Bruges is one of our favorite European destinations. Once you have walked the streets of Bruges, it would be hard to not see why. Bruges has most of its medieval architecture intact and the historic center of Bruges was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000.
Bruges is full of picturesque cobbled lanes, medieval Flemish architecture and bridges and canals linking everything the city has to offer, from stunning views to towers and historic churches. Everywhere you turn you are surrounded by stunning medieval beauty. Bruges is both romantic and inspiring and looks like a backdrop for a fairy tale.
Since it is such a walkable city, you could explore Bruges in only a day if you wanted to. However, we recommend at least staying overnight to you can soak in the atmosphere and beauty before running off to your next destination. Plus, seeing Bruges lit up at night is medieval vibe magic! Easily accessible from Belgium’s major cities, it is possible to explore Bruges for the day, or a weekend stay.
Bruges has become quite the tourist destination, but great destinations usually do as they don’t stay a secret for very long. Especially during the peak summer months, you’ll find tourists flocking to Bruges to experience its medieval charm. However, we felt that Bruges was still able to maintain its authenticity. Bruges deserves some of your time to be fully appreciated.
Table Of Contents
- Bruges Historic Market
- Burg Square
- Heilig-Bloedbasiliek ( Basilica of the Holy Blood)
- Choco Story: The Chocolate Museum
- Walking Tour
- The Belfry Tower
- Experience Belgian Beer
- In Bruges
- The Lover’s Bridge and Lake Of Love
- The Canal Perspective
- Stadhuis (Town-Hall)
- Belgian Chocolate Workshop
- See The Brugse Vrije
- Church of Our Lady
- Eat Belgian Fries (Frites) and Waffles
- Rent A Bike
- Visit The Windmills
- Know Before You Go
Here’s our 17 best things to do in Bruges:
Bruges Historic Market
Bruges Historic Market is a beautiful open square surrounded by impressive medieval architecture, plenty of cafes and, restaurants located in guild houses. It is the epicenter of the city, and the most crowded place in Bruges. The Market is a popular meeting place for locals and the millions of tourists that visit each year.
Since 1958 the square was used as a marketplace and from 1985 the weekly market was held. Wednesday is when you will find the stalls full of fresh fruit, vegetables, flowers, meat, cheese and snacks.
If you want to take a horse-drawn carriage ride of the city, they are available for hire in the square.
Burg Square is located right next to Market Square. The buildings around the square have gorgeous medieval architecture, most notably the Bishop’s palace. The palace was the seat of the Count of Flanders for many years. Other key landmarks on the square are the Town Hall, Old Civil Registry and the Holy Blood Basilica.
Heilig-Bloedbasiliek ( Basilica of the Holy Blood)
The Basilica of the Holy Blood is a small basilica houses a relic of the Holy Blood, attracting millions of visitors every year. The relic is bought out for viewing at 2pm every day. Also worth viewing inside is a crown that once belonged to Mary of Burgundy.
The building was built between 1134 and 1157 and was the chapel of the Count of Flanders until 1923 when it was promoted to a minor basilica.
Choco Story: The Chocolate Museum
One of our favorite parts of Bruges, aside from the beauty, was being surrounded by so much chocolate. Do not miss stopping at the Choco Story: The Chocolate Museum to get a glimpse into the world of the chocolatier. You can learn about chocolate production back to its role as an Aztec currency, and sample a praline after watching it be freshly made. There were also a ton of interesting and ‘naughty’ chocolates available on display, giving even the most mature person a giggle.
Taking a free walking tour can be highly informative and it is a great way to have a group to walk around and explore with. It can help to give a more complete picture of Bruges as well as some great tips. Even if you are on a ‘free’ tour, if you enjoyed the tour, a donation is encouraged at the end. Help to keep the free walking tours alive!
We always recommend taking a walking tour if available to get yourself better oriented with where you are visiting. It will help you make the most of your time spent there.
The Belfry Tower
The Belfort is a bell tower that was built in the fifteenth century. It stands tall at 83 meters and because of its height is best admired from a distance. You can climb the tower though the tiny stairway, up 366 steps, to see a birds-eye view of the city. It can get quite busy during high season as only 70 people are able to be admiring the view at one time. If you make the climb on the hour, you may be able to hear the building’s 47 bells. There is a board at the tower entrance that lists the times the bells can be heard.
Experience Belgian Beer
Home to more kinds of beer than you can ever imagine, the 2be Beer Wall is a fun shop and museum. You can wander through rooms of Belgian Beers, and chocolate, or take the fun photo opportunity with the beer wall.
On a budget? You will also find some markets with a great selection of beer that will still leave you standing there, trying to choose one, or several different kinds. Also, you can take a tour of Brouwerij De Halve Maan Brugge. At only €10 a head, it includes a drink and a great rooftop view of the city. The brewery is family-run and dates back to 1856.
Enjoy tracking down some of the sights and locations of the popular movie In Bruges, that featured Colin Farrell. You can grab information from the tourist office that lists the locations of popular scenes. If you are a fan, it is a fun way to bring a favorite movie to life.
The Lover’s Bridge and Lake Of Love
In Minnewater Park, you’ll find the Lake Of Love, with Lover’s Bridge. Stories say that if you cross the bridge with your partner and kiss, that your love will last forever. It is a very serene peaceful escape, right in the confines of the city.
The Canal Perspective
One of the best ways to explore Bruges is by canal. You can find boats departing from one of the piers. The guides, or captains, have great commentary, and great stories of the city. You will see Bruges from a completely different perspective.
You can take a boat tour from March to the middle of November. Buy your ticket at the pier from one of the shipping companies.
From the Stadhuis (town-hall), Bruges has been governed for over 600 years. It is one of the oldest buildings in Belgium and is gorgeous. The gothic architecture is striking and stands out among this city so fabulously trapped in time.
You will also notice statues of former counts and countesses of Flanders. If you are mesmerized by the exterior, the interior will really impress. The Gothic Hall has extraordinary 19th century murals and an impressive polychrome vault. Get an audio guide for a great history lesson.
Belgian Chocolate Workshop
Belgium is famous for chocolate, and with good reason – it is melt-in-your-mouth heaven! You can learn the basics of chocolate making from start to finish. Some workshops will have you only dipping stuff in chocolate. However, look for one that will show you how to make pralines, from scratch!
See The Brugse Vrije
The façade of the Brugse Vrije (Liberty of Bruges) will really catch your eye. The gold Lady Justice on the roof, it is a reference to the building serving as a law court between 1795 to 1984. Today, it houses the Bruges City Records Office, that preserves the civic written records. Inside you will find a gigantic wooden mantelpiece from 1528. It was made from oak and depicts Charles V and his two grandfathers.
Church of Our Lady
The Church of Our Lady has the second highest brick tower in the world. It is almost 400 feet tall. Inside, you’ll find Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child sculpture, among other artworks. In addition, it also houses several tombs and 13th-century sepulchers.
It is free to visit the church, but if you want to view the artwork, you will have to pay 6 Euros.
For more information on visiting, go to the Musea Brugge website.
Eat Belgian Fries (Frites) and Waffles
Belgium is famous for frites and waffles. With so many options to dip the frites and a variety of topping options for waffles, we won’t judge if you decide to eat your weight in frites and waffles. We wanted to!
Rent A Bike
A great way to get around and explore Bruges is to rent a bike and take a self bike tour of some of the most famous sights. By renting a bike, you are able to cover more ground than if you were walking. It is a great way to see the city!
Visit The Windmills
Bruges has a rich history of mills. There are windmills along the canal on the eastern part of Bruges. Windmills are so picturesque, making it hard to resist taking the time to admire them.
Back in the 16th century, there were 23 windmills that were part of the town walls since the end of the 13th century. Today, there are four remaining mills.
Know Before You Go
Where is Bruges located?
Bruges is the capital and largest city of the province of West Flanders in the Flemish Region of Belgium. It is located in the northwest of the country, and by population is the seventh-largest city of Belgium.
Is Bruges Worth A Visit?
Many consider the medieval fairytale town of Bruges in Belgium one of Europe’s prettiest cities. And, it’s completely true. We completely fell under Bruges’ spell and were charmed by the atmosphere and all of its beauty. The medieval architecture of Bruges is absolutely mind-blowing. Bruges is one place we would go back to in a heartbeat.
How To Get There
We traveled to Bruges from Brussels. It takes just over an hour on the local train.
Day trips from Amsterdam and Paris are another popular option, with the train rides both taking around 3 hours, each way.
Best Time To Visit
If you’re going during the summer peak season, try to go mid-week to cut down on the crowds. However, one benefit of visiting Bruges during summer is being able to have an enjoyable beach day. There are several beaches along the Belgian Coast. A few of the easiest to reach by train, in around 15 minutes, are Knokke, Blankenberge, and Oostende. Low season is November to March.
The best time to visit anywhere in Europe is usually during the shoulder seasons of early Spring or late Autumn, where you will be able to enjoy the locations without the extra throngs of tourists.
Pin It For Later!