Millions of tourists head straight for the centre of Bruges, where the narrow lanes lined with souvenir shops are often impossibly crowded. But you can quickly get away from the crowds if you walk just ten minutes to the north.
The Sint-Gilles quarter is where you find the pretty cobbled streets and quiet almshouses, along with the restaurants where the locals go to eat. Follow the Ezelstraat out to the city gate Ezelpoort to begin a walk around the old ramparts.
Landscaped in the 19th century, the ramparts form an almost continuous green belt around the old city. Here is where to head if you want to escape the crowds. You might pass the occasional fisherman or local kids riding their bikes to school, but almost everyone out here is local.
The seven-kilometre trail takes you past city gates, windmills and a wooden crane, with authentic local cafés like De Windmolen providing stops along the way.
Derek Blyth’s hidden secret of the day: Derek Blyth is the author of the bestselling “The 500 Hidden Secrets of Belgium”. He picks out one of his favourite hidden secrets for The Brussels Times every day.