Bruges is a medieval city in the region of Flanders in Northern Belgium. I have been to Bruges twice, and its beauty never seizes to amaze me. Designated by Unesco as a World Heritage City, Bruges feels like it popped out from a fairytale with its cobbled alleyways, charming squares, picturesque canals and beautiful architecture. Bruges is a small city, and you can easily see it in a day, but I totally recommend that you stay overnight, like I did both times so you can admire it during the night.
Things to do in Bruges in one day:
Bruges has a compact size and can easily be explored on foot, by boat or a horse carriage. Despite its small size, there are many things you can do and see in Bruges.
Market Square or Grote Markt
The Market Square is located in the centre of the city, and it’s a traffic-free square renovated in 1996. The square is dominated by the 13th-century Belfry, but there, are other fascinating buildings around it like the Provincial Palace rebuilt in 1887 in Neo – Gothic Style, and the statue of Jan Breydel and Pieter de Coninck, heroes that played a major role in the Battle of the Golden Spurs in 1302. Just in front of the Belfry, you will find 2 canteens selling the best, fried potatoes I tasted in Belgium.
The Belfry of Bruges is one of the 33 Belfries around Belgium declared as a World Heritage Site. It stands at 83 m above ground and the view from the top is breathtaking as you can see the whole town. You have to climb 366 steps to get to the top but it is, totally worth it. This 13th-century medieval tower used to serve as an observation deck, warning the residents of Bruges of imminent danger and also as a clock. They also kept the city’s archives there, but they were destroyed in a fire in 1280. Nowadays the Belfry works as a clock tower and a carillon with 47 bells. The queues to the Belfry are always long, and tickets cost 8 € for adults.
Canal Boat Tour
A visit to Bruges is incomplete if you don’t take one of the half-hour tours in the canals and visit this magnificent city from a different angle. Your captain will also share some interesting stories from the history of Bruges and the buildings you see along the way. I had the chance to do a canal boat tour only on my first visit to the city, the second time the canals were frozen from the cold. Tickets cost 8 € and there, are 5 embarkation points through the city.
Located in Market Square Historium is a great attraction for children. On this 1-hour interactive experience you will step back in time, and through the seven thematic rooms, you will discover how life was in the golden ages (15th century) in Bruges. Tickets cost 11 €.
The museum has an impressive collection of Flemish Primitive paintings that includes works of by Jan van Eyck, Hans Memling and others.
Explore the Hansa Quarter
Between the 13th and 15th century Bruges was an important trading centre due to its location between the commercial regions of Scandinavia, Germany and England from the one side and Spain, Italy and France from the other. A stroll through the Hansa Quarter will take you through the mansions of the wealthy international merchants of that time.
Visit the Church of our Lady (Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk)
This beautiful church has an extensive collection of artworks with the most famous being Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child.
Admire the Burg Square
The medieval Burg Square located close to the market square has many impressive buildings that include the Bishop’s Palace, the Town Hall, Old Civil Registry and the Holy Blood Basilica.
Take a night walk
When the night falls, the city becomes even more romantic perfectly lit up. A walk through the alleys and canals to admire the unique atmosphere is a must.
See the swans in the Minnewater Park
A beautiful park located close to the train station, where you can relax and see swans swimming in the canals. The swan is one of the city’s symbols. According to the legend in 1448 the people of Bruges executed one of the town administrators belonging to the court of Maximilian of Austria. As his coat of arms featured a swan, Maximilian punished the residents of Bruges by making them keep swans in their canals.
Eat chocolate and waffles
Belgium is famous for its waffles and amazing chocolates. There are many chocolatiers around the town and many waffle shops. I loved my waffle on the stick purchased in a shop opposite Burg square.
Where to eat in Bruges:
For breakfast and waffles:
I highly recommend the Carpe Diem tearoom
and the Old Chocolate House, a chocolate shop with a lovely tea room on the top.
For lunch and dinner:
We loved our 3-course lunch at the De Koetse a restaurant serving Belgian cuisine for more than 25 years located in the heart of the city. We went there for lunch and it was packed with people. A 3-course lunch menu for 27 € was also on offer.
Where to stay in Bruges:
HotelsCombined is a great website to check out to find the most cost-effective accommodation option for you in Bruges. It will tell you which hotel booking site has the best price. Here are my picks for the best accommodations in Bruges, Belgium:
A luxurious boutique hotel located in the heart of Bruges, along ‘De Dijver’ canal. The hotel is housed in a 15th-century Carthusian convent. Check here for the latest prices and more details or check out Tripadvisor Reviews.
How to get to Bruges:
You can either drive there and leave your car in one of the parking spaces at the outskirts of the city or go by train as I did. It is very easy and affordable. You just take the train from any of Brussels central stations, or even Brussels international airport and in approximately 1 hour you are there. A single ticket costs 14.10 €. You can book your tickets online at the following site: http://www.belgianrail.be/en or the station.
Please note that Belgian rail has the internet weekend ticket with 50% discount for return tickets if your outward and return journey is made between Friday after 7 pm and Sunday. From the train station, it’s about a 15-minute walk to the town centre. Apart from walking you can take a taxi or the bus.
Bruges is an incredible city and many people visit it. To avoid the crowds try not go at the weekends and in the summer. Both times I went in Bruges was during the winter and I really enjoyed it.
Have you been to Bruges? Did you like it?
If you are looking for more information about Bruges, check The Trusted Traveller’s Guide: Things to do in Bruges, Belgium.
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