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Bruges: What's Your Take on Bruges?

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Over the years on Fodor's there have been many people who were enthralled with Bruges (regional city in Belgium) but others who decried it as some kind of Disneyland or opinions in between.

IF YOU'VE BEEN TO BRUGES WHAT IS YOUR TAKE ON IT?

My take is that Bruges is so so exceptional that if you have to select one place in Belgium to go to chose Bruges, even over Brussels.

To me Bruges is about the best preserved medieval-looking cities north of the Alps- especially in it old port area- which is one reason Bruges is so so cute- ancient Flemish warehouse facades lining quaint canals laced with white wooden humpbacked drawbridges- all extent from days when Bruges was one of Europe's largest cities and world's most busiest ports bringing such stuff was Cotswolds wool to Flemish weavers to make those wonderful tapestries or more mundane clothing.

But when the port silted up leaving Bruges cut off from the nearby sea, and the port activity moved over to Antwerp Bruges stagnated into a backwater- one reason I think that it escaped the modernization of places like Gent and Antwerp and especially Brussels It slumbered along until rehabbed within the last few centuries, unleashing a torrent of tourism that yes can overwhelm the compact old city center, especially the Grote Markt, one of Europe's classic town squares featuring the ubiquitous soaring high Bell Tower.

But most tourists - bused in - stick to the old town square area and few adjacent lanes hawking things like lace and woolen goods and relatively few get to the rather large ancient port area that is the too-cute-to-believe part of Bruges.

Like most such heavily touristed smaller cities Bruges becomes much more romantic after the tourist masses have left and especially after dark when all those lovely old Flemish facades and canals and antique drawbridges are surrealistically illuiminated.

Bruges has the usual museums,cathedral and old churches stuffed with Flemish art but really few must sights - taking a canal boat ride is popular. For most it's a one-day type place though can be a great base from which to hop to nearby Gent, Antwerp or Brussels or the North Sea Coast resort towns, etc.

Quite a few folks here - especially Belgians - seem to prefer Gent over Bruges because it is a more real town I guess and also has vest-pocket sized Bruges canal areas. And Gent if great but IME not nearly so romantic as Bruges.

So if going to Bruges get off the main drag and see its ancient port area. And more modern residential areas are also cool and see few tourists.

And Bruges is also a regional shopping town with a oft-thronged main shopping drag. The train station is about a mile or so from the town center.

In May at Whitsun I think Bruges has one of Europe's most popular pageants - the Procession of the Holy Blood - an elaborate parade of townspeople dressed in medieval garb leading a parade thru town- all to venerate the vial of Holy Blood in the local cathedral that (is said to) magically congeal once a year on this date!

SO IF YOU'VE BEEN TO BRUGES WHAT IS YOUR TAKE ON IT (All subjective - no right or wrong here!)

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