Bruges or Brugge is a fairy-tale medieval town in north-east of Belgium. Dreamy canals, picturesque cobbled streets, breathtaking squares with soaring towers, churches and almshouses emerging from the ground and splendid nature are more than enough to make you see why this is a perfect destination for all types of travelers. Check out our guide of Bruges and you’ll find yourself buying the first ticket to this small heaven on Earth!
Attractions: The city’s most prominent symbol is the 83-meter high building called Belfry. It has been providing a dazzling and breathtaking view over the entire city of Bruges and its neighbouring places since the 13th century. The building is also one of UNESCO World Heritage sites. It used to be a part of the medieval town halls and the city’s main market place, but today the tower houses the old treasury and is a landmark which cannot be skipped while in visit to Bruges. However, the best part of the building is the permanent exhibition on Salvador Dalí which represents not only Dalí’s work but the man’s character and vision of life as well. For best view of the city, climb the 366 steps to the top. On your way up, you can visit the old Treasure Room where civic documents are kept behind the iron grills situated on the second floor. In the very heart of the city there is the Markt, Bruges’ vibrant main square surrounded by fine buildings from various periods. On the eastern site you’ll see the 1887 Neo-Gothic Provinciaal Hof building which serves as the seat of the West-Vlaanderen provincial government, while the opposite western side is dominated by the 15th century Huis Bouchaute. Across the street you’ll find the Craenenburg where, in 1488, the citizens of Bruges kept their ruler imprisoned for 11 weeks until he agreed to respect the authority of the ruling Council and to withdraw all the foreign troops. All in all, It’s a perfect place to relax, have lunch or just one coffee and enjoy the historic beauty around you.
The next of our must see list is the Basilica of the Holy Blood (Heilig-Bloedbasiliek) which presides over the Burg square. This minor basilica is famous for the crystal vial kept inside that allegedly contains a drop of Christ’s blood brought from the Holy Land in 1149. So, each year in May the sacred relic is carried across the streets of Bruges in the Procession of the Holy Blood. The basilica itself consists of a Romanesque lower chapel and a late Gothic upper chapel, which houses relics of St. Basil brought from Palestine by Robert II, Count of Flanders. On the same square you’ll see the Law Courts (or at least what’s left of it), built in 1730s on the site of former Liberty of Bruges. Some fragments have still survived, including the 16th century facade overlooking the canal and few historic rooms inside the what’s today known as Brugse Vrije Museum. While here, check out the Bruges’ Town Hall, one of the oldest in Belgium and also built in, as you can already guess, gothic style. Inside, don’t miss the great Gothic Hall on the first floor with its beautiful timber vaulting, which dates from 1402, and its murals recording events in the town’s history by A and J de Vriendt.
Another important landmark is the 112-meter-high the Church of Our Lady (Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk), which is the tallest one in Belgium. The church is home to many art treasures, among which is even a sublime sculpture by Michelangelo, Virgin and Child, which stands on the high altar of the chapel at the end of the south aisle. Only a street away from the Church of Our Lady, you’ll see the oldest building in Bruges and a cathedral since 1834, the Sint-Salvatorskathedraal, which is also a spectacular piece of art that includes a museum as well.
Now it’s time for some art, so head to the Dijver Canal and visit the Groeninge Museum which houses the city’s best art collection. Apart from the fantastic Old Flemish paintings, the museum also has a gallery of modern art and a splendid collection of views of Old Bruges. Another important spot is the Memling Museum with six exquisite masterpieces by Hans Memling who lived in the 15th century. Each work is a gem of Old Flemish art and you even get to see the Reliquary of St. Ursula, considered to be Memling’s most important work. When you see these two, head to the very end of the Dijver Canal to see 15th century buildings including what was once the Heren van Gruuthuse mansion. Part of it is today a home to the exceptional Gruuthusemuseum that holds a fantastic collection of antiques and applied art in 22 rooms. Right next door, there is another pearl of the city, the Brangwyn Museum with porcelains, ceramics, pewter ware and an exhibition of paintings by the Bruges-born English artist Frank Brangwyn.
If you’re up for a return to the medieval times, head to the Lock House, on the far side of Wijngaardplein, where once very popular Minnewater (‘Lake of Love’) served as an extremely busy city harbour. Today, the gothic house is all that’s left and is the only clue to the city’s far-from-peaceful past. The Lock House also provides you with a lovely view of the bridge over to Bruges’ Béguinage and its 17th century houses which today are home to Benedictine nuns. Between the entrance gate and church, founded in 1245, one of the former béguine houses has been turned into the Begijnhof museum, which offers a fascinating insight into life in the béguinage.
Take some time off from churches and museums and, if you’re lucky enough to be in Bruges on a sunny day, have a beautiful walk among the city’s windmills. Four old, romantic windmills are located alongside the medieval city gates on Bruges’ original city wall, today covered with green grass. It’s a perfect spot for a summery picnic. Take a few beautiful photos with the historic center on one side and the grand canal with lovely houseboats on the other and have a permanent memory of this charming city. Another great idea for tourists is to see Bruges from the water, so hop on a boat and float around the canals and see the city from the entirely different perspective.
On the other hand, if you visit Belgium in winter, you’ll be amazed by how Bruges looks like with its houses covered with snow, frozen canals and streets full with lit old lanterns. You’ll get the chance to visit the yearly Ice Sculpture Festival with an enormous exhibition of breathtakingly made ice sculptures.
You can also see how laces are created, since the city has always been famous for the handicraft of its lacemakers. There are more than 20 shops selling the products and Rococo has been the best one among them since 1833. It’s an interesting activity both for children and adults and we promise you’ll never look at lace the same way.
Food: Feel what it’s like to be a hedonist by trying out the Belgian cuisine. We’ll give you the top 5 places both for those on a budget and for those who came to become broke.
- Fancy: Park – scallops and steaks with homemade french fries, De Stove – the best fish delicacies in Bruges, Den Amand – a variety of traditional Belgian food, Sans Cravate – a classy restaurant with amazing dishes and even better wine choice, The Olive Tree – the place with the finest of Greek cuisine
- Cheap eats: Terrastje on Genthof – delicious pasta dishes, Cambrinus – yummy steaks, Brasserie Medard – best spaghetti in town, Pieter Pourbous – set menu lunches at affordable prices, Taverne Curiosa – amazing meat menus
Accommodation: Staying overnight in Bruges is not too cheap, but it’s still much more affordable than many other European cities. The prices per night go from €16 up, so check out St Christopher’s Inn Hostel at The Bauhaus (€16), Snuffel (€19), Europa (€21), Lybeer Bruges (€21), Charlie Rockets Youth (€21), Hotel ‘t Putje (€40), Hostel 28 (€49).
Get to Bruges:
- Plane: The closest airport to the city of Bruges is Brussels Zaventem Airport (105km). You can also go to Brussels Charleroi Airport (150km). After that, take the bus from the Brussels Main Station to the city of Bruges.
- Bus: Some of the most popular routes: London to Bruges, Eindhoven to Bruges, Dortmund to Bruges, Dusseldorf to Bruges, Essen to Bruges, Paris to Bruges, Brussels to Bruges, Lille to Bruges, Berlin to Bruges