A city of pretty canals, cobblestone streets and a plethora of attractive squares and historic buildings, Bruges is a stunning place to explore.
There’s no better way to get an appreciation for Bruges’ medieval past than a boat tour around the canals. For a reasonable cost, take to the water and see the quaint sights of this UNESCO World Heritage Site in an immersive way.
1. St. Boniface Bridge
Bruges is the most beautiful town in Belgium, known as the “Venice of the North.” Its network of canals and stone bridges have captivated tourists for centuries.
You can also visit the medieval city by boat, which is a wonderful way to explore the city. You can find a boat pier on Nieuwstraat 11, from where you can take a cruise around the canals of Bruges.
Another nice and quiet place is the Lake of Love (Minnewater). It’s a great place to escape the bustle of the city and enjoy a little peace and tranquility in Bruges.
There are four windmills on the Bruges city ramparts, but Sint-Janshuismolen is the oldest and still operates as it did in 1770. You can climb to the top of the mill for a stunning view of the city, and you can also go inside to learn about how it grinds grain.
It’s no secret that Bruges has its fair share of beer bars, but for a quirky experience try De Garre, a bar with 140 varieties of Belgian Beers on tap. Or head to Cafe Vlissinghe, which claims to be the oldest pub in Bruges.
If you’re feeling a little tired of all the sightseeing, take a trip to one of Bruges’ museums. The Frietmuseum is the first and only museum dedicated to French fries, and the Groeningemuseum is a favourite with art lovers.
Markt, Bruges’ main square, is the heart of this historic city. It’s home to a 12th-century Basilica, the city hall (Stadhuis van Brugge) and a few ornate buildings.
It’s also a great place to start a two-hour canal cruise, one of the best ways to get a feel for this UNESCO World Heritage city. Along the way, you’ll pass the city’s old trading houses, bridges and facades before making your way to the fish market.
Another thing that’s worth doing while in Bruges is visiting St Walburga’s Basilica, a remarkably dark and beautiful church. It’s a great way to experience the medieval side of this charming city, especially as it’s free and doesn’t require much time.
4. St. John’s Hospital
Founded in the mid-12th century, Sint-Janshospitaal (Oud Sint-Janshospitaal) is located next to the Church of Our Lady and contains some of Europe’s oldest surviving hospital buildings. During the Middle Ages, sick pilgrims and travellers were cared for here. In the 19th century, further construction led to a hospital with eight wards around a central building.
The historic hospital site is also home to a museum, containing artefacts that shed light on medical history. Visitors can see the original herb garden and apothecary, as well as the old attic, with one of the oldest roof truss systems in the world.
The museum also features works by Hans Memling, a famous Flemish Primitive painter who lived here in the 15th century. His six masterpieces are on display, including the chapel-shaped St. Ursula Shrine and the stunning St. John Altarpiece Triptych.
If you’re a big art fan, the Groeningemuseum is definitely worth visiting. It is home to some of the best (early) Flemish Primitives and Renaissance works by artists like Jan Van Eyck, Hans Memling and Gerard David.
It’s one of Bruges’ main attractions, so be sure to make time for it on your trip. You can do a self-guided tour or opt for the free audio guide.
It’s also a great place to stop off for a coffee or snack if you have some time to kill. It’s located right along the canal so you can walk or take a boat ride from it to get to all the other artsy things in the city center.