What to do in Bruges, explore the canals by boat

What To Do In Brugge, or Bruges, Belgium

Brugge, or Bruges, oozes old-world charm, with its well-preserved medieval town, which reflects its colorful allure perfectly in its winding network of canals. In the Middle Ages, Bruges became northwestern Europe’s leading international center of trade after a violent storm opened an inlet, later termed the ’Golden Inlet’, to the North Sea. By the 15th century Bruges was in its Golden Age, a major center of finance and culture with merchants visiting from around the world to exchange goods. Amazingly, this city retains much of its former beauty, making it the perfect place to travel back in time and explore its stepped gabled architecture, historic squares, and canals.

What to do in Bruges, admire the canals

What To See And Do In Bruges

Visit Market Square, or Grôte Markt

In the heart of Brugge is its charming 10th century pedestrian marketplace, Grôte Markt. Often listed as one of the most beautiful squares in Europe, full of colorful buildings with quaintly stair-stepped roofs and its regal Neo Gothic Provincial Court, this is the best place to start your visit to Bruges.

This square has been the site of a weekly market since 985. Wednesdays are official market days, but, sprinkled with shops and bookstores, there’s also plenty of traditional shopping here as well.

It’s also lined with restaurants and bars that have a lively atmosphere and are great for people watching. Most, however, cater mainly to tourists, so if you’re looking for better prices and quality, it’s best to walk a little farther away.

What to do in Bruges, visit Grôte Markt
Provincial Court

Grôte Markt is beautiful by day, but make sure to also come back at night, as the lights lend an extra ambiance that you really shouldn’t miss.

Other things to see and do in Grôte Markt include:

Climb the Belfry of Bruges

What to do in Bruges, climb the Belfry

For the view, climb the Belfry, or Bell Tower, of Bruges, which provides a fantastic, 360 degree panorama of the city at the top of its 366, narrow, twisting steps.

Interestingly, this former watchtower, which was once used to spot fires, caught on fire itself 3 times!

The first time it was rebuilt after burning completely to the ground. The other times, its wooden spire caught fire. After the last spire turned to ashes, it was never rebuilt.

Adding to its intrigue, this tower, like the Tower of Pisa, leans, although not as much. The Belfry of Bruges tilts almost 3’ (1 m) to the east.

Learn The History of Bruges At The Historium

For a narrated overview of Bruges’ history, told through sets, video, and special effects, visit the Historium. The tale takes you back to the 15th century Bruges, when Bruges was at its peak. Some may find this spot a little touristy, but for families, it’s a nice option.

Burg Square

Burg Square, the oldest part of the city, was once a walled fortress with a gate at its entrance. Known for its beautiful 14th century Gothic Town Hall and unique Basilica of the Holy Blood, this is the administrative center of Bruges.

Basilica Of The Holy Blood, or HeiligBloedbasiliek

What do do in Bruges, the Basilica of the Holy Blood

This Basilica gets its unusual name from the relic of Holy Blood from the crucifixion that has been here since the Middle Ages.

Reportedly obtained by Joseph of Arimathea, when he buried Christ, the cloth with his blood was brought here in a vial by the Count of Flanders, Thierry of Alsace.

However, this cathedral is beautiful to visit just for its lovely main alter, with its colorful mural and stained glass windows.

It’s located just west of the Town Hall in Burg Square.

Explore The Canals By Boat

One of the top things to do in Bruges is to explore its canals by boat. The views are amazing, plus you’ll get some history as you cruise. Several companies offer tours, but you don’t need to be choosy, as they all take the same route for the same price.

What to do in Bruges, explore the canals by boat

Take Photos At Quay of The Rosary, Or Rozenhoedkaai

This photogenic spot is located where the Dijver and Groenerei Canals meet. Note the Belfry of Bruges from a different angle (below right).

What to do in Bruges, the Quay of the Rosary
Quay of The Rosary

Search For Eternal Love at Minnewaterpark

This charming park and lake is a romantic oasis south of the historical city center. ‘Minne’ means love, so this lake is also known as the Lake of Love. Legend is that if you cross Minnewater bridge with your lover, your love will be eternal.

What to do in Bruges, visit Minnewaterpark

Discover Belgian Beer Culture

Bruges is the ideal place to experience traditional Belgian beer culture and try its amazing beers. There are three outstanding breweries. Two in the center of town, De Halve Maan, in operation since 1856, and Bourgogne Flandres, which is being brewed again after an absence of 60 years, and one just outside the center, Fort Lapin.

De Halve Maan made the news in 2016 with the world’s-first legal underground beer pipeline. It runs two miles underneath the cobbled streets and canals of the city center, to its bottler in the suburbs. A creative way to transport its beer while maintaining its ideal location.

Visit A 500 Year-Old Pub, Vlissinghe

Shop For Hand-Made Lace At ‘t Apostelientje

Bruges was once world renowned for its lace, so you’ll see many lace shops. One of the few still selling traditional hand-made lace is ‘t Apostelientje, about a 10-minute walk from central Bruges in Sint-Anna Quarter. They have a selection of modern, vintage, and antique hand-made lace.

Visit Flemish Masters At Groeninge Museum

This museum features six centuries of Flemish and Belgian art. Its most famous include pieces are well-known 15th century Flemish Primitives including Jan van Eyck, Hans Memlimg, and Hugo van der Goes, but it also includes neoclassical and modern artists, like surrealist René Magritte.

Want To See More Of Belgium?

Belgium’s two other most visited cities are Brussels, its cosmopolitan capital, and Ghent, it’s hipster university town with gorgeous old-world architecture. Both are just a short train ride away, so make a plan to see them all if you can.

To learn more about visiting Belgium, its top sites, how to get around, money matters, safety, scams, and more, see my Travel Guide for Belgium.

Hello! I resigned from a corporate career in product development to explore the world. Although my goal was to travel for a year, 8 years later, I’ve been honored to have explored more than 60 gorgeous countries and met some unbelievably amazing people. Our world truly is a beautiful place! Follow me into the gorgeous unknown by subscribing below. You’ll receive details on fabulous destinations, comprehensive travel guides, travel tips and tidbits, and information on travel trends, like experiential, sustainable, and transformational travel. Where is your next gorgeous unknown? Julie

One Comment

  • Kerry Dare

    What a wonderful experience to connect with your relatives.

    You look great. Traveling suits you

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