Complete Guide: 7 Unmissable Things to Do in Bruges, Belgium
Welcome to the “Venice of the North” and one of the most romantic cities in Europe!
With canal boat rides, cobbled lanes and medieval buildings, Bruges (or Brugges in Dutch) is famous for attracting couples looking to explore a city overflowing with romance. In case you’re planning a trip here soon, you’re in luck! This article will tell you everything you need to know for travelling to Bruges – from the best things to do in Bruges to the best hotels, restaurants and precious info about how to get around the city. And more!
With over 50 medieval bridges and one of the most well-preserved medieval regions in Europe, Bruges is often compared to Venice in Italy. It has been so well maintained that it even preserved the street layout since the era before the introduction of automobiles!
Even though this fairy-tale town is popular with couples, don’t cross Bruges off your list if you’re flying solo. They may have preserved the old architecture but the feel of the city is young. I’d recommend an overnight stay if you have the time or at least a day trip to explore.
In case you want to do so, here are the best attractions in Bruges to tick off your list:
7 Best things to do in Bruges, Belgium
Let’s begin this Bruges guide properly, shall we? Get your pens ready, ‘cause here’s my list of highlights that will make your trip to Bruges simply special and unforgettable:
1 - Bruges Markt Square & Belfry Tower
The Belfry of Bruges (Belfort met Beiaard or Belfry and Carillon) located in Markt Square (Markt Bruges) is the main landmark of the city. Dating back to the 13th century, this tower has been through destruction and reconstruction. It is also where the main documents of the city are preserved. And, to top it off, this is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site! For views of the city, it’s only 366 steps to the top. You got this!
While you’re there, take your time to explore Brugge Markt as well – it’s the main market square in the city with dozens of stalls and fun things to buy and taste.
Entrance Fee: 14€
TIP: While you’re at Belfry Tower, you can also take a peek at the Salvador Dalí Exhibition (Museum-Gallery Xpo: Salvador Dalí). For only 10-11€ you can see the famous painter’s work in a carefully curated audio-visual space.
2 - Burg Square & Bruges City Hall
Formerly a fortress, Burg Square is one of the oldest parts of the city centre. This square is surrounded by buildings that showcase different architectural styles, from the Gothic to the Renaissance to the Neo-Classicist. One of the prettiest buildings in Bruges, the Gothic Town Hall, stands in the Burg Square, surrounded by cafés and restaurants – be sure to check it out!
3 - Rozenhoedkaai - Bruges Canal Tour
Although you can see the city on foot, the main highlight of Bruges is its canals and a canal boat ride is a must-do while you’re here! You can catch a boat from the Rozenhoedkaai (Quay of the Rosary) that will take you around the medieval old town of Bruges. Price is 10-15€. One of the best things to do in Bruges if you want to take unique pictures and see the city from a different perspective!
Alternatively, you can book a tour in advance online so you can secure your spot on your desired date and time, such as this “Best of Bruges Private Tour with Local Guide” which includes a boat ride as well.
TIP: Make sure you grab a seat at the very back or very front of the boat to get unobstructed photos during the ride.
4 - Lovers' Bridge & Lake of Love
The Lake of Love is located right in the centre of Minnewater Park and it’s an excellent spot to go and unwind after a full day of exploring the city on foot. While you’re there, you can catch a glimpse at the Lovers’ Bridge, a cute landmark, especially for all my hopeless romantics out there. Plus, there are lots of awesome photo opportunities all around the place!
RELATED READ: 12 Top Attractions in Brussels, Belgium – A Complete Guide to the City
5 - Bonifacius Bridge & Church of Our Lady
When it comes to not-so-popular things to do in Bruges, the Bonifacius Bridge is probably my favourite location in the city! The beautiful cobble bridge crosses a canal with a backdrop of the Onze Lieve Vrouw (Church of Our Lady) and the Gruuthuse Palace. This picturesque location was one of my highlights for its fairy-tale scenery of medieval buildings – and a superb photo spot as well!
And talking about the Church of Our Lady – you should not only visit the church, but also the world-famous sculpture: Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child, carved in 1503.
6 - St Salvator's Cathedral
We’re talking about the oldest church in the city and one of its main points of interest here! Truth be told, this cathedral is very beautiful indeed, with neo-gothic architecture and lots of Flemish artworks on the inside.
7 - And, of course, the windmills
Did you know that the outskirts of the city are very different from the touristic old town centre? And they’re well worth a visit as well, that’s for sure! If you decide to get out of the city centre and go to the outskirts, you’ll find green, tranquil parks lining the riverside and the Windmill Walk – 4 windmills (the remaining of the original 23). Some of them are open for tourists to explore, so make sure you don’t miss out on the opportunity. Even though, if you ask me, just the walk itself is totally worth it!
RELATED READ: Where to stay in Brussels – Best Areas and Hotels
Extra things to see in Bruges to add to your list
But my list doesn’t end here, my friends! Apart from the famous Market Square, the colourful canals and Belfry Tower, there are some other things to do and see in case you have more time in this romantic city. Here are some bonus suggestions for you:
- Groeninge Museum – for all Flemish and Belgian art lovers (Jan van Eyck, Hans Memling and more!
- Basilica of the Holy Blood – a gorgeous Catholic basilica that dates back to the 12th century. You can visit it for the beautiful Renaissance building and see the… well, holy blood of Jesus on a sacred piece of cloth;
- Museum of Torture – in case you’re “passionate” to see some instruments of torture dating from centuries ago. Freaky, but very interesting!
- Ten Wijngaerde – the only preserved beguinage in the city that dates back to the 12th century. It still looks medieval and untouched, so it’s a great spot to escape the touristy places of Bruges;
- Old St. John’s Hospital / Sint Janshospitaal – one of the oldest hospitals in Europe, dating from the 12th century, right next to Church of Our Lady;
- Ice Sculpture Festival – one of the unmissable things to do in Bruges in winter and one of the best things to do in Bruges with kids;
- Hof de Jonghe Park – a real hidden gem of the city! This is a park where you’ll find sheep and lots of greenery, so it might be a quirky addition to your itinerary;
BONUS: Best tours in Bruges
I know, my list of things to do in Bruges might be overwhelming, especially if you only have half a day or one day in the city. What’s there to do, in this case? No worries – one of the best things to do in order to maximize your time is to book some organised tours in Bruges. Think of it like this: you’ll get to explore the city with a local, professional guide and you’ll get lots of extra interesting information. And everything else will be taken care of, so no need to create your own itinerary!
Sounds good, right? If you’re with me, then here are my best tour recommendations for your Bruges trip, divided into three different sections:
BEST TOURS ONCE YOU’RE ALREADY IN THE CITY
- Tour Bruges: 3-Hour Beer and Chocolate Tasting Private Tour – for all my foodies out there;
- Belgian Chocolate Workshop in Bruges – even better!
- Tour Bruges Guided Rickshaw Tour – if you’re looking for a unique way to tour Bruges;
- Tour Bruges: 1.5-Hour Dark Side of Bruges Private Evening Tour – if you’re all about urban legends and mysteries;
- Bruges Private 2-Hour Walking Tour – a local guide will take you to all the must-see spots in the city in this walking tour of Bruges;
- Free walking tours Bruges – I love the concept of free walking tours! They’re hosted by locals, passionate in sharing all kinds of fun, precious insights with tourists and at the end, you can pay as much as you want/have/feel like for the entire experience. No pressure! I recommend this free tour of Bruges; but you can find more options here.
BEST DAY TRIPS TO BRUGES FROM OTHER CITIES
BEST DAY TRIPS FROM BRUGES
Here are some extra ideas in case you want to explore some other destinations once you’ve seen the town of Bruges:
- Great War Flanders Fields Minibus Tour from Bruges
- Zeebrugge (beach destination) – 20 km away
- Knokke-Heist (beach destination) – 20 km away
- Zwin Nature Park – 23 km away
- Ostend – 30 km away
- Ghent – 50 km away
Best restaurants in Bruges and what to eat
You simply cannot travel to Bruges without digging into some yummy food! And when it comes to food… Belgium is here to impress every day! Here are some unmissable dishes to try while you’re in the city, plus some great restaurants where you can go for each of them:
House of Waffles. This one comes as no surprise – one of the main things to eat in Belgium is waffles! You can find places to eat this sweet treat that the Belgian people brought to the world all around the city, but my absolute favourite waffle stop was House of Waffles – they do the most amazing waffles generously topped with chocolate, cream, fresh fruit or sweets. For me, this was by far the most impressive waffle I ate in Belgium!
Chez Vincent. Anyone who knows me well knows I have a bit of a potato addiction, but you simply need to try the traditional way of making a worldwide favourite, the amazing Belgian “frite” (fries to the rest of the world)! Usually, they come served in a cone with a generous portion of mayonnaise on the side. Yum!
Chocolatier Dumon. If there’s something this country knows how to do, it’s chocolate. Within the Bruges Old Town walls, you’ll find lots of different chocolatiers. I spent big parts of my day just exploring and taste testing all the different types and flavours! One of the most renowned chocolatiers in Bruges is Chocolatier Dumon and you can find them in three different shops around the city.
The Beer Wall. It is also a fact that Belgium is famous for its artisanal beer. With thousands of different breweries across the country, there are lots of different flavours to try and this is an unmissable experience for all you beer connoisseurs out there. One of the most famous bars in Bruges for beer is The Beer Wall. My boyfriend Guga loved it! Another good place is Brewery De Halve Maan.
RELATED READ: If you’re looking for more places to eat in Bruges, read my blog post: 9 Places to eat in Bruges
Where to stay in Bruges
Finding a great place in Bruges won’t be hard. Due to the high number of tourists, there are lots of great options for accommodations catering to different budgets. If you’re visiting Bruges for the first time, you’ll want to stay somewhere near the heart of Bruges (close to the Bell Tower, Town Hall and the Market Square), where you can find most of the attractions the city has to offer.
OUR EXPERIENCE: During our visit, we stayed in Hotel Monsieur Ernest and I truly think that some of its advantages make it the best hotel in Bruges if you want to be in the heart of the city! The rooms are simple, beautiful and comfortable – but it’s the central location which sets it apart from its competitors. The hotel staff are super helpful and gave us some great recommendations for places to eat during our stay. I definitely recommend it!
OTHER HOTELS IN BRUGES:
And here are some of the best places to stay in Bruges I selected for you, grouped by budget:
SPLURGE. Hotel Dukes’ Palace Brugge – one of the best hotels in Bruges!
BOUTIQUE HOTEL. Hotel Monsieur Ernest
MID-RANGE. Hotel Duc De Bourgogne
BUDGET HOTEL. Ghesthouse Orchid
HOSTEL. Snuffel Hostel
ENTIRE APARTMENT. Bsauna & Wellness
How to get to Bruges
Where is Bruges located? Bruges is a charming town located in northwestern Belgium, in the northern Flanders region, around 100 km away from Brussels, the capital. In fact, Bruges is the capital of West Flanders in the Flemish region.
Here’s a Bruges map so you can clearly visualise where this city is located:
There are several ways of getting to the city, depending on your preferences and where you are located in the world:
BY PLANE. The closest airport is Brussels Airport, around 110km away. From there, you can either take a train or a taxi. A taxi will be around 150€ (1 hour and a half) and a train will be around 20€ (same duration).
BY TRAIN. There are multiple trains connecting not only Brussels but several other European cities and capitals to Bruges. For example, it will take you around 1 hour from Brussels to Bruges by train (starting at 16€/ride), 3 hours and 30 minutes from London, 3 hours from Paris and 3 hours from Amsterdam. This is probably the best way to travel to Bruges if you are already in Belgium if you ask me!
BY CAR. You can get from Brussels to Bruges in about 1h15’ (97km) and I recommend you rent a car if you have a desire to explore this beautiful country.
TIP: If you want to book a fully organised day trip from Paris, London or Amsterdam to Bruges, scroll up to my recommended tours and you’ll find some awesome options there!
This was my complete travel guide to Bruges which includes my 7 top things to do in this wonderful city! As I mentioned countless times before, this charming town is a beautiful destination and would make for a great city break, regardless if you’re visiting as a couple or not. So if you’re excited to see some old canals, many colourful houses, a beautiful central square and more than 80 bridges, this is the place for you and this article is here to tell you everything you need to know before your Bruges visit!
In case you want to explore some other parts of this country as well, click here to read all about my adventures in Belgium!