Canals and lakes with whitewashed swans, medieval cobbled streets, towers that still seem to be inhabited by princesses and knights, colored houses, towering cathedrals with baroque statues, and ballistic bistros serving the most beloved world.
This is Europe's best preserved medieval city.
We will not be alone on this journey. The secret to the fairytale beauty of the beleaguered Belgian city has long been learned.
But this little universe in West Flanders has room for everyone: in the canals and lakes with whitewashed swans, in medieval cobbled streets, in towers that still seem to be inhabited by princesses and knights, in colored houses, in towering cathedrals and the pop-up bistro serving the best waffle with plenty of icing sugar.
Many view Bruges as the alter ego of Amsterdam and Venice because of its dozens of channels.
But the truth is that the city is like no other.
Inside the walls of the small state, the legends are well hidden, chocolate sweetens the palate and Belgian beer flows profusely.
The starting point of each route is the historic city center, where time seems to have stopped in the 13th century.
Our compass is Belfort, the towering bell-tower of the city that reaches 83 meters high with 366 steps, panoramic city views and the 47 bells that have been ringing for the last 300 years.
We are in Burg, the main square. Next to us is the town market, Martk, with chocolate shops and outdoor benches with heavenly waffles.
The ritual requires boating from the Georges Stael dock on the city's central canal with its graceful bridges and elaborate buildings mirrored in the serene waters.
Locals will show you the way to the sights of the historic center such as the Church of the Virgin Mary (which houses the “Virgo and the Divine Infant”, the only sculpture of Michael Angelos outside Italy), the museums and much less Tourist east side of the city with cobbled streets, hills, bridges and wells.
But no one will be able to prepare you for the spectacle you will find by reaching Lake Minnewater, on the edge of town:
A snow-capped landscape with trees hanging over its waters, bridges paved with a thick layer of red and brown leaves, picturesque trails, fog and the smell of wet soil make up the most romantic setting.