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A Guide to Bruges: the best things to do in the city

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In the northwest of Belgium, 50 minutes from Ghent, 1hr10 from Lille and 1hr20 from Brussels, Bruges is a must-see for any visitor exploring the country.

Nicknamed the “Venice of the North”, the city is also perfect for city breaks and extended weekends of charm, culture and gastronomy.

What to do in Bruges ? Captain Ulysses has compiled a list of iconic monuments, museums and activities in the city!

Content – The best things to do in Bruges
👉 How to get around Bruges?
👉 The iconic squares and canals in Bruges
👉 The top landmarks & monuments in Bruges
👉 The museums of Bruges
👉 Bruges beer & gastronomy

💡 The Captain’s tip 💡

💬 Want to know more about the history of Bruges? Captain Ulysses highly recommends this free guided tour of the city. It’s up to you to choose how much you wish to tip the tour guide!

💤 Looking for an hotel in Bruges ? Be sure to check out the Captain’s article: Where to stay in Bruges ? Advice & recommendations

👶 Planning a family adventure to Bruges? Discover all of the Captain’s top tips in the article: Exploring Bruges with the Kids: Family-Friendly Activities

Canals of Bruges - What to do in Bruges

First of all, how to get around Bruges?

The historical center of Bruges is quite small and you’ll easily be able to explore the city on foot.

That said, if you prefer not to spend the entire day walking, you can opt for a 50-minute panoramic tour of Bruges’ iconic monuments onboard a small tourist bus, or even a tour of the city on an electric scooter or in a rickshaw!

👍 Guided walking tour in the historical center of Bruges 👍

Want to learn more about the Bruges’ history? Captain Ulysses warmly recommends taking a walking your of the city,

in particular:
– this Free guided tour of Bruges (you’re free to choose how much you want to tip the tour guide)
– this Guided tour + canal cruise

Bruges’ iconic squares and canals

The medieval city of Bruges is the perfect destination to slow down and unwind. A piece of advice: take the time to explore the city’s lovely winding streets and picturesque canals!

The Markt (Market Square)

In the heart of the historical center, the Markt is one of the Bruges’ most famous landmarks.

This vast 2.5-acre square it is lined with typical gable houses and imposing gothic buildings. This is where you’ll find the Belfry, as well as the Historium (you’ll find out more about these iconic monuments a little further in the article).

In the center of the square stands the statue of two famous 14th century revolutionaries: Pieter de Coninck and Jan Breydel.

💡 Practical information 💡

A market is held on the Markt every Wednesday morning. This is also where the city’s Christmas market is held each year.

If you want to eat on the go, you will find on the Markt several food stands serving the local specialty: French Fries! You can sit by the canals and enjoy your hearty lunch while admiring the view!

Burg Square

Just a stone’s throw from the Markt, Burg Square (aka the Burg) is a former fortress whose eclectic architecture is definitely worth a look.

The square, whose origins date back to the 2nd century, is lined with sumptuous historical buildings, among which :

  • the House of the the Franc of Bruges (the Franc of Bruges was formerly an administrative territory of the county of Flanders)
  • the City Hall of Bruges with its impressive gothic façade
  • the Basilica of the Holy Blood (find out more about this iconic monument later in the article).

💡 Practical information 💡

If you can afford it, then the Captain highly recommends staying at the Crowne Plaza Brugge, nestled on the Burg. From the hotel windows, the view of the square is quite simply magnificent. In the basement, visitors can even admire the remains of the old St. Donatian’s Cathedral, built in the 12th century.

Facilities include an indoor pool, sauna and fitness center.

What to do in Bruges - Burg Square

The canals of Bruges

Who could imagine visiting Bruges without exploring its lovely canals? After all, if the city is nicknamed the “Venice of the North”, it is not for nothing!

Picturesque and lively, the canals of Bruges (the reie in Flemish) have charm to spare! While the canals enabled the city to become a major trading power in the Middle Ages,

But the merchant boats disappeared a long time ago and now only pleasure boats navigate on the city’s fifty canals or so. Among them, the Rozenhoedkaai and the Groenerei are undoubtedly the most famous, with their small stone bridges and beautiful old buildings.

💡 Practical information 💡

As an accomplished navigator, Captain Ulysses can only recommend a cruise on the canals of Bruges. You’ll get to discover charming spots that are inaccessible on foot.

What to do in Bruges - canals

The most iconic monuments in Bruges

Don’t be fooled by the small size of Bruges: the city is full of historical monuments, for the greatest pleasure of visitors!

The Belfry of Bruges

In the heart of the historic city center, the Belfry of Bruges ranks very high on the list of the city’s most emblematic monuments Classified as a Unesco World Heritage Site, the 83-meter-high Belfry towers over the Cloth Hall and overlooks the Markt.

Built in the late 13th century before undergoing several renovations over the centuries following several fires, the Belfry was the city’s official clock, carillon and watch tower.

You will have to climb 366 steps to reach the top and admire the panoramic view of Bruges. The entrance fee also includes a visit to a small exhibition on the history of the place as well as the old treasury.

💡 Practical information 💡

The Belfry is open to visitors every day from May to mid-March, from 9:30 am to 6 pm. Admission tickets are 12 € (10 € reduced price / free for children under 5).

The number of visitors who can climb to the top of the Belfry is limited and it is unfortunately not possible to book tickets in advance: first come, first served.

The Church of Our Lady

With its 115.6 meter high tower, the Church Our Lady is undoubtedly one of the most iconic landmarks in Bruges. It’s also known to be the one of the highest brick buildings in the world.

Built between the 13th and 14th centuries, the church is also a magnificent example of Gothic architecture. Inside, don’t miss the “Madonna of Bruges”, sculpted by Michelangelo in the early 16th century, or the tombs of Mary of Burgundy and her father Charles the Bold.

💡 Practical information 💡

The Church of Our Lady of Bruges is open from Monday to Saturday from 9:30 am to 5 pm and on Sunday from 1:30 pm to 5 pm. Access to the church is free, but you’ll have to pay 6 € to visit the museum.

What to do in Bruges - Church of Our Lady

The Basilica of the Holy Blood in Bruges

Nestled on the Burg, the Basilica of the Holy Blood of Bruges is a magnificent Romanesque basilica built in the early 12th century century and transformed several times during the following centuries.

Its facade, blending gothic and renaissance influences, is truly beautiful. The interior of the basilica is just as impressive: you’ll find the small Romanesque Chapel of Saint Basil on the first floor. Then take the beautiful spiral staircase to reach the chapel of the Holy Blood, on the second floor, housing the relic of the Holy Blood brought back from Jerusalem by Thierry of Alsace, Count of Flanders. With its colorful and flamboyant paintings and ornaments, this second chapel contrasts sharply with the sobriety of the chapel of Saint Basil.

💡 Practical information 💡

Access to the basilica is free. However, you will have to pay an entrance fee of 2.5 € to access the small museum on site.

The Basilica of the Holy Blood of Bruges is open from Monday to Saturday from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm and from 2 pm to 5:30 pm and on Sunday from 9:30 am to 11 am and from 2 pm to 5:30 pm.

St. Salvator’s Cathedral

3 minutes from the Church of Our Lady, the St. Salvator’s Cathedral is the oldest church in Bruges. Built in the 10th century, this gothic church was modified several times during the following centuries, due, among other things, to multiple fires!

Less impressive than the Church of Our Lady or the Basilica of the Holy Blood, the Cathedral of Saint-Sauveur is nevertheless worth a visit, notably for its beautiful collection of paintings and tapestries, as well as its impressive organ.

💡 Practical information 💡

The cathedral is open:
– Monday to Friday: from 10am to 1pm and from 2pm to 5:30pm
– Saturday: from 10am to 1pm and from 2pm to 3:30pm
– Sunday: from 11:30 to 12:00 and from 14:00 to 17:00
Admission is free.

Bruges Princely Beguinage

A stone’s throw from the city’s historic center, the Princely Beguinage is one of Captain Ulysses’s favorites in the Venice of North! If you’re visiting Bruges in spring, you’ll even get to see the Beguinage covered with daffodils: an incredible sight to behold!

But first things first. What is a beguinage? A beguinage (“begijnhof” in Flemish) is a community of nuns, called “beguines”, who have agreed to submit to the monastic rules, without having to take their vows.

Founded in the 13th century, the Beguinage of Bruges is just like a village in the heart of the city. It’s surrounded by a wall that separates it from the rest of Bruges, and inside, lovely white-fronted houses line a garden, creating a true oasis of calm.

💡 Practical information 💡

Admission to the Bruges Beguinage is free, but you’ll have to pay 2€ to visit the small museum on-site.

If you’re looking to learn more, city tours (free or combined with a boat tour) often stop at the Beguinage.

What to do in Bruges - Bruges Beguinage

The Minnewater (Lake of Love)

The Minnewater (Lake of Love) is without undoubtedly the most romantic place in Bruges!

South of the city center of Bruges, the lake is a parenthesis of peace and tranquility away from city’s hustle and bustle. This is where boats used to load/unload their goods before or after sailing the canal from Bruges to Ghent.

According to legend, couples who make a wish on the bridge will love each other forever.

💡 Practical information 💡

Access to Minnewater Park is free. On a sunny day, Captain Ulysse suggests grabbing a Belgian-style fry and waffle combo in town and enjoying a picnic in the park for guaranteed relaxation and fun.

Minnewater Park - What to do in Bruges

The Kruisvest and the windmills of Bruges

Although windmills have been part of the Bruges landscape since the 13th century, only 4 remain today (there were 21 in the 18th century), two of which continue to grind grain: the Koelewei Mill and the Sint-Janshuis Mill. Only the latter is open to the public.

The mills can be found along the lush Kruisvest, a scenic canal-side walk northeast of the city center. The charming stroll is definitely worth taking, and the Sint-Janshuis Mill is a must-see.

💡 Practical information 💡

Admission is 4€ and gives you a great view and access to a small exhibition about Bruges’ mills.

What to do in Bruges - windmills

The museums of Bruges

The Groeninge Museum

Attention, all art lovers! If you have to visit only one museum in Bruges, it is undoubtedly the Groeninge Museum (Groeningemuseum in Flemish)!

Located just steps away from Notre-Dame Church in Bruges, this fine arts museum houses extensive collections of Flemish paintings, including many works by Flemish Primitives (Jan Van Eyck, Hans Memling, Gerard David, etc.). The museum also features works in the Flemish neoclassical and expressionist styles.

💡 Practical information 💡

The Groeninge Museum is open every day except Monday from 9:30am to 5pm. Admission is 12€ for adults and 10€ for discounted admission (free for those under 18).

Historium Brugge

Are you visiting Bruges with your family? So don’t miss the Historium: a must for anyone visiting Bruges with children!

Nestled in a magnificent neo-gothic building on the Markt, this interactive and playful museum traces the history of the city through the fictional adventures of young Jacob, apprentice to the mythical painter Jan Van Eyck.

The entrance fee also includes access to a small historical exhibition and a panoramic terrace (+ the tower if you choose this option). You can also try the Historium Virtual Reality: a virtual reality tour of the city in the Middle Ages.

The Historium also houses a beautiful beer bar called the Duvelorium.

💡 Practical information 💡

It’s open daily from 10am to 6pm.

Ticket prices range from €14 to €19.50 for full rate, depending on the package you choose (access to the tower, virtual reality tour, and consumption at Duvelorium are optional).

To save time and avoid the line at the entrance, the Captain Ulysses recommends booking your tickets in advance: tickets for the Bruges Historium.

What to do in Bruges -Historium of Bruges

St. John’s Hospital and the Memling Museum

Nestled on the edge of a canal, Saint John’s Hospital(Sint-Janshospitaal in Flemish), founded around 1150, remained in operation until the 2nd half of the 20th century. It has since been transformed into a museum displaying medical instruments, archival material and works of art, including six paintings by the Belgian artist Hans Memling.

The former Saint John’s Hospital is worth a visit for both its well-restored historical setting and museum collections.

💡 Practical information 💡

Admission is €12 for adults, €10 for reduced tickets, and free for visitors under 18. The museum is open every day except Monday, from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm

What to do in Bruges - St. John's Hospital and Memling Museum

The Gruuthuse Museum

Located in the heart of Bruges’ city center, in a beautiful 15th century mansion, theGruuthuse Museum reopened in 2019 after a major renovation.

The inside of the building, with its wooden beams, its oak chapel, and its huge fireplace, has lost none of its old-time charms! The museum houses a large collection of decorative arts and applied arts as well as historical objects, including an impressive guillotine.

💡 Practical information 💡

Gruuthuse Museum is open every day except Monday, from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission to the museum is €12 for the full price, and €10 for a reduced rate (free for visitors under 18). A combined ticket including access to the Gruuthuse Museum and Notre-Dame Church is available for €14.

Discovering the gastronomy of Bruges

Chocolate, beer, French fries, waffles… Belgium is without a land of gastronomy!

Eating a waffle in Bruges

In Bruges, you’ll find waffles for sale on every street corner, it’s impossible to resist! And after all, eating a waffle in Belgium is a must-do to experience the local culture.

💡 Practical information 💡

If you enjoy hands-on activities, why not try a waffle making workshop? You can take home the recipe for authentic Belgian waffles.

More info: waffle making workshop

Food tours, pub crawl and culinary activities in Bruges

In Bruges, food tours and pub crawls are the perfect way to discover local gastronomy.

💡 Practical information 💡

There are several kinds, and Captain Ulysses recommends three in particular:
Belgian waffle making workshop + beer tasting
Chocolate making workshop + chocolate museum
Gastronomic tour with 10 tastings

Bruges Beer Museum

If you are a beer lover, don’t miss the visit of the Bruges Beer Museum: a fascinating immersion in the world of beer!

Ingredients, brewing steps, types of beer: everything is explained! The visit is fun and interactive. If you are reluctant to visit the Bruges Beer Museum with your children, you should know that a kid’s tour is also available.

And since nothing beats practice, you can test your brand new knowledge over one (or more) pint(s) in the bar after the visit!

💡 Practical information 💡

The museum is open every day from 10 am to 6 pm (9 pm on Saturday). The bar is open until 6:30 pm on weekdays and 11 pm on Saturdays.

Admission is 10 € without tasting, 16 € with tasting.

To save time, you can book your tickets in advance online: tickets for the Bruges Beer Experience.

Bruges Beer Experience - Bruges Beer Museum

The Choco-Story Museum

Still hungry? Head to the Choco-Story Museum! Housed in a magnificent historic building from 1480 in the heart of the city center, the Choco-Story Museum takes visitors on a journey to discover the secrets of chocolate, including its origin, history, ingredients, and how it’s made. Visitors can also watch live demonstrations and indulge in some tastings.

💡 Practical information 💡

The museum is open every day from 10am to 5pm (10am to 6pm in July and August),

with admission costing 9.50€ for adults, 7.50€ for students and seniors over 65, 5.50€ for children 6 to 11, and free for kids under 6.

To avoid lines, Captain Ulysses suggests booking your tickets in advance online: tickets to the Choco-Story Museum.

For a fully indulgent experience, consider combining the museum visit with a chocolate-making workshop to take home a taste of Belgium : Choco-Story Museum + chocolate-making workshop.

The Bourgogne des Flandres Brewery

The Bourgogne des Flandres is a mythical Bruges beer not quite like the others: it is indeed a mixed fermentation beer! As far as he is concerned, Captain Ulysse finds it particularly tasty!

Neslted at the edge of the water, the Bourgogne des Flandres Brewery invites visitors to discover the secrets of its master brewers!

The tour also includes an optional tasting of three different beers to put your new knowledge to the test!

💡 Practical information 💡

The Bourgogne des Flandres Brewerie is open every day except Monday, from 10 am to 6 pm. Tours are 11 € for adults (one beer included), 5,50 € for children from 10 to 15. Admission is free for children under 10.

Tours begin at fixed times during the day: tickets for the Bourgogne des Flandres Brewery.

The Frietmuseum (Fries Museum)

Want to discover something different? The Frietmuseum is definitely… something!

Located in a 14th-century building in the heart of the city center, the Frietmuseum is, as its name suggests, entirely dedicated to fries! History, recipes, sauces… it covers it all!

💡 Practical information 💡

The Frietmuseum is open every day from 10 am to 5 pm. You can book your tickets online: tickets for the Frietmuseum.

👉 Skip the lines: book your tickets and visits in Bruges!

👉 Find the perfect place to stay in Bruges!

 


👉 Looking for tips and recommendations? Here are all of Captain Ulysses’ suggestions!

🛏️ Accommodation: If your looking for a hotel in Bruges, Captain Ulysses highly recommends Expedia. And for more tips and recommendations, check out the Captain’s detailed article: Where to stay in Bruges?

🎟️ Activities: aIf you’re looking to book your visits and activities in advance – which you definitely should if you’re visiting Bruges during the high season – Captain Ulysses recommends three websites: Civitatis, Tiqets and GetYourGuide. Guided tours, sport activities … there’s plenty to choose from!

🚐 Transfers: many visitors decide to travel to Bruges from Amsterdam or Brussels. If that’s your case, you can easily book your transfer from Amsterdam here. You can also opt for an all-included day-trip: from Amsterdam or from Brussels (available in 7 languages).

🚌 Local transports: Bruges is rather small and fairly easy to explore on foot. The city center is also pedestrian. But if you’d rather not walk, you can always opt for an electric scooter or a rickshaw!

✈️ Flights: Captain Ulysses warmly recommends Skyscanner to book your flights to Bruges. You’ll be able to compare countless offers to find the best deal. If your dates are flexible, you can also compare prices over several months to find the cheapest flights possible. Bruges is also easily accessible by train and bus. To book your tickets, the Captain highly recommends Omio.


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