Bruges, often called "Venice of the North", is, quite
deservedly, the most popular tourism destination in the Benelux.
Although Brussels has better restaurants and Amsterdam has more noteworthy
museums, Bruges's "time capsule" ambiance provides the traveler with an
environment for "discovery and exploration" unique in the Benelux countries.
Bruges was one of the world’s leading cities during the 13th and 14th
centuries. At the time, it was a center for international
commerce and had a population equivalent to London’s during the same period.
Unfortunately, the city’s harbor silted up in the middle of the fifteenth
century and Bruges lost its ability to function as a commercial port.
Soon thereafter, the city fell into decline and was eclipsed in importance
We noticed that tourist brochures often claim that Bruges, due to this
accident of history, has remained unchanged for hundreds of years, but we
think that sets the wrong tone. Although change is an unrelenting
taskmaster, the citizens of Bruges have worked hard to preserve the
"essence" of the area's past and in doing so have created an industrious
working city built around an admirable historic core that is a UNESCO
World Heritage Site.
By the way, Brugge is the Flemish name for the city, while the
English name for the city is spelled Bruges.
Bruges is a tourist magnet in all seasons, so be sure to reserve a room
in advance of your visit. Fall and
spring are "slower seasons" in Bruges and can be cold and wet, so bring warm
clothes and an umbrella, or rain gear. Of course, the "off-season" is less
crowded and there is a certain enchantment to the city when it is not
overflowing with tourists.
Regardless of where you go in Bruges, you will see memorable buildings
and delightful scenes. Click on the camera symbol below to see eight of our
favorite photographs of Bruges (click the right side of a photo to see the
The 2008 movie "In Bruges", which starred Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson
and Ralph Fiennes in a dark, but often comedic, story of two hit-men
hiding in Bruges after a botched job, gave Bruges tourism an unexpected
boost. Although the movie storyline is somewhat surreal, Bruges itself looks
in the film, which has apparently increased interest in this gem of a
Several municipal parking areas are situated on the edges of the "Old
Town" and available for those arriving in Bruges by automobile.
If you arrive by train, you can walk to the Old Town or take a bus or
taxi to the "Center". If walking, follow the signs to
Many leading hotels are located in the center of the Old Town while other
establishments are located a few blocks to the northeast and are a short
walk from the historic center.
Using Google maps for a base, we have created a new map that shows our
choices for the Best Places to Visit in Bruges, as well as the locations of:
the town's most scenic humpbacked bridge, the windmills at the edge of
town and the best place to view the buildings along the canals at night.
See for yourself.
is shown, click it to see photographs of the attraction shown on an
overlay of the page.
If there are multiple photos, click the right edge an individual
photo to see the next one, or simply click close to go back to the
Best Places to Visit in Belgium
Bruges' Old Town is compact and made for walking.
The canals and architecture of Bruges are the highlights of a
visit to this enjoyable town.
Its museums are interesting, but the shops, streets, walkways, humpbacked
bridges, and out of the way "nooks and crannies" in Bruges are its main
Walk as much as you can - it will be hard on the feet, as many of the streets
are cobblestone - but it is the best way to experience Bruges.
The architecture, setting, and ambiance of Old Town Bruges endear it to
Crisscrossed by canals that are sided with scenic, historic
buildings, Bruges is a cornucopia of treats. Although there is much to
see and do in Bruges, the canals are the city's main attraction, as well as
its heart and soul. You will constantly encounter the canals as you
walk the city and each time you will notice something new and pleasing.
Bruges is special place and you will not regret taking the time to visit
"Venice of the north".
Be sure to take a stroll through Markt Square and along the canals at
night when these sights are illuminated. Bruges at night is beautiful and
a sight that you should not miss. Spend an evening or two in this town to
soak-up its charming, historical ambiance.
Give in and head to one of the many delightful pastry shops for a
tasty treat or buy some delicious Belgian Chocolate and wander through
the town's many Christmas shops – it will make you feel like a kid
Be sure to take time for a boat tour of the canals. You will find
the boat captains good tour guides and the beautiful views of the town's
buildings from the canals is worth the modest price.
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The Markt Square
and the Burg both located in the center of the Old Town are
great places to start your tour.
Two of the museums in Bruges attract the most visitors.
The Markt is the main town square in Bruges. This colorful area is surrounded by
shops and restaurants.
At the south end of the square, the Belfort (Belfry) (1),
the town's musical bell tower, serves as the Markt's exclamation point.
If you have the time and are in the mood for a climb, you can ascend
the Belfry for a dramatic view of Bruges.
The Belfry has a fine carillon and concerts are played throughout the
week. (Trust us, if you are in town, you will not miss hearing them, but
is more fun to be in the Markt when the concerts are held.)
In addition, the Markt is the best place to catch a horse drawn
carriage for a tour of the city (lap blankets are provided when it
is cold) or to board the more modern City Tour bus for a
fifty-minute introduction to Bruges, departing on the hour.
Recently Bruges initiated a Christmas Market, but one that
is modest compared to the famous markets in Germany and Austria.
To take advantage of the benefits of the season, an ice rink is
constructed in the center of the Markt and the Christmas Market
stalls surround the rink.
As you might suspect, the Markt is the center of activity in
Bruges and it is a good place to meet, as well as eat when you visit
the city. Restaurants close relatively early here, so don't be too
(2) is less expansive than the Markt, but the buildings in
this medieval square are very impressive (especially when illuminated at night).
The buildings surrounding the Burg include the Stadhuis (City Hall) and the
Basilica of the Holy Blood.
Both buildings have interesting interior
detailing and should be toured if you have the time. The Basilica, as its
name implies, contains a reliquary preserving what it believed to be the blood
is an art museum featuring works of the Flemish masters.
is focused on presenting several masterpieces of Franz Memling and, at
the same time, telling the story of one of the oldest surviving medieval
hospitals in Europe (Old St. John's Hospital).
A recorded museum tour is free with the price of admission and
describes the major treasures of the museum, as well the building
that houses the collection.
A compact printed guide (in English and Dutch) that explains all of the
displayed items is available just inside the entrance to the exhibits.
The Memling is an interesting place to visit. It features some
wonderful art and well-displayed triptychs (three paneled, hinged paintings that
were used as altar decorations in medieval times).
Be sure to examine the Museum's collection of medieval medical instruments
and furniture from the Old Hospital.
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Immediately across from the Memling is the Church of Our Lady.
Another of Brugge’s churches deserving of a visit is the St.
The church, which dates from the 13th century, is noticeable due to its
magnificent 122-meter high bell tower (3).
The main attraction here is Michelangelo’s statue of the Madonna and Infant
(4), brought to Bruges by a local merchant in 1504.
The church’s pulpit is a beautiful work of art and considered a
masterpiece of the Baroque style.
The Beguine’s House (Begijnenhuisje) seems to attract a
large number of tourists but has little to offer other than solitude and
The Cathedral, with some sections dating from the 12th century. is a visual
treasure including breathtaking art, spectacular tapestries and the original
choir stalls dating from the 16th century, It's tower was heightened in the
18th century when this former parish church became the city's cathedral.
The official tourism website of the city of Bruges can be found
here. The website provides
additional details on the best places to visit we recommend, as well as
information on attractions that did not make our list.
For country facts on Belgium, as well as travel information related to
visas, driving rules, safety, medical conditions, visas and other
travel-related information, see this page on
Belgium Travel from the Bureau of Consular Affairs of the U.S. State
Department. Regardless of your home country, we think you will find
the information provided to be useful when planning a trip to Belgium.
Best Places to Visit in Belgium
If you need information about another travel destination, try our
Destination Guide Index
or Googling ThereArePlaces.
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