BRUSSELS -- Where to send clients who have seen all there is to see
in Europe's major cities?
How about Bruges in Flanders? Flanders, the northern part of
Belgium abutting the North Sea, has become one of Europe's most
popular leisure travel destinations, with Bruges its star
A serpentine system of canals made Bruges a successful center
for trade from the 13th to 15th centuries and has caused it to be
designated by many as the "Venice of the North."
Tourists flock there now to view its world-famous medieval
architecture and the collections in its museums.
There is no shortage of sites to keep clients stimulated; it's
satisfying enough just to wander through its cobblestone streets
and stop for a respite at a cozy restaurant.
Taking it all in
Clients embarking on a sightseeing tour should set off from the
Burg or the Grote Markt (market square), the two main medieval
squares in the center of town.
In the market square, visitors find the Basilica of the Holy
Blood; its 396-foot spire is Bruges' crowning glory, regarded by
many as the city symbol. Within is a Madonna and Child sculpted by
a young Michelangelo.
The Gruuthuse Museum holds a great assemblage of artifacts dating
from the medieval period.
And clients shouldn't miss the Groeninge Museum and its vast
collection of medieval paintings.
With a climb up the 366 stairs of the mighty Belfort, or belfry,
clients can take in the city in one fell swoop. At 272 feet high,
the tower is something to behold.
The belfry's 47-bell carillon peals out over the city every
quarter hour and a few times a day for longer concerts during the
Lastly, St. Ursula's Shrine by Hans Memling is a wonder, as is
the magnificent oak fireplace in the Old Recorder's house on Burg
Beer fans should visit the De Gouden Boom Brewery Museum,
Bruges' second major brewery, operating since 1587.
The museum in the old malthouse, built in 1902, showcases beer
vats and brewing equipment; the actual brewery, at Langestraat 45,
is where beers such as Brugse Tarwebier and Abdij Steenbrugge are
made -- and can be sampled.
Admission costs about $2.80, and tours must be reserved ahead of
Bringing Bruges home
Because tourism is a huge industry in Bruges, the shopping is
Shops selling wares native to Belgium -- such as fine lace and
world-famous Belgian chocolate -- decorate the streets around the
Starting at Inno, Bruges' main department store is a good
choice: It sells everything for the fashionable traveler.
Another must-see is Kantuweeltje, at Philipstockstraat 11, where
the assembling of fine lace pieces, by hand, takes place as it has
for years. This lace and tapestry specialist has been in business
And for holiday gifts, the Bruges Christmas market runs from
Dec. 1 to 31.
Famished isn't Flemish
Food lovers will not be disappointed with the selection to be
found in Bruges. As with much of Europe, cafe society rules.
Kasteel Minnewater, at Minnewater 4, is a chateau-style
restaurant near the Begijnhof that serves fine French cuisine,
including the ever-popular North Sea shrimp and lamb cutlet with
potatoes gratinee. The atmosphere is charming, and it's the perfect
spot to relax.
For great Flemish cooking, visitors need look no further than 't
Dreveken, where authentic dishes such as Waterzooi, a chicken stew,
distinguish the menu. Located at Huidenvettersplein 10-11, 't
Dreveken fronts a canal in the middle of town.
Breydel -- De Coninc, at Breydelstraat 24, is one of Bruges'
most well-known fish restaurants, specializing in another Belgian
culinary treasure: mussels.
On with the show
For a grand old medieval time, book clients tickets to the
"Brugge Anno 1468" show.
Actors re-enact the wedding of Charles the Bold, Duke of
Burgundy, to Margaret of York in a former church, while customers
pile into a medieval banquet. Performances take place on Saturdays
beginning at 7:30 p.m. from November through March, and on
Thursdays through Saturdays from April through October.
For more information, visit www.proximedia.com/web/celebetert.html on line or
e-mail [email protected].
Another option this winter is a visit to the Snow and Ice
Sculpture Festival Brugge 2002, to be held in a special cooled
enclosure at Stationsplein Nov. 29 through Jan. 6.
Where to bed down
Bruges is as hospitable a town as there is, so don't fear
The Hansa Hotel -- which pays 8% commission -- is one of the
prettiest places to kick back after a long day of sightseeing. The
hotel, as with so many residences in Belgium, is a renovated
mansion that dates from 1869.
It is located 50 yards from the market square and most of the
main attractions, shops, and restaurants, as well.
This three-star establishment offers per night, per room rates
ranging from about $115 for a single to $125 for a double/twin
room, up to $286 for a suite and $342 for a suite with a view of
The 20 rooms all come with bath, toilet, telephone, television,
radio, minibar, hair dryer, safe, Internet connection and modem,
trouser press, iron, and ironing board.
Although there is no restaurant in the hotel, there is a lounge
in which a buffet breakfast is served. The hotel also features a
sauna, a Turkish steam bath, a solarium and a fitness room that is
View the hotel at www.hansa.be on line, where you can make a
reservation, or e-mail info[email protected].
The Hotel Van Eyck, dating from the 18th century, is in the
Bruges style and has everything one would want: cozy rooms (some
with shower and toilet, some without -- ask to be sure) and close
proximity to the center of town, making it a quick stroll to the
main shopping district and historical sites.
Guests staying at least two nights are offered free afternoon
coffee and tea and a free Advantage Card, affording special
admission prices (20% off) to eight Bruges museums; a visit to the
Schellemolen windmill, built in 1867; a visit to the top of the
Belfry; and boat trips on the canals.
Single rooms run about $55 per night; small or regular doubles
with shower and toilet cost $60; and triples are $82; agent pay is
Reservations can be made through www.hotels-belgium.com or by e-mailing the hotel at [email protected].
For more information, contact the Belgian National Tourist
Office at (212) 758-8130 or visit www.visitbelgium.com.