For such a small town, Bruges in the northern part of Belgium is sure packed with loads of charm and lots of things to do. Located in Flanders, its picturesque canals, dreamy cobbled lanes, historic churches, centuries-old houses, and colorful market squares are sure to delight the senses. It’s one of the best preserved medieval cities in Europe, and is a postcard-perfect addition to your next European trip.
Here are the wonderful things you can do in this amazing city:
1. Take a canal cruise
With many quaint canals bisecting its cobbled streets, a canal cruise in Bruges is simply a must. As boat tour guides shell out some of the city’s historical facts and interesting tidbits, a cruise then is a fun and fast way to get introduced to Bruges. Plus, they get you to unreachable areas in towns that don’t have streets running next to a canal.
2. Bike around town
If there’s one town in Europe where your biking prowess would come in handy, it’s Bruges. This city is bike-friendly, its streets are made for cycling, and getting on a bike is a faster way to get up close and personal with its cute nooks and crannies. There are many bike rentals available around town, so shop for the best rates.
3. Ride a horse-drawn cart
If you want to experience how it might have been to live in the medieval times, or simply just have romantic fun (or even just plain fun), go for a carriage ride around town. These rides take about 30 minutes and available at Grote Markt.
4. Climb the Belfry
For the best views of the city, climb the 366 steps to the top of the 83 meter-high belfry at Grote Markt. It may be quite a work, but the views are worth it.
Dotted along Bruges’ market square are many cafes and restos where you can simply take in the views, relax, and watch people pass by. It’s an enjoyable experience.
6. Munch on some fries
While you’re people-watching, don’t miss trying out the ever-famous Belgian fries—definitely a must-try!
7. Eat a Belgian Waffle
Another delicious delicacy you must try while in Bruges is their Belgian waffle. Tasty and with a nice texture, you simply must sample one or two. Or in my case, whenever I got the chance—that’s how I love them!
8. Take a hike
Burn off those calories from all that eating with a hike. It’s another fantastic way to see Bruges, and your chance to escape the crowded squares. Walk along the quiet backstreets and alleys that aren’t filled with tourists, and see the real Bruges.
9. See Michaelangelo’s “Madonna with Child”
It’s fascinating that one of Michaelangelo’s masterpieces is in Bruges—the “Madonna with Child” sculpture. It’s a fine piece of art that’s worth the admission fee. It’s located at Onze Lieve Vrouwkerk, a church with Romanesque and Gothic architecture, which also houses the tomb of Charles the Bold and Mary of Burgundy.
10. Indulge in some Belgian chocolates
Another thing not to miss when in Bruges (or when in Belgium, for that matter) are the chocolates! Belgian chocolates are one of the best in the world, if not the best. You can get a taste of them at Stefs on Breidelstraat (a cheaper option) or at Van Oost on Wollestraat (a bit pricier). There are plenty more chocolates shops scattered around town that you can try.
11. Shop for chocolates
Belgian chocolates would make great presents for families and friends back home. Try shopping for them at the shops mentioned above, or for cheaper options, go the supermarket or grocery route.
If you love to run, go for the 7 kilometer circle that wraps around the old city—magnificent views all around!
13. Go Ballooning
Get romantic and see Bruges up in the air with a hot air balloon. It’s quite an experience.
14. Shop for fine lace
Bruges is also famous for its beautiful fine laces. To shop for the authentic ones, try the school of lace-making located in the city.
15. Watch a concert
Catch a concert or two at Concertgebouw Brugge, which showcases world-class classical music performances and other programs.
16. Drink a Belgian beer or two
Belgian beers are a must when in Bruges. Scattered around town are quaint pubs serving hundreds of different beers (with funny names, sometimes) that are begging to be tried. With pleasant atmospheres and some nice history of Bruges thrown in, these pubs certainly make the happy hour a—happy one!
17. Visit the film locations of “In Bruges”
If the first time you heard of Bruges was in the movie “In Bruges”, then seeing the movie locations in actual would certainly be fun! See the streets where the actors walked, the hotels and buildings where they stayed, and relive the movie’s moments.
18. Ogle at some diamonds
Learn about diamonds, the process of creating them, and their history at DiamantMuseum at Katelijnestraat. Live polishing demonstration happens everyday at 12:15 pm.
19. Learn about the history of Fries
A fan of fries? Who isn’t, right?! Learn about its history and evolution at the Friet Museum.
20. Pay homage to the Basilica of the Holy Blood
A lovely church with Gothic architecture on the Burg Square, the Basilica of the Holy Blood houses a vial of blood that’s purportedly the blood of Jesus Christ. There’s also a chapel beneath that’s swathed in a Romanesque style that you also shouldn’t miss.
21. Learn the story of chocolates
Have fun getting some insight on how cocoa becomes chocolate at the Chocolate-Story Museum. You can snag a sample or two at the chocolate-making show.
22. Wander the streets at night
With tour buses and day tourists gone, Bruges transforms into something magical at night. Don’t miss wandering its historic streets and enjoying its beautiful medieval atmosphere.
23. Get a taste of the art scene
Savor the beauty of the centuries-old artworks by artists who are from Bruges at the Groeninge Museum.
24. Observe a beer-making process
Brewery de Halve Maan is a brewery with a beer museum that conducts 45-minute tours of the beer-making process as well as dishes out some history of the brewery. It’s very informative and fun.
25. Learn about the lace-making process
The Jerusalem Church, located away from the busy tourist areas, also houses the Lace Museum, where you can observe women engage in the activity.
26. Stroll along the Markt
Enjoy the charming atmosphere of the Markt with its colorful buildings, cute shops and fancy restaurants via a stroll through its cobbled lanes.
27. Visit the Town Hall
Swing by Bruges city hall, one of the oldest in the region. Located just on Burg Square, it’s the magnificent structure in Gothic style. Regal and ornate, it’s a testament to Bruges’ might and power in the olden days.
28. See Hans Memling’s work
Get a glimpse of Hans Memling’s six paintings at the Hospital of St. John. Hans Memling was a German painter who later moved to Bruges during the Middle Ages.
29. Stroll the backstreets
Escape the tourist-filled market squares and explore the quiet and charm of the backstreets of Bruges. Get to know the locals and what life in this city is like. Who knows what gems you may find in the off beaten paths.
30. Taste fine Belgian dishes
Don’t forget to sample some of the finest Belgian dishes. When doing this, stay away from restaurants in the market squares, which are mostly tourist traps and overly priced. Try the ones in the off beaten paths frequented by locals as they could signal greats meals with good prices.