What to see in Bruges. In the most romantic city 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

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. Be alert and don’t leave 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.

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.

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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.

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 drinks, 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.

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
  • The 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.

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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.

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 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, having been in existence 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, received 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 leisurely 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.

Bruges sights

The top 10 most interesting places in Bruges that you can’t miss. A list of sights in the historic center for a day visit.

It’s amazing that Belgium is considered one of the most boring countries in Europe, and yet its provincial cities are as beautiful as postcards! Bruges – is almost a ready-made movie set for a Hollywood blockbuster about the Hundred Years’ War, for example. Not for nothing that the most popular excursions in this city – is a walk-shooting, when the guide tells something about the bridges and streets. And at the same time he makes you up to 50 (!) luxury shots for Instagram family archive.

What to see in Bruges in one day

I’ll tell you about the unusual sightseeing routes in the city below. In the meantime, I’ve compiled a list of Bruges sights for you to see in one day. If you try hard (will come in handy for self-study).

1. Grote Markt square.

Address: Markt, Bruges, Belgium

Bruges places of interest: Place du Grotte Markt

Bruges places of interest: Grote Markt

One of the main sights in Bruges is the famous Belford Watch Tower in the market square of the Grote Markt. Its 50 bells chime a new tune every hour. The clock mechanism on the bell tower is the envy of the Swiss. And the viewing platform on top is one of the most visited places in the city. The square itself is considered a landmark of the city: it is surrounded by houses with sharp spires, restaurants, cafes and a market. The Provincial Palace, the post office building and the statues of Jan Breudel and Pieter de Conin, heroes of the Flemish revolt against the French occupation are worth a visit.

For Christmas, the Grote Markt is where the ice rink is poured and a festive market is held. It’s a great place to warm up with a hot chocolate, or to buy a nice souvenir. The Bruges Christmas market has an atmosphere reminiscent of that in Germany.

The Belford Tower is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week. But remember that you have to climb 366 steps during the ascent.

2. Burg Square

Address: Burg, Bruges, Belgium

What to see in Bruges in a day: Burg Square

What you can see in Bruges in a day: Burg Square

Burg is one of the main squares in the city. It was once the site of a fortified castle built to protect the city from Viking attacks and a cathedral destroyed in 1799. Now the square is the administrative and religious center of the city: you can admire the Gothic town hall with its spires, towers and decorated facade – in its likeness, the Hotel de Ville was built on the Grand Place in Brussels. The highlight is the Gothic Room, a masterpiece of 19th century murals depicting the most important events in the history of Bruges.

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Town Hall Square is the next most important place in Bruges to go after a visit to the Grote Markt and the possible ascent to Belford. It’s no more than a 2-3 minutes quiet walk along Breidelstraat.

3. the Basilica of the Holy Blood

Address: Burg 13, Bruges, Belgium

Bruges sights: Relics of the Basilica of the Holy Blood

Bruges sights: Basilica of the Holy Blood

The Basilica of the Holy Blood is another decoration of Burg Square, in addition to the town hall. It is known for housing a sacred relic – a shabby scrap of cloth once used by Joseph of Arimathea to wipe away the blood of Christ after his crucifixion. Some believe in the authenticity of the artifact, others are skeptical. As for the basilica, it consists of two autonomous parts. The lower part, the chapel of St. Basil, where the relics of the Greek theologian are located, and the upper part, made in Gothic style and decorated with frescoes and stained-glass windows.

Outside the Basilica of the Holy Blood in Bruges is a small museum. The relics belonging to the church are kept there and are available for viewing.

4. The Old Chancellery on the Burg Square

Address: Burg 11, Bruges, Belgium

Bruges sights: Old Court Office

Bruges sights: Old court chancellery

To the left of the town hall towers another interesting place in Bruges is the Old Chancellery (Oude Griffie). You can recognize this Flemish-style building by its gilded statue of Justice – until the end of the 19th century it was the seat of the City Court. Today local guides pinpoint this attraction because in 2001 the facade was restored to almost its original state. And today it gleams with gilding and fresh colors.

5. Gruninge Museum

Address: Dijver 12, Bruges, Belgium

Sites of Interest in Bruges: Groeninge Museum

Interesting places in Bruges: Groeninge Museum

Finally, it’s time for art and painting fans. The picture gallery of Bruges, the Groeninge museum, boasts a rich collection of paintings from the 15th to the 20th century. At the center of the exhibition, of course, are works by artists who lived or worked in Bruges. Among them, there are representatives of the Northern Renaissance and partly of the Golden Age of Dutch painting.

Especially valuable in this art gallery is the collection of Flemish Primitives, one of the finest examples of medieval art in Europe.

Opening hours of the Main Gallery of Bruges: 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily, except Mondays. The nearest bus stop is Brugge Dijver (Nos. 1, 2, 4, 6, 11, 12, 13, 14, 16).

6. Church of Our Lady

Address: Mariastraat, Brugge, Belgium

Built in Gothic style between the 13th and 15th centuries, the Church of Our Lady is an outstanding example of local craftsmanship. But it’s not just the architecture and the facade that put it on the list of Bruges sights.

The walls of the Cathedral of Our Lady contain one of Michelangelo’s famous sculptures, the Madonna of Bruges. The statue of the Virgin Mary with baby Jesus in her arms was bought from the Italian genius in 1506 by the Muskron family. The wealthy dynasty wished to decorate the family crypt with this work. The bronze sculptures in the crypts of Charles the Bold and his daughter, Marie of Burgundy, are also noteworthy.

From the Grueninge Museum it’s no more than 120 m to the Church of Our Lady. The nearest bus stop is Brugge O.L.V. Kerk (nos. 1, 2, 4, 6, 11, 12, 13, 14, 16).

7. St. John’s Hospital and Memling Museum

Address: Mariastraat 38, Bruges, Belgium

The former Hospice of St. John, a former shelter for the sick, the poor and the pilgrims, is home to an old pharmacy and the museum of Hans Memling, one of the great Flemish painters. The hospital chapel is the pride of the complex. Six priceless works of the artist are stored there. The hospital building is across the street from the Church of Our Lady, 100 meters away.

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8. The Beguinage – the convent of the Beguinages

Address: Nieuwe Gentweg 24, Bruges, Belgium

Bruges sights: Beguinage, the convent of the Beguinages

Attractions in Bruges: Convent of the Beguinages

Margaret of Constantinople, Countess of Flanders, founded the Beguinhof (or Beguinage) in Bruges in 1254 to bring together the béguines under one roof. The small community consisted of the Sisters of the Lord, who led a life of prayer, toil and asceticism. Their main activity was charity. Today one of the Begeinhof houses has been converted into a museum. Everyone can get their own impressions of the life and ways of the Begijnhof women there. The complex includes a reconstructed baroque church from the 13th century.

The courtyard of the Beguine convent is about 300 meters from the hospital and the Memling Museum. The nearest bus stop is the Brugge Begijnhof (Nos. 11, 12).

Begijnhof is included in most sightseeing tours of the city and should be included in the list of places to see in Bruges in one day.

9. Minnewater – Lake of Love

Address: Sulferbergstraat 38, Bruges, Belgium

What to see in Bruges in a Day: The Lake of Love

What to see in Bruges in a day: Lake of Love

This lake, called no other name than ‘Lake of Love’, is one of the most romantic places in Bruges. If you reach it during your walk, you can have a well-deserved rest and a bite to eat. The main thing is to have a supermarket beforehand). It’s not far from the Beguinage and is surrounded by a beautiful park.

Minnewater crosses an ancient bridge dating back to 1720. And, of course, the “Lake of Love” would not be so if it were not for the colony of swans, generously fed by tourists. The citizens of Bruges have even linked a legend with the birds on the shores of Minnewater: “In 1488, rebellious townspeople executed one of the city’s rulers who belonged to the court of Emperor Maximilian. The family coat of arms of the murdered man was coincidentally a stuffed white swan. The emperor, enraged, punished the citizens by making them regularly bring swans to the lake.”

And so white swans, symbols of love and fidelity, settled on the shores of Minnewater. Locals and tourists alike come to admire them.

10. Chocolate and chocolate museum

Address: Wijnzakstraat 2, Bruges, Belgium

There are many worthy dishes and desserts in Belgium (Belgian beer for example) but the chocolate deserves the crown of masterpieces in this wonderful country! It’s no coincidence that Bruges is called the Mecca of chocolate addicts. There’s a real chocolate museum here, reminiscent of the setting for your favorite fairy tales. And beyond that, there are many highly specialized chocolate restaurants where absolutely all meals on the menu are based on or flavored with this magical ingredient.

And best of all, Bruges has the best chocolate stores. You can collect yourself several gift packs of Belgian chocolates at once.

How it works. You choose the size of box you want, and the salesperson adds the samples you like. All candies are sold by the piece.

When you don’t have much time for thoughtful sightseeing in Bruges, there are at least three options. This is a horse-drawn walk from the Grote Markt: the streets, bridges and main squares of the city in 30 minutes. A boat trip on the canals: a way to see the city from an unusual angle. Helicopter flight over Bruges: Expensive but informative and a lot of fun.

By the way, if you book a sightseeing tour, you can also save time. In 2-3 hours you’ll see and learn everything you need to know about Bruges. And a little bit more.

My VKontakte page where I write about the cities of Flanders, Belgian beer, Dutch tulips, the strange architecture of Rotterdam, etc.

About the author

I am a bus tour operator with 8 years of experience. I often go to Europe and write about it. I will tell you everything I know about Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.

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