One of the highlights of my trip came when three of us escaped Brussels on our free day and went to Bruges. This city in the Flanders region (northern part of the country) is full of canals and seemed to me to be a somewhat miniature version of Venice. What's fantastic about this small city is that the medieval architecture has been preserved so you feel as if you are walking down the city streets of 500 years ago (without the horse manure!). They have over 50 bridges that cover the canals so the city is accessible to walk around. It is also easy to get there. Trains leave Brussels almost every half hour that stops in Bruges. The round trip cost to get there was around 26 Euros so it was relatively cheap.
Once we arrived in the train station, I used a map that I found and we went near the city market. The first order of business we did was get some ice cream at what was labeled as the best ice cream in town, Da Vinci. It was there that we met the owner of the store, Sylvia. She spoke perfect English and had a very charming personality.
None of us really did any research on what to do in Bruges, which is very different for me since I embrace structure. While at Da Vinci ice cream, I asked Sylvia on what to do since she is a local and knew what to avoid. She told us to go to the city market that houses a large church and other city buildings that are 500 years old, walk around to get a feel of the city, and to also take a boat for a canal-ride throughout the city. Sylvia even suggested where to eat for lunch! We took her advice and did the exact itinerary she suggested.
Everything bout Bruges was fantastic! One funny moment came was when two professors spotted us on the canal ride and shouted hello- we ended up running into them after the ride was over.