Even though we only live a 2,5 hour drive away from Bruges, we had never visited this beautiful city before. Bruges is a feast for the eyes and the mouth. There is so much to see, you won’t even get time to put your camera away. Plus, with over 60 chocolate stores, Bruges is a true chocolate city. Let us help you plan your next Bruges citytrip. We tell you everything you need to know before visiting Bruges.
Bruges is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Belgium, also known as the Venice of the North. Back in the days it was one of the richest and biggest towns in Northern Europe, and over the decades it managed to preserve its rich history and charm.
Bruges is a beautiful medieval, fairytale and picturesque place to visit in the North of Belgium, in the province of Flanders.
It’s the capital and the largest city of the province of West Flanders. The historic city center is a prominent UNESCO World Heritage Site, which makes Bruges a popular tourism destination in Belgium. Eight to nine million tourists travel to Bruges every year.
It feels like you step back in time when visiting Bruges. The medieval city center, cobble stones streets and old buildings have a lot to do with that. The horse carriages that take tourists to the highlights of Bruges really add to that medieval feeling.
Stay connected when traveling to Belgium and get your self a local prepaid sim card in Belgium to safe on high roaming costs!
UNESCO World Heritage
In 1998 the Beguinage was the first site to be recognized as a World Heritage Site in Bruges. One year later the Belfry was added to the World Heritage list. The entire historical city center followed in 2000.
Large parts of the medieval heritage remained practically intact. That alone was reason enough for UNESCO to designate the entire city center as World Heritage Site.
Something that played a big part in the recognition of UNESCO is the fact that Bruges is the birthplace of the Flemish primitives. Nowadays the world-renowned works of Jan van Eyck, Hans Memling and other prominent Flemish Masters can be admired at the several museums throughout the city.
How to get to Bruges
Bruges has a pretty easy to reach location, as it is located fairly close to a few airports but also to the coast and the Zeebrugge harbor.
Bruges is easily accessible by car, as it is located close to the E40 highway, which runs right through Belgium from West to East. Bruges has several car parks just outside the city center, where you can leave your car. Our recommendation is to park at the P&R Station. It only costs €5,50 per day to park your car here. And it’s located right next to the bus station too, so you can easily catch your ride to the center of Bruges.
When you travel to Bruges by plane, both Brussels Airport and Brussels Charleroi Airport are an option. From Brussels Zaventem Airport you can easily travel onwards to Bruges by train. There is a direct hourly train service from the airport to Bruges.
Another popular regional airport is Brussels South Charleroi Airport. From here, bus company Filbco offers direct shuttle bus services to and from the station of Bruges, with a frequency of 9 trips a day.
Bruges has a large train station, and daily direct services between Bruges, Antwerp, Ghent, Hasselt, Leuven and Brussels that runs every hour. Bruges is very well connected by train.
International Coach services
There are various coach companies that operate bus services to Bruges from the main international transport hubs and from cities abroad.
With all travel options mentioned above, the central station is involved, either for parking your car or for travelling to Bruges by train or bus. From the Central Station there is a free shuttle service running every day between 7.20AM and 7.00PM. This shuttle runs every 20 minutes according to a fixed timetable. The shuttle has several stops in the city center and is a great way of getting around.
Triënnale Bruges brings contemporary art and architecture to the historic core of the city of Bruges every three years in a unique setting as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s an excellent opportunity to extend a visit to Bruges with this art and architecture exhibition.
This year, from 8 May to 24 October 2021, Bruges will be the setting for the Triënnale. Thirteen national and international artists and architects present their installations to the general public. The theme of this year’s edition is TraumA. Using artistic and architectural interventions, TraumA brings out the less attractive aspects and allows them to become part of the image of the city. TraumA balances between the present and the hidden. With a trail of sculptural, architectural and organic creations, it meets a celebration of the versatility and mobility of the city. Between private and public. Between dream and nightmare.
Throughout the city there are 13 objects to be found and all of them have their own story to tell. You can explore them yourself by downloading the map from the Triënnale website. It shows you the location of all 13 objects.
You can also join one of the daily guided walks. They start at the market square every day at 2.00 pm, and take about two hours. You will get a lot of information on the objects by your guide. The costs of these walks are €12,50 per person.
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Bruges from the heart city walk
There’s no better way than to explore a city by foot. Just start walking and get lost is always our way to discover a city.
Want to get to know Bruges while walking through the city and discovering some hidden gems and secret places? Then the Bruges from the heart city walk is definitely your thing. We decided to join one of their exclusive guided walks, where a local city guide will take you along a fascinating trail. It includes all of Bruges must-see heritage and architectural highlights.
The guided walk takes about two hours and starts at the Market Square where you will meet your guide. After two hours it ends on the rooftop of the Concert Hall where you can enjoy amazing panoramic views of Bruges after you saw the best places to see in Bruges.
The Bruges from the heart city walk can be done every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday and will cost you €12,50 per person. It’s the money well worth spending as you get a lot of insight information on Bruges and it will show you everything you came to Bruges for!
Places to visit in Bruges
There is so much to see in Bruges with its medieval character and the many old buildings in the city. It’s definitely the place to be if you’re into history, but let’s not forget the art. You can indulge yourself in history, art and architecture in Bruges, you’ll run out of time if you want to see and do it all. Here are some cool places to visit.
The Groeninge Museum is your place to be when you’re into art! This museum offers a varied overview of the history of Belgian visual art, six centuries of Belgian art in one location, with work by Flemish primitives such as Jan van Eyck, Hans Memling and Gerard David. Work by masters who came from the Low Countries and often worked in Bruges and completed assignments there in the late 15th and early 16th centuries. The collection of the Groeninge Museum is one of the most beautiful collections in the world, containing many landmark works from the history of European art.
The Gruuthuse Museum displays 500 years of Bruges history in historic objects. What once was the city palace of the lords of Gruuthuse is now an absolute highlight of Bruges! Walking through the museum you will go through three crucial periods in the rich history of Bruges. First you get the time of the Burgundian prosperity, then the less well known 17th and 18th centuries and lastly the historical reinvention of Bruges in the 19th century.
The museum makes these three periods come to life in over 600 collection items which all tell their own story.
Saint John’s Hospital
Saint John’s Hospital is one of the oldest preserved hospitals in Europe, dating back to the mid-12th century. You can visit the medieval wards, the church and the chapel, as well as the impressive collection of archives, art works, medical instruments and seven works of arts by Hans Memling. The oak wood rafter on the Diksmuide attic above the hospital ward is one of the oldest and most monumental in Europe. Make sure you also visit the hospital pharmacy with authentic interior from the middle of the 17th century.
You want to know all about the history of Bruges? Go back in time and experience the bustling city of Bruges in the Golden Age. The Historium Story features the exciting tale of Jan van Eyck’s apprentice. In the Historium Virtual Reality you can take an impressive virtual flight past the 15th century architecture, including the Water Halls. At the second floor of the building you’ll find the panoramic terrace with beautiful views of the Market Square. For some real impressive views you can climb the Historium Tower for unique 360° views.
Nowadays the Beguinage is inhabited by the Sisters of the Order of Saint Benedict and several Bruges women who have decided to remain unmarried. The Princely Beguinage Ten Wijngaarde with its white colored house fronts and tranquil convent garden was founded in 1245. It has to be on top of your list when visiting Bruges. It’s a soothing, quiet and nice environment. And, the Beguinage hosts one of the 13 Triënnale pieces.
Best photo spots in Bruges
Make sure you bring your camera when visiting Bruges, because once you start exploring the cobbled stone streets, winding canals and hidden alleys, you’ll discover one amazing photo spot after the other. You won’t even get time to put away your camera as the city is literally full of photogenic places.
Quay of the Rosary
By far the most popular photography spot in Bruges, a centuries old Instagrammable hotspot. Back in the days rosaries were sold here, today it offers one of the city’s loveliest views. It is called The Bruges Postcard View, and believe me, you won’t stop taking photos.
It’s the perfect shot with medieval buildings, the canals, the boats and the Belfry as the perfect backdrop. Make sure to visit this place by day and by night as it is worth photographing this place all times of the day.
Dumon Chocolate shop
The story of Chocolatier Dumon starts back in 1992, just outside of Bruges. Nowadays they have seven stores in three countries, most of them in Belgium and three of them in Bruges. Their shop at Eiermarkt is a fairytale shop and invites you to come in and have a look, or taste. The building is completely different from the buildings right next to it, but that makes Dumon stand out from the rest.
When visiting the Boniface Bridge you wouldn’t tell that this is one of the youngest bridges in Bruges. In fact, during our guided walk through Bruges we were asked how old we thought the bridge was. We were all way off with our answers. It is actually one of my favorite places in Bruges, as it is tucked away a bit, yet still a very busy and popular place. Its picture perfect from both sides of the bridge. From one end you get the little canal and the overhanging half-timbered houses, but from the other side you get the impressive and stately Church of Our Lady in your backdrop. Perfect either way!
Wherever you walk in Bruges, there is no escaping the many canals. One is even more photogenic than the other. The Boniface Bridge we mentioned before is a great way to start if you want to capture the canals.
It’s the beating heart of the city, with the Belfry at one end of the square and a row of colorful stepped gables at the other end. In between it’s a coming and going of people all day long. Check out the imposing Provincial Court or hop on for a carriage ride. The Market Square is the place where the coachmen wait, another picture perfect!
Belfry of Bruges
It’s the landmark of Bruges, the most striking tower in Bruges dates back to the 13th century. It’s 83 meters high and is protected as a world heritage site. You can climb the Belfry, all 366 steps, and if you do, you’ll be rewarded with a stunning view over the city.
It provides the perfect picture from every angle of the Market Square, or from the Quay of the Rosary. Want to climb the Belfry? Costs are €14,00 per person.
Ask someone from Bruges, and they will tell you that the Market Square is the heart of Bruges, but the Burg Square is the soul! For centuries this square has been the center of power in the city, and the 14th century gothic building still serves as town hall. The buildings in the square represent a variety of architectural styles. The Gothic Town Hall is probably the most beautiful building in Bruges.
It’s at this square where another Triënnale object can be found, with the Town Hall as perfect backdrop.
Fun things to do in Bruges
When you think of Bruges and Belgium, it’s often the classic Belgian beer, fries and chocolates that come to mind by many people. And don’t worry, there are many classics in Bruges, that’s why we’re listing our favorite Bruges classics right here.
Brewery ‘De Halve Maan’ – world’s first beer pipeline
It’s the worlds first brewery to have established a beer pipeline. Due to growth and logistical challenges in the center of Bruges, a unique underground beer pipeline, 3 km long, was laid from the brewery to the bottling plant in the suburbs.
This authentic brewery in the center of Bruges is a family-run business with a long lasting tradition dating back six generations to 1856. It’s the place where the Bruges city beer, Brugse Zot, is brewed. There are daily tours at the brewery, and best part, at the end of the tour you’re offered a free glass of Brugse Zot blond beer.
Bruges Beer Experience
After having visited the brewery you might as well be interested in the Bruges Beer Experience. Discover everything you ever wanted to know about the ingredients of beer, the brewing process, food pairing, beers in Bruges, trappist and abbey beers, all in a very interactive way. This tour will make you want to sample some beers for sure. The bar offers 16 different kinds of beer and is open to everyone. Being located at the Market Square it has some great views too!
Choco Story – Chocolate Museum
Get to know everything about the history of cocoa and chocolate. Walking through this museum you’ll walk through 4000 years of chocolate history. At the end of the tour you will get to the demonstration center, and believe me, it’s the best part of the museum. They demonstrate how to make chocolates here, when we visited they demonstrated how pralines are made. At the end of the demonstration you get a sample bag with several pieces of chocolate, delicious!
It’s quite a small museum actually, but when visiting the country that’s famous for its fries, you have to visit the Fries Museum when visiting Bruges! The museum tells the history of the potato, Belgian Fries and the various sauces and dressings that go well with the most delicious and famous Belgian comestibles.
In the basement you will find an actual fries shop where you can get a discount by showing your entrance ticket.
If you want to visit both the Fries Museum and Choco Story, make sure to buy a combined ticket for the two of them, and save some money.
Fries for lunch
Talking about fries, eating real Belgian fries is of course a must do and should not be skipped! Throughout Bruges there are many shops where you can get your fries, so pick one and enjoy them!
Buy Belgian chocolates
Belgium is proud of their chocolate, and rightly so! Belgium is the third largest exporter of chocolate and Bruges can also call itself a real chocolate city with more than 60 chocolate shops. Plenty of choice to bring some delicious chocolate, pralines or bonbons.
Bruges by boat
Last, but certainly not least, have you really visited Bruges if you haven’t seen it from the water? A visit to Bruges isn’t really complete without a boat trip on the Bruges canals. Discover the city from a surprising and different perspective. There are five boarding locations where you can embark one of the boats. The tour takes about half an hour and the captain will take you on a tour of the most beautiful spots on the water. These boat trips run from early March to mid-November. Tickets are €10,00 per person.
We’ve spent two days in Bruges, which is a good amount of time to explore the city. If you want to visit all museums you might need a bit longer, as those visits can take a lot of time. To make your visit easy and fun we have come up with a shortlist of Traveltomtom’s top recommendations for Bruges. Use it to your advantage.
Our number one recommendation, restaurant Quatre Vins. No classic menu, no starters or mains, nothing like anywhere else! All dishes are to share, for diner they recommend 5-6 dishes for a normal meal. They determine the order in which the dishes are served. So even though you know what you ordered, every dish is a surprise. A very relaxed atmosphere, amazing dishes that are a work of art on your plate, and an amazing location just off the Market Square. Just for this restaurant I would go back to Bruges!
We wouldn’t be Traveltomtom if we didn’t recommend this one, Tom’s Diner. A modern and hip hotspot on the edge of the center of Bruges for more than 22 years. No-nonsense cuisine with a touch of rock ‘n roll. A great setting in a historical building. Our recommendation would be their wide choice of tasty and original tapas.
Location is key when searching for accommodation. And location-wise you can’t go much better than Hotel Marcel in Bruges. Located just 150 meters from the Market, so right in the middle of it all. Hotel Marcel offers authentic hospitality and Bruges coziness in a modern jacket. Breakfast is included and basic but very good. Freshly baked bread, croissants and chocolate croissants, juices and fresh fruits, and best of all soft boiled eggs brought right to your table. A unique hotel in Bruges, well priced and top location.
Concert Hall Circuit
Totally unexpectedly one of the nicest things to do in Bruges, and therefore it made it to this shortlist. Discover the Concert Hall, it’s art and architecture during a surprise-filled visitors trail. It’s a playful discovery trail with lots to see and do for all ages. You go behind the scenes of the famous Concert Hall, get to see their music venues and also get to make some music yourself.
Be in for a surprisingly fun and interesting tour, which eventually ends on the rooftop of the building with a lovely view over the city.
Get lost in the streets of Bruges, just start walking, exploring and discovering, you’ll be amazed and want to keep going to see if there’s more to come, and yes there is! Bruges stimulates all your senses, be in for an experience like no other.
This blog was written by travel writer and Traveltomtom team member Ashley. She was invited to visit Bruges on behalf of Traveltomtom, and wrote this blog about her adventures in the city of Bruges.