Wanderlust…Black in Bruges

lighted buildings
Photo by Olivier Depaep on Unsplash

In the second installment of our travel series, Wanderlust, AmPopsy Contributor, Anab Abdill, revisits one of her favorite “off the beaten path” destinations as she fondly recalls exploring the city of Bruges, Belgium. 

Hallo! Bonjour! Hallo, AmPopsy Fam!! That is Dutch/French/German for “Hello” – the three official languages of Belgium.

While I am pretty well-traveled at this point in my life, I didn’t actually get my passport until my mid-twenties. Whaaaaat? I know. I definitely felt late to the game. But, once I got my passport, it was “Watch out, world!”

I went absolutely nuts and started immediately traveling for weeks at a time by myself.

On my first trip to Europe, I did the usual stops -the UK, France, Spain, Italy, Belgium. And I enjoyed the usual cities like London, Cambridge, Paris, Lyon, Seville, and Barcelona. (Folks, I have lived!!)  However, on my second extended trip through Europe, I wanted to see smaller places. I wanted to experience the cities and towns that had a wealth of culture and charm sans the tourist crowds.

And that, Fam, led me to the lovely city of Bruges.

I first learned of Bruges after staying in Brussels, a perfectly lovely Belgian city in its own right. But everyone, and I do mean everyone that I spoke with said the exact same thing, “If you love Brussels, then you will adore Bruges 100 times more.” And guess what? They were right.

Bruges. A town so picturesque that it looks like a gorgeous postcard come to life. A town that looks and feels like a medieval fairy tale. A town so beautiful that I literally had to stop myself from belting out “Little Town” as I strolled, entranced, down its picturesque streets.

Restaurant in the street
Photo by Thierry Lemaitre on Unsplash

Where to eat…

Belgium is known for its great beer, tasty French cuisine, and, of course, WAFFLES! Be sure to stop in at one of the restaurants below for a wonderful introduction to the Belgian food scene.

’T Zwart Huis– Located in the heart of the city, ’T Zwart Huis, the nicest blues and jazz cafe to be found in Bruges, welcomes talented musicians from all around the world to perform a couple of times a month. 

Chez Albert Waffles are literally everywhere in Bruges, but this here is a true gem that sure to meet all of your waffle needs.

Old Chocolate House– The perfect place for all you chocolate-lovers. This family-owned shop serves hot chocolate, chocolate confections (Of course!), as well as other desserts and teas. 

Juliette–  A great breakfast place to check out and one of the few places that opens before nine am. Some European countries really know how to sleep in! 

The Author in Bruges

What to do…

Filled with canals, cobbled streets, and medieval buildings, this picture-perfect city is the perfect place to get lost in as you wander, eat, and take in the charming sights.

Eat Belgian Waffles.  Actually, they’re just waffles since you’ll already be in Belgium. They’re so delicious, and waffle stands are everywhere you look. Just choose your size and toppings, and the sky’s the limit. The waffle comes in a paper cone so you can enjoy your waffle on the go. Just be prepared to have decadent powdered sugar, chocolate, or strawberry drizzle fall all over your clothes. Trust me – it is worth the mess!

Visit the Historic Center of Bruges. The historic center of Bruges was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000, thanks to its enduring Gothic architecture. A great example of a medieval historic settlement, the Belgian city center is a definite must-see while in Bruges.

Visit the Mark’t.  The Market Square, located in the heart of the city, is great for milling around, shopping, and people watching. Two historical spots around the square that deserve your attention are the 12th-century Belfry and the West Flanders Provincial Court. The architecture in this part of the city is stunning, and you’d be remiss to not take the time to take it all in.

Visit the Lover’s Bridge.  Calling on all you romantics! While a bit hidden, it’s definitely a gem of a find. So, go and make a wish for love!

Black in Bruges…

Unfortunately, I did experience instances of bias and unabashedly racist behavior while visiting the city. While I always choose to focus on and remember the great parts of any trips I take, the reality is I am a Black woman. And for some, it does not matter what your job is, how much money you make, or how polite you are. They will only see the color of your skin and treat you poorly due to their prejudices. I was ignored, refused service, and often openly stared at by passers-by.

I am far from alone in my experience as others have shared similar experiences while visiting and/or living in Bruges.

However, I have never and will never allow ignorance to stop my wandering, traveling and dancing feet! And neither should you.

Activate Vacation Mode…

Make & eat a Belgium waffle – Because they are delicious wherever you eat them! 

Watch “In Bruges”.  – This 2008 black comedy is about two hit men who are sent to hide out in Bruges until things cool down after a hit “gone wrong”. Watching Colin Farrell try to blend into this tiny town is hilarity in itself. You can also check out this great review of the film written by Black Girl Nerds.