Bruges has a wealth of options for lovers of luxury, from great bistros and Michelin-starred restaurants to celebrity hangouts and high-end shops. Check our Eyewitness Travel guide to visit Bruges by Locals…
If you are daydreaming about wandering through a fairy-tale medieval European town, Bruges is the perfect destination for you.Here are some tips for visiting the city of Bruges.With charming cobblestone streets, rows of gingerbread-like houses and tranquil canals this city is delightfully historical and romantic. As well as being pretty to look at, Bruges is also affordable, safe, clean, easy to navigate and very welcoming. Travel like a local with the best travel guide of Bruges.
In order to help you plan the best possible trip to Bruges, this rough guide will offer you information on its location and history as well as travel tips, bruges recommendations and ideas for what to do during your visit. (Frequently Asked Questions about Bruges)
Bruges has a wealth of options for lovers of luxury, from great bistros and Michelin-starred restaurants to celebrity hangouts and high-end shops.
Burg Square is the political heart of the city, place in which the city was born around the castle of the first Count of Flanders. Admire the oldest Gothic city hall of the Low Countries, the Basilica of the Holy Blood (it treasures a relic of the blood of Jesus Christ), and the civil register built in Renaissance architecture.Markt Square, the tenth century city market that has been for a millennium the economic heart of Bruges. Admire its imposing guildhalls and its bellfort tower, which is one of the most famous Gothic buildings in Belgium.
‘Lake of Love’ (Minnewater ) is one of the main water reservoirs that nourish the canal system of ‘the Venice of the North’’ with a stunning panoramic view of the city .
The Beguinage. One of the best-preserved examples of medieval gated communities (women only). Visit its courtyard, with its unique architecture and art treasures (including the oldest sculpture of Our Lady of Bruges), and enjoy a moment of calm and contemplation.
Brewery ‘De Halve Maan’ is the only brewery still operating in the city center. During lunchtime try one of the famous Bruges beers and a ‘Flemish Carbonnade’, a traditional beef stew made with local beer.
Old St. John’s Hospital is one of the oldest hospitals in Europe, where you can appreciate 800 years of European architecture, learn about its history, and visit the museum of Hans Memling (optional).
Our Lady of Bruges is one of the oldest churches in the city. Admire its impressive tower that is still one of the tallest brickwork towers in the world, and take a look to its art treasures, including Michelangelo’s Madonna with the child (optional).
VisMarkt (fishmarket) and the Tanners’ Square, two of the oldest squares in Bruges with their beautiful guildhalls and lovely cafés and restaurants.
GroeningeMuseum with paintings of the Flemish Primitives.
Practical tourist information and tourist offices Bruges
Tel. +32 (0)50 44 46 46
Fax +32 (0)50 44 46 45
- Information office Markt (Historium)
Markt 1 8000 Bruggetoday Open 10:00 to 17:00
- Information office ‘t Zand (Concertgebouw)
‘t Zand 34 8000 Bruggetoday Open 10:00 to17:00
- Information office Stationsplein (Station)
Stationsplein 8000 Bruggetoday Open 10:00 tot 17:00
Bruges Location and History
Located in the Flemish Region of Belgium in the northwest of the country, Bruges the largest city in the province of West Flanders. It is sometimes referred to as the “Venice of the North” because of the many canals and waterways throughout the city. It is thought that its name derives from the Old Dutch word for bridge, referring to the lovely bridges spanning the city’s canals.
The first fortifications in this spot were build back in the 1st century BC after Julius Caesar’s conquest of the Menapii, in order to protect the coast against pirates. The area was later taken over by the Franks in the 4th century and the Vikings in the 9th century. In 1128 Bruges received its city charter and the walls and canals were constructed.
The location of this city is very advantageous, as it sits at the crossroads of the Northern Hanseatic League and the southern trade routes. The town flourished throughout the medieval era and you can see remnants of this time as you stroll through the cobbled streets, historic churches and lovely canals.
After 1500 the city began to decline and its population dwindled, as it was falling behind Antwerp when it came to the economy of the Low Countries. In the last half of the 19th century, Bruges became one of the first tourist destinations in the world – with wealthy British and French tourists travelling to see this picturesque city. The city focused on restoring the historic monuments and medieval structures, which helped to further boost tourism. These days, Bruges attracts approximately two million tourists every year.
Getting Around in Bruges
When you are in Bruges, it is best to avoid driving as the busy, labyrinthine medieval streets of the city centre can be a nightmare. There are buses that you can use to get around, which are specifically designed to fit through the narrow streets. There are also taxi services within the city, although they will be more expensive. The historic centre is not very big, so it is possible to walk between most locations.
Tips for Your Visit to Bruges
Here are some tips for visiting the city of Bruges, Belgium.
If you don’t mind the chill, visit during the winter when there will be the fewest tourists. In the summer the prices will be higher and the attractions will be crowded.
- This city is popular during the weekend, as many couples head there for romantic getaways. If you can stay during the week days you will find cheaper prices and fewer crowds.
- Make sure you bring your appetite – Belgium is known for its delicious chocolates, sumptuous waffles and excellent beer.
- Bring good walking shoes, the best way to explore the city is on foot. Don’t wear heels, they will make it way too difficult to walk down the quaint cobbled streets.
- It’s fun to get lost in Bruges while you wander through the lovely historic streets. Remember you can always use the bell tower in the city centre to help re-orient yourself.
- If you want to use Bruges as a base for exploring other destinations in Belgium, you can use the Belgian Railways Railcard. It costs around 85 Euros and it is good for 10 single journeys between any two Belgium stations.
- You can purchase the Bruges Card, which offers you discounts to most of the major attractions and can be picked up at any of the hotels or hostels around the city.
- Also, if you are planning on visiting more than two of the museums it might be worth buying a combined Musea Brugge ticket.
- If you visit during June, July and August watch out for the mosquitos around the canals. They are especially active at dusk.
- Some inns and hotels in Bruges will charge you an extra 10-20 Euros if you only stay one night. Consider whether staying an additional night, if possible, would be worth it to avoid this extra charge.
- There are many self-catering apartments in Bruges, so consider whether this would be a more economical option for you, especially if you are travelling as a family.
- Remember that all the museums in Bruges are closed on Mondays!
Visiting Bruges – What to Do
Since 15 years, the Historic Centre of Brugge has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its “outstanding example of a medieval historic settlement, which has maintained its historic fabric as this has evolved over the centuries.” Cobblestone paths and canals frame these medieval buildings, giving the area an old world feel. Restored buildings once housed merchants selling fish, leather… and now the historic buildings are repurposed as pubs, boutiques and art galleries.
So what is there to do while exploring this beautiful city? Here are some ideas:
Rent a Bike and Go Exploring
Cycling is one of the best ways to explore the city of Bruges. The citizens love their bikes and up to 60% of all traffic in the city centre comes from cyclists. There are many bike rental spots all around the city and there are also plenty of options for a guided bike tour where a local guide will show you the highlights of the city.
Check Out the Groeninghe Museum
Bruges has a rich history and tradition in the Fine Arts and this museum has a collection of artworks spanning from the 14th to the 20th century. The displays focus on the painters who lived and worked in Bruges, so you will see many scenes from this beautiful city depicted. The Groeninge Museum features works of art from very influential painters including Hieronymus Bosch, Rogier van der Weyden and Jan van Eyck. The museum is open every day of the week from 9:30am-5pm and admission is 6-8 Euros.
See the Blood of Jesus at the Basilica
The elegantly designed Basilica of the Holy Blood is a lovely church on the Burg Square. Built in the Gothic Style it is home to a vial of blood that is said to be that of Jesus. It is free to visit the Basilica, but you should try to get there as early as possible so that you can see it before it is full of tourists.
Get a Tour at De Halve Maan Brewery
The “Half Moon Brewery” is the only still operating Brewery in the city centre of Bruges and it is open for tours so that you can learn about the history and brewing techniques. It is a family owned business with a tradition that stretches back to 1856 for six generations.
Brewery tours last about 45 minutes and cost €6 EUR (a little more than $8 USD)
Learn the History of Chips at the Friet Museum
Bruges is also home to the only museum in the world dedicated to the humble French fry. This museum tells the story of how potatoes from South America evolved into fries and became such a popular European snack. Here you will also be able to taste the “tastiest fries in the world” – cooked by a chef who used to cook for the Belgian Royal Family. The museum is open from 10am until 5pm and admission costs 6 Euro.
Stroll through the Historic Centre
Bruges has a lovely historic centre with most of its medieval architecture still intact – it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000. You can get lost for hours within the historic centre, as there are so many winding cobbled streets and passageways to explore. The city centre is compact and it is arranged around a friendly square, with colourful buildings and peaceful canals all around.
Indulge Your Sweet Tooth at the Chocolate Museum
If you are a chocoholic you will love this sweet museum in Bruges, located within an elegant period house, which details how cocoa is transformed into chocolate. You can watch a demonstration of chocolate being made and the best part is the delicious samples of Belgian chocolate you will be able to enjoy!
Play a Tune at the Sound Factory
Check out the new interactive museum located within the contemporary Concert Hall building. A touch screen exhibit will place you in control of a series of recorded chimes from the various church bells of the city. You can compose your own symphony, inspired by the elegance and charm of the city.
Marvel at the Surreal Works of Salvador Dali
The world that Salvador Dali’s paintings and sculptures exist within is a strange one, with melting clocks, crawling ants, spider-legged elephants and distorted human figures. Discover this fantastic world at the Museum-Gallery Xpo Salvador Dali in Bruges, displayed in a building with surreal décor of mirrors and dramatic pink. All of the artworks here have been confirmed originals by the Gala Salvador Dali Foundation in Spain and you can take an audio guide tour through the collection.
Float Down the Canals on a Tour Boat
You can take a ride through Bruges on one of the tour boats in order to see the city from a different perspective. Since not every canal runs next to a street, you will be able to see some locations that are otherwise inaccessible. The guides are multilingual and are very knowledgeable about the history of the city, so they will provide an entertaining narration for the tour.
Admire the View from the Belfry
Once of the central landmarks of Bruges, the tower of the Belfry stands 83 metres high. It is home to a beautifully intricate clock mechanism and a carillon containing 47 silver-toned bells. Climbing up the 366 stairs is a dizzying feat, but once you reach the top you will be rewarded with an unforgettable view of Bruges from above.
Treat Yourself to a Belgian Waffle
You can’t visit Belgium without treating yourself to a delicious, thick, fluffy Belgian waffle. Taste the “wafel met slagroom” which translates to “waffle with whipped cream”. The best waffles are those from the street vendors, as they are usually better value and just as yummy as the ones in a restaurant. You can choose from a variety of other toppings including strawberries and Nutella.
People-Watch in the Markt
Covering an area of approximately one hectare, the Markt (Market Square) of Bruges makes up the main centre of the city. It is the hub of the city and it is surrounded by gorgeous historic buildings including the Provincial Court and the 12th century Belfry. It’s a great place to get some street food, sit down and spend a few moments watching all the people go by.
See a Michelangelo Masterpiece
One of the most impressive works of art in Bruges is the marble sculpture of “Madonna with Child” by Michelangelo. It is located within the Church of Our Lady and it was the only work by Michelangelo to leave Italy in his lifetime.
Be Dazzled by the Bruges Diamond Museum
Did you know that the first diamond-cutting technique was developed in Bruges more than five centuries ago? Check out the Bruges Diamond Museum, where you can learn about the history of diamonds in Bruges from the fascinating and beautiful exhibits.
Plan Your Trip to Bruges Today
These are just a few of the great attractions that you can enjoy in the city of Bruges, Belgium. This lovely city offers its own unique historic charms and whether you want to gorge on delicious chocolate, waffles, French fries and beer, gaze at art galleries, or see what life was like in the Middle Ages, Bruges will offer you plenty of great experiences during your visit. Have fun exploring this beautiful European city.
Bruges city pass enables you to visit a lot of museums and attractions in Bruges for free.
The card also includes discount on the bus, bike rental and car parking. The more places you visit, the more money you will save. You can also get a discount for some events. www.bruggecitycard.be
The card is activated when you first use it. When you visit a museum or attraction you present your card at the entrance where it will be validated. This also means you’ll have to wait if there is a queue.
For a full overview of what you can visit check the official website : www.bruggecitycard.be
If you see a blue BCC logo it means you’ll get a reduction on that show or event.
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!
The best local travel guide to Bruges, featuring up-to-date information on guesthouses, hotels, restaurants, nightlife, exhibitions and art in Bruges. Walking the streets of Bruges feels like walking through time, with dozens of old buildings each in possession of a story to tell. A Local’s Guide to Bruges; travel tips and unique ways to spend your time by a resident of Bruges.
The cobblestone streets with gothic buildings go back to its origins as a medieval city, and its old market square pulses in the heart of town. It is so pristine an example of a city from the Middle Ages that the center of town is a designated Unesco-World Heritage Site. Locals offer their tips, recommendations and advice for Bruges in Belgium,
Market Square of Bruges
This section of the city is immediately identifiable by the eminent belfry that has stood here since the 12th century. In the tradition of many similar European cities, this old square was the center of commerce and has since been shut off to traffic in order to allow pedestrians to roam freely. In the center of the square is a fountain featuring Jan Breydel and Pieter de Coninck, two Belgian heroes credited with fighting in the Battle Of The Golden Spurs between the County of Flanders and the Kingdom of France.
Belfry Climb. Do not forget to climb the 366 steps to the top of the 83-metre high Belfrytower of Bruges. Excellent views of the city, Marketsquare and hear the bells ring. €6 with Bruges card / €8. Grote Markt (the big square). 09:30 – 17:00
“When friends visit me in Bruges, i go to Little Venice (Klein Venetië),one of the smallest pubs in Bruges on the Rozenhoedkaai. You can admire a great view of the most beautiful canals, have a belgian beer, only steps away from the market place, the fish market and the Burg.”
Although it shares the distinction with other cities like Amsterdam, Bruges does enjoy a reputation as “The Venice of the North,” for its intricate network of canals. A trip to this city isn’t complete without a waterside perspective, and luckily there is no shortage of boating companies eager to show you around. Departing from different ports all over town, you’re sure to gain new insight and a more intimate understanding of this city and its history as you watch the scenery float by.
Belfry Tower or Belfort
This belfry is one of the most immediately recognizable icons in Bruges. Built in the 12th century, it suffered a catastrophic fire shortly thereafter and the entire city’s archives were lost. The tower was soon rebuilt, and various wooden spires and stone parapets have been added over time. The tower in its current form has stood since 1822. For a fee, visitors can hike the stairs to behold an unparalleled panorama of this exquisite city.
The Beguinage began in 1245 as a Beguine house, which is to say a set of houses for women who wanted to devote themselves to religious works without having to sequester themselves away from the rest of the world. The largest of the houses belonged to the Grand Dame, who oversaw the work of the group. In 1937 the Beguines turned the compound over to the Benedictine sisters who still live there today. A courtyard with a grove of poplar trees imparts a sense of peace to all who visit here. The beguinage in Bruges is also known as the convent, between the centre of Bruges and the station, with white painted houses and fine plane trees, is a quiet place to walk.
Basilica of the Holy Blood (Heilige Bloed Basiliek)
This building was originally the home of the Count of Flanders. It contains a relic of Holy Blood allegedly gathered by Joseph of Arimathea and brought from the Holy Land by the Count after the Second Crusade. The lower chapel is dedicated to St. Basil and was constructed in the Romanesque style. The upper chapel is devoted to the Holy Blood and was done and redone in the gothic style. The blood itself is kept on a cloth in a vial, and is celebrated annually on Ascension Day via the Procession of the Holy Blood. Basilica of the Holy Blood, Burg 10, Apr-Sep 9:30AM-11:50AM & 2PM-5:50PM, Oct-Mar 10AM-11:50AM & 2PM-3:50PM Try and get there early so you can view the chapel when it is still quiet . Entrance is Free
Lake of Love or Minnewater
It is easy to fall in love with this picturesque and pastoral lake that became a canal. Graceful swans, the symbol of the city, dot the land and the water, while quaint brick houses and willow trees fill the idyll in a beautiful manner. There is a local legend that states that lovers who cross the bridge will be together forever. That legend, combined with the serene beauty of the surroundings, makes it easy to understand how this came to be called the Lake of Love.
Six centuries of Belgian paintings are on display in this municipal museum. From Renaissance and Baroque styles, to neoclassical and realist, a wide variety of schools are represented. Famous names like Jan van Eyck, Hieronymous Bosch, René Magritt and Jan Provoost are all present and accounted for. There is also a modern art collection dating back to the postwar period. Marvel at the Flemish Primitives, so called because they were the first, in the 15th century, to start pushing boundaries with new styles and painting techniques. Also known as “The city museum of Fine Arts”
Dijver 12, B-8000; opened 7 days from 9:30AM-5PM. ‘, Groeninge museum in Bruges houses a collection of artworks that span 7 centuries (14th-20th), focusing mainly on works by painters who worked and lived in Bruges. €8 / €6
The Hospital of St John
Closed on Mondays. Sint-Janshospitaal contains a museum of several paintings by Hans Memling, within the early medieval hospital buildings. €8./€6 with Bruges card, Closed on Mondays.
Choco-Story Museum, This Choco-museum, on several floors describes chocolate’s transition from cocoa into chocolate. It is run by the Belgian chocolate manufacturer Belcolade. Stay for the chocolate making exhibition to get some excellent samples. €7./€6 with Bruges card ; Wijnzakstraat 2 (Sint-Jansplein), 050/61.22.37, 10AM-5PM.
Brewery De Halve Maan,
This brewery and beer museum offers a tour of the history of the brewery , as well as an overview of the city from its tower. The tour lasts less than an hour and is a good way to get a feel for Belgian beer brewing. The tours start at the exact turn of the hour, be at least fifteen minutes early. The entrance price includes one flemish beer: Brugse Zot or Straffe Hendrik which is served after the tour at the outside terrace or indoor bar. €7.00 including 1 beer ; Walplein 26, +31 50 332-697, Apr-Oct M-Sa 11:00-16:00, Su 11:00-17:00.
Church of our Lady (Onze Lieve Vrouwkerk,)
A fascinating church with architecture from theGothic and Romanesque periods. In the end of the church are fine tombs of Charles the Bold and his daughter Mary of Burgundy with contrasting Gothic and Renaissance styles. The church also houses”Madonna with child”, one of the few Michelangelo sculptures outside of Italy, the . Fee 2 euro to see the Michelangelo. Mariastraat.
In a non-touristic area of Bruges, a highly unusual church with octagonal tower built by the Adornes brothers, merchants of Italian extraction. It includes a fine black tournai marble tomb, late Gothic stained glass, and a tiny and rather spooky chapel containing an effigy of the dead Christ.
DiamantMuseum , . Diamond museum offers a large range of exhibits from mining to polishing and all the history in between. Everyday at 12:15 there is a live polishing demonstration. Individuals €6, Groups €4.5, Students €3, Katelijnestraat 43, 050 33 63 26; 0:30AM-5:30PM