Visit Bruges: discover the best things to do and see during a weekend in Bruges, nicknamed “the Venice of the North.”
Bruges is a beautiful medieval city located only 2h30 from Paris and 50 minutes from Brussels (by train). Often nicknamed the Venice of the North for its canals, Bruges reveals its beauty all year round. There isn’t much to do in Bruges, but that’s precisely why it’s an excellent destination. You don’t have to rush to see hundreds of sights, which is often the case when you are traveling in other European cities. Here, you can relax, walk around, and enjoy this enchanting city at its best.
To help you organize your stay here, discover our tips on how to visit Bruges and spend a great weekend in the Flemish city.
1. First thing to do: discard your map and wander freely
That’s right, you don’t need this map. Just wander along the town’s maze of cobbled streets. Bruges isn’t very big, so even if you try to get lost, you can always find your way back to the main square (the Markt). Even without a travel guide, it’s easy to enjoy the beautiful surroundings of the city and discover places off the beaten track.
2. Go to the Markt and visit the Belfry
Nestled in the heart of Bruges, the Markt is the name of the square where the Belfry rises above the city. You can climb the 366 steps to the top of the 83-meter high tower and enjoy panoramic views of Bruges.
Surrounded by restaurants and cafés adorned with typical colorful facades, the Markt is an excellent place to dine and enjoy a strong local beer amidst this picturesque setting. Good to know: the Belfry is even more beautiful at night when it is illuminated.
3. Taste a waffle
You can’t visit Belgium without having nibbled a Belgian waffle – the iconic local delicacy. Try a wafel met slagroom which in Flemish means a “waffle with whipped cream.” Enjoy it as the locals do: buy the waffle from a street vendor, they are usually better value for money and just as delicious as in a restaurant. Vendors typically offer an array of delicious toppings: chocolate, jam, whipped cream, sweet, fruity, or even salty… Enjoy your waffle!
4. Stroll along the Quai du Rosaire
This is the image that comes to mind when we think of Bruges. At any time of the day, go to Quai du Rosaire (Rozenhoedkaai quay) to take a picture or just stroll around and enjoy the moment. The spot is really nice. It really does feel like Venice, or almost.
5. Take a boat trip
Bruges is a car-free city where you can walk, cycle, or even go boating on the canals. A canal trip is a must-do activity in Bruges. You will see places and monuments that you would not have been able to see otherwise than by boat. For less than 8€, enjoy a 30-minute boat ride in the company of a guide who will explain the city’s history and culture, while you sit and admire the banks. It’s really something to do.
6. Follow in the footsteps of the film In Bruges
Have you seen the movie In Bruges? A leaflet detailing the various filming locations is available at the tourist office (www.brugge.be). Discover the main square and the Belfry, but also the Burg square, the Lake of Love (Minnewater), the Queen Astrid Park (Koningin Astridpark) or the square where the statue of Jan van Eyck (famous Flemish painter) is located. This is another excellent way to discover the city.
7. Rent a bike
What can you do in Bruges to stretch your legs a bit while enjoying the natural surroundings? As mentioned above, the center is mainly pedestrianized, and there is no subway in Bruges: the locals use bicycles. There are many places where you can rent one. Weather-permitting, take the time to explore the surroundings of Bruges by bike, including St. John’s House Mill. It’s quiet and a bit different from the usual sightseeing routine. Find a tourist information point and ask for a map of the cycle routes.
8. Visit the Basilica of the Holy Blood
The basilica, located on the Grand Place (the main square), boasts a splendid interior. The entrance fee is only two euros. The church houses the relic of the Holy Blood, which preserves the blood of Christ. On Ascension Day, the relic is paraded around Bruges in a large procession attracting thousands of spectators. You only need about ten minutes to visit the basilica. It’s definitely worth going out of your way to see it.
9. Discover a local brewery
In the center of Bruges, Brewery De Halve Maan is the city’s sole family brewery still in operation. You can visit it (45-minute tour, €7.50) with an English-speaking guide (other languages are available if possible) who will explain the history of the brewery and how the beer is made. At the end of the visit, you will be able to enjoy a tasting session in the courtyard. For lunch or dinner, you can go to another brewery (a restaurant this time): the Brasserie Medard, offering delicious local food at affordable prices.
And to prolong the experience, why not discover Bruges by delving into the history of its beer? Explore the city and its beer-making tradition by visiting the best breweries in the area. Surprise your palate with a variety of unique beer flavors!
10. Eat chocolate
Bruges, like the rest of Belgium, is in love with chocolate. You can visit the chocolate museum (Choco-story) and taste the famous delicacy in many boutiques in the center. You can also enjoy a guided city tour of the chocolate factories of Bruges.
11. Go to the Frietmuseum
We’re not done with mouth-watering ideas! If you’re a lover of fine art and are wondering where to see art in Bruges, go to the Groeningemuseum (Groeninge Museum). But the city’s coolest museum is definitely the Frietmuseum, where you can learn all about Belgium’s national heritage: French fries!
To find out why “Vlaamse Friets” (Flemish Fries) are not like the classic French fries, taste them to see the difference. It’s also an opportunity to discover a beautiful 14th-century building not far from the Grote Markt (Main Square).
12. Admire a work of Michelangelo in the Church of Our Lady
Michelangelo’s marble statue of the Virgin and Child from 1504 is the crown jewel of this 13th-century Gothic-style church called Our Lady. Take the time to contemplate this exquisite rarity: it is the only work by the famous Italian artist to have left Italy.
13. Stroll along the beach
That’s right, Bruges is only an hour from the coast. In the summer, take a train or href=”https://www.rentalcars.com/fr/city/be/brugge/?affiliateCode=gctechsa216″ target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow noopener noreferrer”>rent a car and head towards Ostend or Knokke-Heist, the two popular beaches near Bruges. Once there, relax on the sand, or enjoy a watersport session for example.
14. Travel back in time at the Historium Bruges
You may be wondering how to discover the city differently? Go straight to the Historium, where a fascinating time trip awaits you. Through its historical themed rooms equipped with special effects, the museum takes you deep into the Bruges of medieval times. With the help of your audioguide, discover the spectacular scenes that tell the fascinating history of an entire era! A cultural immersion that appeals to both the young and the old. It’s definitely worth it.
15. Take a tour of the Beguinage
Far from the hustle and bustle of the city, the Beguinage is a haven of calm and contemplation. It would be a pity to visit Bruges without passing through this peaceful monastery. Built in 1245 by Marguerite of Constantinople (Countess of Flanders), the Beguinage is an essential part of the city’s religious heritage. It was first opened to welcome single women (bachelors or widows) who came there to lead a pious (without being totally devoted), celibate and communal life in an urban setting.
Although the place is no longer the home of beguines (the last of them died in the 1930s), it now houses a community of Benedictine sisters. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Beguinage is a sea of tranquility. Stroll through the monastery’s large garden adorned with a beautiful flowerbed of narcissus, tulips, and trees before discovering the small white houses dating from the 15th to the 18th centuries, the three-arch bridge, and finishing your walk along the canals.
How to get to Bruges ?
Bruges is easily accessible from France by train via Paris, Lille, or Brussels. The Thalys train company also serves the whole of Belgium. You can book your tickets on the official SNCB website.
You can also take a low-cost flight to Brussels and then take a regional train to Bruges. To find a low-cost flight to Brussels, we recommend searching on our partner website: Skyscanner.
Where to stay in Bruges?
Bruges is a human-sized city. The ideal option is to book a hotel in the center or on the immediate outskirts to make the most of your stay in this charming history-filled town. It’s the best way to mingle with the locals and experience the city’s unique atmosphere. To find an affordable hotel in Bruges, we recommend searching for your accommodation via this hotel comparator where you will find a range of offers at the best prices.
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