Top things to do in Bruges

Top things to do in Bruges

Bruges, the beautiful medieval city with a village atmosphere, and the capital of Belgium’s North-West Flanders region, is a UNESCO heritage site with its origins all the way back in a 9th Century fortress that today retains a special kind of historic fairy-tale magic, luring almost 8 million people every year.

Bruges’ unique charm oozes from its ornate medieval buildings, ancient cobblestone streets linked by several beautiful bridges over a vast network of picturesque canals, and more than fifty castles!

Dubbed the Venice of the North, this characteristic little city is perfect for any type of traveller or trip – be you a culture-vulture, history-hound, on a romantic getaway at a luxurious boutique hotel, or an activity-filled backpacking vacation, day-trip, weekend break or an extended stay, Bruges has so much to see and do you’ll be spoiled for choice. Below, you’ll find our top things to do in Bruges, but first, some key info…


How to get to Bruges

The closest airport to Bruges is Ostend–Bruges International Airport, 25 km from Bruges city centre – however, it is relatively small and there will likely be limited or no direct flights from many source countries.

Bruges is well served by train, though, from key cities in Belgium such as Brussels. For example, a train from Brussels airport to Bruges takes just shy of 90 minutes and costs €20.90, and there are 58 train departures daily, or the train from Brussels city will have you in Bruges in just under an hour and there are around 75 departures each day.  Bruges city centre is about a 15-minute walk from the station, so travel light and save on a taxi by enjoying a stroll as soon as you arrive.


When to visit Bruges

As Belgium’s most popular tourist city, welcoming even more visitors than the capital, Bruges is full of travellers during the peak season months, and even the fringe months of April, May and September see a consistent influx of visitors. Of course, in such a delightful city, this is to be expected but if you want to enjoy Bruges when it is less packed then mid-week breaks during the off-season in early Spring and late Autumn are the optimal times to visit. Winter is beautiful in Bruges too, but the Christmas market season does attract a high number of visitors too so be prepared for this and book accommodation early whenever you might like to visit.

 Top things to do in Bruges

The must-see sights and top things to do in Bruges

From magnificent ancient buildings, sights and culture to uniquely local tasty delights, Bruges has plenty of wow to enchant you with. Here’s our top picks of what to do in Bruges.


Free walking tour in Bruges

First thing’s first, as always, we cannot recommend strongly enough that you join a free Bruges walking tour on your first morning or afternoon here. It’s the ideal way to get a unique and fascinating insight to the city’s history and culture from an expert, professional, authentic local guide, the best way to get orientated with the centre for the rest of your stay, and perfect for getting some interesting local tips for how best to experience Bruges. What’s more, you get to decide how much you pay – just give your lovely local guide the amount you feel the tour was worth at the end!

All the free tours in Bruges will include the majority of the key sights and must-see sites on their routes, so it is a great way to tick off many of the essentials in a relatively short amount of time, but if you cannot join a tour for whatever reason, or have time to go back and explore some sights further afterwards, then make sure the following things are on your list!


Markt (The Market Square) & Burg Square

Bruges cityscape is one of terracotta roof tiles and whitewashed almshouses, intricate soaring towers, medieval and neo-Gothic architecture and beautiful historical churches among other buildings that give the Bruges skyline its intriguing character.

Markt square, with its step-gabled facades, charming cafes and vibrant atmosphere is home to a few of these wonderful structures, not least the iconic Belfort – a 13th century belfry with an octagonal tower reaching 83 metres skyward, housing a 47-bell carillon which is still played manually on a weekly basis, typically on Wednesdays and weekends but you can check signage at the front of the belfry for information on when they will sound.

As beautiful as it is from the outside, you can also venture up the 366 steps to the top of the tower for some remarkable views out across Bruges. Keep in mind, it is a narrow climb so can be a bit of a tight squeeze in peak times, and there can be queues too.

At the foot of the belfry is the rectangular Markt Hallen, an intricate and beautiful building which was once the beating heart of central Bruges commerce – now it holds occasional exhibits and events.

Close by, another square, Burg square, is the site of the 9th Century fortress from which Bruges grew and long served as the political and religious centre of the region; indeed it remains the administrative centre of Bruges today. The Burg square is lined by some of the most beautiful buildings in Bruges – the most notable of which is the incredible 14th-century Stadhuis, the City Hall, which is as exquisite on the outside as its interior is stunning - the ornate carved ceiling is a must see.


The Groeningemuseum & The Gruuthuse Museum

If you’re going to frequent just one museum in Bruges, then we strongly suggest you make it the Groeningemuseum. Although it may be considered small in size, it packs quite the punch when it comes to artistic treasures - its muscle is made up of 15th century Flemish primitives’ luminous works and Renaissance pieces, among others.

Housing Bruges premier art collection, the Groeningemuseum boasts artwork from Dirk Bouts, Jan van Eyck, Hans Memling and more, and really is a treat for the eyes – if you’re not impressed by Eyck’s exquisite and detailed realism, particularly in the foliage of his 1482 painted Madonna Crowned by Angels, then you ought to check yourself for a pulse.

Other parts of the museum house incredible picturesque landscape and town scenes from Garemijn and Van de Steene while, elsewhere, the likes of Gerard David’s Judgement of Cambyses and other such works depict a darker, more gruesome aspect of Bruges history in fascinating detail.

If time permits you another museum visit, then The Gruuthusemuseum is the one to head for. It’s a former mansion home to the Gruuthuse family, one of Bruges wealthiest merchant families, and many of their personal effects and valuables, some dating from the 13th century, are on display here and, combined with the audio tour in multiple languages, gives a unique insight to the history of merchant life in Bruges.


Stuff yourself!

Although Bruges may feel like an entire world of its own, ultimately you will be reminded that you are indeed in Belgium – and there’s three things that follow ‘Belgian’ that will make you salivate – chocolate, waffles and beer!

Belgian Chocolate in Bruges

There are at least fifty shops that sell chocolate in Bruges, but be aware that only five actually craft handmade chocolate on site! The shops that specify ‘Handmade’ are the ones where you can source proper ‘Bruges-made’ chocolates.

Check out the award winning Chocolaterie Sukerbuyc for some of the most delicious traditional Bruges chocolate, particularly their pralines, that you will ever taste. We also recommend The Chocolate Line where you can venture beyond the traditional and try more exotic chocolate flavours such as wasabi, Cuban Cigar, and bitter Coca-Cola. Or, if you’re feeling a little indulgent, you can even pick up some of their chocolate body paint for some delicious fun later!

Belgian waffles in Bruges

There’s something special about freshly baked Belgian waffles, and enjoying them in the exquisite surroundings of Bruges is a must-do while visiting here. You’ll see plenty of cafes and eateries serving delicious waffles as you venture through Bruges but there are three in particular that we can happily highlight as our local recommendations – in no particular order, Lizzie's Wafels on Sint-Jakobsstraa (where the waffles are huge!!!), Chez Albert on Breidelstraat 16 (where there’s often queues but they move quickly) and Fred's in the Markt. All delicious ways to spend an hour in Bruges.

Belgian beer in Bruges

Flowing under the cobblestones of Bruges is a stream of liquid goodness – an underground pipeline pumps beer from De Halve Maan brewery to the many taps scattered around the city. You can taste the two beers from this brewery, Straffe Hendrik and Brugse Zot, at source in the brewery bar, or along with a whole host of incredible Belgian beers in cosy cellars or busy bars throughout Bruges. We recommend dropping into ‘t Brugs Beertje (which boasts 300+ Belgian beers), ’t Poatersgat, De Kelk, the Bauhaus hostel bar, or the 500 year old Herberg Vlissinghe.


Things to do in Bruges – quickfire!

Some quickfire bonus tips on things to do in Bruges now:

·For romantics – kiss on the bridge over the Minnemeer, ‘the lake of love’. Folklore has it that the warrior Stromberg buried his dead sweetheart, Mina, beneath the lake and now any couple who kiss on the bridge will be granted ever-lasting love!

·Brugse Ommeland is the somewhat wider area surrounding the historic core and contains numerous attractions such as castle Wijnendale & museum, and Loppem Castle with its a 19th-century garden maze.

·A stroll along the canals is a (near unavoidable) must in Bruges, and we suggest venturing to the peaceful Eastern Bruges to see one of the surviving medieval gates, the Kruispoort, as well as the wonderful historic windmills. There are lots of cool shops and restaurants emerging in this area too so take a bit of time in the early evening to explore.


In the words of Porky Pig, that’s all folks! We hope you enjoyed our guide to Bruges and our insider tips and things to do here. If you have some cool recommendations to share with your fellow Bruges-bound travelers, do be sure to share them in the comments below. Don’t forget to find and book the best free tours in Bruges, and around the world. on Until next time, happy travels!
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