When my parents came to visit me while I was studying abroad in London, we decided to take a day trip to Belgium. The original plan was to head for Brussels, but we got there and couldn't really find a map. We were told we could just continue on and go to Bruges for free. So, in the name of adventure, we went back on the train and headed for Bruges, a city none of us had heard of. People often refer to Amsterdam as the "Venice of the North", but I would include Bruges in that same discussion.
Bruges is a medieval city with stunning canals, amazing architecture, great chocolate, and a rather large clock tower with beautiful views. We arrived on a rainy day, but the weather would not stop us from exploring. Once off the train we saw what seemed to be thousands of bikes.
(1. Similar to Amsterdam) Across the way from the station was a fair with rides, shops, and some of the tastiest waffles I've ever had. (The little silver dollar types) As we walked through the fair, we headed for the city center, classic Europe. The main square is surrounded by a clock tower, shops, and restaurants. From there we walked down different side streets and saw the canals (2. similar to Amsterdam), chocolate shops, and architecture the city is known for. We also wondered upon a church with a statue of the Madonna and Child and also a pretty cool Australian store with a group playing the didgeridoo.
Overall, Bruges is a city where you don't feel like you are just a tiny speck in a vast expanse of tourists. Granted we went in March, when tourists aren't as active, but I think it is a manageable city for newcomers to Europe. I would recommend this city to anyone who longs for medieval style and European charm. Bruges just might be the other Venice of the North.