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.
Updated June 24, 2019
- #1View all PhotosfreeMinnewater Lake#1 in BrugesFree, Neighborhood/AreaTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDFree, Neighborhood/AreaTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDRead More
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.
Most people agree that the Minnewater Lake is a must-see for its romantic atmosphere and pleasant views. However, some visitors weren't impressed, like this TripAdvisor user who says, "It's a pleasant enough stretch of water with nice paths and seats but I wouldn't fight my way past all the other things in Bruges to go there." Visitors also mention that there are a few good restaurants skirting the lake, one of which sells tasty waffles.
- #2View all Photos#2 in BrugesFree, Neighborhood/AreaTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDFree, Neighborhood/AreaTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDRead More
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.
- #3View all Photos#3 in BrugesWineries/BreweriesTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDWineries/BreweriesTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDRead More
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.
One TripAdvisor user says, "The brewery tour is nice, the view of the city from the roof is great, but the beer is the BEST part!" And a Virtual Tourist user gives specific beer recommendations: "The drink at the brewery, Straffe Hendrike or 'Strong Henry' is really good. Ask for the light beer or the ‘Blonde.'" Frommer's describes this blonde as having a "clean, heavenly taste." However, some say the Brugse Zot is the way to go.
- #4View all PhotosfreeMarkt#4 in BrugesFree, Neighborhood/AreaTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDFree, Neighborhood/AreaTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDRead More
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.
One TripAdvisor user describes the Markt like this: "Lovely square ... many historic buildings with loads of small side roads with loads of pubs/bars!" But this user (and many others) recommend bringing plenty of money, saying this is one of the most expensive areas of the small city.
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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.
One TripAdvisor visitor says that despite the tower's long lines and the steep steps, you'll be "rewarded with panoramic views over the city and a close-up view of the clock mechanism and bells." Admission is €8 EUR or just about $11 USD, and it's open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. You'll find Belfry and Market Halls at the historic Markt square.
- #6View all Photos#6 in BrugesChurches/Religious SitesTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDChurches/Religious SitesTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDRead More
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.
"The church itself is stunning, great architecture and a lovely place to spend some time," says one TripAdvisor user, who goes on to say, "They have recently begun charging to see the Madonna which seems a little unchristian to me!"
- #7View all PhotosfreeBeguinage#7 in BrugesChurches/Religious Sites, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDChurches/Religious Sites, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDRead More
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.
Travelers offer mixed opinions on the merits of visiting the Beguinage. Some say it's overcrowded with loud tourists, and some say it's perfectly serene -- the calmest place in Bruges. Most say you don't need longer than 10 minutes to see it.
- #8View all Photos#8 in BrugesMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDRead More
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."
Some of the museum's rooms are closed to public viewing due to installation of future exhibits. And some visitors express disappointment at this, especially since there's no price concession.
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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.
Many visitors say that the exterior of the Basilica of the Holy Blood isn't much to look at, but the inside is a different story. One TripAdvisor user says: "It was interesting to see 2 very different styles in one church. The downstairs sanctuary was very simple while upstairs was overwhelmingly gothic, almost too gothic."
- #10View all Photos#10 in BrugesMuseumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDMuseumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDRead More
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.
One TripAdvisor user says: "This is a lot of fun, and very unusual. I never knew the potato was such an amazing and important part of history." But most visitors say the highlight of the visit is munching on the awesome fries in the museum's basement.
- #11View all Photos#11 in BrugesMuseumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDMuseumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDRead More
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."
Still, if you wouldn't call yourself a chocolate connoisseur, you might skip the museum and instead head to one of Bruges' celebrated chocolate shops. One TripAdvisor user says this: "Not a great museum, but if you love chocolate, I mean can't go without the stuff, then it's good for you."
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