City Breaks

Bruges Travel Guide

The centre of Bruges is a Unesco World Heritage Site enclosed by a lazily looping canal and ancient city walls. Cross any of the bridges into the heart of the city and you can feel like you're taking a journey back into the past.

Things to do in Bruges

With winding cobbled streets lined with preserved medieval buildings, walking around Bruges is a delight. It’s small enough to navigate on foot and is stuffed with history, art and entertainment. There’s also a photo opportunity at every turn.

Just over an hour's drive from the Eurotunnel Le Shuttle terminal at Calais, it’s easy to travel to Bruges. Whether you're looking for a romantic city break, a holiday exploring the finest in European culture or a family getaway, Bruges has something for everybody. 

If you’re planning a visit, there are a few things which you should look out for and try to while you’re in this beautiful city. 

The Belfry of Bruges

It is easy, and somewhat enjoyable, to lose yourself in the meandering ancient streets, but if you want to get an overview of the city before you wander too far then head for the unmissable belfry of Bruges.

Whether you’re visiting for one day or longer, Bruges is a quick and easy destination for a perfect break away.
Whether you’re visiting for one day or longer, Bruges is a quick and easy destination for a perfect break away. Credit: saunderscb.
 

Also known as the Belfort, this imposing 83-metre-high bell tower is one of the city’s most prominent symbols. Dominating the skyline, visitors can climb almost to the top of the tower which offers an unparalleled view across the rooftops. However, be prepared to work for the reward; there are 366 steeply winding steps to navigate first.

The belfry was originally built in the 13th Century and has been remodelled over the centuries following fires. Today it contains 47 bells of varying sizes, and these are regularly used for performances by the in-house bellringer.

The Market Square (Markt)

In front of the belfry is the Market Square, or Markt. At the very heart of Bruges, this is a traditional starting point for many visitors wanting to explore the ancient city. You’ll be able to find many guided tours beginning here, including horse-drawn cabs, which will add that extra touch of romance to your visit.

Climb the Belfry of Bruges to catch an unmissable view of the medieval city below.
Climb the Belfry of Bruges to catch an unmissable view of the medieval city below. Credit: saunderscb.
 

The Church of Our Lady

Towering even above the belfry, the impressive spire of The Church of Our Lady makes it the tallest building in the city. As well as marvelling at the architecture, art-lovers are drawn to the church to see its prized possession – a marble sculpture of Madonna and Child by Renaissance master Michelangelo.

Burg Square

For more breath-taking buildings and to step back even further into Bruges' past head to the Burg, an open square which was once home to the Count of Flanders' fortified castle. Today the square is bordered by the town hall, or Stadhuis, a stunning example of Gothic architecture.

Although it is still a functioning town hall, some of the rooms of the Stadhuis are open to the public and inside you can learn about the history of Bruges and its surroundings and view historic artefacts including ancient maps of the area.

Visit the Basilica of the Holy Blood

Another unique element of Bruges entertainment offerings is the Basilica of the Holy Blood. This double church is dedicated to Our Lady and Saint Basil and is located at the corner of Burg Square. 

The lower church has maintained Romanesque characteristics, while the upper church features neo-Gothic design and is the home of the relic of the Holy Blood. The legendary relic was allegedly collected by Joseph of Arimathea and brought from the Holy Land by Thierry of Alsace, Count of Flanders.

The relic is embedded in a rock-crystal vial, which has been placed inside a small glass cylinder that is capped with a gold crown at each end. The Basilica is a wonderful place to visit, especially on a Friday when the relic is displayed to the public.

A horse & carriage is the perfect way to enjoy the sites of the city.
A horse & carriage is the perfect way to enjoy the sights of the city.
 

Groeninge Museum

Bruges is a cultural hub for Belgium and numerous artists have made the city their home across the centuries. Notable residents include master painter Jan van Eyck, whose works can be found at the Groeningemuseum, along with other celebrated Flemish and Belgian painters.

The fine art collection stretches from 15th Century 'Flemish Primitives' to Renaissance and Baroque masters and is a must for any art-lover. 

Belgian chocolate is considered the best in the world, so it’ll be a crime not to try at least a few samples…
Belgian chocolate is considered the best in the world, so it’ll be a crime not to try at least a few samples…
 

The Windmill Walk

One of the most beautiful things you can do in Bruges is to take a short walk around the old city boundary where the windmills sit. Maps from the 16th century show that there were originally over 20 windmills, but now only a handful remain.

The oldest mill on the windmill walk dates back to 1770 and is still grinding flour. Known as the Sint-Janshuismill, it is the only mill still in its original position and with a museum inside.

If you fancy something a bit more active, you can also run or cycle the windmill walk. Alternatively, this peaceful route also runs alongside the Canalside, making it the perfect picnic destination.

Eating and drinking in Bruges

Although the Belgians' cuisine is probably not as varied as their French neighbours, it is certainly no less delicious. When looking for somewhere to eat it is worth exploring the smaller streets which lead away from the Markt or Burg, as you can find unique little eateries hidden away. You’ll also often save money by avoiding the more obvious touristy places.

Cobbled streets, canals and chocolate.  How can you not like Bruges?
Cobbled streets, canals and chocolate. How can you not like Bruges? Credit: saunderscb.
 

Frites

The most popular national speciality is almost undoubtedly the humble frite, eaten with big indulgent dollops of mayonnaise. Bruge's proximity to the coast means that many restaurants offer tasty fresh moules frites as a speciality.

Frietmuseum

If you’re particularly keen to learn more about the frite, you can also pay a visit to Bruges' Frietmuseum. Reputedly the only museum dedicated to potato fries in the world, this unique attraction takes visitors through the frites history. You’ll be able to see everything from Peruvian potato artefacts to the humble deep-fat fryer. There is also a café at the end for you to do your own 'research'.

Chocolate

Known to have some of the best chocolate in Belgium, Bruges has an incredible number of chocolatiers and shops. Popular spots for anyone keen to sample the best that the city has to offer include, Dominique Persoone, (The Chocolate Line), Dumon Chocolatier and Depla Chocolatier. All of which offer numerous handmade delicacies, and plenty of free samples.

Choco-Story Museum

If you're looking to sustain your sugar-high, or for something for the whole family, head to the indulgent Choco Story museum. Housed in a former wine tavern, the museum takes you through the chocolate producing process, from bean to bar. Again, there are tasting samples at the end, but try not to rush around the exhibitions of historic chocolate-making tools, as there are some fascinating facts to be learned.

Carbonade flamande

Round off some of the sweet treats with a savoury slice of Bruges cuisine, the Carbonade flamande. This beef and beer stew is often served with the iconic frite or crusty bread, and each restaurant has a slightly different take on the traditional recipe. Perfect in winter to keep out the cold, or more surprisingly, in summer when eaten outside, this is another dish that ‘must’ be tried.

Waffles

Another food which Bruges is famous for is waffles. According to locals, the best place to try an authentic waffle is from a van in Burg Square. As they make them freshly when you order, you’ll be guaranteed a soft, fluffy, layered texture that’s more reminiscent of a thick croissant. If you want to keep it traditional, order a plain waffle dusted with icing sugar. Alternatively, you can also get melted chocolate, whipped cream, gelato, fresh fruit, or a delicious combination.

Beer

After exploring the streets of Bruges and eating your fill there are few more pleasant ways to quench your thirst than with one of Belgium's many famous beers. Try Cambrinus, on Philipstockstraat, for a huge selection of brews, from the finest Belgian lagers to refreshing fruit beers.

Travelling with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle

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