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A Travel Guide to Bruges: The Beautiful Belgian City

 

If you’ve been following this blog, and my social media channels, for the past few weeks, you’ll know that I’m STILL posting content from my recent European inter-railing adventure which took place over the Easter holidays, and I had the best time running around with my sister! After 2 nights in both Paris and Luxembourg, we were so happy to arrive in Bruges for our third and final stop, and we certainly saved the best til last! Despite both of us visiting Belgium before, neither of us had been to Bruges and we couldn’t want to explore this chocolate box city. Here’s what we got up to during our time there, and what I would recommend you should definitely see if you only have a short time there…

 

Climb the Bruges Belfry Tower

 

 

One of the most iconic buildings in the entire city, the Belfry Tower is a sight not to be missed when in Bruges. Built in 1240 and packed full of history, the Belfry is certainly an interesting climb to say the least! Standing 272ft tall, with fabulous views from the top over the Markt Square below, the Belfry climb was the first thing my sister and I did when we arrived in the city and it was a great way to kick-start our time there. The climb is by stairs only (366 steps to be precise) and is super steep so please take extra care if you have difficulties walking and make sure you wear the right shoes! You pass the large bells on a couple of floors whilst making your way to the top and it is super windy right at the top, despite being slightly closed in, so take an extra layer if you need it.

 

Take a boat ride around the canals

 

 

I knew my sister and I just HAD to take a boat ride during our time in Bruges, and this really was a great way to see the city from a different perspective. We had wanted to do a boat trip along the River Seine in Paris a few days earlier but didn’t get time, so this was a worthy second best and really made our trip that extra bit special. It’s a very obvious thing to do and one of the most popular attractions in the city, but I love embracing my inner tourist so was happy to lap it up. You can hop on a boat from just about anywhere in Bruges, and each one can take you to different canals but I imagine most companies take guests to similar areas each time. The cost was around €8pp for a 20-25min ride which was a steal and a fraction of the price of what it would have been in Paris, but obviously a very different experience too.

 

Learn about the history of chocolate at Choco-Story

 

 

If you’re anything like me, the main reason you’ll be visiting Bruges is to get your hands on allllll the Belgian chocolate, and let me tell you, this place certainly does NOT disappoint in that department! With chocolatiers, chocolate café’s and chocolate stands at every turn, Bruges is a coco lovers delight. The city even has a museum dedicated to the history and origins of chocolate, from the humble cocoa bean to the lavish truffles we love and know today. Check out Choco-Story as a fun thing to do when it’s raining or cold outside – we did this on our last morning as it was a little chilly and it was a great indoorsy thing to do, plus it was super interesting to learn all about my favourite food, and there were plenty of tasting opportunities along the way. The museum is laid out over multiple floors and is really interactive, with videos, games and a souvenir shop as well as a live demo at the end!

 

Wander out towards the Bruges windmills

 

 

City breaks can often be a bit overwhelming, especially in a small place like Bruges where everything is fairly crammed in and the streets are filled with tourists at every turn. On our last day, the sun was shining and we’d pretty much ticked off everything we had wanted to see and do, so my sister and I took a 20 minute stroll out of the city and found the Cruise Port which is where all the large ships and cruise liners dock when visiting Bruges. Just opposite the port was a large green park boasting numerous windmills, also known as Molino de San Juan, and they were certainly a sight to behold! It was so lovely to wander round the park, admire the windmills both from afar and up close, and perch on top of the hill for a spot of people watching. One of the hills is quite high and you can see lovely views of the river/port and the Belfry spires in the distance. The windmills themselves were actually closed when we went, but I think you can go in them during the summer months for a small fee. Spending a couple of hours at this place was a great way to end our time in Bruges, and we left feeling refreshed after spending some time away from the hustle and  bustle of the city centre.

 

Enjoy Belgian frites in the Markt square

 

 

Where better to find a true taste of Belgium than at in the Markt Square? The focal point of the entire city, and the prettiest place to stop and watch the world go by, the Square is home to a number of restaurants and shops as well as the famous Belfry Tower and some museums too. My sister and I took great pleasure in devouring some of the tastiest, saltiest, crispiest fries we’d ever had and took some time out to chill and enjoy the ambience of the square, with its horse drawn carriages and ornate buildings dominating the area. We also did the same with Belgian chocolates, Belgian waffles and just about every other kind of Belgian food we could get our hands on! No visit to Bruges is complete without a visit to the Markt Square, and it’s not hard to see why.

 

Visit the Basilica of the Holy Blood

 

 

There are many Churches in Bruges, and the city is well known for its ornate religious buildings, but the Basilica of the Holy Blood is definitely its most famous. History tells us that Thierry of Alsace brought a red-stained cloth to the Basilica after the 12th century Second Crusade, and the cloth was said to have the blood of Jesus Christ on it. The cloth has been held in a secure vial since the Church was built in the 1100s, and thousands of visitors have either seen it or been invited to the altar to pray whilst holding their hands over it – whilst not touching it of course. A service is carried out every day at 2pm inviting church goers to witness the cloth and I think this age-old tradition will continue for centuries to come.

 

Getting Around

 

 

As it is fairly small, Bruges is best discovered on foot, and making your way around the cobbled streets is definitely the best way to explore this ancient city. I loved strolling down the old fashioned streets lined with shops, café’s bars and restaurants, and really got a feel for traditional Belgium by discovering Bruges in this way. You can of course hop on a boat like we did to explore a little further afield, and to see the city from a different perspective, and we saw lots of cyclists too if you enjoy getting around by bike. I would say walking is your best bet though, as it is so compact and you can see as much or as little as you want to whilst you’re there.

 

Where to Stay

 

 

We had splashed out on accommodation in Paris and Luxembourg so knew we needed to tighten our belts a little by the time our Bruges stop came around. Luckily, we found an Ibis located in the heart of the city centre which was absolutely perfect for us and catered to our every need. A steal at just €140 for 2 nights, the Ibis Brugge Centrum was clean, comfortable and just what we wanted. Walkable from the train station and every attraction in the city, the hotel enjoys a fantastic location and offers guests brilliant value accommodation. We particularly liked that our street facing room had a view of a gorgeous cobbled road (super quiet and quaint) and we felt that we were right in the middle of the action as we were just a 5min walk from the main square and close to all the main city landmarks. I would definitely recommend the Ibis for those looking to stay in the heart of the city.

 

Although super small, Bruges is packed with history, charm and culture and is up there with one of the best European cities I have ever had the pleasure of visiting! I loved my stay so much that I am already planning a return visit, but this time for Christmas Markets to see the main square all lit up and sparkly! Have you ever been to Bruges before? Let me know what you thought of it, I’d be keen to hear all your travel tales!

Love Jess x

 

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*GIVEAWAY* A day out in London with Thames Rockets – and how you can win tickets! 🚀🚀

 

 

Last week I was lucky enough to hop aboard a speedboat on the Thames for a collaboration with a very special company. How cool is that?! Part of my job was to review a speedboat, and not just any old speedboat, a Thames Rocket if you please. Formerly known as London Rib Voyages, Thames Rockets has been renamed and rebranded since it was first launched in 2006, and has previously been awarded the #1 thing to do in London by TripAdvisor, the best tourist attraction by Visit London and, most recently, Family Friendly Attraction of the Year by Visit England. Fresh after their latest award win, the team at Thames Rockets seem to be getting bigger and better, with their awesome speed adventures offering quite possibly the best way to see London. Here’s how my trip went, and how you can WIN a pair of tickets for yourself too…

 

Boarding

 

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Hopping on board 🚀🚀

 

Boarding for any Thames Rocket trip takes place on the London Eye Pier, at the heart of Westminster, right underneath the London Eye. Guests are advised to arrive 15 mins ahead of their allocated booking time and are given life jackets and a safety briefing before stepping on board the speedboat. The boats seat up to 12 people and no matter where you sit, you’ll get an amazing view of the sights from every angle! I took my little sister along for the ride and we were booked on to the Ultimate London Adventure, a 50 minute part guided tour/part speed experience showcasing the best that London has to offer.

 

The Tour

 

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Our tour guide, Rory, showing us the sights!

 

Our speed boat experience gave us the best of both worlds; an informative tour and history of all the famous landmarks along the river for 25 minutes, and then 25 minutes of full frontal speed as we broke through the Thames barrier, and the speed restrictions, and whizzed from one side of the riverbank to the other for as long we could. Our guide, Rory, was so much fun – he told us fun facts about each of the iconic sights whilst not making it sound like a history lesson! I’ve walked and toured London many times before, but I still found out things I hadn’t known about purely from Rory’s fantastic knowledge.

 

The Sights

 

 

Starting at The London Eye, the tour took us backwards to catch a glimpse of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament before heading up river all the way towards Tower Bridge. We passed 22 iconic landmarks along the way including St Paul’s Cathedral, The Shard, The Gherkin, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, HMS Belfast and The Tower of London. Although I’ve seen them all before, gazing at all these amazing monuments from the river gave me a totally new perspective and made me fall in love with them all over again. We also rode under all the famous bridges, from Blackfriars and the Millennium to Waterloo and London Bridge. If I had to pick just one though, it would be the mighty Tower Bridge; it’s somewhere that has a really special place in my heart and I can never ever tire of looking at it – it’s my favourite place in the world!

 

The Speed

 

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Hanging on for dear life… We went SO fast but it was SO much fun! 🚀🚀

 

Ok so I know I was on a speedboat tour, but I did NOT expect us to go so frikkin fast! Once we’d got past the barrier and the speed restrictions had lifted, our wonderful driver Nick went full throttle on the acceleration and we were blasting past Tower Bridge quicker than we could have ever imagined. We rode up and down the river, side to side and round and round whilst the speakers were blaring loud music and giving us a party experience to remember. It was literally so much fun, just like being on a fast roller-coaster at a theme park, but even better as the sights of London were all around us. We had to grab on to our seats but we were in no danger at all of falling out as our crew kept us safe the whole time – just make sure you hold on to anything loose as they can’t be held responsible for flying hats or scarves!

My sister and I absolutely adored our time spent with the Thames Rockets team; the tour, the speed and the music were amazing, we just wish we could have had longer on board! The Ultimate London adventure was perfect for us, but you can choose from a variety of other experiences to suit your needs. Why not hop on board the Thames Lates cruise to see the city sights lit up in all their glory? Or if your need for speed outweighs your need for sightseeing, the Break The Barrier tour is the one for you! Whatever tour you choose, Thames Rockets will not disappoint! Summer is a great time to visit whilst the sun is shining and the landmarks look even more glorious, but this experience can be taken at any time of year, weather permitting of course.

 

 

As part of this review, I’m delighted to announce that I also have a pair of tickets for you to WIN so that you can experience The Ultimate London adventure too! All you have to do to win is:

  • Follow me on Twitter – @jessica16_x
  • Follow Thames Rockets on Twitter – @thamesrockets
  • Retweet my competition tweet (pinned tweet on my Twitter page)

**Competition opens 12/07/17 and closes 31/07/17 – entrants must do all three of the above to qualify. Quoted tweets will not count. Winners to be announced on my Twitter page 03/08/17 and will be sent a pair of Thames Rockets tickets via email.**

 

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What an amazing adventure we had with the Thames Rockets crew 

 

Wishing you all the best of luck with the competition – this really is an amazing prize and I know whoever wins will have the most amazing day out in our beautiful capital city! I’m rather jealous that I won’t get to do The Ultimate London Adventure all over again, but I will most definitely be back on board with Thames Rockets again soon and can’t wait to try another one of their tours.

GOOD LUCK!

Love Jess x

NB. I was invited as a guest of Thames Rockets for the purpose of this review and giveaway but, as always, all thoughts, opinions and photos are my own. A big thank you to Rory, Kai, Nick, Greg and the rest of the Thames Rockets team for looking after us, and for making our day so special.

 

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Thanks for having me guys – had a blast! 🚀🚀

Barcelona nou camp

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The world famous nou camp which is home to Barcelona’s football team -would have loved to have gone inside but the other girls weren’t interested.. shame! nou camp