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Not such a great experience

London, United...
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Not such a great experience

I was in Bruges this year and despite the good things I've heard about the architecture, in other aspects I was very disappointed. One thing that I admired in Brussels is that everything was in French and Dutch, which is admirable since both languages are used in the country. But arriving in Bruges, the signs were only in Dutch. That itself seemed quite unfair to the French speaking citizens of the country and unhelpful for foreign tourists, and it got worse when we tried to ask for directions to locals running small hotels and they would refuse to speak French or English and would make gestures for us to go away with grumpy faces. Being a smaller town than Brussels one would expect people to be friendlier, which was far from the case. My main issue with this is not that I'd require them to speak other languages - maybe they never had the opportunity to learn - but the plain unhelpfulness and rudeness. It was completely uncalled for, especially in a place where the economy owes so much to tourism. Brussels was much more welcoming. The streets are dirtier, true, but you feel more welcome by the people there.

Going back to Bruges, we noticed when we were having lunch that you had to pay to use the toilets in the premises, even when you were a paying customer!! If you're sitting and eating in a place, I just find extremely cheap of them to deny customers use of their toilet facilities unless you pay an extra fee. The excuse was that the toilets were 'operated independently' or something of the sort. By whom? The national ministry of toilets? No, by themselves. It's not like they hired a third party to come and operate a fully independent 'business' in the basement of the place, and that business was a private toilet facility. They belong to the restaurant, but you still have to pay extra.

Another issue was that several restaurants closed their kitchens at 9pm that Saturday night. I was there and had to go to many places before we found one that was only closing the kitchen at 10pm. This is not something you usually find when you search for info on the city, but I think people should be aware that you have to eat early even on Saturday night to avoid disappointment and an empty stomach.

And finally, a gallery we visited the next day had 60% of it's rooms closed for renovation, according to the staff, but only offered a 20% reduction on the ticket prices. That was cheeky. Paying 80% of the regular price to see 40% of the collection.

So overall, the best thing for me in Bruges was just buying nice chocolate and seeing nice buildings, but other than that it didn't have much to offer. These were the experiences I had there over that weekend, and as much as posts like these apparently displease staff from the local tourism office, I believe the whole purpose of this site is to offer people's actual experiences in their trips. Otherwise they would just visit the official websites, where cities are trying to sell a product and where you don't really find out about what people went through unless it was great.

Sluis, The...
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1. Re: Not such a great experience


You must be the partner of Jingeos. To other people reading this, pretty much the same story can be found over here: tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g188671-i448-k4737… where you can read some reactions as well.

Kind regards,


Stockport England
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for Bruges
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2. Re: Not such a great experience

If you had took the time to do any research before your trip you might understand why French is not a language of choice !

You generally find that people attitude reflects ones own, which may explain some of the problems you experienced.

Wakefield, United...
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3. Re: Not such a great experience

with you on that one Stockport Breaker -

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4. Re: Not such a great experience

Bruges is wonderful..... Beautiful and serene.

I cant wait to get back there. Such a shame you didnt enjoy this magnificent city.

Maybe you were having a bad week ?

London, United...
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5. Re: Not such a great experience

Brugge is indeed a tourist trap, but you know that before you travel and make allowances.

Brugge is in Flanders and in Flanders they speak Dutch.

In my experience it is very unusual to come across anyone in Flanders who does not speak English perfectly, you must have come across people in a very small minority.

Most people I know in Flanders speak 3 languages.

Some places make a small charge to use the loo, most don't, that's the way it is.

Next time visit Ghent it's like Bruges but without the tourists.

Wakefield, United...
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6. Re: Not such a great experience

Personally I dont mind paying to use the loo anywhere in Bruges - they are always so clean.

We ate late on a Saturday night - and a lot of other places were open. If push came to shove we could have had some chips from the Frietcots near the Bell Tower :)

And Jungle Jim - Ghent is lovely - we popped through there on the bus but stayed in the big shopping arcade opposite the Library (oooh that was a lovely library - we went in there for a coffee and browsed around the different floors)

Loved the shopping arcade - even though we kept hitting the wrong button in the lift and spent the most hilarious half hour ever going up and down before FINALLY getting out on the correct floor.

Haddington, United...
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7. Re: Not such a great experience

I speak neither Dutch nor French and only found the citizens of Bruges wonderfully hospitable and very very helpful and in all the places I was in I was never asked to pay to use a toilet and because of the amount of beer I drank I was in a lot and more than often not as a paying customer. As others have stated a place is what you make it and if you give off a bad attitude you get a bad attitude back.. As for places to eat closing early it would appear to be a custom that people eat fairly early in Bruges as it is in a lot of City's around the world and possibly when Around_Europe becomes a more mature traveler they will understand that 'When in Rome!.

Brussels, Belgium
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8. Re: Not such a great experience

A little elementary research would have revealed that in Flanders the official language is Dutch, in Wallonia, French (and German!) and in Brussels, French AND Dutch, hence bilingual signs. Would you expect signs in England to be in Welsh, or English and Welsh, just because Welsh is an accepted language at the level of the UK? I think not.

I have nothing against people complaining when things go wrong with their trip, but a traveller should know SOMETHING about the country he or she is visiting, and also adjust expectations with respect to local customs, such as eating hours, paying for toilets, and indeed (another complaint that comes up occasionally) paying for water. It is extraordinarily self-centred to assume that it is always the locals that are out of step!

But anyway, the visit served its purpose, now you know where you might NOT want to visit again.

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9. Re: Not such a great experience

1/ In Bruges you will generally be able to speak dutch, french & english.

Most of them speak German as well .

You must have gotten the bad luck to ask the wrong person for information.

Whàt did you ask to that small local hotel owners ? The way to your hotel ? Because I have to admit that in my own city i'm sometimes fed up with people asking : where is the cathedral when they stand almost in front of it... and without kidding this happens hundred times as day. Most of the time you are friendly and point at it but sometimes... well you know what i mean.

So maybe the reasons for theur 'unfriendly' reaction lies there ?

As for the signs believe me : you'll never find french signs in àny Flemsih city...

Brussels is our capital and thus hàs to put all the signs in both languages.

I just came back from very touristic Tuscany in Italy and the signs where also only in Italian. I think it's normal, no ?

2/ the loo : Strange, it' VERY unusal to let customers pay for the loo. I spend quite some days in bruges and so far never paid for using the toilets. As to non-customers I understand this policy : they owners pay for water, toiletpaper and cleaning so if you only come in to use the facility then it's fair to charge you for that.

You certainmy must have gone to a cheap place typical attracting tourists only...

3/ as to the remark that Brussels was more firendly and helpful... I lived in Brussels for quite some years and did not experience that city as a friendly warm welcoming place... In Bruges you really find so many extremely friendly people.

10. Re: Not such a great experience

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Removed on: 03 October 2011, 18:32