Corry, Vanessa, and I only spent one day there, but we made the most out of our time. After wandering a bit, we started our day touring the De Halve Maan Brewery (is anyone else noticing a pattern here?), founded in 1856. Owned by the Maes family, De Halve Maan is special to Bruges, as it's the only brewery within the city walls today. I was completely blown away. I don't even like beer, but our guide was so animated and full of interesting facts that I found myself fascinated by the beer-making process and how complex it is. While you end up climbing over 200-some stairs during the tour, the end result is worth it, as you have a panoramic view of the entire city. Then you get rewarded with a glass of their Brugge Zot beer!
We then found our way to Market Square to browse the Christmas market. This is where you find that famous shot of Bruges, with the row of gingerbread-esque buildings!
Next to Market Square is Burg Square, where the Stadhuis (town hall) is located. We started at the Stadhuis to see the renowned Gothic Hall as well as the history of Bruges exhibit, and then we walked next door to the Liberty of Bruges mansion to see the old law court. Tickets are only 4€ (3€ if you are 26 and under) and are valid for both museums. As the museums are on the smaller side, you can easily do both in under an hour.
Within Burg Square is the Basilica of the Holy Blood, as well. While the church has one of the most stunning interiors I've seen, it's best known for housing a relic of Christ's blood. One by one, one can approach the relic (which is carefully guarded and held by a clergy member), and it's quite an amazing experience. I'm not Christian, but it still felt surreal to see his blood--after all, religious beliefs aside, he's fundamental to Christianity as well as to the history of religion. You shouldn't need more than 20-30 minutes here, but it's worth a visit (especially since it's free to enter the church).
The rest of the day was much more relaxed. We walked along the canals and found the windmills that remain from the original city walls, and the bright sun made this adventure all the better. Yet it was still cold, so we decided to warm up with a hot chocolate at The Old Chocolate House.
Oh. My. Goodness. The sign out front claims to have the best hot chocolate in Bruges, and we wholeheartedly agree. For 4€, you get a bowl that's the size of your head full of hot chocolate. Well, sort of. You choose your type of chocolate (I opted for milk chocolate), and the waiter or waitress brings you the bowl full of steaming hot milk as well as pieces of chocolate to mix in. So you're literally making your own hot chocolate! Plus, the chocolate bits come in a chocolate cup (!!!), along with some cookies. I was seriously in heaven. If there's one thing you must do in Bruges, it's having a hot chocolate here.
It was dark when we exited the tea house, so we spent a few minutes at Market Square in its full Christmas-light glory. The perfect way to end the perfect day in Bruges.