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A Guide to Bruges: the best things to do

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What to do in Bruges ? Top attractions, activities & museums

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

Accommodation, flights, activities, cruises …
You’ll find all the Captain’s suggestions in the section
Captain Ulysses’ favourites at the very end of the article!

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.
Here are a couple of recommendations:
Free guided tour of Bruges (you’re free to choose how much you want to tip the tour guide)
Private tour of Bruges with a local guide

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. Bruges’ famous Christmas market also takes place on this very square 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 (the Captain will tell you 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, a sauna and a 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,

the merchants’ boats have long gone and only pleasure boats still sail on Bruges’ fifty canals or so. The Rozenhoedkaai and the Groenerei are undoubtedly the most famous of the city’s canas, with their small stone bridges and their beautiful old buildings.

💡 Practical information 💡
As an accomplished navigator, Captain Ulysses can only recommend that you embark on a cruise on the canals of Bruges. You’ll even get to discover charming corners that are inaccessible on foot.

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’ll have to climb 366 steps to get to the top and enjoy the panoramic view of Bruges. The entrance fee also includes access to a small exhibition on the history of the belry as well as of 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 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 tickets unfortunately cannot be booked 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 is one of the highest brick buildings in the world.

Built between the 13th and 14th centuries centuries, the church is also a magnificent example of Gothic architecture. Inside, don’t miss the Madonna and Child, sculpted by Michelangelo in the early 16th century, nor 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. Admission is free, but access to the museum of the church is paying: 6 € for the full-are tickets, 5 € for the reduced-fare tickets.

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 an architectural masterpiece. The interior of the basilica is just as impressive: on the first floor you will find St. Basil’s chapel, a small Romanesque chapel. Then take the beautiful staircase to reach the chapel of the Holy Blood, on the second floor, which houses 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 Saint Basil’s chapel.

💡 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 St. Salvator’s Cathedral 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, Bruges’ Princely Beguinage was very much like a village in the heart of the city. It was separated from the rest of Bruges by a wall, inside which quaint houses with white facades are lined around a picturesque garden!

💡 Practical information 💡
The entrance to the Beguinage of Bruges is free, but you will have to pay 2 € to access the small museum on site.
If you want to learn more about the beguinage, guided tours of the city (free or private) usually include a visit of the 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 the legend, couples making a wish on the bridge will love each other for eternity.

💡 Practical information 💡
Access to Minnewater Park is free. If the weather’s nice, Captain Ulysses recommends buying some French fries and a waffle in the city center and to having a picnic in the park.

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 are located on the Kruisvest, a green promenade along the canal, north-east of the city center.

💡 Practical information 💡
The entrance to the Sint-Janshuis Mill is €4 for full-are tickets: you can enjoy a nice view of the surroundings and visit a small exhibition about the mills of Bruges.

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 a few steps from the Church of Our Lady, this museum of fine arts houses extensive collections of Flemish paintings among which many paintings by the Flemish primitives (Jan Van Eyck, Hans Memling, Gerard David…) The museum also displays numerous neo-classic and Flemish expressionist works of art.

💡 Practical information 💡
The Groeninge Museum is open every day of the week except Monday, from 9:30 am to 5 pm. Admission is 12 € for full-price tickets, 10 € for reduced-price tickets (free for children 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 magnificent beer bar: the Duvelorium.

💡 Practical information 💡
The Historium is open every day from 10 am to 6 pm.
Entrance fees range from €14 to €19.50 for full-price tickets, depending on the package you choose (access to the tower, the virtual reality tour and drinks in the Duvelorium are optional).
To save time and avoid queuing at the entrance, Captain Ulysses recommends booking your tickets in advance: tickets for the 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 Captain enjoyed both the historical setting and the museum’s collections.

💡 Practical information 💡
The entrance fee is 12 € per person for full-price tickets, 10 € for reduced-price tickets. Admission is free for visitors under 18. The museum is open every day except Monday, from 9:30 am to 5 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 interior of the building, with its wooden beams, its chapel and its huge fireplace, has lost none of the charm of yesteryear! The museum houses large collections of decorative and applied arts as well as historical objects, including an impressive guillotine.

💡 Practical information 💡
The Gruuthuse Museum is open every day except Monday, from 9:30 am to 5 pm. The entrance ticket is 12 € full price, (10 € for reduced-fare tickets / ree for visitors under 18). A combined ticket including access to the Gruuthuse Museum and the Church of Our Lady 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 can find waffles for sale at all street corners: impossible to resist! And after all, eating a waffle in Belgium is simply a very pleasant way of discovering local culture, isn’t it?

💡 Practical information 💡
If you’re the type of person who likes to get your hands dirty, why not try a waffle-making workshop? You can take home the recipe for authentic Belgian waffles.
Learn more: waffle making workshop

Food tours and pub crawls 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:
The best of Bruges: history, chocolate and beer, for an all-in-one visit combining historical and gastronomic discoveries
Private culinary tour in Bruges, 10 tastings, to discover 10 different local specialties
BeerWalk Bruges, for a tasting of 5 different local beers

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 practical experience, you’ll be able to test your brand new knowledge over a pint (or several pints) of beer!

💡 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. The entrance ticket is 10 € without tasting, 16 € with tasting. To save time, you can book your tickets in advance on the internet: ticket without tasting / ticket with tasting.

The Choco-Story Museum

Still hungry? Head to the Choco-Story Museum! Nestled in a beautifful historic building dating from 1480, in the heart of the city center, the museum unconvers all the secrets of chocolate: origins, history, ingredients, manufacturing… The visit also includes real time demonstrations… as well as tastings!

💡 Practical information 💡
The Choco-Story Museum is open every day from 10 am to 5 pm (10 am to 6 pm in July and August). The entrance ticket costs: 9,50 € for adults / 7,50 € for students and visitors over 65 years old / 5,50 € for children from 6 to 11 years old / free entrance for children under 6 years old.
To avoid waiting in line, Captain Ulysses recommends that you reserve your ticket in advance: tickets for the Choco-Story museum.
I you have a sweet tooth, you can also combine the visit with a chocolate-making workshop: 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. To avoid having to wait at the entrance, the Captain recommends that you reserve your slot in advance: 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 Bruges, the Frietmuseum is entirely dedicated… to French fries! History, recipes, sauces… : you’ll find out everything there is to know!

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

👉 Want more ? Take a look at the Captain’s restaurant recommendations in Bruges!

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

🛏️ Accommodation: If your looking for a hotel in Bruges, Captain Ulysses highly recommends checking out Booking.com. From cheap accommodation to luxury hotels, you’ll find a wide range of options.
If your budget is a bit tight, the Captain recommends Hotel ‘t Putje: the rooms are a bit spartan but the staff are lovely and the hotel’s location is ideal.
But if you want to treat yourself, you should definitely consider Heritage Hotel: it is both somptuous, intimate and welcoming, perfect for a luxurious stay in Bruges.

🎟️ Activities: If 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 (in English) 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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