A Short Guide to the Top 9 Things to See and Do in Delightful Bruges, Belgium

Strolling through Bruges unfamiliar streets and squares filled to the brim with small cafés and vintage shops, we stopped many times to gaze into the beautifully decorated shop windows, tried to imagine what the rooms look like behind those pink painted window frames, admired its medieval architecture.

When I look back on the past two decades of our travels, I see lots of little city breaks scattered throughout the years. Instead of burning all the vacation days on one big, proper trip, we favoured spontaneous voyages around Europe and Ireland.

When it comes to pretty European getaways, Bruges is one those places that we both  eagerly desired to explore, and it was one of the very first trips that we personally curated with great enthusiasm.

The purpose of our visit to Bruges, which was founded in the 9th century by the Vikings,  was to see its beautiful squares, hear folkloric tales and climb 366 steps to the very top of the Belfry.

And even though we arrived in Bruges hearing rain pound on the train window and even though we never made it to the medieval bell tower, we were swept away by its laid-back ambience, delectable foods and swans leisurely floating down the canals.

Our first view of the perfect pocket-sized medieval city was shrouded in fog.

If you ask me, there’s no denying that with the quirky houses, incredible Christmas markets, and cobbled streets, Bruges is one of the Europes most beautiful cities.

It’s so beautifully unique and full of history that, in fact, the centre of it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010.

After spending a full day in Bruges, we can recommend this medieval town to everyone. Bruges is a very walkable place, and you can fit all the major attractions in a day. So, if you’re looking for things to do in Bruges bring your walking shoes and explore this place.

#1. Visit Grote Markt, the main square of Bruges

Let the first impression count and start your day right! First-time visitors should begin exploring Bruges by visiting Market Square.

The commercial and cultural square that once held medieval festivals, tournaments, and even executions is lined with Old Guild Houses and many restaurants that cater to millions of tourists that flock to the famous plaza.

Here you’ll also find the Town Hall which is strikingly remarkable inside and out. The interior of this place is decorated with a golden ceiling and valuable paintings. 19th-century murals adorn the Gothic Hall and may original documents can be found in the historic chamber.

This ancient stone bridge was built in 1390 by Jan van Oudenaerde.

#2. Eat all the Belgian chocolate you can

No trip to Belgium would be complete without chocolate. Did you know that some of the chocolates are even encrusted with real and edible gold?

On a quest to find the best sweets in town? You have come to the right place. In addition to beautiful architecture, charming locals and great beer, Bruges boasts delicious chocolate too.

There’s white and dark chocolate, rainbow colour macaroons, pralines, truffles, strawberry ganache’s, waffles – whatever you fancy! Bruges is cheerfully dripping in sweets. For the most amazing chocolates in the World, go to The Chocolate Line where you’ll find lavender and the Cuban cigar flavour sweets.

Belgian chocolate is world-famous and to make sure it’s not imitation, try these tips:

  1. Place chocolate on your tongue, before slowly moving it around your mouth. The flavour of well-made chocolate will develop gradually and lingers for a while.
  2. Ensure the flavours are very well balanced and that the sweetness, bitterness or sharpness of the chocolate is not overpowering.
From bars to bonbons, nougat to nuts, Belgium is a chocoholic’s dream.

#3. Find the 18th-century windmills

The Koeleweimolen and Sint-Janshuismolen mills are located on the outskirts of town and are worth a visit. Out of four remaining windmills, these two are still used today to grind the grain. Each of the houses a small museum and if you are in luck, you’ll see the sails in motion.

#4. Look out for In Bruges filming locations

Before our trip I scrolled through the Netflix archives, looking for a black comedy starring Collin Farrell and Brendon Gleeson, In Bruges.  Not only this movie was hilarious; it also revealed beautiful Gothic architecture, old bridges and lots of tourist attractions.

Most of the filming locations are freely accessible, and you can see Minnewater Bridge, The Groeningemuseum, the Relais Bourgondisch Cruyce, The Huidenvettersplein, The Jan Van Eyckplein and many more. Bring your camera, get the map of all the filming locations at the tourist information bureau and have fun finding them.

A peaceful escape from the tourist madness can be found outside of the Old Town.

#5. Go for a Boat Ride

Bruges is a city of canals and going for a boat ride is a fantastic way to enjoy its many sites. You can catch the departing canal tours from Huidenvettersplein and be prepared for a memorable journey that lasts around 30 minutes for a round trip.

The boat trip will let you see the town from a different angle. Jumping into the boat with other travellers was a perfect way to see the city and our tour guide was quite the character, telling jokes and interesting facts about everything we saw along the way.

Going on a boat trip a fantastic way to spend a day or two.

#6. Hire a bike and cycle the perimeter of the Old Town

Bruges is a land of bicycles and when you go for a cycle around the city, the evidence why this place never needs to fight for visitors attention, unlike Ghent or Antwerp, is on every corner.

Our advice- rent a bike, ditch the mid-day crowds and go for a ride. You can use the pedestrian/bike path that circles nearly all the way around town. If you enjoy hopping on two wheels and like to see the countryside too then go all the way to Damme, situated north-east of Bruges.

There are many places where you can rent a bike in Bruges.

#7. Go on a tour  with a horse-drawn carriage

While walking around medieval town, we quickly learned that that Bruges was in a class of its own.  Another fun way how to enjoy the sights and listen to the stories told by the coachman is to go for a half-hour carriage ride along beautiful streets. It is definitely one of the priciest things to do in this city, but it’s good fun!

#8. Go on a trip to Brussels

As you probably already know, Brussels is best known as a home to The European Parliament, the Manneken Pis that locals like to dress up for fun, waffles and Belgian beer.

The historic central square of Brussels is now UNESCO World Heritage site famous for its impressive flower carpet displays.

Those who want to see it, remember that it takes place every two years, in the second week of August, with the next one coming up in 2020. More than 100 volunteer gardeners decorate Market Place with hundreds of thousands of colourful begonias.

If you want to find more about the historical background, you can visit the Museum of the City of Brussels, and this is where you can see an early version of Mannekin Pis, one of the most recognisable symbols of Brussels.

If you are in the city, head over to Délirium Café (they broke the Guinness World Record by having the most bear on tap) where they have over 3000 different types of beer to choose from and make sure you visit the Waffle Factory or Maison Fondo for the best waffles!

Mont des Arts Garden, Brussels, Belgium

How to get to Bruges

Typically for most visitors, the first stop in Belgium is Brussels city. The handiest way to get to Bruges from other European cities is to fly into Brussels Airport, which is located 11 kilometres northeast.

The fastest way from the Airport to the city centre is to travel by train that operates every 10 minutes, from 5 am to midnight. Train tickets cost EUR 12,70, and it should not take more than 20 minutes to arrive in Brussels Central.

From here, you can enjoy a short train ride to Bruges with Belgian Railway.  To make the most of your trip, especially if you are going on a day trip, you need to get an early start.

It takes around an hour to make it to Bruges from Brussels by train, and it’s possible to purchase the ticket in advance. To do so, use the Belgian train official webpage.

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Now, over to you!

Have you been to Bruges? Let us know in the comments below!

Let us know if you are plotting a visit to Bruges and have travel-related questions!

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54 thoughts on “A Short Guide to the Top 9 Things to See and Do in Delightful Bruges, Belgium

    1. Part history, part fairy tale, Bruges is a place to walk and wonder. I was quite surprised that it rains throughout the year, so bringing an umbrella is a must 🙂 Thanks for stopping by and have a nice day. Aiva xxx

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    1. Visiting Belgium’s most perfectly preserved medieval town, and seeing its jaw-dropping, beautiful architecture was la trip to remember. Thanks for stopping by and have a nice day 🙂 Aiva xxx

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    1. I have no idea why it took me so long to visit this little town. With its wealth of interesting old buildings and its canals, Bruges still retains a distinct medieval air and offers so much to see and do for anyone who visits. We only stayed for a day and ended up running out of time. I wish we stayed the night, they say that Bruges looks even more appealing at the nighttime. I hope you enjoyed ‘In Bruges’ – I love how you get dark humour and seriousness both at the same time, the funny bits are even funnier, and the serious bits really get under your skin. Thanks for stopping by and have a nice day 🙂 Aiva

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    1. Thanks so much, Marion 🙂 Anyone taking a walk through the narrow streets can easily fall under Bruges spell, charmed by the atmosphere of one the most delightful of all the cities of Flanders. With only a few days in Belgium, we had to choose between Ghent and Bruges. The cities of Ghent and Bruges are quite similar in size, history, and charm, but we were keen on seeing the Belfry, the 13-century bell tower of Bruges. Thanks for stopping by and have a nice day 🙂 Aiva xxx

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  1. Beautiful post Aiva. We have never been to Bruges and regretfully have only been to Brussels once….for one day…with a tour group. Yeah, there was that time we transferred to Nice through Brussels, but that really did not count. Bruges is so like Amsterdam and yet not. Thanks for taking us along. Have a great week. Allan

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    1. Hi, Allan 🙂 Bruges is like an open-air museum: its religious monuments are among the sights of the city, it also contains some witnesses museums of art and craft heritage Bruges. Many stops will satisfy lovers of culture and the curious. But as we learned from the short trip – it is impossible to fully visit the city of Bruges in Belgium in one day. Thanks for stopping by and have a lovely day 🙂 Aiva xxx

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  2. This is a place I want to visit! It’s so beautiful and the chocolate looks wonderful too… 🙂 Great suggestions about what to see and do – thank you Aiva!

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    1. Bruges is really the city of chocolate, Meg. She has over 50 chocolatiers; a place where established values, traditions and talents complement. I ate way too many chocolates and waffles, but it was hard to resist the traditional artisan chocolates and feast on highly innovative chocolate creations 🙂 Thanks for stopping by and have a lovely day. Aiva xxx

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  3. I spent just a day in Bruges some years ago with my son and was utterly charmed by it. Loved seeing your photos. It was cold when we were there, and the hot chocolate was deliciously warming.

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    1. I am glad to hear you had a great time in Bruges, I was smitten by the historic centre of Bruges, too. It was raining during our visit, and I had no choice but to spend most of the time gliding through the sweet shops and discover chocolate that took me towards unexplored heights. Thanks for stopping by and have a nice day 🙂 Aiva

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    1. Hi, Maggie. I’ve seen my fair share of European medieval towns and there are not many cities in Europe that can compete with Bruges in Belgium for being the most romantic city on the continent. The old town of Bruges really seems to be a place that came out of a fairy tale, and at night when the buildings are illuminated walking by the canals might seem to you as if you were inside a dream. You would love to cruise the canals, the arteries of the city of Bruges, and discover secret gardens and picturesque bridges from the water all while learning interesting facts from your boat captain. Thanks for stopping by and have a nice day 🙂 Aiva xxx

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    1. Thanks so much, Diana 🙂 Bruges is really the most enchanting city in Belgium. The entire city is protected by UNESCO as a cultural heritage of humanity, and if you are looking for a medieval town that oozes historic charm and seems to have jumped straight out of a fairy tale, Bruges, Belgium, is the place to go. I would strongly encourage anyone to explore the canals in one of the many tourist boats that travel along with them—a great way to rest your legs for a bit—offering another perspective of the historic beauty of Bruges. Thanks for stopping by and have a nice day 🙂 Aiva xxx

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  4. Bruges is a place of magic , wonder and everything delicious. Was blessed to see it the Summer before the pandemic. It was when Travel is at its best…free of worry and all fun. I hope to revisit, 2 days wasn’t enough, I need to visit the places you visited. Plus , the mussels and waffles were divine.

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    1. I am glad to hear, you’ve been to Bruges which is generously lined with cobbled streets, enchanting canals and dotted with imposing churches. Many people don’t know this, but the Madonna and Child sculpture by Michelangelo is housed in the Church of Our Lady in Bruges. The best part of visiting Bruges was the pace of the city. Since it’s so small, you don’t have to feel rushed or stressed to see everything. We took our time and fully enjoyed each thing we did (especially the chocolate). Rain or shine, there is so much to experience in this little town. Thanks for stopping by and have a nice day 🙂 Aiva

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  5. I recall that EXACT shot of the tower and canal when I took a canal ride in Bruges over five years ago! It was my first city I visited in Belgium, and unfortunately, I did not go back since then…the chocolate tasting was a delight, and I find the Flanders influence quite charming and memorable to this day. I’d love to return to Belgium to check out more– thanks for sharing, Aiva!

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    1. I am glad to hear you’ve been to Bruges, where the houses look like they’re made of gingerbread and the diet consists of chocolate and beer, too, Rebecca. Wandering along the cobblestone streets and alleyways of this city is a great way to pass the time and so is visiting its various museums and taking a boat tour. In my short time in Belgium, I fell in love with the leafy province of Flemish-Brabant, and that’s why I would love to return one day – the picturesque city of Leuven and Antwerp are still on my travel wish list. Thanks for stopping by and have a nice day 🙂 Aiva

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    1. Thanks so much, Pam 🙂 Belgium is a travel destination made for history buffs and chocolate addicts. Bruges is one of the best-preserved medieval towns in the world, and it’s incredible how vast is its perfectly intact medieval area. You can just keep on walking and turn into any small cobbled lane or little square – and there is just more and more beauty and history all around. It’s extremely lovely during the day, but at the night it turns into a pure fairytale. I hope you get to visit one day. Thanks for stopping by and have a nice day 🙂 Aiva xxx

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    1. I am glad to hear you had a great time exploring Bruges 🙂 Splendour and wealth of world-class art, perfectly preserved medieval architecture, silent canals, cosy little squares and exquisite delicacies on every corner make it spectacular to visit this small Belgian town. Thanks for reading and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xxx

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  6. I’ve always wanted to visit Bruges. The rows of houses and shops along the canals remind me so much of Amsterdam. And yes, how can you visit Belgium and not eat chocolate!? I imagine taking a boat trip is such a great way to explore a different side of the city. I can’t wait to visit someday.

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    1. Our stay in Bruges was short but very memorable and I have to say that it truly felt like a page out of a Disney story. With cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriages and swirling canals, it is a city that has held true to its history and is very romantic. The architecture is stunning and many buildings remain from hundreds of years ago. The city is also very walkable and it’s easy to see the main highlights over a weekend. But despite being fairly small, be warned that it is very easy to get lost. I hope you get to visit one day 🙂 Aiva xxx

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    1. Hi, Arshia, how are you today? Bruges has many chocolate shops, and it’s honestly hard to go wrong with any of them. We popped into several and were always pleased. They all have a high standard and are plentiful around the city. However, my absolute favourite was the highly rated Chocolatier Dumon. I got their sampler box, which contains the best selection and each one was better than the last. It’s true melt-in-your-mouth perfection and was definitely a highlight of the trip. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xxx

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  7. I haven’t been to Bruges but everything I see and read about this city just oozes charm. Hopefully I’ll get to visit. I will have to circle around the old town with a bike many times to make up for all the chocolate I will eat!

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    1. Yes, walking and cycling would be a great way to work off those calories. One of the reasons why I loved Bruges, especially after arriving on a train from the constantly buzzing Amsterdam – the medieval city runs at a calm pace. There really isn’t much chaos in Bruges. Yes, there are many tourists that visit, but on the outside of the town square, it’s pretty peaceful. Restaurants close on the early side, and there aren’t many late-night bars or clubs. I hope you get to visit one day, Caroline. Thanks for stopping by and have a nice day 🙂 Aiva xxx

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    1. We had such a great time in Bruges, and the winding canals and chocolate are what made the city for me. Canal boat rides are not to be missed as they are a fun way to explore and also learn a few historical facts. It’s popular among tourists, so it’s best to do it early in the day. Thanks for stopping by and have a lovely evening 🙂 Aiva xx

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  8. I’ve been to Bruges twice (both day trips with local Belgian friends we were staying with) and I agree, it is delightful (as is real Belgian chocolate). I’d like to go sometime and stay overnight. There’s a reason they call it the Venice of the North! 🙂

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    1. I am glad you’ve been to Bruges twice! When you are visiting Bruges, you are wandering picturesque cobbled lanes, flanked by fabulous medieval buildings. You keep crossing bridges over century-old canals and a smell of warm Belgian waffles is floating in the air; what else could you ask for from a day trip? Thanks for stopping by and have a nice day 🙂 Aiva xx

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  9. I have always wanted to go to Bruges and laughed hysterically at the movie, ‘In Bruges’. We have been to Brussels so have grand memories of delicious chocolate and beer (although the best chocolate comes from Norway…)
    Your photographs capture the essence of Belgium. We took the train from Brussels to Luxembourg and the countryside was gorgeous. K x

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    1. I am glad to hear you loved In Bruges! It’s one of the most bizarre movies I’ve ever watched, but it’s easily the best film of 2008 and one of the greatest movies to come out in the last decade or so. I wish I had the privilege of seeing again for the first time. We took a train from Amsterdam to Bruges and traversed bits of Flanders which are more or less flat and are fairly densely populated. The slower pace of travelling by train allowed for a more intimate journey and we had a very short, yet very memorable ride 🙂 Thanks for stopping by and have a nice day. We are immensely enjoying yet another week of sunny weather, can’t remember the last time we had +32’C in Sligo 🙂 Aiva xx

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      1. I love black comedy and In Bruges was excellent. Taking the train from Amsterdam is just the best experience. You get off your flight and you can take a train to anywhere in Europe! My aunt just told me how hot it is in Ireland – that’s almost as hot as we are! Hope you have a wonderfully hot weekend! K x

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    1. Thanks so much, Casey 🙂

      Located in Flanders in Belgium, very close to the North Sea, Bruges is an open-air museum. Its medieval centre has been extremely well preserved which explains why it is listed as a World Heritage site by UNESCO. The city flourished in the Middle Ages when it was a major trade centre in Europe. The “Venice of the North”, as it is often called because of the many canals stretching across the city, is the perfect place to stay for a get-away weekend.

      Thanks for stopping by and have a nice day 🙂 Aiva xx

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  10. I was in Bruges just yesterday and I wish I had seen your blog post! I compltely agree with your list and I have actually added a few things to check out next time I go as I hadn’t heard of them! 😍

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    1. Hi, Juliette. We walked around Bruges’ little lanes, and I could not stop taking pictures. I wish we had more time to explore Bruges and its surroundings and spend one day by the beach in Blankenberge. As we are not returning any time soon due to the Covid, I am looking forward to reading the adventures of Inspector Van Inn, the famous character of Belgian writer Pieter Aspe that are set in Bruges. If you have never read a book by Pieter Aspe, now is a good time to start. You are going to love it! Thanks for stopping by. I hope you are having heaps of summer fun 🙂 Aiva xx

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    1. Thanks so much 🙂 If you are staying for several days in Bruges, you could take a whole day to go to the beach in Blankenberge. It is very close to Bruges and very easy to access by train. Walking by the North Sea is amazing! Thanks for stopping by and have a nice day 🙂 Aiva xx

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  11. I visited Bruges when I was living in Luxembourg. We used to tease our Belgian colleagues who talked about a weekend at the (Belgian) coast as an exotic destination. It was a bit far from Luxembourg, but once past the Ardennes the good motorway network makes it easy to visit all the big cities, Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp, Liège and of course Brussels, without forgetting that famous Belgian coast. So yes, Bruges is the perfect destination for a weekend. In addition to the great monuments and canals that always give an extra dimension to the architecture, there is also the relaxed atmosphere of a discovery walk. Thank you Aiva for taking us on this walk.

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    1. It wasn’t until I saw the 2008 Colin Farrell movie “In Bruges”, a black comedy about two Irish hitmen in hiding, that I became aware of this Belgian town. I went from first hearing about it, to being absolutely in love with it. Along the way, I was surprised to find out that there is more to Begum than parliament and Atomium. They also have lighthouses, dense woodland with 200-year-old beech trees and it’s a country where you can even see bison. Thanks for stopping by and have a nice day 🙂 Aiva

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