Belgium has a lot of beautiful and riveting cities that you can enjoy. One city, in particular, that attracts a lot of visitors because of its beauty and charm is Bruges. Even more so, people from all over the world come to Bruges and are often left mesmerized by the city. Even though the city is rather compact, there are still countless things to do. As a result, you can easily fill several days while you are in Bruges. Yet, if you are looking for inspiration in this regard, here is a list of the most prominent things you can do if you are visiting Bruges.
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- Go on a Boat Trip Through Bruges
- Pass By All the Bridges
- Be Mesmerized by the Town Hall
- Walk to the Top of the Belfort
- Visit the Frietmuseum
- 6. Go Beer Tasting
- Visit the St. Salvators Cathedral
- Visit the Jerusalem Church
- Enjoy the Duvelorium
- Stroll Around the Jan Van Eyckplein
- Observe the White Buildings at the Begijnhof
- Visit the Choco-Story Museum
- Adore the Holy Blood Basilica
- Buy Fish from the Vismarkt
- Visit the Groeningemuseum
- Be in Awe by the Concert Building
- Discover all the Great Restaurants and Bars
- Go Biking Through Bruges
- Visit the Gruuthusemuseum
- Visit the St. Jans Hospital
- Go to the Theater at the Municipal Theater
- Browse Through the Historic Center of Bruges
- Belfry of Bruges
- Bruges City Hall
- Canal Boat
Go on a Boat Trip Through Bruges
First and foremost, Bruges and water are often mentioned in the same sentence. That is to say, there is water running everywhere through Bruges. As a result, Bruges sometimes gets called the Venice of the North. That is precisely why you should go on a boat trip when you are even in Bruges. Then, you will be able to navigate on the “Reie”, which is the river that runs through the city center of Bruges.
Since water is so omnipresent in the city of Bruges, going on a boat trip is the best way to experience everything the city has to offer. You can start your boat trip from multiple places in Bruges, but the most ideal place would be the “Rozenhoedkaai”.
When you go on a boat trip, you can choose to go with or without a professional guide. If you choose the second option, you will be able to enjoy the boat trip while listening to interesting facts about Bruges. You will also be able to dive a little deeper into the history of Bruges in a very relaxing way, so that is always something to strive for!
Pass By All the Bridges
On a related note, since there is so much water in Bruges, there are numerous bridges as well. The best thing about this is that each bridge has its own story. Concretely, they all have a very different history and even more different aesthetics. Some are rather minimalistic, while others appear to be very extravagant. Others have been around since Bruges was founded, while others are of a more recent date.
Therefore, a very fun activity in Bruges would be to check out all the different bridges there are. You could even go on a quest to find out which bridge offers you the best view of Bruges.
While every bridge is gorgeous in its way, there are still some bridges that stand out above the rest. For example, the “Bargebrug” is painted bright red and this results in beautiful contrast with the green scenery surrounding the bridge. The “Bonifaciusbrug” might be one of the more recently built bridges, but it has a very authentic vibe, regardless. It is made entirely out of stones and gives off a rather medieval aesthetic. The same goes for the “Vlamingbrug”. It is made entirely out of stone and has a very impressive arch. Likewise, this gives off a very medieval vibe that adds to Bruges’ character.
The “Strobrug” is a bridge in the heart of Bruges that can offer you an amazing view. Hence, if you are even in Bruges and you need a picture that other people will be jealous of, this is the place to go. Finally, another bridge that is a must to visit if you are in Bruges is the “Minnewaterbrug”. It is especially recommended to take a stroll on this bridge at night. Then, this bridge and the scenery around are everything you need for a romantic night out!
Be Mesmerized by the Town Hall
The town hall of Bruges is among the oldest ones in Belgium. It was built around the year 1400 and has since then been one of the most imposing buildings of Bruges and Belgium in general. Even more so, the town hall of Bruges has been so influential due to its amazing architecture that it has influenced other cities in Belgium in this account. For instance, the town hall of Ghent contains a lot of elements that can also be found in the town hall of Bruges.
As far as the interior of the town hall is concerned, this is truly out of this world. The walls are adorned with the most stunning wall paintings and other kinds of art. There is also a lot of inspiration from the Bible, resulting in a lot of Christian ornaments and sculptures. However, the true eyecatcher of the building can be found in the aldermen’s hall. This room is filled with Gothic influences. Most importantly though, the vaulted ceiling is the feature that attracts the most visitors because it is simply that stunning.
Besides the exterior and interior of the town hall of Bruges, a lot can also be said about the rich history. That is precisely why you should visit this monument to learn all about it. Within the town hall, there is a room, called the historic room and there, you will find all the information you need.
Walk to the Top of the Belfort
The Belfort tower is located on top of the hall complex and thus is very high. So, if you are up for the challenge, you should walk to the top of the Belfort tower. You can get there by taking the stairs. Of course, you should prepare yourself for the fact that this will not be an easy feat because there are 366 steps. However, once you reach the top, this will all be worth it. You will be able to look over all the parts of Bruges from an 83m height. Without a doubt, this is the best lookout point that you could imagine.
A fun fact in this department is that the Belfort tower can be seen everywhere in Bruges. So if you ever get lost and need an identification mark, do not hesitate to look for the Belfort tower. Then, you can just look towards it and you will arrive at the “Grote Markt”. This is the marketplace located in the heart of Bruges so you will immediately be where you need to be.
Visit the Frietmuseum
Of course, if you decide to visit Belgium, you cannot leave until you taste the French fries. Because of the name of this delicacy, people often assume that it comes from France. However, do not ever say this to a Belgian person because there is a 99% risk that they will get mad at you. French fries come from Belgium and thus, you can also eat delicious fries in Bruges.
Even more so, Bruges is home to the “Frietmuseum”, which is a museum dedicated to French fries entirely. There, you can learn about the history of fries and the role that Belgium plays in this history. As a cherry on top, you will be able to taste some very tasty fries at the end of your museum visit. Whether you visit the museum with a guide or without it, that is your choice. However, a guide can prove to be immensely valuable as regards providing you with a lot of knowledge about fries.
6. Go Beer Tasting
Similar to what is the case with French fries, the people from Bruges are very proud of their beer. There are a lot of beer breweries in Belgium and they all are great. However, Bruges in particular has two phenomenal beer breweries. The first one worth mentioning is “de Halve Maan”. In this brewery, “Brugse Zot” is made. This is a type of beer that is very popular in Belgium, especially among students. The second brewery is called “Bourgogne des Flandres”. This brewery is located in the heart of Bruges and brews beer of the same name. In both of these breweries, you can book a tour. Then, you can walk around the breweries and pass by all the equipment, etc.
Besides these two breweries, you can also drink a very refreshing pint of beer in one of the many cafés in Bruges. Some cafés have a very varied assortment of beers, while others are dedicated to only a selection of beer brands. At any rate, there is something for everyone so you just need to find the right beer for you!
Visit the St. Salvators Cathedral
There are a lot of cathedrals, churches, convents, and so on to be found in Bruges. However, the St. Salvators cathedral is special because it is the oldest parish church in Bruges. That is, it dates back to the 12th century. Once you step foot in the cathedral, you will not know where to look first. More concretely, the cathedral is filled with impressive art pieces and treasures. The collection of paintings is also to die for. Even more so, you can find some paintings inside by artists such as Dirk Bouts. Thus, the art that you can find inside of the church is of immeasurable value.
Visit the Jerusalem Church
To keep up with the trend of cathedrals and churches, the Jerusalem church deserves to be mentioned as well. This church is one of the very few private churches that exist in Belgium. Another very peculiar aspect of the church is that the architecture was inspired by the church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. This explains the origin of the name of the church in Bruges. The church dates back to the 15th century and has been kept intact. As a result, the church has a very minimal architectural style, which is characteristic of the medieval times in which it was built.
You can recognize the church from afar because of the cross at the top. Again, this is concerning Jerusalem, where the inspiration for the church can be found.
Enjoy the Duvelorium
As mentioned before, the people from Belgium in general and Bruges specifically love beer. That is precisely why this list entails two activities that have to do with beer.
This second activity entails visiting the “Duvelorium”. The “Duvelorium” can be found inside a very impressive building located in the heart of Bruges. Even more so, the building alone is reason enough to go visit it because it is that stunning. The “Duvelorium” is called that way because of its connection to one of Belgium’s most famous beers, called “Duvel”.
The brewery that brews this beer, called “Duvel Moortgat” is not located in Bruges, of course. However, the brewery has a café that is located in Bruges. There, you can enjoy a refreshing pint of beer, while enjoying the most stunning view, all at the same time. Namely, while visiting this café, you will have the best view over the “Grote Markt”.
Despite what the name suggests, you can find other beer than “Duvel” at the “Duvelorium”. For instance, there are other well-known brands available, such as “La Chouffe”, “Liefmans”, “De Koninck”, “Vedett”, and many more. Each of these beers has a great reputation in Belgium, so this truly should be on your to-do list if you decide to visit Bruges. It is slightly on the more expensive side, but it truly is worth it!
Stroll Around the Jan Van Eyckplein
Now, Bruges is filled with tons of interesting, cozy places, squares, and marketplaces. One square, in particular, that is charming is the “Jan van Eyckplein”. The square is called after Jan Van Eyck, who was one of the most famous painters that Belgium has ever known. Consequently, you can find a grand statue of him right in the middle of the square.
It is located in the center of Bruges at the beginning of the “Spiegelrei”. In other words, it is located right next to the water. This has to do with the history of the square. Less abstractly, this square used to be a meeting place for all kinds of traders from all over Europe. In other words, this was the commercial heart of Bruges back in the day.
Nowadays, it still is a very vibrant square. There are countless bars and restaurants to be found on each side of the square. Hence, it is still the commercial heart of Bruges in a way.
Observe the White Buildings at the Begijnhof
To be fair, Bruges is a remarkably picturesque city, to begin with. However, this does not detract from the fact that certain places in Bruges are still more picturesque than others. Whatever the case, the “Begijnhof” (in full: Begijnhof Ten Wijngaerde) is the most picturesque place of them all. Here, all the houses inside this beguinage are white. The “Begijnhof” itself dates back to 1245, while the white houses were built between the 16th and 18th centuries.
It is the last beguinage that still exists in Bruges. And while there no longer live any beguines there, visiting this beguinage still provides you with a very unique opportunity. At the beginning of the 20th century, the beguinage began to serve as a convent. Nowadays, there are still nuns living there. You can walk through the beguinage and visit the several houses in all peace if you are looking for a peaceful day in Bruges. If you are in the mood to learn more about the history of beguines in Bruges, there is also a museum that you can visit there.
Further, the “Begijnhof” is located right by the “Minnewater”, which is a very small lake. The lake is surrounded by a small park and trees. This all taken together creates a very stunning scenery. Even more so, it almost seems like it all takes place inside a fairytale.
Visit the Choco-Story Museum
As was demonstrated above with the “Frietmuseum”, Bruges has a lot of museums dedicated to delicious food. Namely, you can also visit the chocolate museum, called Choco-Story, if you are ever in Bruges. Before you even step foot inside the museum, you will be blown away by the building in which it resides. That is, the building dates back to the 15th century and used to be a wine tavern.
Nowadays, the building is dedicated to chocolate instead of wine. When you visit the museum, the first thing you will notice is the smell. Indeed, the smell of chocolate greets you when you step inside. Besides the smell, there are other great aspects of the museum of course. Fundamentally, the museum allows you to find out exactly what the history of chocolate in Bruges is. You will be able to learn more about how chocolate was developed throughout the years; You will also find out exactly how a chocolate bar is made from the beginning.
However, the best part by far about the chocolate museum is the chocolate tasting. Concretely, while you’re strolling through the museum, you will have several opportunities to taste different kinds of chocolate. This way, you can determine which kind of chocolate you like best. After your visit, you will have the chance to buy some of the chocolate that you liked best.
Adore the Holy Blood Basilica
As mentioned above, there are a lot of Christian buildings to be found in Bruges. The Holy Blood Basilica is one of those extraordinary buildings. The name of this basilica might sound a bit sinister, but there is a very good reason that underlies the name. Indeed, it refers to the holy blood from Jesus that is supposedly stored there after it was brought to Bruges by Diederik van de Elzas. He was the count of Flanders.
At any rate, the basilica is simply amazing from an architectural point of view. The building consists of two chapels. On the one hand, there is the Gothic Basiulius chapel, where the relic is stored. On the other hand, there is the Roman St. Ivo chapel. Both make up the basilica. Inside the chapels, you can find other awe-inspiring things besides the relic. For instance, you will be able to adore a lot of art pieces there as well.
Buy Fish from the Vismarkt
The “Vismarkt” is the Flemish word for “fish market” and that refers to what this market is all about. The “Vismarkt” is a roofed market where you can buy the freshest fish in Bruges. The most surprising thing about this market, however, is that it has been a place to buy fish for centuries now. Nowadays, however, you can buy other things besides fish here as well. For instance, it is also the place par excellence for numerous artists and jewelry vendors to display their products.
If you are not fond of buying raw fish and you only care for the end product, you could also take a look at the square surrounding the “Vismarkt”. There, you can find a lot of restaurants where you can eat the most delicious fish and other meals.
Visit the Groeningemuseum
If you want to immerse yourself in culture when you are visiting Bruges, it is of utmost importance that you pay a visit to the “Groeningemuseum”. This museum is specialized in paintings. Yet, it is especially specialized in paintings by Flemish painters. The collection of paintings that you can find in the museum all were painted between the 15th and 16th centuries. Hence, it should not come as a surprise that the museum stores a lot of paintings painted by the so-called “Flemish Primitives”. This term refers to a group of painters from Belgium and the Netherlands around the 15th to 16th centuries. Most of these painters worked in cities such as Bruges. Famous examples in this regard include renowned painters such as Bosch and Van Eyck.
Nevertheless, you can also find the occasional painting belonging to other genres such as renaissance, baroque, expressionism, or neoclassicism. These paintings date from between the 18th and 19th centuries and are thus more recent. All in all, all the paintings in the museum add to a remarkable collection of high quality.
Be in Awe by the Concert Building
Just outside the city center of Bruges, you can find the concert building. This is a very modern building and if you do decide to visit this monument, you are in for the experience of a lifetime. That is to say, the city of Bruges has made it possible for you to follow a very interesting experience trail. If you are following this experience trail, you will be catapulted into a very cultural journey. Indeed, along the trail, you can learn more about music, art, and acoustics. As far as music goes, the main focus is on classical music. As far as art goes, the main focus is on contemporary art.
The great thing about this experience trail is that it allows you to learn more about art and music in a very immersive way. It also allows you to discover new spots in Bruges. These spots generally are not accessible to the general public. Hence, this immersive experience gives you the chance to discover hidden gems in Bruges, which is a truly unique opportunity. As a bonus, the last stop of the experience trail is an extraordinary roof terrace. When you are standing on this roof terrace, you will find that you will have a great view of the historic city center of Bruges. All things considered, it would be a shame not to visit the concert building and not to follow the experience trail. It allows you to find out more about Bruges and art in an incredibly fun way and that is all that matters.
Discover all the Great Restaurants and Bars
Now, Bruges is a city in Belgium that particularly attracts a lot of tourists each year. So, that is exactly why the city of Bruges has invested a lot of resources in making Bruges more appealing to locals and tourists. A large number of welcoming eateries and lively watering holes contribute to Bruges’ allure as a tourist destination. As a result, Bruges has a lot to offer on a culinary level and entertainment level.
As far as restaurants go, there are certain ones that you need to visit if you have the time. These next restaurants each offer amazing food and an even greater atmosphere. For example, “That’s Toast” is a very creative idea that can also be eaten by vegetarians if anyone is interested. This restaurant has a nice location and the food there is also undeniably great.
The original thing about this restaurant is that it mainly serves breakfast, yet you can eat there are all hours of the day. Another reason why you should visit this restaurant is that they have a very pleasant courtyard, which offers you the perfect place to sit while eating. A second restaurant that you should take into account is “Cezar”, which is located in the “Jeruzalemstraat”. This restaurant offers all the Flemish classical dishes such as a Flemish stew or “vol-au-vent”. Hence, this restaurant is great if you want to experience what the Flemish kitchen has to offer. Yet, the best thing about this restaurant is that it takes all these classic dishes and puts them in a new jacket. As a result, each dish still holds a surprise, even for the Flemish people!
Finally, a third restaurant that is worth visiting while you are in Bruges is not a restaurant. This place called “The Chocolate Line” has a completely new idea. Dominique Persoone started this place. He might be the most famous chocolatier in Belgium. He combined the concept of snuff tobacco with the flavors of chocolate. So, when you go visit his restaurant, you can use his authentic snuff machine to shoot a mix of cacao and herbs into your nose. This will result in the most intense flavor experience and it will stimulate all of your senses. However, if this concept seems a bit too far for you, this place also has room for other things such as regular chocolate or delicious pralines.
As far as enjoyable bars go, Bruges has those as well. For example, “Grand Café de Republiek” is one of those bars that you will just love. This bar has an amazing terrace where you can easily sit for hours. Another reason why you could sit here for hours is the fact that this bar sells entire pitchers filled with mojito or other cocktails. While you are sipping on your drink, you can also enjoy a very varied assortment of different tapas. Secondly, “‘t Poatersgat” might just be the most-visited bar in Bruges. You might not find this café at first since it is located in the basement of a historic building. However, once you do, you will never want to leave. That is, the selection of beers there is ridiculous. Not to mention the fact that this place often has live music for you to enjoy.
Lastly, “2be” is also suggested as a place to go. The main reason for this is that there is a whole wall there that is all about beer. Even better, this café has every kind of Belgian beer, so you’ll probably be overwhelmed by all the choices.
Then, as far as the nightlife goes, there are not a lot of clubs in Bruges. However, that does not mean that the city does not offer you any opportunities to let loose at night. Namely, while there are not a lot of clubs, there are numerous bars where you can dance as well. In this department, the place to be is the “Eiermarkt”. One example of a dance café you can find there is “Ambiorix”, which is especially popular among students. Other places where you can dance the night away include “De Coulisse” or “Café Pick”.
Go Biking Through Bruges
As briefly touched upon above, there are other ways to discover Bruges besides strolling around. If you are also not in the mood to go on a boat trip, a great alternative could be to rent a bike. This will allow you to experience Bruges thoroughly and do a fun, active activity at the same time.
However, going biking does not necessarily mean that you need to do so in the city center. This also would not be ideal since there are generally a lot of people walking around there. Then, navigating your way through the crowd with a bike would not be very handy. Luckily though, there are a lot of bike routes outside the city center that you can follow. Accordingly, you can escape the rush of the city if you are looking for a more peaceful day. Moreover, this will allow you to discover beautiful places in Bruges that are not that crowded. For instance, there are bike routes that will take you along green oasis, medieval castles, and so on. You can also make several stops along the way to hold a picnic or to enjoy a drink, to give some examples.
Visit the Gruuthusemuseum
Furthermore, if you are looking for a museum that is not as conventional as certain other museums, you should consider visiting the “Gruuthusemuseum”. This museum is not dedicated to luxurious art or such. Instead, the main intent of this museum is to show the public what life in Bruges was like between the 15th and 19th centuries.
Thus, if you walk through this museum, you will be met with a lot of different utensils, equipment, clothing, etc. from that period. Some of these things are very simplistic such as traditional clothing, jewelry, or housekeeping materials. However, there are other, quite sinister things you can find there too. For instance, the museum also gives you a glimpse into the torture devices and the execution devices that were used back in the day.
Visit the St. Jans Hospital
Now, it might sound weird to visit an old hospital if you are visiting Bruges, but you can be guaranteed that this will be worth your while. Namely, the St. Jans hospital used to be very important in Belgium. Even more so, it is one of the oldest, best-kept hospitals in Europe!
Of course, this hospital no longer treats patients or anything like that. Instead, it nowadays serves as an extremely fascinating museum. If you visit this museum, you can catch a glimpse of the ins and outs of hospitals in Bruges from centuries ago. You can see what the hospital wards used to look like and especially how primitive it all way.
Back in the day, hospitals often had a built-in chapel where you could send a prayer for your sick loved ones. Therefore, if you visit this hospital, you can see what such a chapel used to look like too. Furthermore, you can visit the old pharmacy. In this aspect, it is worth noting that you can also still check out the gardens filled with herbs. These herbs were used to cure people and these gardens serve as a reminder of that.
Finally, there is also room for culture if you are visiting this hospital. That is to say, there is a remarkably famous painting adorning the walls of the hospital. More concretely, you can find a painting of Hans Memling on the walls there. Memling belongs to the “Flemish Primitives” so he can be considered a very influential painter throughout Flemish history.
Go to the Theater at the Municipal Theater
Then, another building that you cannot pass without visiting is the municipal theater in Bruges. In the first instance, this theater is worth visiting because of the building. The building dates back to the 19th century and was built according to the renaissance style. It might not be as large as some other city theaters, but it still has room for about 700 people. It also has a very high standing in Europe because it has been so well-kept over the years.
Now, the theater may be old, but you can still enjoy theater productions while you are there. Nowadays, however, the theater does not only invest in theater productions. Indeed, you can also buy tickets for other types of performances such as dance recitals or musical concerts.
Browse Through the Historic Center of Bruges
Finally, one thing that you positively cannot miss out on is browsing through the historic center of Bruges. This historic center is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site so that just goes to show how charming it is. The historic center of Bruges is very compact. As a consequence, you can easily navigate through the streets on foot. However, you must make sure that you do not pass by any small streets or alleys. Namely, the thing with Bruges is that these small streets often lead you to the most extraordinary, hidden gems.
Belfry of Bruges
The Belfry, a majestic medieval bell tower, is one of the top attractions in Bruges, especially for those interested in architecture and history. The bell tower, which stands at an impressive 83 meters, was built in 1240 and is home to no less than 47 bells.
To gain a bird’s-eye view of the city, you can also go inside the tower and ascend its three hundred and fifty or so steps. Climbing the tower costs between €10 and €12 per person, so if you’re not interested or want to save money, you can skip that part.
This doesn’t include wait times, which can be very long because a narrow staircase limits how many people can be in the tower at once. Including the stops at the different “rooms” on the way up, it took about 15 minutes to reach the top of Belfry of Bruges.
Bruges City Hall
Located in the town’s main plaza, the City Hall of Bruges is one of the oldest municipal structures in all of Western Europe.
Dating back to the 12th century, it includes a variety of amazing gothic architecture and is one of the most stunning and greatest things to do in Bruges.
Particularly impressive is the Main Hall, which is located indoors. The building’s history is documented at a museum on the ground floor, which may be skipped by individuals who aren’t interested in museums.
Belfry of Bruges, Basilica of the Holy Blood, Minnewater Lake, Bruges City Hall (Ayuntamiento de Brujas), and The Markt are some of the places that come highly recommended.
The most effective approach to becoming familiar with the history and architecture of Bruges is to take a boat ride around the city’s inner canals.
There are five different stops located all across the city where the tram can pick up and let off passengers.
You have the option to go on a tour that will just take up thirty minutes of your time from March through November.
30 minutes canal boat ride costs €10.00 per person. Up to 11-year-olds pay €6, Bruges residents pay €9, and children under 3 are free. Cash only, so bring cash.
In general, there is a lot to see and do in the historic center of Bruges. Certain places such as the “Grote Markt”, the “Begijnhof”, the St. Jans Hospital, and the Belfort tower have already been mentioned in this overview. Another place to visit that belongs to the historic center of Bruges is “De Burg”. this is the part of the old city center that houses the town hall or the Holy Blood cathedral. However, it is more than that. There, you can find a lot of different buildings that can be categorized under the renaissance style.
Besides buildings and monuments, the historic center can also be considered a commercial center of Bruges. That is, there are countless small restaurants and bars to be found there. So, the historic center offers the perfect scenery if you are looking for a fun, sociable night out. In all the small streets that make up the historic center, there are further a lot of local stores. These sell a variety of things such as food, clothes, jewelry, etc. Whatever the case, the historic center cannot be neglected if you ever find yourself in Bruges. Otherwise, you will not be able to say that you have experienced everything that Bruges has to offer.