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If you enjoy medieval cities full of canals you’ll want to join the many tourists that flock here every summer. Yes, I know, I just said touristy, but don’t let that stop you from visiting. When traveling as a family, we often choose to stay a minimum of three nights in a place and Bruges was no exception. The great thing about staying a bit longer in any particular place is that when the day-trippers have left, you still have a beautiful city to enjoy. Also, in case you are wondering - it’s Bruges (English/French) and Brugge (Flemish).
Bruges is beautiful, but like much of Belgium, it can get a bit rainy. Here some ways to enjoy Bruges with the kids and stay a bit dry.
1. Groeninge Museum
Of course on the top of everyone’s list is a visit to this famous museum which houses incredible historic and modern art. However, you will probably be coming more to see the Flemish Primitive painters, such as Van Eyck and Hans Memling. Don’t know the names? That’s why we travel- to learn as we go. Basically they were a group of painters who further developed oil painting and made the style and themselves popular. Their paintings were more lifelike and they are beautiful. The museum is definitely worth a visit. My children also enjoyed the garden that meandered to the museum entrance.
2. One-Lieve-Vrouwekerk (Museum of the Church of Our Lady)
This lovely church is home to Michelangelo’s statue Madonna with Child. While the church is currently undergoing renovations, the statue and several other important artworks are still on display for visitors.
Before our trip to Bruges I was familiar with several of Van Eyck’s paintings, but not so much his name. That all changed for me and my eldest daughter on our trip to Bruges thanks to a visit to the Historium. It is a type of interactive experience in which you explore 15th century Bruges. This is done by way of a fictional love story related to Van Eyck’s painting Virgin and Child with Canon van der Paele. As the story unfolds, you are guided from room to room into different ‘sets’ and there are projections that tell the story. It was great, and our children really enjoyed it, but just so you know there was one scene that included nudity in the bathhouse- just get them to look away. Apart from that, it was great way to experience a painting and medieval Bruges.
There is also virtual reality experience (additional fee) and a small museum. The views from the Panoramic Terrace are a must because it looks onto Bruges main square. And, thanks to this fun experience, my daughter clearly remembered Van Eyck’s name and was more interested in seeing the original painting when we visited the Groeninge museum in Bruges.
4. Choco-Story - The Chocolate Museum
This museum has four floors dedicated to showcasing the history of chocolate from its origins in Central America to its current production around the world. Our children were given a Choco-story quiz handout which kept them interested. On one of the floors there is a room with an informative video. The museum is not huge, but it is enjoyable and it was a great opportunity to learn the history of a treat we all enjoy and certainly eat a lot of!
Learning about the history of chocolate can cause some serious chocolate cravings! There is a viewing area where you can watch chocolatiers make chocolate and then you get a free chocolate tasting. There is also a shop where you can purchase some more yummy chocolate. My kids were amazed by the chocolate art that was on display - it was impressive!
If you are a fan of fries there is also a small Friet Museum. Choco-story offers a combined ticket with them if you would also like to visit.
5. Volkskundemuseum (Museum of Folk Life)
While this museum is a bit out of the city centre, it is a great way to experience what Belgium life was like in the 1900’s. There is a pharmacy, a patisserie, a classroom and several other rooms all with authentic artifacts. While the museum is indoors, there is also a cafe and outdoor area (if the sun’s out) where you can try your hand at some games that were popular at the time- like skittles. The museum is a great way to learn a bit while escaping the rain!
While you are seeing the sites make sure to find a cafe and indulge in waffles, fries, and chocolate!
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