The best local travel guide to Bruges, featuring up-to-date information on guesthouses, hotels, restaurants, nightlife, exhibitions and art in Bruges. Walking the streets of Bruges feels like walking through time, with dozens of old buildings each in possession of a story to tell. A Local’s Guide to Bruges; travel tips and unique ways to spend your time by a resident of Bruges.
The cobblestone streets with gothic buildings go back to its origins as a medieval city, and its old market square pulses in the heart of town. It is so pristine an example of a city from the Middle Ages that the center of town is a designated Unesco-World Heritage Site. Locals offer their tips, recommendations and advice for Bruges in Belgium,
Market Square of Bruges
This section of the city is immediately identifiable by the eminent belfry that has stood here since the 12th century. In the tradition of many similar European cities, this old square was the center of commerce and has since been shut off to traffic in order to allow pedestrians to roam freely. In the center of the square is a fountain featuring Jan Breydel and Pieter de Coninck, two Belgian heroes credited with fighting in the Battle Of The Golden Spurs between the County of Flanders and the Kingdom of France.
Belfry Climb. Do not forget to climb the 366 steps to the top of the 83-metre high Belfrytower of Bruges. Excellent views of the city, Marketsquare and hear the bells ring. €6 with Bruges card / €8. Grote Markt (the big square). 09:30 – 17:00
“When friends visit me in Bruges, i go to Little Venice (Klein Venetië),one of the smallest pubs in Bruges on the Rozenhoedkaai. You can admire a great view of the most beautiful canals, have a belgian beer, only steps away from the market place, the fish market and the Burg.”
Although it shares the distinction with other cities like Amsterdam, Bruges does enjoy a reputation as “The Venice of the North,” for its intricate network of canals. A trip to this city isn’t complete without a waterside perspective, and luckily there is no shortage of boating companies eager to show you around. Departing from different ports all over town, you’re sure to gain new insight and a more intimate understanding of this city and its history as you watch the scenery float by.
Belfry Tower or Belfort
This belfry is one of the most immediately recognizable icons in Bruges. Built in the 12th century, it suffered a catastrophic fire shortly thereafter and the entire city’s archives were lost. The tower was soon rebuilt, and various wooden spires and stone parapets have been added over time. The tower in its current form has stood since 1822. For a fee, visitors can hike the stairs to behold an unparalleled panorama of this exquisite city.
The Beguinage began in 1245 as a Beguine house, which is to say a set of houses for women who wanted to devote themselves to religious works without having to sequester themselves away from the rest of the world. The largest of the houses belonged to the Grand Dame, who oversaw the work of the group. In 1937 the Beguines turned the compound over to the Benedictine sisters who still live there today. A courtyard with a grove of poplar trees imparts a sense of peace to all who visit here. The beguinage in Bruges is also known as the convent, between the centre of Bruges and the station, with white painted houses and fine plane trees, is a quiet place to walk.
Basilica of the Holy Blood (Heilige Bloed Basiliek)
This building was originally the home of the Count of Flanders. It contains a relic of Holy Blood allegedly gathered by Joseph of Arimathea and brought from the Holy Land by the Count after the Second Crusade. The lower chapel is dedicated to St. Basil and was constructed in the Romanesque style. The upper chapel is devoted to the Holy Blood and was done and redone in the gothic style. The blood itself is kept on a cloth in a vial, and is celebrated annually on Ascension Day via the Procession of the Holy Blood. Basilica of the Holy Blood, Burg 10, Apr-Sep 9:30AM-11:50AM & 2PM-5:50PM, Oct-Mar 10AM-11:50AM & 2PM-3:50PM Try and get there early so you can view the chapel when it is still quiet . Entrance is Free
Lake of Love or Minnewater
It is easy to fall in love with this picturesque and pastoral lake that became a canal. Graceful swans, the symbol of the city, dot the land and the water, while quaint brick houses and willow trees fill the idyll in a beautiful manner. There is a local legend that states that lovers who cross the bridge will be together forever. That legend, combined with the serene beauty of the surroundings, makes it easy to understand how this came to be called the Lake of Love.
Six centuries of Belgian paintings are on display in this municipal museum. From Renaissance and Baroque styles, to neoclassical and realist, a wide variety of schools are represented. Famous names like Jan van Eyck, Hieronymous Bosch, René Magritt and Jan Provoost are all present and accounted for. There is also a modern art collection dating back to the postwar period. Marvel at the Flemish Primitives, so called because they were the first, in the 15th century, to start pushing boundaries with new styles and painting techniques. Also known as “The city museum of Fine Arts”
Dijver 12, B-8000; opened 7 days from 9:30AM-5PM. ‘, Groeninge museum in Bruges houses a collection of artworks that span 7 centuries (14th-20th), focusing mainly on works by painters who worked and lived in Bruges. €8 / €6
The Hospital of St John
Closed on Mondays. Sint-Janshospitaal contains a museum of several paintings by Hans Memling, within the early medieval hospital buildings. €8./€6 with Bruges card, Closed on Mondays.
Choco-Story Museum, This Choco-museum, on several floors describes chocolate’s transition from cocoa into chocolate. It is run by the Belgian chocolate manufacturer Belcolade. Stay for the chocolate making exhibition to get some excellent samples. €7./€6 with Bruges card ; Wijnzakstraat 2 (Sint-Jansplein), 050/61.22.37, 10AM-5PM.
Brewery De Halve Maan,
This brewery and beer museum offers a tour of the history of the brewery , as well as an overview of the city from its tower. The tour lasts less than an hour and is a good way to get a feel for Belgian beer brewing. The tours start at the exact turn of the hour, be at least fifteen minutes early. The entrance price includes one flemish beer: Brugse Zot or Straffe Hendrik which is served after the tour at the outside terrace or indoor bar. €7.00 including 1 beer ; Walplein 26, +31 50 332-697, Apr-Oct M-Sa 11:00-16:00, Su 11:00-17:00.
Church of our Lady (Onze Lieve Vrouwkerk,)
A fascinating church with architecture from theGothic and Romanesque periods. In the end of the church are fine tombs of Charles the Bold and his daughter Mary of Burgundy with contrasting Gothic and Renaissance styles. The church also houses”Madonna with child”, one of the few Michelangelo sculptures outside of Italy, the . Fee 2 euro to see the Michelangelo. Mariastraat.
In a non-touristic area of Bruges, a highly unusual church with octagonal tower built by the Adornes brothers, merchants of Italian extraction. It includes a fine black tournai marble tomb, late Gothic stained glass, and a tiny and rather spooky chapel containing an effigy of the dead Christ.
DiamantMuseum , . Diamond museum offers a large range of exhibits from mining to polishing and all the history in between. Everyday at 12:15 there is a live polishing demonstration. Individuals €6, Groups €4.5, Students €3, Katelijnestraat 43, 050 33 63 26; 0:30AM-5:30PM