Swans swim its canals; medieval buildings shadow its cobblestones; willow trees weep over its lake; rich chocolates peer from behind its windows; pints of Belgian blondes sit on its cafe tables; and carillon chimes fill its air with music: This is Bruges (or Brugge in Dutch). This idyllic city in northern Belgium is more touristy and yet more quaint than the capital city of Brussels. Plan a trip to Bruges for a taste of medieval Europe in the 21st century, for a friendly small-town feel with world-class charms (the Historic Centre of Brugge, to name one) and, of course, for the beer, fries and chocolate. Whatever your reason for coming to Bruges, you'll be charmed.
Brussels has been the de facto capital of the European Community (and now European Union) for decades, and for a good reason. The city's Gothic- and Baroque-style squares, set between medieval streets, are the playgrounds of international politicians and adventurous tourists alike. Authentic Belgian fare offers hearty comfort food, and daily doses of chocolate and beer are worth every cent. Brussels is cosmopolitan in ways other cities are not – it's truly multilingual (French, German and Dutch). The multicultural influences have led to an explosion of museums, marketplaces, restaurants and boutiques that make it far more than just a sleepy alternative to some of its busier neighbors like Paris or Amsterdam.