A stone throw from the city centre, the Princely Beguinage Ten Wijngaerd is a mystical haven of peace where time feels suspended.
💡 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 want to tip the guide!
The Beguinage of Bruges in a few words
What’s a “beguinage”?
In the North-West of Europe, and more specifically in Belgium and the Netherlands, a “beguinage” (“begijnhof” in Flemish) was a community of nuns, called “Beguines”, who accepted to submit to monastic rules without taking formal religious vows. A Beguinage was therefore an autonomous and secular community, although its members chose to dedicate their lives to religion.
Beguines often worked but also lived thanks to the donations of wealthy benefactors.
The Beguine spiritual movement was founded in the 12th century and airly soon attracted the disapprobation of the religious authorities, who did not accept their independence – most Beguines were widows or unmarried women – and accused them of hypocrisy. In the end, the Church however granted the moment the status of “Third Order”, that is to say a religious community who did not take formal vows.
The Beguine movement stopped existing in 2013, following the death of the last Beguine in Courtray, Belgium.
History of the Princely Beguinage Ten Wijngaerde Princely Beguinage Ten Wijngaerde Bruges
Bruges’ Princely Beguinage Ten Wijngaerde (“Wijngaerde” means “vineyard” in Flemish) was founded in 1225 when a group of Beguines settled by a river, just outside the city. If made a living weaving wool for local merchants.
Twenty years later, in 1245, Margaret of Constantinople, countess of Flanders, decided to provide assistance and protection to the Beguines, thus helping their Beguinage become an independent parish.
In the centuries that followed, the Beguinage grew in wealth and number, and was ultimately integrated to the growing city of Bruges. As centuries went by, the Beguines’ social origins evolved: while the doors of the Beguinage were initially open to poorer women, the institution later selected new recruits in the ranks of local aristocracy exclusively.
The French Revolution dealt a fatal blow to the Beguinage. Though it was reopened in the early 19th century, it could never regain its former prestige. The decline of the Bruges’s Princely Beguinage was inevitable and Bruges’s last Beguine died in 1930. Since the 1920s, the Beguinage has been inhabited by a community of Benedictine nuns.
In 2002, Bruges’s Princely Beguinage Ten Wijngaerde was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Visiting Bruges’s Princely Beguinage and activities
Bruges’s Princely Beguinage Ten Wijngaerde is separated from the rest of the city by a large wall and moats, making it feel like small village inside history.
Behind the walls, charming white buildings are smartly arranged around a wooded park carpeted with daffodils.
Visitors can freely explore:
- The church, which dates back to the 17th century
- The house of a Beguine, dating back to the 17th century and turned into a small museum presenting the Beguines’ daily lives
If you wish to be accompanied by a professional guide, you can also opt for a guided tour. Captain Ulysses recommends one in particular: Bruges private tour with a local guide.
Access to the Princely Beguinage Ten Wijngaerde
Getting to Bruges’ Princely Beguinage Ten Wijngaerde
The Princely Beguinage Ten Wijngaerde is located a short walking distance from Bruges’ city centre. It is situated right by the Minnewater, the ‘Lake of Love’. The Beguinage is only a 15-minute walk away from the Markt (the Market Place).
Bruges’ city centre is a pedestrian zone. If you’re not a big fan of walking or simply to try it out, you can also go on a rickshaw tour of the city!
Hours & Princely Beguinage Ten Wijngaerde Bruges
The Beguinage is open daily from 6:30 am to 6:30 pm.
Admission is free, but you’ll have to pay 2€ to visit the small museum onsite (1,50€ for visitors over 65, 1€ for children under 12 and students).
👉 Book your tours & activities in advance!
👉 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 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: 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 (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.