You'll think you were transported to the Middle Ages the moment you step foot in the capital of West Flanders in the Flemish Region of Belgium. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Bruges is Western Europe's most touristy city. Despite the constant crowds, however, its quaint canals, well-preserved houses and scenic market squares never cease to amaze. It brings you back to the time when knights in shining armor rescued damsels in distress and where romance, honor and chivalry were intricately woven into the fabric of everyday life.
The Groeninge Museum has a vast collection of artworks from the 14th to the 20th century and should be first on your list. Another popular spot is the Basilica of the Holy Blood, where a vial of what is said to be Jesus' blood is still venerated. Also worth a visit is the Onze Lieve Vrouwkerk, where you can find Michelangelo's sculpture of "Madonna with Child". If you want a view of the city from above, climb the 366 steps to the top of the 83-meter high Belfry Tower in Grote Markt. Watch the lace makers at Kantcentrum and take a walk through the tranquil scenery of Beguinage and Minnewater, two historic parts of town. Other places to include on your sightseeing itinerary are the Choco-Story Museum and The Friet Museum. Stroll around the Burg, the city's handsomest square. And if you want to see hidden gardens and beautiful bridges, take a cruise along Bruge's canals.
Mussels, fries and chocolates are outstanding in this part of the world. While there are many eating places along Grote Markt and Burg Square, they can be too expensive and don't really offer the best in terms of food. Look out for non-touristy places and ask locals for recommendations. There are reasonably priced restaurants that offer delicious cuisine along the cobbled streets of Ezelstraat and Hooistraat. For a fun night out, check out the pubs on Kemelstraat.
Never leave Bruges without taking a box or six of world-renown Belgian chocolates. There are many chocolate shops but try Stef's at Breidelstraat if you're on a budget. If price is not an object, the higher-end Chocolatier Van Oost on Wollestraat or Stephan Dumon Chocolatier, with three shops around the city, are the best options. Boutiques and stores are centered along Steenstraat, Kemelstraat and Zilverstraat. Also, there's a Wednesday market on the city square that features local produce.