Stepping off the train in Brugge, I couldn’t quite keep my excitement in check. Brugge had been on our bucket list for such a long time. We had seen beautiful photos from fellow travelers and the place looked stunning, just like somewhere out of a fairytale.
We were excited to get into the center and start exploring. The walk in was busy, the train had just offloaded and everyone seemed to be heading in the same direction. So we went with the flow and soon found ourselves in the tourist center.
We liked the feel of the place, it was clean and felt somewhat familiar to us. I think it was the bike lanes and lower building height, just like in Amsterdam. Although it felt busy, it wasn’t as noisy as in Brussels where we had just arrived from.
The Brugge reality…
However, the reality of what Brugge had become, soon came crashing down on us when we reached our first canal. We stood and watched on as little speedboats crammed to the gills with tourists, whizzed up and down the beautiful canals.
We were shocked and unprepared for the idea that this beautiful city had now been completely and utterly swallowed up by mass tourism.
As the day unfolded, we realised that actually, this was the worst case of mass tourism we’ve ever seen. We stood in the main square at one point and looked around and all we felt was sadness at what the place had become. I’m not sure I saw a single local person. This was like tourism on steroids!
From the ant-like trail of people marching from the train station into the center along the cobbled streets to the constant clip-clop of horses, pulling trailers of tourists, to the speed boats whizzing by on the canals, packed full of people all squeezed in like sardines.
This city has moved beyond a busy tourist destination and is becoming more like some nightmarish Disneyland which although looks pretty, you’ll want to escape the second you arrive.
The Basilica of the Holy Blood
As a Catholic, the main thing I wanted to see whilst in Brugge was The Basilica of the Holy Blood. I took our two oldest kids into the church for mass and to see the Holy Blood but unfortunately, we left after just 5 minutes.
People were falling over each other to get in and take photos of the Holy Blood and then leaving. I’m not talking about just a handful of people either. I’m talking about a constant mass of a few hundred people, swarming in and out of the church endlessly for hours at a time.
I saw people queuing up for communion, just so they could walk up to the altar to take a photo of the holy blood. The whole place just felt a bit tacky and like it had lost its soul. The church also charges €2.50 for entry.
It makes me sad to see what it had become and what the priests had also become a part of. I wondered if they were truly happy with the situation. To me, they looked more like fairground attendees, controlling the queues and keeping the peace whilst the mass of tourists descended on them to get their Instagram worthy selfies!
Brugge with kids?
Despite what Brugge had fallen victim to, we still enjoyed the experience. The kids were very happy as they spent the day eating a ton of chocolate and sweets. They loved watching all the horses and boats going past and didn’t seem phased by the number of tourists.
I’m glad we decided to experience Brugge as a day trip, although I would like to go back again one day. Next time maybe we’ll go during the low season, January – February.
I think we were massively unprepared for what we were getting ourselves into and I would really love to go and dig a little deeper into this beautiful city as I’m sure it has much more to give.
Choco Jungle Bar
The BEST thing we did in Brugge was something we hadn’t planned. After wandering around a few little back streets, trying to get away from the mass of tourists, we ended up strolling by the Choco Jungle Bar, just as our kids started to complain they were hungry (I swear, our kids have a sixth sense for picking out amazing places to eat).
When we stepped inside, we were pleasantly surprised! We ended up having such an amazing experience, it actually made our trip to Brugge feel like it was worth it! Our kids immediately spotted a treehouse table and started running up the stairs towards it before we had even managed to take it all in.
The restaurant is completely decorated like a jungle, complete with a very scary looking snake hanging from the ceiling which the kids thought was amazing.
As you can imagine from the name, there was a lot of chocolate involved in our lunch. We shared a huge chocolate fondue, the kids had smoothies and Andy and I had a hot chocolate each!
Andy went for the traditional Mayan hot chocolate which came in this beautiful little pot with a pipe attached to it which you had to blow through to create a foam on the top of the drink. It was delicious, as was my white hot chocolate and as for the fondue… not a single drop of chocolate was left! We would absolutely love to go back there again!
Here are some photos of us at the choco jungle bar…
Have you been to Brugge? what did you think of it? comment below.