A guide to Bruges. Visit the Venice of Flanders

Bruges

Bruges (Belgium) – the most detailed information about the city with photos. The main sights of Bruges with descriptions, guides and maps.

City of Bruges (Belgium)

Bruges is a city in Belgium in the historical region of West Flanders. This is a city of amazing architecture and charm, one of the most picturesque in Europe. Bruges is located 20 km from the North Sea coast, near the border with the Netherlands, that is why the Dutch influence is felt here most strongly in the language, cuisine and architecture. The heyday of the city during the Middle Ages left a remarkable architecture and many sights. The city seems to be frozen on the border of the past and the present. Walking around it, you catch yourself thinking you’re in a historical movie or find yourself in the Middle Ages. Talking of movies, it’s the setting for Bruges’ famous movie, Getting Down in Bruges, which only made the city more popular!

Bruges is nestled between the cities of Ghent (the capital of East Flanders) and Ostend (Belgium’s largest city on the North Sea coast) on the plain. Bruges is often called the “Venice of the North” because it is connected by three large canals, so deep that even some ships can sail on them. The origins of the city are associated with the German word “Brücke”, which means bridge. In the Middle Ages, fairs were held near the bridge. This name was quickly passed on to the formed settlement.

Bruges. Old town

Bruges. Old Town

The historic center of Bruges

Historic center of Bruges

Overview

General information about Bruges

Climate and best time to visit

Bruges has a temperate climate. The distance from the North Sea is about fifteen kilometers. Therefore, it is not surprising that the city is heavily influenced by the sea. Usually winters are quite mild and summers are moderate (not hot). The weather is determined by the western and eastern fronts. The western front, which dominates most of the year, brings clouds and rain. The eastern front brings dry and warm weather in summer, and cold weather in winter, but not excessive, usually without snowfall.

It rains quite often in Bruges, so be sure to bring umbrellas or raincoats (jackets). The driest months are February and April. The rainiest months are October and November.

When is the best time to go to Bruges? Probably any time of year. The city is beautiful in all seasons and weather. But Bruges is especially beautiful at Christmas. A great time to visit is late spring and summer.

Canals of Bruges

The canals of Bruges

Practical information for tourists

  1. You can drink tap water in Bruges.
  2. Not all museums allow photography and videotaping. Also in some places it is not allowed to take pictures with flash.
  3. Tipping is usually included in the bill. If you are satisfied with the service, you can leave an additional tip. It’s enough to round up the bill.
  4. The language in Bruges is Dutch with a Flemish dialect.
  5. The main currency unit is the euro.
  6. Payment by card is possible in stores and restaurants. A fee may be charged for cash withdrawals. Also in some places (especially markets and small shops) cards are not accepted, so it is better to have some cash with you.
  7. Bruges is a safe city. The only thing to be really wary of is pickpockets. Stay alert and don’t leave your valuables unattended!
  8. The markets are usually open from 8.00-13.30.
  9. The tourist tax in Bruges is 2 euros per person per night.
  10. To go to the toilet, you can go to any café/bar and buy something. There are several public toilets in the historic center that are free.
  11. In Belgium there is a ban on smoking in public places.
  12. Alcohol is not sold to anyone under 18 years old.
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How to get there?

Brussels International Airport is about an hour away from Bruges by train or car. It is also quite easy to get to Bruges from any major city in Belgium and the Netherlands. Unfortunately, there is no direct flight from Holland. You have to change planes in Antwerp.

The historic center of Bruges

Historic center of Bruges

Public transport

Bruges does not have a streetcar line, much less a metro. The main means of transportation, besides bicycles, are buses and streetcars. It’s convenient and thematic to rent a bicycle or horse-drawn carriage to get around.

Food and Drink in Bruges

Bruges has quite a few restaurants with traditional and European cuisine, as well as well-known fast food restaurants. The Flemish cuisine is a must-try: stews, seafood and mussels. For beer lovers should pay attention to Brugse Zot and Kwak. There are Michelin-starred haute cuisine restaurants in the city, as well as fairly inexpensive pubs and cafes. Understandably, it will be more expensive to eat in the historic center than away from the tourist trails.

The historic center of Bruges

Historic Center of Bruges

Saving money in Bruges

Bruges is not a cheap city. Prices become noticeably higher as you get closer to the historic center and popular tourist spots. This applies to accommodation, food, entertainment and parking. But you can save a little money there as well. If you do not want to spend too much money on food and drink, you can eat away from the tourist routes or buy food at the market (or in large chain stores). If you want to save money on getting around town, you can walk or rent a bicycle. To save on lodging, we recommend booking hotel rooms and hotels during the “lowest” tourist seasons – February, March, October, November.

Shopping and shopping

Bruges is not only interesting sights, museums and routes. It is also excellent shopping and shopping opportunities. There are lots of interesting stores as well as well-known brands. The main shopping street is Steenstraat. Other popular shopping areas are Noordzandstraat, de Vlamingstraat, de Katelijnestraat and de Geldmuntstraat. Bruges is also one of the chocolate capitals of Europe. For the sweet tooth, the Katelijnestraat and the de Markt market square are worth a visit. This is where most of the chocolate stores are located.

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The Streets of Bruges

The streets of Bruges

Hotels and Lodging

Bruges has a great variety of hotels in many price categories. The hotels in Bruges are in the historical center of the city and are obviously more expensive, especially during high season. Be careful, not every hotel has good noise insulation. So it is better to avoid renting rooms that overlook noisy and crowded streets and squares. Accommodation is better to look for in advance, so there are more options.

Bruges museums

Bruges is a city of museums. Here are the most interesting ones:

  • The Archaeological Museum – Historical displays related to the city and the region. Address – Mariastraat 36 a , Brugge
  • Beer Museum – Everything about the history and intricacies of Belgian beer brewing. Address – Breidelstraat 3 , Brugge
  • The Salvador Dali Museum and Gallery – Collection of graphic art by the famous artist. Address – Markt 7 , Brugge
  • The Diamond Museum – exhibitions of diamonds, diamond polishing technology, etc. Address – Katelijnestraat 43 , Brugge
  • The Groeningemuseum – An overview of the history of Belgian art and masterpieces by Flemish artists. Address – Dijver 12 , Brugge
  • Gruuthusemuseum – Palace of the famous lords, a rich collection of tapestries, lace, furniture and silverware. Address – Dijver 12 , Brugge
  • Torture Museum – An interesting collection of artifacts in one of the oldest prisons in Europe. Address – Wollestraat 29 , Brugge
  • The ‘Lamps Museum’ is the largest collection of lamps in the world, from the ancient to the modern. Address – Wijnzakstraat 2 , Brugge

History

The foundation of Bruges dates back to the ninth century AD. The city was given city status in 1128. Brugge quickly became an important trading center in Western Europe. The favorable strategic location at the crossroads of the northern Hanseatic trade and the southern trade routes contributed to this development.

The city’s golden age begins in the 12th century and lasts until the 15th century. Bruges then had almost fifty thousand inhabitants, while Amsterdam was then a village with only about three thousand people. The presence of the Burgundian dynasty also had a huge positive impact on Bruges. A very important point was that the largest Flemish fairs were held here. Interestingly enough, the city authorities were quite enterprising. When the old system of fairs began to fail, the traders of Bruges began to use new forms of economic exchange-bills of exchange and letters of credit. The city also always welcomed foreign merchants.

The historic center of Bruges

Historic Center of Bruges

The decline began in the 15th century, when the Zwyn canal began to silt up and literally cut Bruges off from the sea. The functions of the main port city were taken over by Antwerp. Attempts to regain the city’s dominant position in the 17th and 18th centuries were unsuccessful. Antwerp held its position firmly. The city’s population rapidly dwindled from 200,000 inhabitants to 50,000 by 1900.

Bruges failed to regain its position as the main commercial center of Flanders, but it became a popular tourist destination at the beginning of the 20th century and remains so to this day! Yes, and World War II left almost no scars on the face of the city, so almost all the historic buildings are original.

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Canals of Bruges

The canals of Bruges

Bruges sights

The historic center of the city is the main attraction of Bruges. Walking around it gives the impression of being an open-air museum – ancient streets, charming squares and beautiful facades of buildings that seem to be frozen in the past. The sounds of horses still roaming the streets of Bruges and the small number of cars only reinforce this feeling.

Canals of Bruges

The canals of Bruges

Another interesting attraction of Bruges are the famous canals. Thanks to them the city is often called the ‘Venice of the North’. These waterways are organically integrated into the architecture of the city with beautiful bridges and astonishingly beautiful scenery.

The most picturesque canals are Rozenhoedkaai, Groenerei and Minnewater.

Boniface Bridge

Boniface Bridge

The Bonifacius Bridge is a wonderfully romantic place in Bruges. This small stone bridge, built in the early 20th century, is one of the youngest bridges of the city. It quickly gained popularity and became one of the city’s calling cards.

Kruispoort city gate

City Gate Kruispoort

The Kruispoort city gate is an ancient gate of the early 15th century with two massive towers. The armies of Charles V and Napoleon passed through this gate.

Courthouse

Courthouse

The courthouse is a beautiful neo-Gothic building built in the late 19th century.

Our Lady's Tower

Our Lady’s Tower

Our Lady’s Tower – The 115.5-meter brick Our Lady’s Tower illustrates the craftsmanship of the builders of Bruges. The church displays a valuable collection of art: the world-famous Madonna and Child by Michelangelo, countless paintings from the 13th century and the tombs of Marie of Burgundy and Charles the Bold are all on display here.

Market Square

Market square

The market square is the hallmark of Bruges. Beautiful old architecture and interesting sights attract many tourists to the square. Dominating the architecture is the tall bell tower.

Bell Tower

The Belfort bell tower

The Belfort bell tower or bell tower on the market square is one of Bruges’ most recognizable symbols. It is an 83-meter tower built in the 13th century. The bell tower has 47 bells. You have to climb 366 steps to get to the top. But it’s worth it! From there you can enjoy a great view of the old city!

Jan van Eyck Square

Jan van Eyck Square

Jan van Eyck square is a charming square in Bruges named after the famous Bruges-born artist.

Other interesting sights:

  • The town hall is one of the oldest town halls in Western Europe and has been around for more than 6 centuries. It is a beautiful Gothic building with beautiful halls.
  • Right on the corner of Jan van Eyck square is a remarkable building with a striking tower, built at the end of the 14th century and serving as a meeting place for merchants.
  • The Prinsenhof is the 14th century palace of a mistress of the Burgundian court.
  • Boechoute House, a 15th-century building in the corner of the market square with a clockwork clock.
  • The Barge Bridge is a striking example of asymmetric architecture.
  • St. Anne’s Church – a simple 17th-century Gothic church that surprises with its rich Baroque interior.
  • St. Giles Church is a fine example of brick Gothic, built in the 13th century. The interior is in the Neo-Gothic style.
  • St. John’s Mill is an ancient mill, the only one in Bruges that is open to the public and has retained its original location and can still grind grain.
  • St. Sebastian building – the building of the guild of archers, whose history goes back 600 years.
  • The Seminary is a 17th century Cistercian abbey, a unique green spot in the middle of stone Bruges.
  • St. James’s Church – the modest St. James’s Chapel, built in the 13th century, was transformed into a large church in the 15th century. The church is known for its many art treasures from the rich people of the city.
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Interesting excursions

The glamour of the 'Dead City

€150 per tour

The charm of the “Dead City”

The Doll’s City Where Time Stood Still – A no-nonsense sightseeing tour of Bruges

Ghosts of Bruges

€150 per tour

The Ghosts of Bruges

A tour of the most interesting places in Bruges and an immersion into the mysterious world of urban legends.

We had a wonderful trip to Brugge to see the most interesting sights of Bruges and to dive into the mysterious world of urban legends.

My review of my visit to Bruges, I will start with a criticism. I should point out at once that the criticism in no way applies to the city itself. The Venice of the North is not a cliché, but an accurate description of it. This is literally a museum in the open air. But first things first. My criticism is primarily related to the tour operators, who in pursuit of a pseudo-saturation tours include in the list of visited cities, as well as satellite towns of major tourist centers. For example: Berlin – Potsdam, Paris – Versailles, Brussels – Bruges. In my experience, I was convinced that the visit to these satellite cities has a formal character. For bus tours, when the European rules of traffic and parking, which are strictly monitored, come into force, there are problems for tourists. So, any delays en route (traffic jams, road repairs, stops at the request of travelers) lead to a reduction of time arriving at the tourist sites. This is what happened to us on our visit to Bruges. After a wonderful tour of Brussels we went to a town about 100 kilometers to the north-west of Brussels, about which we hadn’t heard much, and were in anticipation of a surprise. However, our expectations were interrupted by the “truth of life” in the form of road works. We drove 1.5 hours longer than we expected, and as a result, the tour had turned into a jog through Bruges.

However, as soon as we crossed the bridge over the first canal, all our irritation and bad mood was left behind.

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Tour of Bruges (Belgium, West Flanders) photo

To say that we liked the city is to say nothing. It just stunned by some unsophisticated sincerity, modest beauty, coziness and peacefulness.

Tour of Bruges (Belgium, West Flanders) photo

At first glance, everything around us seems like the scenery of a medieval movie, but more surprising to find that most of the buildings and structures are preserved in their original form.

Tour of Bruges (Belgium, West Flanders) photo

Tour of Bruges (Belgium, West Flanders) photo

The city consists of nothing but sights, the oldest of which date back to the 13th-14th century.

Tour of Bruges (Belgium, West Flanders) photo

Tour of Bruges (Belgium, West Flanders) photo

Tour of Bruges (Belgium, West Flanders) photo

It’s a mystery to us where the locals live, and of Bruges’ 115,000 inhabitants, 25,000 live in the old town. How they organize their life in a town filled with tourists. Where do they park cars, walk with children, where do they take out the trash?

Tour of Bruges (Belgium, West Flanders) photo

In addition to locals on bicycles, horse-drawn carriages ride tourists around the city.

Tour of Bruges (Belgium, West Flanders) photo

At one point, dodging a cart, we almost got under the bike, so be careful. And so in our time pressure situation, the best option was to get behind the guide and dive into the unique charm of the medieval city. Which we did. We had very few pictures, because my camera batteries were dead. Tourists beware!

Tour of Bruges (Belgium, West Flanders) photo

We just walked around the narrow streets, admired the picturesque canals, listened to the unique ringing of bells of the ancient temple, we fed the swans and ducks – how without it!

Tour of Bruges (Belgium, West Flanders) photo

Tour of Bruges (Belgium, West Flanders) photo

Tour of Bruges (Belgium, West Flanders) photo

Tour of Bruges (Belgium, West Flanders) photo

Tour of Bruges (Belgium, West Flanders) photo

Finally, we also visited the local souvenir shops. Many of the showcases display the famous Belgian lace, and there are even craftswomen who weave it right in front of you. The ornament is very small and intricate, woven from linen threads. The tradition of weaving lace dates back to the 16th century. Consider the infinitely beautiful things, but the price. Next to the lace ones, there are chocolate stores. By the way in Brussels we could not buy the famous Belgian chocolate because of the huge queues. Here we did it with pleasure and without problems. There are still arguments about the homeland of chocolate, but the truffles with the proline is undoubtedly the hallmark of Belgium. Instead of magnets I advise to bring these delicacies as souvenirs from Belgium. One bar or box of truffles will cost you more than buying them in a set of 5. For 5 pieces you pay 10 euros. And you can take black or milk chocolate and different kinds of truffles to your taste. By the way, in Bruges, in the “chocolate store” was a Russian-speaking salesman, who told us about all the available sweets. And I advise you to try the local “attraction” – the traditional Belgian waffles. They are sold at every step. We ate the waffles, still warm, sprinkled with powder, moderately sweet, but very satisfying. We can say goodbye to Bruges until the next time. And there will be one. You should definitely return to a place like this at another time of year and under different circumstances.

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