There are certain things you just need to do when you’re in Bruges. We’ve rounded up 13 unmissable ways to enjoy the medieval city, guaranteed to provide the authentic Belgian experience that will have you returning again and again. Check them out…
1 EXPLORE THE MAIN SQUARES
Bruges’ two main squares are Burg Square and Markt Square, so make sure you pay a trip to both. These bustling city squares boast a wonderful atmosphere and there are plenty of things to do. Let's start with Burg Square...
The architecture on Burg Square is simply incredible, representing a variety of architectural styles from the Gothic to Renaissance to the Neo-Classicist. Home to the Gothic Town Hall (perhaps the most beautiful building in the city - and one of the oldest), this square is special because it’s full of history. On the square, you’ll also find the Basilica of the Holy Blood, a 12th century Roman Catholic basilica.
Lying beneath the towering Belfry Tower, you’ll find the bustling Markt Square. Attracting 4 million tourists per year, many people use the square as their starting point or ending point to explore the city. Head here on a Wednesday when all the market stalls come out selling fresh fruit, meats, cheeses, hot delicacies and handmade goods.
Lining the square you’ll find many restaurants and cafes - however if you’re planning a lunch or dinner stop avoid the restaurants on the square as they tend to be overpriced and considered tourist traps compared to the quaint pubs and restaurants nearby that are cheaper and serve up better food.
2 VISIT THE CHOCOLATE SHOPS
Chocaholics! Where better to treat your taste buds to quality cocoa than Belgium, the chocolate capital of the world? One place in particular renowned for its chocolatey goodness is Bruges - so we’ve scoped out the best chocolate shops in the medieval city so you can get your fix of cocoa.
3 CLIMB TO THE TOP OF THE BELFRY
Burn off all that chocolate. For the best view of the city, climb to the top of the Bruges Belfry - a whopping 366 steps. The exercise is worth it for the stunning view. Bruges is pretty flat, so it’s one of the few chances you’ll get to witness a panoramic rooftop view of the city. Costs €8 to climb to the top. Fun fact: The Belfry is the famous medieval bell tower of Bruges on Markt Square, a sight you may recognise from the 2008 film In Bruges.
4 BOAT TOUR DOWN THE CANALS
Taking a boat tour of the city is one of the most popular thing to do in Bruges. For €8 you can take a half-hour guided canal cruise from the bridge on Wollestraat to see the best of Bruges from the water. Make time for this if you’re only in Bruges for a day.
5 INDULGE IN BELGIAN WAFFLES
You can’t come to Bruges and not indulge in the crazy good Belgian waffles.
One of our favourite travel bloggers, The Hostel Girl, recommends the waffle van that stands in Burg Square opposite the County Hall - sadly the van isn’t always there, in which case head to Chez Albert for your waffle fix.
There are plenty of museums in Bruges to satisfy you culture vultures, but our favourite two include:
Art lovers should make their first stop the Groeninge Museum. Here, you’ll find an impressive collection of paintings from Belgian and Flemish artists to really give you a feel of the country’s artistic background, history and heritage - and you can familiarise yourself with Belgium's finest painters. Entry: €8
Foodies should head to the Frietmuseum, a whole museum dedicated to frites. Frites is a staple fast food dish in Bruges, and sure it sounds simple, (what’s so special about fries covered in mayo and ketchup?) but the Bruges frites are literally amazing and the best you’ll taste. It’s no wonder the Belgians are the world’s biggest consumers of frites (yup, even more than Americans). The Frietmuseum is devoted to the history of potatoes and the production of Belgian fries.
7 FOLLOW THE IN BRUGES TRAIL
Never seen the 2008 movie In Bruges? Well, make sure you do so immediately (it’s on Netflix), especially if you’re planning a trip to the city in the near future. You can take a free walking tour that will guide you through all of Bruges’ key locations featured in the movie (even the hotel the protagonists stayed in, in Rozenhoedkaai). The tour is called the In Bruges trail, starting at Market Square.
8 FIND THE WINDMILLS
Bruges is famed for its giant windmills and they’ve been part of the city landscape since the 17th century. If you head to Bruges Old Town and make your way to the Northeastern end of the canal, you’ll come across some beautiful windmills dating back to the 18th century. 4 in total. The Koeleweimolen and Sint-Janshuismolen mills are pretty impressive and significant to the city’s history - and both are still functioning today to make grain.
9 HIRE A BIKE
Other than walking, cycling is the next favoured way of getting around Bruges. The city is only small so pretty much everywhere is accessible on two wheels. Rent a lime green bike from the hostel for a day for just €10 and enjoy. We recommend cycling past Minnewater Lake at lunch time, located in a tranquil park, perfect to set up a picnic on a summer's day and befriend some swans.
10 TAKE A BREWERY TOUR OF DE HALVE MAAN
De Halve Maan is one of Bruges’ most famous breweries, not to be missed for a quick bite to eat or to enjoy a quality pint whilst overlooking the canal. You can even take a guided tour of the brewery, running daily to give you an insight into the history of this family-run brewery that has been making liquid gold in Bruges for centuries. 9 euros per person and tours are available in English, Dutch, French and German.
See the 7 Best Beer Spots in Bruges
11 GET A SNAP AT ROZENHOEDKAAI
Travel like royalty around Bruges in a horse and carriage. Explore the cobbled streets from the comfort of a seat on a half an hour ride through the city (with a break to stretch your legs included). To take a ride, it costs 50 euros (so a little on the pricey side) - but it means if you’re in a group of 4 you can split it between you. It’s not 50 per person, don’t worry, it’s a flat rate to hire out the carriage! The tour itself is brilliant because you get to see so much of the city, and the guide can give you some history lessons. The horses are also beautiful.
13 TASTE THE BEERS AT THE LIVELIEST HOSTEL IN TOWN, THE BAUHAUS
The Bauhaus hostel in Bruges is not only the liveliest place to stay during your visit, it’s also one of the liveliest places to drink. The Bauhaus has a traditional Belgian bar with more than 50 types of beer on offer - and the hostel even hosts a nightly beer tasting experience where you can sample local beers. The bar is a great place to meet travellers and locals every night of the week.
14 FREE WALKING TOUR
This is one of the best tours in the city - and it's free. Why not join one of the story-filled Legends Walking Tours (daytime or evening) departing from the main square (Grote Markt) every day. Their nighttime tour also finishes back at the Bauhaus bar for a free drink just before the beer tasting.