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 bird-watch and walk. For foodies, there are several sites dedicated to Belgian specialties: the Choco-Story (chocolate), the Bruges Beer Experience (beer) and the Frietmuseum (fries). But ancient history is on display too; make sure and see the medieval Historic Centre of Brugge and the towering Belfry for excellent views. There are also awe-inspiring churches and a watery landscape of canals, as well as a lovely lake.
Updated November 15, 2019
- #1View all PhotosfreeRozenhoedkaai#1 in BrugesSightseeing, Tours, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDSightseeing, Tours, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND
Considered one of the most photographed areas of Bruges, Rozenhoedkaai, or Quay of the Rosary, is a picturesque spot where the Dijver and Groenerei canals meet. Sit back and relax while enjoying the lovely canals, beautiful old buildings and charming bars, restaurants and hotels.
Visitors also recommend checking out Rozenhoedkaai during the evening hours and say it's a great spot to hop on a boat for a canal tour.
- #2View all Photos#2 in BrugesFree, Neighborhood/AreaTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDFree, Neighborhood/AreaTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Since 2000, the Historic Centre of Brugge has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Regarded as one of the best-preserved examples of a medieval European settlement, the historic center is among the first places you should visit in Bruges, according to past visitors. Take time to wander the cobblestone paths or a hop on a boat ride through the canals that lead to the Gothic and neo-Gothic buildings that make up this historic city. Once a bustling metropolis of trade, this area was also a hub of the Flemish Primitive style of painting.
Recent travelers advise that you spend two to three hours in the area. They also recommended taking a boat ride down the canals and advise sitting and enjoying a pint of beer and a waffle.
- #3View all PhotosfreeMarkt#3 in BrugesFree, Neighborhood/AreaTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDFree, Neighborhood/AreaTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
The heart of Bruges – the Markt – is filled with shops, cafes, horse-drawn carriages that clip-clop along cobblestone streets and many architecturally interesting buildings like the Belfry, where you can climb to the top for fantastic city views.
Reviewers said the Markt is a good starting point for exploring Bruges, and though it can be a bit crowded, it's well worth a visit. However, others complained of too much traffic from cars, carriages and pedestrians.
- #4View all Photos#4 in BrugesMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
To see more than just paintings, head to this museum, which details more than 500 years of Bruges history through a variety of historical artifacts – from tapestries and furniture to coins and musical instruments. Highlights include an 18th-century guillotine on display and a medieval chapel built in 1472.
According to recent visitors, the museum offers an interesting overview of Bruges history and a helpful primer on what makes the city so unique. According to past travelers, you'll want to take time to admire the ceilings and to visit the chapel.
- #5View all Photos#5 in BrugesWineries/BreweriesTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDWineries/BreweriesTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
With a history that dates back to the 16th century, the De Halve Maan Brewery is a family-owned business that brews the Bruges city beer – the Brugse Zot – a strong-tasting, highly fermented brew. The brewery also has an underground pipeline that transports its beer from the brewery to its bottling plant in the suburbs. You can stop by for a pint or tag along on a tour of the brewery.
Recent visitors advised that there are some steep steps involved, but highly recommend the educational 45-minute tour. Reviewers applauded the funny, informative guides and the views from the brewery's rooftop.
- #6View all Photos#6 in BrugesChurches/Religious SitesTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDChurches/Religious SitesTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Making up one of the key structures of the Bruges skyline, the Church of Our Lady boasts the second highest brick tower in the world (standing at nearly 400 feet tall) and is home to Michelangelo's Madonna and Child sculpture, among other artworks. The Gothic structure also houses several tombs and 13th-century sepulchres.
Past visitors to the church said they were impressed by the artwork and architecture, though they warned there may be some scaffolding, as the church is undergoing renovations.
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Turns out Bruges has its own leaning tower, though its slant is not quite as pronounced as the one in Pisa, Italy. The 13th-century Belfry, which is a UNESCO World Heritage-listed building, remains one of the oldest examples of medieval urban and public architecture. It stands 272 feet tall, and visitors are welcome to climb the 366 stairs to the top for panoramic views of Bruges. Along with its impressive views, the tower also holds a carillon with more than 40 bells. Bells are played Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to noon.
Recent visitors said a trip to the top is a must for the view – some even said a trip to the Belfry was the best thing they did in the city. However, many warned the wait time to climb the tower could be upward of an hour during the busy afternoons. According to reviewers, visiting in the morning can lead to shorter wait times.
- #8View all PhotosfreeMinnewater Lake#8 in BrugesFree, Neighborhood/AreaTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDFree, Neighborhood/AreaTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Outdoors lovers may want to head to this natural beauty south of central Bruges, which is known as a romantic spot thanks to the local legend that says you must cross the lake's bridge with your partner to ensure eternal love. Literally meaning "Lake of Love," the rectangular lake offers lots of benches for enjoying the views and resting.
Recent visitors said the park was lovely in autumn and free of crowds. There are also swans to add to the romantic ambiance, according to reviewers.
- #9View all PhotosfreeBeguinage#9 in BrugesChurches/Religious Sites, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDChurches/Religious Sites, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND
Step into the 1200s with a visit to this former home of holy laywomen, or beguines, who chose a celibate life and who formed their own enclosed communities called beguinages. This area, which is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of 13 such communities in the Flanders region of Belgium. Nowadays, you'll find nuns with the Order of St. Benedict, along with a few unmarried local women, living here. You'll know you've arrived when you see whitewashed houses and serene gardens. A tour of the Beguine's house (now a museum) shows visitors what life would have been like during the 13th century.
Past visitors said the site is very peaceful and that if you visit around noon, you can hear the nuns singing.
- #10View all Photos#10 in BrugesMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Art lovers will want to stop in the Groeningemuseum to see works from some of the finest Renaissance and Flemish painters, including the Flemish primitives, over a period of six centuries. Inside, you'll find artwork from Rogier van der Weyden, Jan van Eyck, Hans Memling and Pieter Bruegel the Elder.
Recent travelers said the museum is well laid out and worth a visit. Thanks to its small, but dense size, many reviewers reported setting aside an hour or two to enjoy the works on display. They also recommend spending time in the museum's garden.
- #11View all Photos#11 in BrugesChurches/Religious Sites, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDChurches/Religious Sites, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
This 12th-century Romanesque basilica contains what is believed to be a cloth stained with the blood of Jesus Christ brought back from the Holy Land in the 1100s. It also houses relics from St. Basil the Great, as well as multiple paintings and sculptures. Every May, the basilica hosts the Procession of the Holy Blood, a celebration that dates to the 1300s, where a relic of what is believed to be the blood of Jesus Christ is paraded through the streets of Bruges accompanied by some 1,700 people and with more than 30,000 spectators.
Recent travelers called the basilica "beautiful" and said it hosts thousands of visitors every month – so be prepared for crowds. Others noted that you cannot photograph the relic of Christ's blood.
- #12View all Photos#12 in BrugesMuseums, Wineries/BreweriesTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDMuseums, Wineries/BreweriesTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Beer fans will want to take time to visit the Bruges Beer Experience, which offers an interactive look at all things beer, from how it's made to how to pair it with food. Upon entering the museum, you'll be given an iPad to help guide you through the various exhibits, along with headphones for the audio portions of the tour. There is also a bar on-site with 16 draft beers.
Recent visitors said the tour is fun, interesting and informative, and that a visit to the museum is a great activity for a rainy day. Others said that while the iPad is a fun tool for interacting with the museum's exhibits (reviewers especially liked the quizzes), there is little interaction with museum staff or other visitors as you're all looking at your screens.
- #13View all Photos#13 in BrugesEntertainment and Nightlife, MuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDEntertainment and Nightlife, MuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Experience what it was like to live in 15th-century Bruges with a visit to Historium, which uses sets, video clips, music and special effects to transport visitors back in time. With the aid of audio guides, you'll hear the history of Bruges during the time of painter Jan van Eyck as you walk through seven themed rooms. To further immerse yourself in medieval Bruges, you can also don virtual reality headsets.
Past visitors recommended the virtual reality experience to see what Bruges looked like during its Golden Age, though they warn it may not be best for those afraid of heights.
- #14View all Photos#14 in BrugesMuseumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDMuseumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
With Belgium synonymous with chocolate, it's no wonder that Bruges has its very own chocolate museum. Choco-Story details the history of chocolate and cocoa, demonstrates how chocolate is made and offers plenty of opportunities to sample this sweet treat. Housed in a building that dates back to 1480, the museum itself is also a sight to see.
Past travelers offered mixed reviews for Choco-Story. Recent visitors said they definitely had their fill of chocolate, but warned you'll have to read a lot when working your way through the museum's displays. Most enjoyed the demonstrations at the end of the self-guided tour.
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