If you are looking for a city that is easily accessible, full of charm and capable of taking you back in time, then Bruges is THE city to visit. Set in the 16th century, this Belgian city gives the impression of walking in another era. With a great cultural program and many charming addresses, Bruges is also a dynamic city where you can enjoy walking around.

What to do in Bruges? What is the history of the city? What are the must-see addresses? Which museums to visit?… All the answers are in this travel guide!

Bruges in brief

Bruges
  • How to get there ? The best way to get to Bruges is by train. The Thalys allows you to travel from Paris to Brussels in 1 hour and 20 minutes, then count on an extra hour to get to Bruges. If you book in advance, you can find return tickets for only 62 €. If you come from Lille, the Eurostar also allows you to reach Belgium quickly. The train station is a bit out of the way, so you should allow 15 minutes to walk to the city center. The other option is to fly to Ostend-Bruges airport located 25 km from the city.
  • When to go there ? Bruges is a city where it is good to stroll and walk, so it is best to enjoy it on sunny days. Choose a stay between spring and autumn.
  • Who is it for? The romanticism of Bruges lends itself particularly to romantic getaways, but you can also enjoy the city on your own or with friends.
  • How long to stay there? Two days is a minimum to enjoy Bruges, but I recommend staying at least three days to have time to explore the city and enjoy its many activities without being in a hurry.
  • How to get around? It is a small city that is easily discovered on foot. A good half hour is enough to cross Bruges from one side to the other. If you want to discover the outskirts of the city or if walking is not your forte, you can opt for a bicycle: the lack of cars in the historic center makes it easy to ride a bike, there are several bike paths and many facilities to hang your bike. If you are looking to rent a bike you can go to B-bike (10 € for half a day or 12 € for a day).
Visit bruges travel guide

A bit of history… Bruges: a 16th century city!

The city of Bruges was born in the 9th century, but its development started in the 12th century in an unusual way. It is indeed thanks to a great flood that the city will be able to develop: a tidal wave opens an arm of the sea, the Zwin, between Bruges and the North Sea, allowing the small city to become an important port and commercial city thanks to a central position in Northern Europe. In the 13th century, Bruges was a major financial center, so much so that the first stock exchange in the world was created there! The city’s population tripled between 1340 and 1500.

But in the 16th century, Bruges had to face two major problems: trade turned to the Americas and, above all, the arm of the sea that connected the city to the sea became siloed. Deprived of its port function and abandoned by investors, Bruges suffered a significant economic decline in the shadow of Antwerp, which became the main city of Flanders. Deprived of its former dynamism, the Venice of the North sank into a form of torpor which had the advantage of freezing its urbanism. Bruges preserves its typical architecture of the medieval period.

From 1907, Bruges regained access to the sea thanks to the creation of the port of Zeebrugge and experienced a new phase of development. Restored, the city is now one of the most touristic cities in Belgium thanks to its preserved medieval urbanism. Since 2000, the historic center has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


The map of best places in Bruges

To help you find your way around and organize your walks, you can find all the best places mentioned in this article on this map.

I have also indicated the best spots to take the most beautiful pictures of the city!

Must-see visits in Bruge

What to do in Bruges ? 10 must-do activities

Stroll through the city

Forget the maps and your GPS! Bruges is a small city that can be walked through in about 30 minutes, so no matter where you go you’ll never be far from the center. Get lost in the city and get out of the hyper center to discover the charm of the surrounding streets with their typical Flemish architecture.

Take the time to observe all the little details of the architecture of the houses that betray the customs of another time. For example, here and there you will see walled windows, which comes from a time when a tax was calculated according to the number of windows in a house; those who did not wish to pay therefore decided to give up certain openings. A hole in the facade ? it is not a brick that is missing but an old shelter for carrier pigeons. As for the red facades, they were colored by adding ox blood to the plaster!

Bruges travel guide

Motivate yourself to take different walks at different times of the day. The atmosphere will never be the same: in the morning you will sometimes have a foggy atmosphere in the still quiet city, in the daytime the crowd will bring animation and in the evening you will enjoy a city which finds its quietude with the charm of the blue hour or a sunset.

Some unmissable spots:

  • Don’t miss a stroll along the canals, you will then understand why Bruges is nicknamed the “little Venice”.
  • Go to the Markt, the main square of the city where you can admire the Belfry.
  • Right next to it, go to the Burg. Here you will see the 14th century town hall and the Basilica of the Holy Blood (free access).
  • In the southwest of the city, head for the Minnewater, a romantic haven of peace along a lake.

Climb to the top of the belfry and admire the view over the city

For the most courageous, climbing the belfry and its 366 steps will give you a beautiful view of Bruges with a 360° panorama. During your ascent, you can discover the treasury where the city’s cash was kept in the Middle Ages. You can also admire the music roll of the carillon. Be careful though: the stairs are steep and narrow, it is advisable to be in good physical condition and not to be subject to vertigo. Remember to book your visit in advance or go at the opening to be sure to have a place.

Best places in Bruges
Discover Bruges (belgium)

Address: Markt 7
Price: 14 €, 12 € for children under 26, free for children under 7
Ticket reservation: https://www.museabrugge.be/fr/koop-tickets

Going to the Beguinage

The Beguinage is a curiosity of Bruges that deserves to be seen. Created in 1245, it is a garden surrounded by white houses that welcomed the beguines, single women who wished to live a pious life but without taking vows.

Bruges

Address: Begijnhof 30

Take a boat ride

Then hop on one of the river shuttles that crisscross the canals. In addition to the usual charm of the boat, you’ll see the city from a different perspective and your captain will be sure to explain some of the intricacies of the region’s architecture and history.

Visit Bruges

Visit the Groeningemuseum

The Groeningemuseum pays homage to the painters who made the city famous by presenting a beautiful collection of Flemish Primitives with some paintings by Jan van Eyck, Hans Memling, Hugo van der Goes…

Address: Dijver 12
Price: 14 €, 12 € for children under 26, free for children under 13
Ticket reservation: https://www.museabrugge.be/fr/koop-tickets

Visit the Saint John’s Hospital Museum

Founded in the 12th century, this is one of the oldest hospitals in Europe and was still active until the 1970s. Today it is a museum and its collections include six paintings by the Flemish primitive Hans Memling. Legend has it that the painter was admitted as a patient and thanked his benefactors by giving them four of these paintings.

Address: Mariastraat 38
Price: €12, €10 for children under 26, free for children under 13
Ticket reservation: https://www.museabrugge.be/fr/koop-tickets

Greet the Virgin and Child by Michelangelo at the Notre-Dame church

The Notre-Dame church preserves a masterpiece: the only sculpture by Michelangelo to have left Italy during the artist’s lifetime. To admire this Madonna and Child you will have to pay a few euros to enter the paying part of the church, but it is worth it!

Bruges best places

Address: Mariastraat
Price: 7 €, 6 € for children under 26 years old, free for children under 13 years old
Ticket reservation: https://www.museabrugge.be/fr/koop-tickets

Discover the Concertgebouw

The Concertgebouw is a modern concert hall opened in 2002. You can of course go and see a show, but it is also possible to visit it during the day: this is the “Concertgebouw Circuit”. This visit is done independently following a signposted route that allows you to discover the hall but also spaces usually closed to the public such as technical areas. Throughout the tour, contemporary works, sometimes interactive, enrich the visit.

Bruges Concertgebouw

You will also have access to the building’s terrace which offers a beautiful view of Bruges.

Address: ‘t Zand 34
Price: 10 €, 5 € for children under 26, free for children under 6

Entering the Saint-Sauveur Cathedral

After more than 30 years of restoration, the St. Savior’s Cathedral has been restored to its former glory. It is a marvel to see absolutely, especially since the entrance is free, so do not deprive yourself of this visit!

Address: Sint-Salvatorskoorstraat 8

Go and see the mills of Bruges

Until the 19th century, mills had an important economic function. One of them, the Sint-Janshuis mill, can be visited but you can also simply enjoy a pleasant walk in the surroundings.

Bonus: go see the works of the contemporary art triennial

If you go to Bruges before October 24, 2021, you can take the opportunity to see the works of the contemporary art triennial. 13 artists and architects have appropriated the historic heart of Bruges with works that question the hidden dimensions of society.


Good addresses in Bruges

Restaurant tips in Bruges

There is no lack of good addresses! According to your desires and your budget, here is a selection of restaurants tested and approved!

Nomad €€

Located in the west of the city, this brasserie offers salads, burgers, bowls but also dishes to share like nachos. Everything is homemade and the setting is pleasant, on the edge of a large square. It’s also a good place to just have a drink with some friends.

Best restaurants in Bruges

Address: ‘t Zand 12
Website: https://www.nomadbrugge.be/

Rock Fort €€€

This restaurant in the center of Bruges offers refined cuisine. The atmosphere is casual, but the dishes are top-notch. You can opt for dishes or tapas to share à la carte or choose the “surprise” menu composed of two starters, two courses and a dessert. You will have to pay 50 € for this farandole of flavors but the quality of the dishes justifies this price. And if you wish to observe the cooks at work, a table on the kitchen side allows you to enjoy the spectacle of these artisans of taste.

Address: Langestraat 15
Website: https://www.rock-fort.be/en

Plaza Cafe €€

In the heart of Bruges, a stone’s throw from the city hall, the Plaza Cafe offers from Monday to Saturday, for lunch, formulas at 22 € with starter and dish of the day. In spite of its location, this restaurant is not a “tourist catcher”: the dishes are fresh and well prepared. We enjoy ourselves!

Address : Burg 10
Website : http://www.plazacafe.be/

Lieven €€€€

We love this gastronomic restaurant with a modern cuisine directed by the chef Lieven Vynck. Here the menu is short (3 starters, 3 main courses, 3 desserts) but of quality and full of flavors. It is exceptionally good and very beautiful, a real culinary experience. Count 70 € on average for a menu starter / dish / dessert accompanied by a glass of wine.

Address : Philipstockstraat 45
Website : https://www.etenbijlieven.be/

Locàle €€€

At Locale, we have a taste for good food and sharing. The dishes are prepared with local and organic products and the meals are shared. You can choose several dishes to enjoy together. At lunchtime, a 4-course menu to share is offered for 35 € per person and it’s DI-VIN! In a cosy and warm atmosphere, it is a festival for the taste buds. We especially like the burger without bread or meat but with a tomato topped with salad, goat cheese and pesto, a real treat!

Address: Ezelstraat 21
Website: https://www.locale.be/

Beware! Belgian restaurants are still rare to offer a free carafe of water. You will have to opt for a paying mineral water. As for bread, it is usually served at the beginning of the meal but any additional request is charged.

Where to eat a waffle in Bruges

Where to eat a waffle in Bruges?

The good smell of hot dough is omnipresent in the heart of the city, so it’s very hard not to give in to the temptation to eat a waffle 😉 A good address? Lizzies Wafels where the waffles are excellent and ENOOOORMS!!!

Address: Sint-Jakobsstraat 16

The good places to buy delicacies

La Maison la Confiance for its cookies and spreads

A few steps from the belfry, in the heart of the city, the Maison la Confiance is an address where I stop every time I visit Bruges. My favorite : the speculo spread which is divine ! But I also recommend the hazelnut spread or the cookies which are also excellent. To offer, you will find assortments of small jars of spread, enough to make people happy when you return.

Address: Wollestraat 31a

The Chocolate Line for Belgian chocolates

Belgium means chocolate, but be careful: don’t go into just any store. Avoid in particular the numerous stores that promise you several boxes for about ten euros and therefore the quality of the chocolate is more than doubtful.

A trustworthy address is the Chocolate Line, the store of the master chocolate maker Dominique Persoone. Of course the price is higher but you are sure to find very good chocolate.

Address: Simon Stevinplein 19

Where to sleep in Bruges?

It’s at Monsieur Ernest‘s that I put my bags down. An establishment located at only 5 minutes walk from the city center and next to a canal. It is therefore quiet while being able to easily enjoy the city, it is the perfect place to rest.

The welcome is warm, the breakfast is copious and diversified (all-you-can-eat buffet) and the rooms are modern and very comfortable.

Of course, you have the possibility to leave your luggage in a safe place if you arrive before the check-in time (2pm) or for the day of your departure in order to walk quietly before taking the road again!


You now have all the information you need to prepare your trip to Bruges! Enjoy your stay and if you have any questions about the city, don’t hesitate to ask them in comments.

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Bruges travel guide

Article made in collaboration with Visit Bruges

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