Are you going to Bruges and looking for best Things to do in Bruges? The city is full of amazing sights and buildings which have kept their medieval beauty and sometimes it’s called the Venice of the North. The entire city is interwoven with a rich network of canals where tourists can enjoy a boat ride. Discover with us the beauty of this place full of history, amazing sights, great food and interesting museums.
Why Bruges kept its medieval beauty?
The area around Bruges is inhabited for over 2000 years. The very first mention of the city comes from the 11th century though. In that time, there was important merchants´ place between England and Scandinavia and the city profited from its convenient and strategic location. Port city of Bruges featured with a network of river canals which allowed transporting the goods straight into the city centre. Wide canals were also used for keeping the city and its citizens protected as they functioned as natural ramparts.
Bruges kept its status of the most important trade city where merchants from all around the world would pass through until the 14th century. During this golden time the city centre grew larger several times and so it was necessary to make more canals to protect the city. These canals survived until our times including several massive gates which were used as entrances to the city. When you have a look at the city map, you will notice two circle canals which surround the entire city in two lines.
Even though Bruges was famous and rich for centuries, at the end of the 15th century the city experienced a massive breakdown. The most important canals were landed up and the city lost its sea access and the important merchants started passing through another Belgium city, the Antwerp. At the end of the 19th century, Bruges was even among the poorest cities in Belgium. But thanks to this downfall the city kept its original medieval look because there was no money for reconstructions. When Bruges was first discovered by British tourists, they fell in love with medieval buildings, narrow streets and river canals. Thanks to tourism, the city got back its importance. Nowadays it belongs among the most beautiful Belgium cities. If you would like to travel there, read further and learn what to do in Bruges.
Best things to do in Bruges
1. Beautiful medieval sights
The city of Bruges will take your breath away with its stunning atmosphere, lovely sights and architecture. Every visitor strolls through the city with their head up and admires the beauty of history which left its touch on almost all the buildings. Don´t be fooled though, although the whole city looks medieval, it isn´t. Architectural gems of Bruges come from different eras, from Medieval up to modern history. Most of them look medieval but that doesn´t mean they are. Even at the main square Markt, the heart of Bruges, you can find only two houses that really come from the Medieval era. The rest was built throughout history in a similar style. However, this changes nothing about the fact that Bruges is a truly beautiful city with a medieval touch.
Which places you shouldn’t miss when visiting Bruges
- Markt – the main square and centre of the whole city of Bruges
- Belfry of Bruges – medieval tower at the square which has been rebuilt several times in its history
- Burg Square – the beautiful square where you can find Basilica of the Holy Blood and right next to it Stadsbestuur Brugge, a stunning city hall with the former castle
- Ezelpoort – one of the medieval gates which guarded the entrance to the city
- Minnewaterpark – lovely park just a 5-minute walk away from the train station
- Begijnhuisje – female monastery which still works these days and it is a wonderful place with a mysterious atmosphere
- Bonifacius Bridge – one of the best photo places in Bruges. A beautiful bridge which may look like it is medieval but in fact, it is only over 100 years old.
2. Traditional foods in Bruges
Another cool thing to do in Bruges is undoubtedly tasting the local cuisine. The city offers a variety of cafes, restaurants, bars, breweries and chocolate shops. It may seem difficult to choose from the large offer and so we come with tips of places we have tried ourselves.
Our favourite chocolate shops
Who visited Belgium without trying local chocolate might as if he were not here. Bruges is full of Praline stores and every single store is trying to catch your attention with the strangest pralines and kinds of chocolate you could possibly think of. Visiting praline stores is an experience for eyes, nose and taste buds. It is worthwhile to go around more stores and enjoy a pleasant atmosphere that they feature. We decided to bring a lot of chocolate home, as a gift to our loved ones. Our most favourite chocolate praline store is called Chocolates & Happiness and offers a unique assortment that you won’t find in other stores. This is a family business and the owner is a smiling master who likes to talk with his customers. As he is a photographer too, he offers for sale unique gift boxes with his own photos with various topics.
Where to eat waffles
You can find waffles in Bruges literally on every corner and they are certainly one of the other great dishes you should taste. Most visitors face a difficult decision, eating waffles with strawberries, ice cream, chocolate and banana with whipped cream. However, our favourite waffle house is called House of Waffles and offers the best you can expect from your waffles at very reasonable prices. Anyway, keep in mind that locals eat waffles without any topping.
Try Belgian fries
French fries are very typical of Belgian dishes and have a slightly different way of preparation than regular ones. You might say that eating fries with ketchup doesn’t sound as tempting. But don´t be mistaken. French fries are served here with vegetables, bacon, cheese sauce, onions and other unusual ingredients, bringing the taste experience to a completely different level. We can recommend Casa Patata.
During the visiting Bruges don´t forget to visit That’s Toast, where they serve the best toasts in the whole city. The meals are so excellent that it often happens that people stand queues out on the street in order to eat. For this reason, we recommend arriving early in the morning to start your day with an excellent breakfast.
Another attraction for tourists travelling to Bruges is local Belgian beer. Belgium is famous for its production of hundreds of different beers, from fruit to classic. Visit the local Huisbrouwerij De Halve Maan brewery is one of the best things to do in Bruges. The Beer Wall bar is also worth a visit and has a truly generous selection of beers.
3. Visit museums and other activities in Bruges
Other top things to do in Bruges include visits to various museums and exhibitions and there are plenty of them in Bruges. It is hard to pick because of that, but some are worth it.
Museum of chocolate Choco-Story
Among the most interesting museums, you can visit in Bruges is undoubtedly the Chocolate Museum. The permanent exposition will guide you through the history of chocolate production up to the present. In the end, you will be presented with a sample of the chocolate pralines production, where you can taste different types of chocolate.
Guided city tour
We enjoyed a lot a commented tour of the city with our own guide and its one of the best things to do in Bruges. The tour was hosted through the VisitBruges Information Center. The guide took us through unusual places and ended the tour in the square in downtown Markt. The whole tour takes about two hours, during which we had the opportunity to learn interesting information about the history of the city, the sights and the lives of the local people. We even had the opportunity to visit the rooms of the former hospital that was inhabited by nuns. The tour was funny, and we recommend it to anyone who wants to learn something interesting about Bruges. If you don’t like guided tours you can do free Bruges walking tour on your own.
Museum visit of Historium Bruges
The museum, which is located on Markt Square in the centre of Bruges, was nothing special. Although the museum is very interactive and tries to return visitors to the past and show them history with the effects of virtual reality, it doesn’t offer much interesting information about the city itself. We left the museum not learning much. However, we believe that it can be an interesting experience for children or everyone who want to visit medieval Bruges. You will be part of the story happened in one day in the golden age of the city.
Tickets for Historium Bruges are in three levels and it depends if include Historium Virtual Reality, 1 beverage in the Duvelorium or both. We recommend the full ticket – Thirsty Time Traveller because you can enjoy a glass of good Belgian beer at a terrace and also see medieval Bruges thought Virtual Reality.
How to get to Bruges? The city can be reached easily and quickly by bus or train, for example from Brussels or Amsterdam. For us, it was easiest to arrive at Brussels South Charleroi Airport, from where there is a regular and cheap bus connection, but you have to buy tickets in advance.
During a visit to Bruges, don´t forget to visit the old Sint-Janshospitaal hospital and pharmacy. There is a museum in the building nowadays, where artefacts are mainly exposed, but one can imagine how the hospital could work then.
Opposite the hospital, there is a magnificent Church of Our Lady Bruges, where you can visit the underground crypts with the graves of the famous and wealthy persons of medieval era. In the same church is a rare sculpture from Michelangelo himself – Madonna with a baby. Please note that the entrance fees are everywhere in the mentioned places.
Among the best things to do in Bruges is a visit to the Basilica of the Holy Blood, which is truly splendid. In addition, they keep one of Jesus’ relics in the chapel – the blood of Christ. It´s preserved in a glass ampoule with gilded decoration. Whether it is true blood or not, we let you decide on yourself.
4. Boat ride in central Bruges
What to do in Bruges? The necessity of every tourist is to ride a boat through a water canal! There are several companies, but they all ride the same routes and the prices are the same too, so you don´t have to worry about what company to choose for your ride. The atmosphere you experience on the boat as you pass through the city is amazing. You will be taken to places where you wouldn’t be able to get on foot. From the boat, you can see the architecture of Bruges again from another perspective. The banks of the canals are littered with beautiful houses that breathe history. One of the most attractive sites is Minnewater, where you can see some white swans and ducks. Legend says that the local people once executed the city administrator who belonged to the royal court and had a white swan in his emblem. The enraged King Maximilian I, therefore, ordered the inhabitants to take the swans for eternity as a punishment. That’s why they have enough swans here, and the city cares for them very carefully.
5. Visit the Windmills
If you want to get away from the centre and the crowd of tourists, then definitely don´t miss the tour to charming windmills. Bruges has a total of four windmills located on the outer circular canal. The oldest of them, Sint Janshuysen, dates to 1770 and features a museum. The mills served in the past as a source of energy and grain. They are currently in operation only during summer days during the windy days.
Have you visited the medieval Bruges in Belgium? And what were your best things to do in Bruges? Write to us in the comment section!
What a lovely post and beautiful photos. Brugge is so beautiful and full of charm and history . I find Beginjhoff so beautiful and tranquil. We loved cycling around the city. #farawayfiles
Thank you for nice comment, we enjoyed stay in Bruges very much. Cycling around the city is a great idea! Just better weather is needed for that.
I loved Burges – we didn’t go out to the windmill but that castle in the back of your photo of it is making me think we missed out!! #Farawayfiles
We loved that place very much. Hope one day we will come back 🙂
We love Bruges and have been twice as it’s one of my favorite towns!! But next time I definitely want to do a chocolate tour or at least visit the Choco-Story! #FarawayFiles
Thank you California for nice comment. We fall in love to Brugy very much, next time we would like to visit in warm days.
We have Bruges on our list for this years summer road trip but it’s knowing how long to give it – could you see most of it in a day do you think? #farawayflies
I’ve been wanting to see Bruges for a long time now – I’ve only been to Brussels and I will say Belgium food is the best I’ve had. Better than French! You’ve provided a great background and list of things to do – thanks for linking up with #farawayfiles
Hi Corey, thank you for your nice comment. I haven’t visited the Brussels yet, so I hope one day, I will come there. Yep, the Belgium food is very lovely, that’s right!
This is very timely, I’m off to Bruges in a couple of weeks time, thank you for an excellent guide! #FarawayFiles
Thank you Catherine, we are happy you like our guide. I hope you enjoyed Bruges very much !