I heard a lot of mixed reviews of Brussels this summer. Decently well-traveled, well-off and comfortable Americans would call the city a shithole and then quickly switch the topic to Bruges.
“Oh. Brussels has some nice areas. But Bruges is absolutely divine. You simply must go there whenever you can.”
Oh. Hey, thanks!
I happen to be loving Brussels, and I also happen to think I could never, ever live in Bruges.
That’s not to say I didn’t love Bruges. Bruges is gorgeous. I journeyed there on Saturday with my art history class, and we didn’t do any of the big “things to do” in Bruges. We didn’t take a boat ride. We didn’t hike up the Belfry for views of the city.
Yes, we browsed through a couple of museums and old churches, but mostly we just perused the streets. Around every corner there’s a new canal, a charming house, a horse-drawn carriage or a chocolate shop. Around any corner in the city center, there is probably a new canal, a charming house, a horse-drawn carriage and a chocolate shop.
There are adorable terraced squares, cosmopolitan streets and park benches teeming with serenity. Yes, Bruges lives up to the hype. It’s a postcard.
Postcard perfect. It doesn’t feel real. It doesn’t feel like any real people live there. And walking around, I had to wonder if a single person I saw was a local. There was a lovely energy to Bruges, heightened by the sun’s typically rare presence. All plazas were brimming with tourists. All restaurants were crowded. All boat tours had long lines.
Euro-Disney is an accurate comparison.
Everyone has those friends who just adore Disneyland. They love the artificial joy and manmade magic. They love the inclusivity, the hope. They love Bruges.
But there are a good number of people who absolutely hate Disneyland for the masses of Americans wielding cameras like torches, and for the artificial joy and manmade magic. You have officially been warned by someone who falls in the middle.