A guide on what to see and do in Bruges, Belgium.
I’ve actually been to Bruges before. It was a work trip and I had to follow a tight media schedule that didn’t allow me time to properly explore Bruges. When work found me back in Belgium again, I decided to spend a couple of days properly in Bruges.
This is one of the most idyllic medieval fairytale towns I’ve visited. Here’s why Bruges is worth a hop over.
The UNESCO Old Town
The entire historic town of Bruges is UNESCO-protected. I’m going to gloss over the historical parts of Bruges, but I will say the beautifully preserved architecture made walking every corner of this town my favourite thing to do here. I may also be a little bit obsessed with cobblestoned paths, so there’s that.
The Rozenhoedkaai or Quay of the Rosary is one of the more iconic and most photogenic spots in Bruges. It’s a lovely sight in the daytime, but even more so when illuminated at night.
Explore Bruges at Night
If you’re staying a night in Bruges, the town with its ambient lighting is something special. I totally get why this town is considered one of the more romantic spots in Belgium.
Brugge Markt Square
This is the main market square in Bruges where the annual Christmas markets are held at. Most walking tours would also start from here. I gravitated towards one corner of the market square, where there was a line of cute, colourful old buildings.
Climbing up the Belfry is one of the must-dos when in Bruges to see a breathtaking view of Bruges city. I skipped on this because… I was lazy, not going to lie. It’s a 366-step climb to the top, yeah not today. I chose to do another thing with the Belfry, that’s apparently also a must-do: see if it’s crooked.
Old St. John Hospital
The Sint-Janshospitaal is otherwise known as Old St. John Hospital . It’s no longer a hospital though; today it’s a museum. I didn’t feel like spending my day in a museum, so I explored the grounds (for free), which was a peaceful respite from the tourist crowd outside. There was also a free harp performance going on when I visited.
Church of Our Lady
The Old St John’s Hospital is located right next to the imposing Church of Our Lady, or Onze-Lieve-Vrouwkerk. The tower is the tallest in the city, and makes for a good directional point. Within its imposing exterior, lies Michaelangelo’s masterpiece, a sculpture of the Madonna with Child. I personally loved walking the surrounding garden area – the canal bridge there is one of the most prettiest in town.
Bruges City Hall
Located in Burg Square, the City Hall is one of the oldest city halls in Belgium. I passed the City Hall several times, but never realised you could enter the building. The exterior of the building is a Gothic marvel, and apparently the interior is even better.
The Basilica of the Holy Blood
Right beside the City Hall is the Basilica of the Holy Blood. The highlight of this church is that it supposedly houses the Jesus’ blood, hence its name.
Unfortunately when I arrived, it was already closed for the day. Against City Hall, the basilica’s diminutive and dark exterior is an interesting juxtapose.
When I first walked into the park, I didn’t think much of it. Peaceful park, but like any other. Then I came upon a gorgeous lake, which is the definite highlight of this lake. There’s a whole story behind the lake, and apparently the bridge that I was on is called the The Lover’s Bridge. Supposedly if you walk over the bridge and kiss your loved one, the love will last forever or something like that. I was alone, so I only have myself to pledge eternal love to.
The Bequinage is this unique little enclave close to the Minnewater Park. This complex was smaller than I expected and is made up of these adorable little houses surrounding a garden full of yellow flowers. In the medieval times this was the former residence of beguines, who were religious women not belonging to any religion. Yeah, sit on that one. Today, the Beguinage is home to nuns. Quiet is observed here, and entering the Beguinage I was immediately transported to a place of total zen.
The Charming Swans
You’ll find beautiful swans swimming the canals all over Bruges, but there’s a concentration of them hanging out right at the doorstep of the Beguinage.
There are a couple of nests here but I had no luck spotting some ugly ducklings. The swans are exceptionally beautiful here and looked very well taken care of.
Get on a Canal Boat Tour
Doing a canal boat tour is one of the most touristy things you can do, but I’d consider it a must-do. I didn’t do it this time round because I did the canal boat tour the first time I visited for work. Our tour was in the evening, when it was a lot quieter and it was just our group – it was magical. We encountered swans on our ride too.
Visit the weekend flea market
Along the Dijver canal here, you’d find a flea market in the weekend. Though I didn’t get anything, I had a good time strolling the stalls and seeing what’s on sale. It’s a true, authentic flea market hawking antiques and vintage items, with a couple of art stalls thrown in there.
Lots of eating and drinking
When in Belgium, you have to eat lots of fries, chocolates and waffles. In Bruges, you’ll have plenty of options for those.
Mussels are also a must-try. Although mussels were not in season, I had my best mussels while I was in Bruges. Mind you, I’m not usually a fan of mussels too. The mussels were fresh and clean tasting. I ordered it as a main, and didn’t realise that meant I had to eat 1kg worth of mussels. Needless to say, I did not end up finishing it.
And for beer drinkers, you drink lots of the stuff here. Or in my case, non-alcoholic beer. For a country so proud of their beer, I was surprised and appreciated they have non-alcoholic versions of beer readily available.