Thanks to Richard Field from ‘A bit of culture‘ for this great guest post from Bruges...
The number one must-do attraction for any visitor to the Belgian city of Bruges has to be a climb to the top of the belfry in the Markt, one of Europe’s most beautiful squares. Also known as the Belfort, this 83-metre high medieval bell tower with its distinctive octagonal lantern can be seen from pretty much all over town, so is a helpful reference point.
On a previous visit I was put off by the massive queue to get in, so when I knew I was going back to Bruges I made it my priority and got there shortly after the 9.30am opening time. I walked straight in after shelling out my €8 entrance fee, and set off up the 366 steps. A sign by the entrance says that a maximum of 70 people are allowed inside the belfry at any one time, explaining the usual queue. Fortunately for me, there were closer to 7 people inside rather than 70, so climbing up (and back down) was a doddle.
I started off at a fast pace, taking two steps at a time eager to reach the top and enjoy the famed panoramic views. There are several rooms to stop off in on the way if you need a breather or fancy seeing the bells themselves. Information plaques by each room tell you how many of the 366 steps you’ve still got to go – the first 300 are fine, but the staircase suddenly becomes very narrow and steep as you approach the viewpoint.
As there is only one staircase, you will pass people coming down as you climb to the top. There really isn’t a lot of room for manoeuvre and the climb wouldn’t be very comfortable for the obese. Finally, you’ll be rewarded with a 360º view of beautiful Bruges and surroundings. On my visit it was cold, windy and wet at the top so I didn’t fancy hanging around for too long. I spent ten minutes getting my breath back and taking selfies with Markt below until it was time for the long descent to ground level.
The belfry is open from 9.30 – 5 every day, with last entrance at 4.15. Go as early as possible to avoid the queues.
After all that jelly-leg inducing exercise, you’ll be in need of a beer and a sit-down, and you won’t need to stagger far to find one of Bruges’ newest bars.
Tucked away in the far corner of Markt, behind the bus-stop, is the Duvelorium Grand Beer Café. It’s located above the Historium museum and although it’s in the same building, entrance to the bar is free and open to all regardless of whether you have been to the museum or not.
The main selling point of Duvelorium is its balcony overlooking Markt – there can be few better places in Bruges to sit outside with a Belgian beer and watch the world go by. Although there were patio heaters, it was far too cold for al fresco drinking when we visited, so we grabbed a window-side seat and enjoyed the view from indoors.
Being the official bar of the Duvel Moortgat brewery, I had a feeling it might only sell Duvel. Not a problem at all, as I love the magical golden ale – although I know it might not be everyone’s cup of tea. In fact there’s a decent choice of beers here with Vedett, De Koninck, Liefmans Kriek Cuveé Brut and La Chouffe on tap, with plenty more bottles to choose from as well as both classic Duvel and Duvel Tripel Hop.
Duvelorium is only open until 6pm (9pm on Thursdays), so remember to get here early and give yourself enough time to browse the beer gift shop before moving on.