Much more than just numerous Gothic churches and a famous movie set, Bruges is a European destination not to be missed. It cannot be denied that the architecture here is worth the visit alone, but we think there is so much more to Bruges than meets the eye. During our short stay in Bruges we explored as much as time would allow. Luckily it is a small city so we were able to get around on foot and see much of this beautiful city. Walking around Bruges is definitely the best way to see this gem. There is nothing I love more than walking down the cute cobblestone roads and finding hidden treasures you would miss if you were in a vehicle.
For a small city there are a lot of things to do in Bruges Belgium. Below we have included a few off beat sights as well as some of the more treasured sights. We hope you enjoy your trip to Bruges as much as we did!
Otherwise simply known as Market Square, Markt is the heart of the action in Bruges. It dates back centuries and as the years have gone by, it has been rebuilt, added to, and renovated. This gives it a bit of a mix of styles in terms of architecture, but essentially it all retains that classic medieval Bruges look, complete with the infamous Bruges bell tower. Bruges’ Markt is beautiful in both the day and at night, and you will find many events going on here throughout the year. In lead up to the holiday season, Markt is where the Bruges Christmas Market is held. The square is also traffic-free, making it perfect to simply take a stroll around.
Museum St Janshospitaal
St Janshospitaal is an 800-year old hospital that used to care for pilgrims, travelers, and the sick, back in its heyday. Now, it is one of the most interesting museums in Bruges, where you can explore the rooms where nuns and monks would perform their weird and wonderful medical practices. The hospital had a strong ‘ye olde’ feel, with displays of bizarre medical instruments and odd drawings of the anatomy. There is a 17th century pharmacy attached to the building, where you can see the kinds of drugs and medicines used in that time. The museum is also famous for housing 6 paintings by Hans Memling, which date back to the 15th century.
Even though we like to keep our ‘things to do’ lists a bit different, the Belfry simply cannot be left off a Bruges list. This medieval tower is iconic to Bruges, and it looms over Markt square, 83m tall. For a small fee you can climb the 366 steps, and from the top look out over the entire city. The tower actually leans an entire meter to the east, but you don’t exactly notice that fact at the top. Movie fans will, of course, have to check out this spot, as it lays a central role in the movie, ‘In Bruges’.
Eat Belgian Food
Just as a list on Bruges wouldn’t be incomplete without the Belfry, a list about Belgium would be incomplete without mentioning Belgian food. While Belgium does share much of its cuisine with France, it cannot be denied that they have put their own mark on several dishes – most notably fries and waffles. There is nothing more local here than grabbing some fries and mayo, or a waffles covered in all kinds of sweet sauces as you walk around town. As for food in restaurants, don’t forget to order yourself a typical plate of ‘moules-frites’, which is mussels and fries, or ‘konjin in geuze’, which is rabbit cooked in beer. Speaking of which, drinking plenty of beer in Belgium is a must, too. Oh, and lots of chocolate. Basically, anything indulgent.
Get out to Loppem Castle
If complete quiet is what you’re after, and a quick break from the city, why not check out Loppem Castle, which is just 6km away from the center of Bruges. It is known for being a stunning example of Gothic Revival architecture, and although it might not be as grand and impressive as more famous castles in neighboring countries (we’re looking at you, Germany) it is beautiful nonetheless. Not only is the castle worth a visit, the surrounding gardens are quaint and similar to the English countryside. Finally, if you have kids with you, or you’d like to get in touch with your playful side yourself, there’s a maze within the gardens as well.
As any diamond aficionado would know, diamonds are most commonly known to be cut and polished in Antwerp or Amsterdam in Europe. Well, it should actually be Bruges that wins the titles if leader for diamond production, or at least it used to be before the others got involved. Bruges is the oldest center for diamonds in Europe, and diamonds are still one of the most important exported products in this region. They have been traded in Bruges for centuries, long before Antwerp took the title of European diamond champion. The Diamantmuseum in Bruges is where you can go and see the history behind the beautiful product, and also catch a diamond polishing show, upon completion of which you will receive a free diamond!
Take a stroll through Hof Arents
Hof Arents is a beautiful little park and square tucked away from preying tourist eyes in Bruges. It’s the perfect spot for getting away from the crowds and simply taking a breather. There are four interesting horsemen sculptures here too, so you can catch a bit of art as well as take a time out. Here you can also wander across a little pedestrian humpbacked bridge and looked out over the famous Bruges canals. It’s one of the perfect quiet spots in Bruges and would make the ideal getaway for couples seeking peace and quiet.
Take a brewery tour at De Halfe Maan
This family brewery in the center of Bruges is the only one of its kind still active in the city. Belgium prides itself of its beer (and quite rightly so) so it’s only polite to partake in this part of local culture. At De Halfe Maan you can discovery old brewing methods that are still underway here, which will tell you everything you need to know about the key ingredients in Belgium’s favorite brews. There is also a museum and pub attached to the brewery, making it the perfect day out with a potentially boozy finish.
Take a bike ride
The town of Bruges is surrounded by a canal with parkland running adjacent. Take the opportunity to hire a bike and pedal your way around town. There are wonderful sights to see as you ride along, including four antique windmills. It’s also a good chance to burn off some of that Belgium chocolate!
Somewhere to stay
In a city like Bruge it would be criminal not to stay somewhere authentic, with a history as rich as the city itself. This is why we suggest you stay at Hotel Navarra during your trip to Bruges. This boutique treasure is known for its exceptionally high standard of customer service. Hotel Navarra is in the perfect location, just a 2 minute walk to Market Square. The facilities here include WiFi, buffet breakfast, indoor heated pool, fitness room, sauna and a very nice jazz lounge. The building itself is beautiful and has such an amazing history; if only the walls could talk, the stories would be fascinating!
Have you been? What would you recommend for things to do in Bruges?