Country #75 - Belgium Day 1

The Chocolate

This morning we had a great breakfast at STROOM Rotterdam (I had an amazing omelette) before starting our journey to Brugge! We took the tram to Rotterdam Central Station, which is one of the coolest modern style train stations that I’ve ever seen! It was great to at least see Rotterdam in the day on the way to the station even though we wouldn’t get to spend any time enjoying the city during daylight hours. Next time, I guess!

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We took a high-speed Thalys train from Rotterdam to Antwerp where we just missed out on the first connection to Brugge, Belgium, but luckily the next option was just a few minutes later. Antwerp itself is a great city (I spent a day there last year) and I definitely recommend it if you are looking for a day trip in the area. It is beautiful and there are tons of tiny museums and lots of shopping as well. If nothing else be sure to take in the train station - it is massive with platforms over at least four stories and has fantastic architectural details.

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We arrived in Brugge around 1:30pm but would still have more than enough time to see the city. I also visited Brugge last year on the same trip that included Antwerp (and Amsterdam), and I was looking forward to showing my mom around the tiny, beautiful city. When we walked out of the train station there was a giant Disney setup - it was Disney ice sculptures celebrating the 25th anniversary of Disney Paris! We decided to go back later in the day on our way out of town, but being the perpetual eight-year old that I am we definitely would be going back.

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Walking towards town our first stop of the day was to journey through Minnewaterpark, which I think is one of the most beautiful parts of the city. I mean, it’s all beautiful, but Minnewaterpark is more naturally beautiful, I guess. It was raining so we, unfortunately, couldn’t enjoy the park, but the good news was that the snow from that morning was still around, making for some beautiful photos! Our next stop was Church of Our Lady Bruges and the surrounding area, which is, in my opinion, the other most beautiful area. It is so picturesque and just strikingly beautiful, and really is just a great introduction to the city. The inside is cool as well but in this instance, the outside of the church definitely wins.

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Our next stop was to walk to Simon Stevinplein, a small square in the middle of the city that’s now home to a lovely, small, Christmas market! We walked through on our way to the center of the city, the area surrounding the Belfry of Bruges. The large square was home to another Christmas market, and the buildings and lights were all decorated very well for the occasion. It was such a pretty setting! Past the Belfry we then visited the Basiliek van Het Heilig Bloed, an incredibly unique church located on the second story of a building next door to Stadhuis (town hall) on Burg Square. Burg Square is then, of course, another picturesque little square in the heart of the city.

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After Burg Square we then walked past Jan van Eyckplein, a cool little spot on the end of a canal, to head to the most underrated chocolate shop in the city, Chocolaterie Jan De Clerck. After extensive research on my last visit, I found that this was supposedly the best bang for your buck when it comes to chocolate (and trust me, there are more options than you can possibly choose from). I brought some home last time and we had to be sure to go back so my mom could stock up on more!

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After buying lots of chocolate (who knows how we are going to fit it all in our bags) we then made the long trek out to Bonne Chieremolen, but it is totally worth it. The walk was made better, though, as we ran upon a cute and tiny Christmas market on the way there. Bonne Chieremolen is a historic windmill on the outer ring of the city and is one of my favorite spots. There are actually a few windmills on this ring and we were able to see two. We also saw Kruispoort gate, one of Brugge’s original gates to the city from the fifteenth century. It was a long walk to this area in a torrential downpour but was completely worth it!

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We had an equally long walk, if not longer, back into the city where we headed to The Old Chocolate House to eat. There is almost always a line but it is definitely worth it! They have fantastic Belgian waffles (of course) and the best hot chocolate! It was a very satisfying end to our long day walking all over Brugge. Before heading back to the train station we took one last walk through the center of the city to see all of the Christmas lights at night which was definitely a good idea because they were so charming.

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When we arrived back at the train station we did the Disney ice sculpture exhibit which was so cool and literally freezing. It was twenty-one degrees Fahrenheit inside, but so worth it to see so many awesome ice sculptures! There was so much detail in each one and there were also so many, it was incredible! It was such a great thing to just happen upon and I really enjoyed it even though it required being colder than I had been outside which I didn’t know would be possible.

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After finishing at Disney we took an hour-long train to Brussels and then took the tram from Brussels Centraal to our hotel for the next two nights, ibis Styles Hotel Centre Stephanie. We were both exhausted and so excited to see our great room! It was giant with a cosy bed as well as a great fold out extra bed. We had a giant balcony with an amazing view of the city as well! I cannot thank ibis Styles Hotel Centre Stephanie enough for sponsoring this night of my trip and helping to make for an incredible stay in the heart of Brussels. It was a very long day, but I’m really excited to get some sleep and explore Brussels for the first time tomorrow!

75 countries down, 122 to go.

Read about my second day in Belgium here.

To learn more about ibis Styles Brussels Centre Stephanie click here.