a place to rest.
Chips, chocolate and designer furniture
Finally, of course, I do not want to deprive you of the best shopping opportunities.
For all chocolate lovers, Bruges is basically a jackpot, as there are more than 29 stores offering delicious chocolate variations. By far, however, The Chocolate Line (Simon Stevinplein 19) is to be mentioned here, which even won an award for its creations.
On the same street you will immediately find Dille&Kamille, which makes the hearts of interior lovers beat faster. As a literary scholar, I’m crazy about notebooks and beautiful maps, so Alfa Papyrus (Eekhoutstraat 25) was a must-visit for me, even if I managed to discipline myself a lot this time. Finally, I can recommend Goûts et Couleurs (Ezelstraat 5), which offers beautiful (often Scandinavian) interiors (from HAY, among others).
Of course, Bruges has a lot more to offer (e.g. the chocolate factory Choco-Strory), but you have to save some things for future visits.
The sea is within reach, but beware!
On our departure day we decided to go to the Belgian coast. After less than half an hour from Bruges, we arrived at Albertstrand in Knokke-Heist. Here, it was not the small traffic jam and the associated time delay that robbed us of our anticipation, but the grueling search for a parking space. Why do I mention this? To warn you strongly about this. I have invisible radar for good parking in almost every town, and yet I reached my limits in this little coastal town, so we almost drove home without seeing the ocean. In short, the parking garage was closed and the nearest parking lot was only about 15-20 minutes from the beach. Not to mention the traffic and annoyed parking lot seekers we encountered.
After a nerve-wracking search, my friend and I shared a ceasar salad ( for a whopping €18.50 ) at Les Flots Bleus restaurant (Zeedijk-Albertstrand 538 ) and took an extensive walk on the beach. Gone with the wind (in the truest sense of the word), a bit exhausted but overjoyed we made our way home.
Ultimately, the conclusion of our visit to Bruges is: worth seeing, fantastically beautiful and relaxing. I would recommend an ample budget (Bruges is a tourist attraction and accordingly expensive) and some patience.
For all stressed workaholics and workeuphorics, Bruges is definitely a good alternative to dive out of reality into a fairy tale dream and return inspired.
Have you already been to Bruges or do you have another dream city that you can recommend as a place to relax for stressed-out achievers? Share your thoughts and recommendations with the FemalExperts community!
About the author
Kinga Bartczak berät, coacht und schreibt zu Female Empowerment, neuer Arbeitskultur, Organisationsentwicklung systemischen Coaching, und Personal Branding.
Zudem ist sie Geschäftsführerin der UnternehmerRebellen GmbH und Herausgeberin des FemalExperts Magazins.