Places to eat and drink incredibly well in Bruges. Explore the best restaurants and bistros in Bruges.
Take a walk on the Bruges side – the medieval city is perfect for exploring on foot. Here’s an easy few hours, or half-day walking tour of Bruges that includes canals, museums, the Belfry and even a sleeping dog. With fortifying Belgian beer and restaurant stops along the way…
If you’re staying in Bruges for a long weekend and arrive Friday evening, make sure you stroll around the city’s illuminated streets at night. You’ll have the historic centre to yourselves, as many tourists are tucked up in bed or ensconced in restaurants. Bruges at night may be quiet, but it is always magical.
Rise early the next day and put on your walking shoes. I did the following walking tour of the best sights in Bruges in three hours, but it could take you half or even a whole day if you stop en route for lunch, museums, retail therapy and a canal boat ride…
Your walk begins in Bruges’s main square – the Markt. If you’re up early and have a head for heights, climb the Belfry (queues are insane later) and enjoy a bird’s eye view of Bruges in all its medieval glory. Then once back on terra firma, turn right and head down Breidelstraat towards the Burg, where you’ll find a plethora of monuments, including the Basilica of the Holy Blood and the 13th-century City Hall. I love the smorgasbord of architectural styles here: Romanesque, Gothic (City Hall), Renaissance, Baroque and neo-classical all vie for attention.
Head to the northern edge of the Burg and turn right onto Philipstockstraat, then first left onto Wappenmakersstraat. You’ll find the edible Choco Story here (demonstrations at 12.15 and 3.15) and historic buildings as you do a return circuit to the Burg via Kraanrei, leperstraat and Cordoeaniersstraat. Back in the Burg head for the southeast corner into narrow Blinde Ezelstraat – making your way under the arch towards the Groenerei (Green Canal) with delightful views from the bridge. Ahead you’ll see the colonnaded Fish Market (Vismarkt) that houses a craft market when it isn’t purveying the scaly stuff.
Canal boat rides
Canal boat jetties are plentiful along this stretch – and again if you are up early you’ll avoid the queues. Seeing Bruges from the water is a must: look out for Fidel – Bruges’s famous golden Labrador resting his noble head at a window seat in a house above the canal on Groeneri.
From Groenerei turn left into Tanners’ Square (Huidenvettersplein). The restaurant on the corner is a suntrap as well as a tourist trap – like most in the centre of Bruges – so either dig deep into your wallet or just grab one of their delicious beers. I highly recommend the refreshing Tripel Karmeliet. At 8.4% it packs a delicious punch!
Tanner’s Square is home to a small craft market, a few restaurants and the former Tanner’s Guildhouse. Walk across the square and you’ll reach Rozenhoedkaai (Rosary Quay) offering the most well-known quayside view of Bruges. This is a beautiful place to see at dusk and at night when the hordes have left.
Follow Djiver towards Bruges’s main art museum – the Groeninge – with its wealth of medieval and modern treasure. The garden here leads to Groeninge lane and takes you through the Arentshuis museum courtyard. Ahead you’ll see the tiny Bonifacius footbridge and on your right, the 15th-century Palace of the Lords of Gruuthuse which features life in Bruges up to the 19th century.
At the end of the bridge you’ll see the Church of Our Lady (Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk) straight ahead of you, well worth a visit. Exiting onto Mariastraat, pop into the Hospital Museum – Memling in St John’s (St John’s Hospital) – just across the road. The hospital was in use until 1976 and has a unique atmosphere. A good lunch stop is French restaurant Malesherbes on narrow Stoofstraat, which leads to Walplein and the famous Half Moon Brewery – Bruge’s only surviving city centre ale-making house. They have a restaurant here too but it will be crowded. Cross over the square to Wijngaardstraat where there are plenty of lunch options (albeit expensive) or stop for tea at Carpe Diem, before crossing the bridge near the water fountain and arriving at the Beguinage almshouses.
The calm serenity of the square of houses (homes to a community of nuns) is also home to a church. Continue south to Minnewater Lake (the lake of Love) and exit via Prof Dr Sebrechstssr, passing the Minnewaterkliniek a former city hospital. You’ll find a street of houses at the end on Oostmeeers. Walk along here until you reach St Saviour’s Cathedral (Sint-Salvatorskathedraal). Founded in the 9th century it is the oldest parish church in Bruges.
From St Saviours turn down Zuidzandstraat – one of Bruge’s main shopping streets with international brands – and continue till you reach t’Zand and the Concert Hall on the square. Rest here for a coffee – there are a few café options – then return to the Markt and Burg via Zuidzandstraat and Steenstraat (more retail therapy). Recommended restaurants for a good supper in the Burg area include Delaney’s at Burg 8 and Tom Pouce at Burg 17 followed by an extra strong nightcap at Staminée De Garre. This historic pub’s house beer is the Tripel de Garre at a gravity defying 10.5% proof. You have been warned!