Bruges Travel Guide

Belgium  
Credit

Courtesy of Westend61/Getty Images/Westend61

Best Things To Do in Bruges

Bruges is a charming city of elegant swans and medieval streets, but there's much more here to do than just birdwatch and walk. For foodies, there are several sites dedicated to Belgian specialties: the Choco-Story (chocolate), the De Halve Maan Brewery (Belgian beer) and the Frietmuseum (fries). But ancient history is on display too; make sure and see the medieval Historic Centre of Brugge and the current-day Benedictine convent Beguinage. There are also awe-inspiring churches and a watery landscape of canals, as well as a lovely lake

How we rank Things to Do
  • #1
    Minnewater Lake
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    #1 in Bruges
    Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Located just south of the De Halve Maan Brewery, Minnewater Lake (which literally means "Lake of Love") is a charming body of water bookended by canals. There are park benches, weeping willows, walking paths and even swans that give the lake a lovely ambience. Some say the canalized lake is best viewed in autumn, when the willow leaves change color.

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  • #2
    Historic Centre of Brugge
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    #2 in Bruges
    Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Since 2000, the Historic Centre of Brugge has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its "outstanding example of a medieval historic settlement, which has maintained its historic fabric as this has evolved over the centuries." Canals or cobblestone paths frame these medieval buildings (and gothic ones too), giving the area an old world feel. These restored buildings once housed merchants selling leather, fish and more. Now, the historic buildings are repurposed as cafés, boutiques and art galleries. One TripAdvisor user exclaims that the Historic Centre of Brugge is a must-see, citing the local food and shops. You'll find this neighborhood right in the center of Bruges, roughly encircled by the Ring Canal. 

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  • #3
    De Halve Maan Brewery
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    #3 in Bruges
    Wineries/Breweries
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Wineries/Breweries
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Bruges once contained dozens of breweries, but now De Halve Maan is the last one standing. With a history that dates back to the 16th century, the brewery has been continuously operating at its current site since 1856. Today, visitors can tour the historic facility, get some great photos from its tower and sample the beer.

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  • #4
    Markt
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    Markt
    free
    #4 in Bruges
    Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Lonely Planet calls the Markt, the "nerve center" of Bruges. And you can see why: Shadowed by medieval buildings, the area is peppered with cafés that spill out into the streets. Horse-drawn carriages also clip-clop through the city square. And did we mention tourists? There are almost always a ton of those too. You'll find it right in the heart of Bruges, within a five or six-minute walk from the Church of Our Lady and the Groeninge Museum.

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  • #5
    Belfry and Market Halls
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    #5 in Bruges
    Monuments and Memorials
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND
    Monuments and Memorials
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND

    In medieval times, the Belfry and Market Halls (translated from Belfort en Hallen) was a bustling marketplace presided over by a soaring gothic bell tower. Today, the echoing chimes of the carillon bells can still be heard throughout Bruges. And you can also climb the tower's 366 steps for a sweeping view of Bruges.

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  • #6
    Church of Our Lady
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    #6 in Bruges
    Churches/Religious Sites
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Churches/Religious Sites
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Completed in the 15th century, the construction of this church took two centuries to construct, and the result is a soaring 381-foot brick spire (the largest in the world) that can be seen for miles. And there's another artistic treasure inside: Michelangelo's "Madonna and Child" sculpture. There are also tombs and a couple of mausoleums that are worth seeing. And just to clear any confusion, the church's name -- Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk -- translates into Church of Our Lady.

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  • #7
    Beguinage
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    #7 in Bruges
    Churches/Religious Sites, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND
    Churches/Religious Sites, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND

    The Beguinage (also called Begijnhof) -- a small commune consisting of modest homes and a church -- dates back to the 13th century.  The Countess of Constantinople, Margaret, founded this campus for the Beguines, who were young women or widows that devoted themselves to charitable work; but they didn't have to take religious vows to do so. Today, Benedictine nuns reside within the whitewashed houses, though visitors can still tour the grounds and a small museum.

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  • #8
    Groeninge Museum
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    #8 in Bruges
    Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    The Groeninge Museum, Bruge's museum of fine arts, hosts a number of works by the famous 15th-century Flemish painters Jan van Eyck and Hans Memling. But that's not all: Works from the Flemish Primitives, as well as from the Modernists, also adorn the walls. Of special note is Hieronymus Bosch's "The Last Judgment" and Jan van Eyck's "Madonna with Canon van der Paele."

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  • #9
    Basilica of the Holy Blood
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    #9 in Bruges
    Churches/Religious Sites, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Churches/Religious Sites, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    The Romanesque-style Basilica of the Holy Blood curiously has an ornate Gothic upper level. But most visitors flock to this chapel to look at a small vial of blood, which is said to have belonged to none-other than Jesus Christ. Every year on Ascension Day (in May or June), the bishop of Bruges accompanies the holy relic through the city streets in the Procession of the Holy Blood.

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  • #10
    Frietmuseum
    View all Photos
    #10 in Bruges
    Museums
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    The Frietmuseum claims to be the world's first and only museum dedicated to Belgian potato fries. On the first floor, you can learn about Belgium's history with this beloved snack; on the ground floor, the museum traces the potato's roots from Peru; and in the basement you can sample some tasty potato fries.

    ...Read More »
  • #11
    Choco-Story
    View all Photos
    #11 in Bruges
    Museums
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    This museum is all about chocolate: its history, its recipes and more. In fact, Choco-Story's mission statement is: "To make known the story of the transformation of cocoa into chocolate and to promote the health and quality aspects of Belgian chocolate."

    ...Read More »

Explore More of Bruges

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