The charming Bruges is the capital and largest city of the province of West Flanders in the Flemish Region of Belgium, in the northwest of the country. The city's total population is 115.000.
Tourists tend to overwhelm the place, especially in the summer months, its perfectly preserved center has made it the most popular touristic destination in Belgium, but this shouldn't put you off from spending a couple of days in this culturally rich city.
Along with a few other northern cities, such as Amsterdam and Stockholm, it is sometimes referred to as The Venice of the North, thanks to the beauty of its city center has also been recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000.
Picturesque cobbled lanes and dreamy canals with its scenic bridges link photogenic market squares lined with high towers, stone churches and old medieval whitewashed houses.
Surprisingly for a city of this size there is an endless array of fun activities and interesting museums that should keep you occupied for a couple of days, here are some of the things you should do :
At the heart of Bruges city center stands the Belfort, an imposing bell tower dating back to the 13th century. Anyone who climbs all 366 steps will be rewarded with a stunning view over the city and its surroundings. As this is the most visited sight in town queues can get pretty long and only a select number of people are allowed to the climb up the tower at one time. Located beneath the tower, the Market Square ( Markt ) is filled with beautiful & unique buildings with stunning architecture. Here you will find many good-looking restaurants and cafes where you can enjoy the exceptional views however don't get tempted, these are the typical touristic places with average quality meals at a premium price. Continue your walk on Steenstraat, Bruges’ main shopping street, where you will find just as many small crafts boutiques as major chain stores, all housed in the warmth and beauty of typical buildings. Along this street you will stumble upon the impressive Sint-Salvatorskathedraal, the largest church of Bruges. Often overlooked this church is worth a visit, there is no entrance fee and inside you will find interesting artwork from different periods of Belgium's history along beautifully colored stained-glass windows.
Looking for a scenic place to take a romantic evening stroll? Tucked away at the southern end of Bruges old town Minnewater Lake —also known as the Lake of Love— offers urban nature lovers a perfect setting regardless of the season or time of year. Swans are a common site on the lake, and the traditional Belgian brick houses in the background make the park particularly photogenic.
A boat trip down the romantic canals of Bruges is at the top of the bucket list for many Belgium visitors, and there’s no better way to experience this beautiful city than from the water. A half-hour trip allows you to appreciate the most noteworthy delights of the city from a completely different angle and snap some incredible pictures. Boat rides departs at regular intervals and should cost around 10 € per adult.
For art lovers the Fine Arts Museum of Bruges, better known as the Groeningemuseum, holds a collection that covers around 600 years of Flemish and Belgian paintings, from the 14th through the 20th century. The collection includes masterpieces by Jan van Eyck, Hans Memling, Hugo van der Goes and Gerard David, as well as works by the minor masters active in Bruges in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
The Choco-Story (Chocolate Museum) is another popular attraction that recounts the history of cocoa and chocolate. Here you can find more than 1,000 ancient objects and 80 information boards explaining the story of how chocolate evolved from its origins as a spicy Mayan drink to become the delicious sweet that we all love today.
Any visit to Belgium is likely going to involve sampling some of the local beers, and De Halve Maan Brewery, ideally located in central Bruges just 10 minutes walk from Market Square is one of the country’s best working breweries.The most convenient way to visit the brewery is by joining a guided tour, which last around 45 minutes and include a glass of beer at the top of the building.
When the night comes, venture in the narrow streets lined up with traditional old pubs where you can wash down some delicious food with a extensive range of strong Belgian beers.
One of the most famous popular and well-rated bar is Le Trappiste located in an 800 year old medieval cellar in the heart of Bruges, only 300 metres away from the main Market Square. They have an impressive range of beers on the tap and a unique atmosphere.
Being a small and compact city you will be able to cover all sites comfortably in just 2 days. Should you decide to stay 4/5 in Belgium you could consider included Bruges in an itinerary with nearby Ghent or Brussels.