Julie Van Praet
What to visit in Bruges?
Updated: Oct 20, 2022
Always wondered what a fairy tale looks like? Just take a stroll through the gorgeous medieval city of Bruges in Belgium! A simple trainride away from the capital, it makes for the perfect day trip. With the most castles in the world, Belgium boasts about fifty of them in Bruges alone. Let The Walking Parrot inspire you on this magical journey!
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What not to miss?
Bruges’ historic centre is basically one big time machine to the middle ages. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is the perfect stroll to grab some frites with along the way.
Market Square and Belfry
Bruges’ market square cannot be missed. What was once the setting for medieval joustings, fairs, and executions, is now a gorgeous meeting square aligned with guiled restaurants. The square is basked in the shadow of its staggering Belfry Tower, dating back to 1240. For a truly unique experience, you can climb its 366 steps and enjoy a stunning view of the city.
Right around the corner of the market square, you can find the Basilica of Holy Blood. This church is a magical experience in itself. Its decadent façade boasts a fairly sober chapel inside containing The Holy Blood relic. Each spring 40,000 spectators gather to watch the Procession of Holy Blood on Ascension Day after Easter. An impressive cultural practice dating back to the middle ages.
A stone’s throw from the Basilica of Holy Blood is the Church of our Lady. The imposingly tall church is home to Michelangelo’s world-famous Madonna and Child. The church contains a great number of stunning medieval paintings.
The oldest cathedral in the city is unsurprisingly also designed neo-Gothically and holds many wonders. The medieval tombs of Saint Saviour’s cathedral harbour some of its most prized treasures including paintings by the Flemish greats.
Quay of the Rosary
Enough about churches, one of the most photographed corners of the world is the Quay of the Rosary. This anticipated boat turn lies at the crossing of Groenerij and Dijver canal and makes for a postcard-worthy stunning view.
In the southern corner of the ancient city, you will find Minnewater Park. A great start to your journey as it’s right next to the train station. Minnewater is known as one of the most romantic spots in Belgium, with a dedicated Lake of Love and Lovers Bridge.
Bruges even has its own Romeo and Juliet at Minnewater park. The story of Minna’s forsaken love gets beautifully told by Ambassadors of the City. Where passionate storytellers and local experts take you around Bruges through a unique lens.
What else to visit?
The Groeningemuseum encompasses Belgian historic art at its best. It is the home of many Flemish masters and masterpieces. If the weather takes a downturn or if you’re an art history aficionado, this museum makes for the perfect stop.
Saint John’s Hospital
One of the oldest hospitals is obviously found in one of the oldest towns in Europe. Dating back to the 12th century this museum archives the work of Hans Memling and shines a light on the dark ages.
Brewery De Halve Maan
This brewery in the centre of Bruges has been running for more than six generations and brews the official city beer: Brugse Zot. This strong beer can be enjoyed after one of its daily tours accompanied by a view from its stunning rooftop. More interestingly, the brewery is connected to its bottling plant by a 3 km-long pipeline. Sadly there are no boats allowed here.
Bruges’ Beguinage offers a quiet break from its touristic centre. The relaxing convent garden is surrounded by gorgeous white-bricked houses and chirping birds.
How to travel there?
Belgium’s national airport is located in Brussels and is an easy train ride removed from Bruges. So if you’re planning on making Belgium a multi-day destination be sure to check out this medieval city.
A great way to discover the city is by renting a bike and gliding along the city walls to then hop on a boat tour.
For a truly magical experience, you can enjoy a horse-drawn carriage ride. You can find the carriages waiting for you on the cobblestones of the market square.
When to travel there?
Belgium’s unpredictable weather makes it difficult to decide on a cloudy-free time. Keep in mind that peak season makes Bruges a real hotspot, so the months right before or after are your safest bet. Depending on your interests, wintertime is (albeit rainy), a great choice because of the Christmassy atmosphere.
Bruges is a small city with a big reputation. Accommodation prices can run up exclusively high, so if you’re looking for something more budget-friendly look at other cities and make Bruges a train ride away.
Where to eat?
Otto Waffle Atelier
Otto’s Waffle Atelier is a waffle bar that also organizes workshops. Situated right in the middle of the city centre, it’s an easy stop when wandering.
Freshly made chocolates are to be found at Dumon. Its chocolates are the fruit of decadelong artisan production with respect to ancient recipes. With a wide range of flavours, you’re sure to find a chocolate to your taste.
Bruges' main square is encircled by many tourist-friendly restaurants. From traditional to fusion, you will find everything within short walking distance of each other. For a comprehensive list of Belgian dishes check out what we put on the menu!
De Garre is located in a beautiful alleyway and serves about 140 different varieties of beer, even boasting its own housebeer: Tripel van De Garre. A true gem for anyone wanting to enjoy the authentic feeling of Belgian beer.
Café Vlissinghe is Bruges oldest pub dating back to 1515. Hidden in the beautiful Sint-Anna district it holds a unique atmosphere and warm ambiance making it a travel experience on its own. Stop by and drink up Café Vlissinghe's rich history.
Not sure which frituur to stop at? Just go straight to the museum and get the full meal deal. The Frymuseum is the only museum dedicated solely to potato fries and the influence it has on the country. Most importantly, they serve the snack according to Belgium’s culinary history.
Every town in Belgium hosts a noteworthy Christmas market, but Bruges takes the cake. From the end of November, the gorgeous historic centre gets transformed into a giant Christmas market. Next to its wonderful atmosphere, you're also sure to find the perfect gift in one of the many chalets.
Bruges May Fair dates back all the way to 1200. The market square gets turned into one big fairground with charming stalls, buzzing attractions, and sticky food.
Procession of the Holy Blood
As mentioned previously, the Procession of Holy Blood is hosted on Ascension Day and glides through the city. It is as much a part of Burges history as its vibrant future.
Hopefully, this guide to Bruges inspired you to write your own fairy tale by giving it a visit! If Bruges isn’t up your alley, be sure to check out our other guides on Brussels, Munich, or Edinburgh. Do not forget to follow us @thewalkingparrot to remain updated on any new releases!