Bruges Guide : What To Do in Bruges
Bruges is one of Belgium’s most popular cities, known as the ‘Venice of North’ Bruges was one of the wealthiest towns in history. With a rich history and charm Bruges is a great weekend away destination. We have recently visited and scouted Bruges and here are some of the top things to do in Bruges.
Best time to visit Bruges: Between May and August
1Take a Boat Tour Down the Canals
The charming city of Bruges has a storybook persona with romantic bridges and picturesque canals making up a lot of the scenery. Bruges is a city of canals and is often coined as the “The Venice of the North”. You can’t visit Bruges without taking one of the many cruises that ply the city’s famed canals.
Taking a canal boat ride is not only one of the top things to do in Bruges but it is also the best way to explore the city with tours running from March to November, Cruising down the city’s inner canals allows you to see both the landmarks and landscape of the city from the water. The departure point for most canal trips is Huidenvettersplein, whilst the canal boat rides last roughly 30 minutes in total, landing stages are dotted around the city so you can hop on and off where you want and discover more of the city on foot.
2Visit Rozenhoedkaai (Quay of the Rosary)
Rozenhoedkaai is one of the best places to visit in Bruges for the views alone. The meeting point of the Groenerei and Dijver canals, this area is one of the most photographed spots in the city. Dating back centuries, Rozenhoedkaai is surrounded by beautiful architecture and gothic buildings that overlook and reflect onto the water. With its sheer charm, the Quay of the Rosary looks as if it came out of fairytale. Plenty of boat trips also start in this area making it a great starting point to see Bruges.
If you are looking for a hotel with this iconic view of the canals, we recommend Boutique Hotel Relais Bourgondisch Cruyce. This charming hotel is set right on the canal in an old-world, wood-and-brick building and every morning, breakfast ‘Les matins du Relais’ is served in the magnificent breakfast room, offering a spectacular view over the canals and the historic city center.
3Climb up the Belfry of Bruges
The Belfry of Bruges is one of the city’s most iconic landmarks, you simply cannot miss it. Standing at 83 meters tall and showcasing 47 bells, the medieval bell tower is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the top places to visit in Bruges.
Climb the 366 steps to the top to discover the history of this world heritage protected belfry and admire the magnificent panoramic views of the city. Head to the top on the hour and you will be able to hear the tower’s amazing array of bells sound forth their unique songs.Whilst the climb can be a little strenuous, the view is worth it and there are plenty of rest stops along the way.
4Head to Burg Square
Burg is one of the biggest squares in Bruges and should definitely be on your list of tops things to do in Bruges. It is a great starting point to explore the city. Surrounded by neo-classical buildings, a gothic town hall and a courthouse that dates back to the 1700s, Burg Square represents a variety of architectural styles and is bursting with history. The square is home to some of the most prominent buildings including, the Gothic Stadthuis (town hall), the 16th century city registry, the former Court of Justice, the Deanery, the House of the Deans of the Church of St. Donatius and the Heilig Bloedbasiliek (the Basilica of the Holy Blood).
The square is one of the most photographed areas of Bruges with its architectural beauty symbolic in the city. Many of the buildings can be visited and explored making Burg Square a great place to learn about the history and heritage of Bruges.
5Meet at Bruges Markt
The central square known as The Markt is a meeting point for locals and tourists, a central location that is also home to the iconic Belfry. On one side you will find vivid houses, lined with restaurants on the other the tower of Belfry stands tall. The city court, with its lions, is on the opposite side of the plaza, and the statues of Jan Breydel and Pieter de Coninck stand in the centre.
The square has been used as a marketplace since 1958 and is famous for the weekly market held on a Wednesday. Bruges Markt is one of the best places to visit in Bruges as its stalls of handmade and local goods and produce is a great way to discover the flair and traditions of Belgium and the locals in Bruges. If you’re visiting the city during the winter months, the square transforms into a winter wonderland with Christmas markets and an ice rink, a fantastic place for Christmas lovers.
6Indulge in Belgian Chocolate, Waffles and Beer
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If you were only going to do one thing in Belgium, it would have to be sampling Belgian chocolate, waffles and beer.
No where in Belgium has better offerings than Bruges where you can grab waffles at Chez Albert, the most famous waffle shop in the city. Some other places to get the best waffles in Bruges include: The Old Chocolate House, Oyya, House of waffles, Lizzies Wafels and Fred’s.
Also browse Chocolatier Dumon, a small charming shop serving Belgium’s most-well known brands of chocolate. Others worth trying include: The Chocolate Line, Chocoladehuisje, Pralinette.
Meanwhile, 2be is a quirky shop, bar and museum with a wall of beer exhibit and the city also offers beer experiences where you can see how beer is made.
7Explore Bruges by Horse drawn Carriages
Although Bruges is a city that can be explored on foot, one of the popular way to explore this charming town is on a horse carriage. It is a very personal way to explore the city, relax and take in the city’s charm as you go along the canals, explore little charming nooks, museums, historical small bridges and any other historical attractions you may stumble upon on the way. The coachman also provides you with information and history about the city, so essentially you have your own personal guide.
8Relax by the Minnewater Lake
Perched right in the centre of the city, Minnewater Lake leaps right out of a fairy tale. Frankly it is hard to believe this tranquil park is in the centre of the city. This beautiful setting is known as the Lake of Love with the picturesque Lovers Bridge crossing over the water. The lake is surrounded by myth and legends whilst rumour has it, if you cross the bridge with your partner and kiss, your love will last forever.
Minnewater Lake is a serene and tranquil setting, lined with trees and overlooked by a pretty castle. If you arrive in the city by train, it is also easily accessible as you walk through this stunning spot on the way to the centre of the city.
9Discover De Vesten (The City Ramparts) and Windmill Walk
If you were looking for what to do in Bruges, it is unlikely that windmills would spring to mind but Belgium has a long mill history. To the north of the city, there were formerly around 20 windmills, now the Windmill Walk consists of four old, romantic looking windmills that stand alongside the old moat and medieval city gates.
The most notable of these is Sint Janshuismolen and Koelewi Mills, which grinds flour to this day. You are welcome to pop in and see it for yourself. Located just a short walk from the city center, Windmill Walk is a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city for a moment and take a trip down the river to see these charming wooden buildings.
10Explore the Church of Our Lady Bruges
With its 122-metre steeple, the Church of Our Lady dominates the skyline of Bruges. The Catholic Church is a celebration of the history and faith in the city and is a beautiful building home to exquisite paintings, exceptional woodcarvings and magnificent ceremonial tombs.
The highlight however, is the Madonna and Child sculpture, a creation of Michelangelo that is significantly different from other adaptions of Madonna and Child and was the only sculpture to leave Italy during Michelangelo’s lifetime.
11Stroll through Groeningemuseum
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There are so many museums in Bruges but if you have time for just one, head to Groeningemuseum. The museum houses 18th and 19th century neoclassical pieces with top-class work from world-renowned Flemish artists such as Jan van Eyck, Hans Memling and Gerard David, neo-classicism by Joseph Odevaere and Joseph Ducq, Flemish expressionism, and 20th century modern art by René Magritte, Roger Raveel, Raoul De Keyser. Groeningemuseum is a great introduction to Belgian visual art.
If you’re looking for what to do in Bruges on a rainy day, a visit to Groeningemuseum is ideal as it gets you out of the downpour whilst admiring one of the world’s most beautiful collections.