The picturesque city of Bruges in Belgium is not a well-kept secret, and this wondrous place is a must-see for anyone living in or visiting Europe. Its gothic architecture, complete with cobbled streets and underground taverns, transports you to the past and the city turns magical during the festive period with its markets.
While Bruges is a relatively small city, there is still plenty to pack in, and it’s the perfect weekend getaway for a change of scenery or a romantic break. If you need some ideas for your Bruges itinerary, make sure to check out these tips to avoid missing any of the essentials. Booking our free tour of Bruges is a very good start, but there is more!
Let’s start with one of the main reasons to visit Belgium, let alone Bruges – chocolate. The chocolatiers of Bruges don’t disappoint, with the highlight being the wonderful Neuhaus which offers a vast array of sweet chocolate delights in its windows ready to tempt you in. But why limit yourself to just one chocolate shop?
Bruges celebrates its love of chocolate and there are walking tours available with local knowledge to bring you into the best chocolate shops across the city.
If you intend on eating your body weight in chocolate while in Bruges, then Choco-Story is the place to visit. It is a chocolate museum with a unique collection of chocolate memorabilia and paraphernalia from history, plus demonstrations and tastings to ensure you don’t leave on an empty stomach!
Besides chocolate, Belgium is famous for another treat, beer. If you want to sample some local brews, there is no shortage of places to wet your whistle, and our free walking tour by night is the perfect way to discover all the local hotspots.
The good news is that most bars and taverns in Bruges provide a wide selection of Belgian beers to sample, so it may take several visits to make sure you know your favourite! Taverns like Le Trappiste not only feel like a throwback to medieval times thanks to the underground setting, but also brew their own.
You may also marvel at the extensive range of drinks available at some of these medieval drinking holes. It’s not uncommon to be provided with what feels like a beer encyclopedia to choose your drink from, including helpful tasting advice to guide your selection.
With three working breweries in Bruges, if you want to learn more about Belgian beer-making techniques, a brewery tour should be high up on your agenda. You can learn how these master breweries have been creating their beer for hundreds of years, perfecting their techniques and preserving historic methods along the way.
In truth, you won’t have to hunt very far, wide or hard for waffles in Belgium. Whether you want to take some waffles in hand as you walk through the cobbled streets or you want to take your time and sit in a café or bistro, around most corners is somewhere you can buy waffles.
Food makes the trip for many people and in Belgium, you are spoilt for choice. The most difficult decision will be having to choose what to miss out on for any given meal.
Often, the best way to take in a new city and to get a feel for the place is to walk its streets, finding avenues, stores, and places of interest for yourself. Getting lost in the atmosphere and hubbub on our own two feet is all part of the city break experience, and this way you get to feel the beautifully cobbled streets of Bruges.
The entire city of Bruges has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Sight, and it is possibly one of the best examples of a medieval settlement that has maintained its historic roots as the city has been modernized over the years.
As such, there are fine architectural details to be found throughout, and pictures to be taken to make sure you don’t miss a thing. To keep your Bruges street photography on point, camera experts MPB advise using small, mirrorless cameras.
They say: “These are generally compact and some have tilting screens, allowing you to mimic the ‘shoot-from-the-hip’ style of top-focusing cameras. As you don’t have a camera to your face, this allows you to blend in more and capture those all-important candid shots.” With free walking tours across Bruges available, your guide can highlight the most amazing medieval architectural designs and details throughout the historic centre.
Perhaps walking isn’t for you, but you still want to get a feel for the ancient cobbled streets of Bruges. A horse-drawn carriage ride through the historic centre is perfect if you wish to learn about the history of this ancient city, feel the cobbles rumble through the carriage but stay nice and cosy under a blanket. Guides are informative and knowledgeable, and for a romantic experience with your significant other, it’s a memorable way to spend an hour.
One of the best ways to take in Bruges is by boat, with canal tours taking you through the heart of the city and showcasing some of the medieval architecture from a new perspective. Although it’s not a long tour, there are plenty of details packed in that your guide and captain will only be too happy to share with you.
From old factories and warehouses that used the canals as delivery routes to being accompanied through the water by graceful swans, boat tours offer a new angle on Bruges’ history. It’s worth knowing that the boats aren’t covered, and it can get chilly, so make sure to bring some warm clothing to ensure you can remain focused on watching the wonderful buildings float by.
If seeing Bruges from one different perspective wasn’t enough, there is a second viewpoint to consider. The Belfry tower in Bruges is one of the main landmarks of the medieval city, and impossible to ignore once you reach the centre.
This 16th-century tower has used its bells to mark activities in city life for hundreds of years, and those willing to scale the 366 steps and 83 meters will enjoy one of the best views of Bruges. From this vantage point, you can enjoy a panoramic view of the city and marvel at the intricate architecture that fills Bruges’ skyline.
While in the Belfry, visitors can take a tour and discover more about the clockwork mechanisms that keep the bells running on time. For those unsure about climbing the Belfry, there is a miniature version on the Market Square in front of the tower for a different insight into this historic building and its gothic architecture.
Although Bruges is a small city, one as old as this has plenty of surprises in store for its visitors. With traditions aplenty, tourists in Bruges can spend plenty of time getting accustomed to them.
Besides chocolate and beer, Bruges is also home to traditional lace-making skills, and you can discover more about this wonderful craftwork at the Lace Centre, for information about the history of lace-making and demonstrations to show you how it’s done.
Continuing with the artistic theme and if you do make a trip to the Belfry, you will notice the Salvador Dalí Museum at the bottom. This Bruges museum exhibits more than 300 works by Salvador Dalí from a private collection, including paintings, sculptures, engravings, surrealist objects, and furniture.
Finally, anyone who visits Bruges in the build-up to Christmas will have their festive feelings turned up to the maximum. Market Square boasts a wonderfully diverse Christmas market, where stalls proudly sell food, ornaments and decorations, hot chocolate, and other festive drinks. The city is awash with lights and decorations during the festive period, turning it into a fairy tale setting that must be seen to be believed.
Dakota Murphey for Walkative!