I recently landed in Belgium and I’ve always had a habit of imagining whether or not I could live in the places I’ve traveled. Now that I’m practically homeless and looking for a place to land, at least temporarily, this has turned into a much more real concern. So I’ve decided to be as objective about it as I can possibly be, because it might help me decide where to stay. And in the event you find yourself looking for a nice city to live, it might help you, too. So based solely on observation, I give you the first edition of “Could I Live Here?” in Bruges.
On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being Afghanistan and 10 being Disney world, I would rank Bruges a solid 9. It’s small and quaint and full of older people who are anything but threatening. I feel like if money happened to fall out of my purse, some friendly octogenarian would pick it up and hand it to me. The biggest threat to safety here is probably for people with allergies. There are so many dandelion fluffs in the air that I thought it was snow. If you’re not allergic, it’s kind of adorable.
Bruges is awesome if you’ve ever wanted to live inside a beautiful painting. At any given moment, there is a boat navigating next to you on a beautiful canal while someone walks their gorgeous dog. Everything smells like chocolate because there are more chocolatiers here than there are people. But it’s kind of a sparsely populated town. Some parts of it look beautiful and almost abandoned. It barely even appears as though people work here, and I suspect that people outside of the tourism industry do, in fact, work and commute to places outside of their picturesque little village.
Speaking of the people, both visitors and residents appear to be on the higher end of the lifetime spectrum. It’s like Bruges is Europe’s premier retirement destination. And I don’t blame them. If I was retired, I would definitely want to spend the rest of my days watching moss grow on these cute buildings while eating a waffle. To be honest, I may want to do that now and I’m not even 30. But realistically speaking, it would probably get boring to live somewhere like this as a 20-something.
Bruges is so small that it has one major train station and that’s all it needs. I’m a big fan of being able to walk everywhere so that gets a star of approval from me. It’s also an easy train ride to other major cities in Belgium like Antwerp or Brussels. Even though I don’t personally ride bike, this is the kind of place where I would actually feel safe doing so because there aren’t a lot of cars on the road. You do run the risk of crashing into a horse-drawn carriage, though.
As far as I can tell, it’s really cheap to be an alcoholic here, but not nearly as cheap to eat. You can get a beer (a good beer) for about 2 Euro just about anywhere. The food is a little on the higher end of things but still not abysmally expensive like the UK or Switzerland. According to our very friendly brewery tour guide, the wages are very good and adequately keep up with the cost of living. That’s reassuring coming from someone who would work for tips in many other cities.
If you like chocolate, tea, and waffles, this is pretty much the best place in the world. There are tea houses and chocolatiers alternating every two feet. You’ll also find a lot of fries, seafood, and cheese croquettes. It lacks a bit of the culinary diversity that I prefer, but everything I’ve had has been downright delicious. You really can’t go wrong in a place where you can buy a cone full of chocolate-covered strawberries to go.
Total Livability Score: 5/10
It’s a beautiful place to visit and has many benefits, but overall, I don’t think I could actually live here at this point in my life. Maybe when I’m 60.