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City guide Bruges.

Byline: MARY BARBER

The shop assistant tells me I can eat the handbag and the lipstick. "And what about the red shoe?" asked the customer in front of me. "Yes, that too," she said. This would have been an odd conversation had I not been standing in a chocolate shop in the medieval city of Bruges.

I was enticed inside by the stunning window display and the delicious aroma wafting out of the door.

With Chocolate Week starting on October 10 (chocolateweek.co.uk), there's no better place to prepare for it than Belgium which, arguably, makes the finest in the world. It tastes divine. About 172,000 tonnes of chocolate is produced in the country each year and among the loveliest places to buy it is in Bruges.

It has entire museums dedicated to chocolateand beer ... and

CHOCS AWAY: About 50 chocolate shops can be found in the city centre. Along the narrow warren of medieval cobbled streets, leading brands like Neuhaus in Steenstraat 66 sit alongside small family-run artisan shops such as Dumon, which sells wonderful confections at Simon Stevinplein 11. For something more offbeat, try The Chocolate Line shop in the same street. Tourists flock to try master "shock-o-latier" Dominique Persoone's latest creations. They include curry and wasabi flavours. The fried onion is surprisingly good. There is even a museum, Choco-Story, dedicated to chocolate. Among the 1,000 exhibits is a 6ft giant egg (choco-story.be).

The locals also love chips and beer and there are museums devoted to them, too. The Museum of the Friet (frietmuseum.be) and Bruges Beer Museum (brugesbeermuseum.com).

HERITAGE TRAIL: The pretty city, with its gabled even chips houses and canals, is a Unesco world heritage site. Flemish is spoken, although most people understand French and English. In the Middle Ages, Bruges was a wealthy trading city and a major port. However, when its route to the sea silted up about 400 years ago, trade in diamonds and lace also began to dry up. By the 19th century it started to attract trade again, along with tourists - there are now five million a year. Many of them stick to the guided city walks and canal tours (visitbruges.be).

Among the attractions are the 12th century belfry in Markt Square, which featured in the 2008 dark comedy In Bruges, starring Colin Farrell. There is also the medieval "double church" of the Basilica of the Holy Blood, which has a Romanesque church below and a neo-Gothic chapel above (holyblood.com).

The romantic Minnewaterpark, with its Lake of Love, is also worth a visit. But the best way to see Bruges is on foot.

The city is small and easty to get around. The main tourist trails are often busy, particularly in summer, but there are quiet roads nearby, with beautiful buildings, shops and cafes.

It has entire museums dedicated to chocolateand beer ... and even chips

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Oct 2, 2016
Words:482
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