The ultimate postcard-perfect Belgian city straight out of a fairy tale can be found in Bruges. The cobbled streets, magnificent architecture and colourful houses look like as if they have been crafted out of gingerbread and lined with piped icing flanking the charming waterway canals of the city.
This cosmopolitan city has a historic heart at its centre which is a UNESCO protected heritage site, with castles, churches and abbeys which will transport you to another era and which rightfully draws thousands of visitors annually who come to marvel at the fascinating historic architecture, explore the meandering streets and chugging along the vast waterway canals on small river cruises.
Once upon a time it was a merchant city due to its strategic location with access to the sea, it was called the “Golden Inlet” because the canals brought commerce to the ci transforming it into a prosperous commercial trading outpost. The characteristic interlacing network of waterways are the reason it is called the “Venice of the North”. Strolling through the charming streets and romantic canals is enough to make you fall in love, if not with your partner then definitely with the city itself.
Aside from history and romance, Bruges is a hidden gem destination for luxury travel, with its old-world style hotels and Michelin-starred restaurants situated amongst the city’s cobbled streets. Here is our ultimate guide to discover the most luxurious experiences of Bruges.
This guide is perfect for those who are travelling to Bruges on a luxury. We will show you what to do in Bruges, where to stay, what to eat and how to get around, whether it’s a weekend in Bruges or a long term stay.
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The best time to visit Bruges
Summertime is the most pleasant season and with mild temperatures and more sunshine, however, Bruges generally experiences cool and damp weather all year around and there may be the occasional shower. For the warmest temperatures, head to Bruges in June, July and August. Summertime also brings more tourists, drawn to festivals held in the warmer months that includes the Klinkers Festival held in the months of July and August and the popular August event of Reiefeest.
If you want to travel during a less popular time, Spring or Autumn are great periods to travel. April, May and September brings lower prices, less crowds and pleasant weather.
During the wintertime, the temperature in Bruges plunges dramatically and it becomes bitterly cold and wet and it’s best to avoid travel during this time. Christmas is incredibly busy as the Christmas markets draw in plenty of visitors who brave the cold weather to visit Bruges in the magic of winter.
How to get around Bruges
To get around the city centre most people explore the streets on foot, you can also experience the city like a local and rent a bike, as the landscape is relatively flat and is ideal for biking.
To get around Bruges in style you can rent a luxury car from Rent Luxe Car, with their extensive collection which includes Ferraris and Porsches.
Alternatively you can hire a chauffeur to take you around the city, private chauffeur services can be found at 8Rental.
For a unique way to get around the city you can charter a private yacht or sailboat for a day on Yacht Charter Bruges and cruise down the waterways of ”the Venice of the North”.
What to expect in Bruges
Bruges, though small, has plenty to offer and it is worth spending a weekend or three days here as there is plenty keep you occupied. Being a hub of culture, art and fine-dining, there’s much more to Belgium than desserts!
Bruges is considered one of the most romantic cities of Europe, and once you arrive you will see why! Lovebirds will be strolling along the canals and you may even stumble across a proposal or two!
The languages spoken in Bruges include Dutch as its primary language, French and German, however the multilingual locals speak English and you will have no issues communicating. The local currency is the Euro. ATMs can be found all over the city and cards are accepted almost everywhere. Tipping is not expected as a service charge of 10 – 15% is included in your bill, however a few more Euros is always greatly appreciated.
Belgium is a very safe destination, as in many countries, it is always advisable to pay attention to your personal belongings as there are pickpockets in operation.
Luxury things to do in Bruges
Cruise down the canal on a private boat
Explore “Venice of the North” in your very own private boat and take in the sights in luxury and comfort. The extensive system of canals weave through the city, reflecting the gorgeous gingerbread houses and medieval architecture on its waters which will take your breath away with its beauty. You may even hear some fascinating anecdotes and tales from the experienced captain on your boat.
Romance at the Lover’s Bridge and Lake of Love
Discover the folklore of the Lover’s Bridge in Minnewater, where legend has it that the beautiful Minna, who was forbidden by her father from marrying her true love, a warrior named Stromberg from another tribe. She sought to escape the arranged marriage her father had organised by fleeing into the forest.
Her lover, Stromberg, went into the forest to find her but upon their encounter, she died of exhaustion in his arms, by the lake and therefore the lake was named after her and it is said that couples that kiss and cross the bridge of Love will make their love last for an eternity.
The lake is a tranquil piece of nature where you can enjoy a relaxing day and even feed the numerous swans that reside in Minnewater.
Explore the streets in horse and carriage
You can hop into a traditional horse drawn carriage to explore the alleyways and streets on a 30 minute ride, whilst the driver will entertain you and regale you with tales about the city. A ride costs only €50 and carriages can be found at Markt Square.
Enjoy the sunset in the Beguinage
A perfect end to the day is a trip to the Beguinage, and enjoy the manicured gardens of the Benedictine nunnery with an early evening stroll before admiring the sunset.
Explore Bruges style
Many of the boutique stores in Bruges are hidden gems, offering unique style and elegant pieces. Head to Boetiek Ruth, Twee Meisjes, in Sint-Jakobsstraat street; shop for smart tailor-made suits in Parallax on Zuidzandstraat; discover the quirky style of Dame de Pique or find local designers in L’Héroïne on Noordzandstraat. For antiques you can peruse the collection at Vie de Vue Antique Shop on Hoogstraat 40.
Bruges is famous for beer and you’ll be spoilt for choice for places to savour the local ales. You can head to 2be Beer Wall which is a quirky bar, shop and museum all in one. Their 2Be rooftop terrace bar offers views over the city whilst you sip your draught beer. If you want a more cosy and rustic vibe, head to Le Trappiste where you can enjoy high-quality trappist beer created in monasteries in a medieval vaulted setting. Another quirky bar to drink is Beers Yesterday’s World where you can sip on ale whilst sitting in an antique shop.
Visit Brugge Markt
The weekly market has been held every Wednesday in this square since 985! In this historic square, flanked by impressive architecture from different eras, you will find artisanal handicrafts including linen and lace for sale, vibrant hues of flowers and a food market with smells of freshly roasted chicken and local cheeses wafting on the air.
At Christmas time the square hosts the Christmas market and is transformed into a winter wonderland with an ice skating rink and festive stalls serving up hot chocolate, hot mulled wine and fragrant waffles.
See the Basilica of the Holy Blood
This historic renaissance church holds a crystal vial which is said to contain a drop of Jesus Christ’s blood on a piece of cloth which was said to have been brought to Bruges in 1149 by Dietrich of Alsace when returning from the Holy Land after the Second Crusade.
Every year in May, the vial is paraded through the streets during the Procession of the Holy Blood. If you’re travelling in any other month, you can visit the upper chapel on Fridays and the vial is taken out and shown to the crowds of the faithful.
Climb the Belfry
This bell tower was constructed in 1282 and was only completed in 1482. A total of 47 bells are hung from the bell tower and its chimes ring out daily over the city. For the best views of Bruges, ascend the winding staircase made up of 366 steps where you can will be rewarded by some of the most impressive views over the city. As you climb up the stairway, you will pass the Treasure Room where you can marvel at historic civic documents from the city’s history.
Immerse in art and culture
Visit the museums to immerse in the history and craftsmanship of Bruges artistic side, pay a visit to the Gruuthusemuseum along the Dijver Canal where you can see examples of local lacework, tapestries and weapons, as well as a recreation of an authentic Flemish kitchen.
Next door is the Brangwyn Museum with its collection of artworks by the famous Bruge-born British artist Frank Brangwyn. Art lovers should also visit the Goeninge Musuem which hosts a vast collection of Old Flemish art with works from masters such as Jan Van Eyck and Heironymous Bosch.
Visit the Church of Our Lady
The church houses many examples of fantastic architecture and fine art in Bruges including a famous piece by Michelangelo, as well as boasting a towering 112 metre high spire, the tallest in the country and an impressive feat of architectural engineering.
Explore the chocolate museum
Head to the beloved Choco-story Museum to learn about the processes involved in making high-quality Belgian chocolate. This is a great place for all the family or for chocolate lovers and you can even learn how to make pralines and other chocolate treats in workshops hosted by the museum. Advance booking is necessary.
Take moonlit stroll along the canal
The floodlit canals at night with the dancing lights reflecting on the tranquil waters make for a romantic evening. Take a leisurely evening walk around Rozenhoedkaai and enjoy the peacefullness of a relatively tourist-free city, as most visitors to the city are daytrippers. Night time is surely a magical time in Bruges.
Where to stay in Bruges – Luxury Hotels
Hotel De Tuilerieen – This hotel dates is situated in a 15th century historic building and has hosted an impressive roster of guests that include the actor Colin Farrell, Brian May of Queen and the King and Queen of Belgium! The elegant hotel is situated oppositve the Dijver Canal and is only a few minutes’ walk from the attractions of Bruges. The rooms are decorated in country style and if you upgrade to a suite you can enjoy views over the canal, a living area and even a stately four-poster bed! The hotel boasts a beautiful garden terrace, reading room, bar and breakfast room complete with a theatrical chandelier. Facilities include an indoor swimming pool and steam room.
Hotel Dukes’ Palace – This hotel is Bruges one and only five-star hotel, despite its palatial appearance, five-star service and location along the canal in the historic centre, the prices are a steal! Once a convent, the building was refurbished combining contemporary style and comfort with its ancestry. The rooms are understated yet plush with luxurious marble bathrooms, whilst suites offer a living room and even another floor. The hotel facilities include a gym and a spa with massage treatments, salt wall, sauna and steam rooms. There is a bistro, terrace and bar on-site and a hearty breakfast buffet is served every morning.
Hotel De Orangerie – This hotel with plush luxurious furnishings in French Country style is ideal for a romantic getaway. Once a convent from the 15th century, this central hotel boasts canal views in some of their rooms and is only a few minutes from the major sights of Bruges. The hotel transmits the old-world grandeur of another time with its gorgeous breakfast and tea room, dining room and canal-side terrace. There is also a bar filled with antiques with a fireplace that is lit with a roaring fire in wintertime. The whole hotel evokes a sensation of calm and cosiness and is the perfect place for an weekend with your loved one.
Hotel Van Cleef – For sumptuous elegance and luxury, stay at the neoclassical Hotel Van Cleef. Set in a palatial mansion overlooking a stretch of the canal just a kilometre away from some of the major sights of the city, the welcoming and intimate country-style rooms with rustic wooden beam ceilings also feature contemporary fabrics and art. Marble bathrooms are fitted with a whirlpool tub and a delectable breakfast is included in the price. The hotel has an excellent restaurant with a terrace facing the canal and many rooms have canal views.
Luxury eats in Bruges
Bruges is a foodie paradise where you can enjoy fresh and seasonal local produce, delicious chocolate and dine in a number of Michelin-starred restaurants. Here is the crème de la crème of where to eat in Bruges.
Chocolatier Dumon – Chocolate is Belgium’s most well-known culinary speciality and to taste the very best of artisanal Belgian chocolates in Bruges, head to Chocolatier Dumon. This small shop can be found off the Markt square. Stuff yourself with delicious luxury handmade chocolates, there is no better experience in Belgium!
Old Chocolate House – Now that you’ve enjoyed chocolate in solid form, it’s time to indulge in some hot chocolate in this renowned old-world café which oozes both charm and quirkiness. Here you can find steaming mugs of hot cocoa to accompany some freshly made Belgian waffles.
Hertog Jan – This three-starred Michelin restaurant is led by Chef Gert De Mangeleer and is set in a rustic barn that is over 180 years old! The restaurant prides itself in its prime ingredients, grown on its own farm and adapting the menu to the seasons. The restaurant has both a tasting menu and a la carte menu where you can taste luxurious gourmet foods such as Black Carpentras truffles or Royal Belgian Caviar.
Ter Leepe – This highly-acclaimed contemporary cuisine restaurant has been awarded with Michelin stars and is listed in Elite Traveler’s top 100 restaurants around the world. This restaurant consists of a spacious banquet hall, a light and airy conservatory and a tranquil garden and pond. The delicious menu uses molecular technique and innovation to create astounding flavours featuring a fusion of flavours from both East and West. The tasting menu costs €105 per person with an additional €45 for the wine pairing.
Bartholomeus – Bartholemeus boasts two Michelin stars and is the perfect place to savour ingredients such as local seafood, shellfish, pork and Royal Belgian Caviar whipped into delicious combinations by Chef Bart Desmidt. The restaurant overlooks the sea and the restaurant offers four or five-course tasting menus where you can savour some amazing Belgian cuisine. The four-course menu is €90 per person with an additional €41 for the wine pairing, whilst the five-course menu costs €109 with an additional €46 for the wine pairing.
Den Gouden Harynck – Set in a 17th century building which once was a seafood shop you can find this one Michelin-starred restaurant run by Chef Philippe Serruys. The cuisine is modern and innovative with fresh, seasonal produce and you can try the Market Menu which showcases seasonal fare for €80 per person or if you’re feeling adventurous, opt for the Surprise Menu of five courses for €95. The restaurant also is home to a world-class wine cellar to ensure the perfect pairing with your meal.
De Jonkman – This two Michelin-starred restaurant is set in a beautiful villa surrounded by gardens with a teak dining terrace for sunny days. They serve up delicious, inventive cuisine featuring local seasonal ingredients such as seabass and catch of the day as well as truffles and Belgian caviar. The Market menu of three dishes is only €67 and their in-house sommelier will be able to give you the perfect recommendation for a wine pairing to go with your delicious seafood. The restaurant also has an a la carte menu.
Luxury tours to do in Bruges
Legends of Bruges tour
If you want to learn about the fascinating history of the city, look no further. This private walking tour will take you through the city streets on foot to discover the major landmarks of Bruges which include several churches, the lover’s lake and even a brewery where you can sample the local beer. Along the way, you’ll learn about the tales and legends of each place from your knowledgeable guide. This tour is a must for history lovers and you’ll gain an in depth understanding of this beautiful city and its fascinating past.
Foodie tour of Bruges
Enjoy all the flavours of Bruges with this history and food tour of the city. You will stop at five different places to enjoy some local cuisine which include the savoury Bitterballen meatballs, freshly-cooked Belgian waffles and delicious Belgian fries as well as the opportunity to sample local beers at two breweries in Central Bruges. With the expertise of a local guide who will provide a deeper understanding of the history, culture and cuisine that make up the city of Bruges.
Recommended luxury tours in Bruges
- Bruges Private Tour with Private Driver-Private Guide-Private Car
- Ghent & Brussels departure from Bruges
- Private New Zealand Battlefield Tour in Flanders from Bruges
- Food tasting & Historical walk
- Legends of Bruges Private Tour
- Bruges by Night – Private Tour
- Bruges Private Bar Hopping Experience