Ahead of a trip to the mysterious Bruges, get the know on some of these fun, quirky facts about the medieval Flemish capital. The cobbled streets and winding walkways hold many secrets, and it’s not just all ghost stories and myths. Whether you're planning a visit to Bruges, or your curiosity has brought you here, there are plenty of hidden secrets to discover. From the city’s potato obsession to its abandoned houses and expert lace making, check out 17 things you probably didn’t know about Bruges...
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1. BRUGES IS FAMOUS FOR ITS LACE MAKING
Bruges crafts some of the most luxurious lace in the world. Pop into one of the lace shops dotted around the city to buy a lace souvenir, or better yet visit the Lace Centre to learn more about the history of lace in Bruges. Beware of the "made in China" lace throughout the city (you won’t find any in the Lace Centre, so buy your lace from here if possible).
2. IT HAS MORE CASTLES THAN ANY OTHER COUNTRY
There are more castles per square inch than any other country in the world. About 50 of the 470 castles in the Flanders region are based around Bruges.
3. THE BELGIANS INVENTED FRIES, NOT AMERICANS
French fries, or ‘frites’, and mayonnaise is a local favourite and a iconic food staple in Bruges and the rest of Belgium. Head to one of the two green carts in the Markt square for your fix (or there’s even a Frietmuseum!)
4. THERE’S A WHOLE BAR DEDICATED TO POTATOES
The Potato Bar , as the name suggests, screams potatoes. Even the bar is made from potato crates. Selling delicious Bruges frites as well as homemade croquettes filled with authentic fillings such as eel and asparagus, this place is definitely worth a try. Who can resist carbs when they taste as good as these...
5. BRUGES IS HAUNTED
Take a free walking tour to hear about the ghostly legends of Bruges, starting with the old Augustinian Monastery where a monk searches for the nun he murdered for trying to run from him. Their ghosts now wander through Den Noodt Gods. This is one of many of Bruges’ ghost stories.
6. THERE ARE MORE THAN 80 BRIDGES IN BRUGES
Bruges may be small, but it has over 80 bridges making it easy to navigate the city and get from one side of the canals to the other. Due to the sheer amount of canals and bridges, Bruges is known as ‘Venice of the North’. Pictured is the Bonifacius Bridge.
7. THERE ARE COUNTLESS MYTHS AND LEGENDS
One of the most famous legends took place at Minnewater Lake, also known as the Lake of Love’. Legend goes that a beautiful sailor’s daughter Minna died in the arms of her star-crossed lover, the young warrior Stromberg, at this very spot.
8. GET CAUTIOUS WHEN IT COMES TO CHOCOLATE
Not all chocolate shops in Bruges are truly made in the city. To make sure you’re buying the real stuff, look for a sign saying ‘handmade’ in the shop window. Check out the .
9. SOMETIMES IN BRUGES, A HOUSE IS JUST ABANDONED
For example, the roof of a small house in Bruges (now called Secret Garden) was rotting away, until it was roofless. Some neighbours decided to reclaim the space and make something beautiful out of it. A secret garden with countless pots with herbs and flowers.
10. A LOT OF PEOPLE RECKON THE BELFRY TOWER IS SLIGHTLY LEANING
Go and see it for yourself to make an informed judgement…
To reach the top of the Belfry Tower, you have to climb a whopping 366 steps.
11. YOU CAN SEE THE BRUGES HIGHWAY FROM THE MOON
Belgian’s superhighway system, which stretches out to Bruges, is the only man-made structure on Earth that you can see from the moon.
12. BRUGES IS LESS THAN ONE HOUR FROM BRUSSELS BY TRAIN
Why not kill two birds with one stone?
13. VIRTUALLY EVERYTHING IS CLOSED IN BRUGES ON SUNDAY
If you’re visiting Bruges, try and avoid Sunday’s as almost everything is closed.
14. GET THE LINGO RIGHT
Locals understand French but are offended when tourists assume that Bruges' native language is French, it is actually Flemish/Dutch!
15. DE HALVE MAAN IS A BREWERY THAT MAKES BRUGSE ZOT – A BEER MADE ONLY IN BRUGES
De Halve Maan is a beer lover’s dream. De Halve Maan is a 16th century brewery, owned by the same family since 1856 and is without a doubt one of the best Belgian beer tours you’ll find in Bruges.
16. THE OLDEST WINDMILL IS BRUGES IS THE ONLY MILL STANDING IN ITS ORIGINAL POSITION
Sint-Janshuismill windmill was built in 1770, the oldest windmill in Bruges. Sint-Janshuismill still grinds flour to this day, and it’s the only windmill in Bruges that is open to the public with a museum inside. It’s also the only mill in Bruges standing on its original position.
17. THERE’S A BIG BLUE WHALE MADE OUT OF TRASH
Just opposite the Jan Van Eyck statue, you’ll see an enormous blue whale hauling itself out of the canal, 4 stories high. Don’t be alarmed - it’s made of plastic! A powerful statement made by STUDIOKCA, the designers, as a reminder of the 150,000,000 tons of plastic waste in our oceans.