1. Don't go to Bruges.
2. Watch the movie In Bruges instead, provided you have the necessary ability to withstand a pretty decent amount of blood, jokes about dwarves, and swearing.
While Emily was here, we decided it would be fun to go to Bruges in the evening and have dinner, walk around the city, take night photos, whatever. It is (as every source will tell you) the best-preserved medieval city in Europe.
When we got there, we noticed the train station is nothing special. In fact, it is perhaps the ugliest and most boring train station I've seen in any city so far. It's a station which opens out into a central flat area with no distinguishing features surrounded by chain store hell.
|The chain stores are behind me.|
|The bell tower|
|Don't look now, but I think we're surrounded.|
That only gives you the smallest idea of it, but if you imagine that in every direction you turn, you start to get the idea. And okay, I get it - it's a tourist destination, and it's tourist season, and we were after all tourists ourselves. But there was a big difference in the feel of Bruges and the feel of Gent when it's full of tourists, and here's what it is: Bruges is dead.
Even on the days when it seems like we've reached a critical mass of tourists in Gent, you see people biking through the squares on their way home or out with friends, or locals sitting and having drinks, or people shopping like on any other day. But the tourist center of Bruges is like an Epcot version of Belgium; there's not a single thing going on there that isn't directly related to tourists. The restaurants? Only tourists. The buildings? Mostly empty facades. Shops? Either souvenirs or high-end chain stores. If you're suddenly seized by the urge to buy a Rolex while on vacation, Bruges is your city.
|"My God, it's full of stars! I mean, tourists."|
Rent the movie, and come to Gent instead.