If you are planning a trip to Belgium, Bruges is a must-visit city that should be top of any travel lovers wishlist. The fairytale city of Bruges is the capital of West Flanders, in Norwest Belgium. Quaint cobblestone streets and photogenic canal ways ensure this well preserved medieval city overflows with charm. In fact, the cities historic center is a UNESCO world heritage site in its own right.
Exploring Bruges, it’s easy to notice how well the city caters to foodies. Rich Belgium chocolate, well crafted local beer and the original version of fries are just some of the many delicacies ready to tempt your tastebuds.
With so much history and culture to experience in Bruges, here’s our ultimate guide to visiting the city.
This ultimate travel guide to Bruges will show you the most captivating places in Bruges, what to expect when visiting, where to stay in Bruges and things to do in Bruges, all of which will help you in planning a phenomenal trip to Bruges.
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How to get to Bruges:
Although the city is quieter than Belgium’s capital of Brussels, it is still relatively easy to get to. Belgium’s main airport located in Brussels has its own railway station, meaning taking the train from there to Bruges is quick and easy. Direct trains from Brussels Airport depart for Bruges every hour and takes just an hour to get there.
High-speed train travel through Europe is also another option to get to Bruges. You can get the Eurostar from London, Thalys from Amsterdam or Paris, or ICE from most major German cities.
An option more suited to those on a budget is taking one of the bus services that connect cities throughout Europe. Companies such as Ouibis operate a regular service to the city from various other European destinations.
How to get around Bruges:
With the city center being small in size, one of the best ways to experience the magic of Bruges is by walking. This ensures you are able to get plenty of amazing views of the canals and take pictures of the variety of stunning gothic architecture on display. The distance from the main railway station to the center of the town is a walk of about 10 to 20 minutes.
Bruges is also very well connected by public transport, with buses available all over the city. De Lijn is the cities bus service provider and it is worth noting that it’s cheaper to buy tickets before getting on the bus. Tickets are available from automatic ticket machines, Lijnwinjkel shops, and eShops, as well as at the main train station.
Cycling is super popular in Bruges, with many car-free bike paths across the city to explore.
What to expect in Bruges:
Belgium is a country with more than one official language. Coming to Bruges, which is located in Flanders, you’ll find the language different from the capital of Brussels. Flemish is what is spoken in Bruges, which is similar to Dutch.
Being an EU country, the Euro is the currency used in Bruges, meaning if you are planning a multi-destination trip around Europe, you won’t have to think about getting your money exchanged here.
You’ll find that tipping in Bruges is not expected, as restaurants generally apply a 10-15% service charge to your bill. However, if you feel like the service was exceptional, you can, of course, leave a few extra Euros.
Bruges is a small city with a lot of tourists so you’ll find it very easy to navigate during your trip. English is well spoken and understood, and the location is also very safe.
The best time to visit Bruges:
Bruges is a particularly good place to visit if you prefer comfortable temperatures and a cooler climate. Spring and summer offer up the best weather for visitors, meaning you are pleasantly able to stroll around the city with ease.
If you want to escape the summertime crowds, visiting Bruges between April and May is your best bet. As well as the city being quieter, as you are off season, you may even be able to find a good deal on your accommodation.
The weather warms up in the summer months, between June and August. The average temperature in August is 63 degrees Fahrenheit.
Things to do in Bruges:
The Markt Square
Visiting the Markt in Bruges will give you a great insight into what the city was like historically. This square was used as a marketplace since 958. Alongside a weekly market that was held here, other regularly events included festivals, fairs, tournaments, uprisings, and executions. Now the square is full of life, buzzing with people, music, and restaurants.
Basilica of Holy Blood
The basilica is located in a corner of Burg square, instantly identified by a decadent facade. This Roman Catholic basilica was built in the 12th century as the chapel of the residence of the Count of Flanders. The church gained its name from a famous item is boasts inside. The basilica houses an honored relic of the Holy Blood, allegedly collected by Joseph of Arimathea. The vial is said to contain a cloth with the blood of Jesus Christ.
The relic is shown to the public every Friday, and also daily from the 3rd to the 17th of May. Outside the chapel, you will find the Holy Blood museum, which contains the shrine for the Holy Blood and other treasures belonging to the chapel. Every year on Ascension Day (which is 40 days after Easter) the procession of the Holy Blood takes place. The procession is a large biblical parade that travels through the streets of Bruges.
Bruges City Hall
The stunning Bruges City Hall (Stadhuis) is where the city has been governed from for more than 600 years. Inside you will find 19th-century murals that decpict notable moments that tell the tale of the history of Bruges.
Take a Canal Boat Trip
One of the best ways to experience Bruges is from the water. Honestly, no trip to Bruges is complete without a boat ride. You’ll find that there are plenty of locations around Bruges where you can begin a canal boat tour. However, one of the most popular and easily accessible spots is just off Burg Square.
Belfry of Bruges
This medieval bell tower in the center of Bruges is one of the cities most loved attractions. From its vantage point high above the city, the tower also historically served as an observation point for spotting fires and any other dangers. Take on the narrow staircase, climbing all 366 steps to the top of the tower. The dreamy view over Bruges, however, is worth the climb.
The Groeninge Museum
For a masterclass into Flemish and Belgian art, look no further than the Groeninge Museum. The museum houses top artwork from the 18th and 19th-century, masterpieces from Flemish Expressionism and post-war modern art. Artwork from notable painters on offer includes masterpieces by Jan van Eyck, Hans Memling, Hugo van der Goes, and Gerard David.
A museum dedicated to fries, yes, please! If you love fries, as any sane person does, this museum will help you to discover the history of this potato triumph. The fry has become synonymous with Belgian cuisine, and at the Frietmuseum that fact is truly celebrated.
Escape from busy city life for a little while and take a walk among the windmills. Back in the 16th century, there were 23 windmills in Bruges. Nowadays there are only four remaining windmills. The easy 20-minute walk will allow you to take in all four windmills, situated on the ramparts along the serine canalside.
What to eat in Bruges
One word that sums up Bruges as a culinary experience is comforting. Spend your time indulging in Belgian beer, fries, chocolate, and waffles until your heart’s content. If you love fries, why not try something a little different and order moules-frites, which are mussels and fries. For Waffles head to Oyya, where they can serve them in cones so you can eat while you walk around.
If you have a sweet truth, take some time to pursue one of Bruges many chocolate shops. To learn more about the history of Belgian chocolate while you score some free samples, visit the Choco-story Museum. Other notable Chocolate shops include Dumon Chocolatier, The Chocolate Line and Jean Galler.
For beer lovers, the De Halve Maan Brewery is an independent brewery located in the city center. Head there for an unfiltered version of the famous zot blonde beer. Head to Brugs Beertje where you’ll be dazzled by choice. This pub offers over 300 types of beer.
Where to stay in Bruges
In Bruges, you’ll find accommodation options to suit the budget of any traveler. In the Historic Center, you’ll find the largest variety of choice, from budget hostels to luxury hotels. Also, staying in the Historic Center of Bruges means you’re close to all the action. There are plenty of things to do in Bruges at night, and that fact paired with the excellent dining options, means chances are you’ll want to be within walking distance to make the most of your evenings.
Tours to do in Bruges
With Bruges being such a food-centered destination, taking a food tour really is enough. I feel like food has a lot to say about the people and the culture of a place, and learning is way more fun when you get to eat tasty treats too. Take this tour to taste your way around Bruges, trying 10 different desiccates. Learn how to eat like a local, with highlights including chocolate truffles, artisan cheese, and fresh Flemish seafood
Take to the town with a passionate local excited to show you the city from their perspective. Learn about the city’s history and culture in a relaxed, informal way with an Itinerary that is tailored to your interests. Also get personalized tips on where to eat, drink, and shop, which will help you uncover some of Bruges best hidden-gems.
If you want to get out of the city and explore some of the picturesque Belgian countryside, this bike tour may just be the perfect opportunity. This 3.5-hour tour will venture to the small town of Damme. The guide will help you learn about sights along the way, telling little known facts and fun anecdotes. The tour also includes a complimentary drink at a cafe in Damme.
Day trips from Bruges
The port city of Ghent is an easy day trip away from Bruges. Ghent is a cultural hub, full of magnificent architecture and colorful public art. On a day trip to Ghent, take some time to marvel at the street art scene, particularly in the areas around Sleepstraat, Grawpoort, and Rodelijvekensstraat. For those fascinated by gore, Ghent’s morbid past has enough to satisfy. Visit Gravensteen: the Castle of the Counts.
Inside you will find the Museum of torture, certainly not an attraction for the faint-hearted. Visit Patershol, where you’ll find the culinary highlights of the city. Twisty lanes are full of cozy restaurants, serving up dishes from all over the world. Make sure to take in Vrijdagmarkt, which is one of the oldest squares in Ghent. Its name translates as ‘Friday Market’, and to this day it still follows the tradition of hosting a market every Friday morning.
Only an hour train ride away from Bruges, a day trip to the capital will catapult you to a completely different side of Belgium. Be wowed by the Grand Palace, often referred to as the most memorable landmark in Brussels. Learn more about the cities rich history at the Broodhuis, which literally means ‘The Bread House’. For many centuries a bread market was held there, but now the building is home to a museum that tells the story of the cities history.
Brussels is also home to some of the most imposing and grand courthouses in the world, so it is worth taking a moment to see the Palais de Justice in its architectural glory. If you are a lover of Tintin, keep your eyes peeled for works of art around central Brussels that features the beloved cartoon character. For one of the most famous, make sure to visit Rue de l’Etuve, where you’ll easily spot Tintin.
Antwerp is known for its centuries-old diamond district, Flemish Renaissance architecture and Grote Markt, a lively central square in the cities old town. For incredible views over Antwerp, head to MAS (The Museum aan de Stroom.) Take a ride up the escalators to the top floor for panoramic city views. Also worth a visit is the medieval Het Steen fortress, which is Antwerp’s oldest building. With its name meaning ‘the Stone’, this fortress was used to control the river. Later, however, it was used as a prison from 1549 to 1823.
Recommend budget tours in Bruges
- Bruges Highlights Private Tour with a Local
- Round-Trip Shuttle Service from Zeebrugge to Bruges
- World War I Battlefields Tour of Flanders from Bruges
- Legends of Bruges Private Tour
- Bruges Private Wine Tasting Tour with a Historical Touch
- Private Bike Tour Through Bruges Countryside
- Private Food Tour of Bruges: 10 Tastings
- Bruges Like a Local: Customized Private Tour