Your Essential Travel Guide To Bruges
Discover Things To Do In Bruges
Visiting Bruges feels like stepping into a fairy tale, with its winding cobbled alleys, stunning Flemish architecture, and quaint canals. The Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which you can explore on foot or a horse-drawn carriage for a romantic experience.
Planning a holiday to Bruges? Check out our fantastic Bruges city break package, which includes both your ferry transport and hotel accommodation, and read on to discover the city’s history, top attractions, restaurants and hotels in this comprehensive guide.
History of Bruges
Bruges is the capital of West Flanders in the Flemish region of Belgium. It’s known as the Venice of the North, thanks to its strong bond with the sea and its interconnection of canals. Here are some interesting facts about the city:
- Origin: Bruges was part of the Roman Empire until the 5th century. The Romans built a road on the sand ridge along the coastal plain, which meets the River Reie, and present-day Bruges arose in this location.
- The Counts of Flanders: With the settlement of Baldwin I, the first Count of Flanders, Bruges became a leading trading hub during the 9th century. The world’s first stock exchange occurred here, making the city one of the most important in Northwest Europe.
- The Golden Age: The Dukes of Burgundy settled in Bruges in the 14th century. They were famous for their refined taste and helped the city become a production centre for luxury goods.
- The decline: Bruges suffered a decline in the 15th century following the death of the Duchess Mary of Burgundy. The city underwent years of war and changes in power, fuelled by religious and political differences.
- The revival: After Belgium’s independence in 1830, Bruges was the centre of important innovations. It was connected to the Belgian railway network, and many of its historic Gothic buildings were restored.
What to do in Bruges
This quaint Belgian city brims with fun-filled attractions for all ages, from historic landmarks to vast green spaces. If you’re wondering what to do in Bruges, read on.
- Visit the Basilica of the Holy Blood. The Basilica of the Holy Blood was built between 1134 and 1157 as the chapel of the Counts of Flanders. It houses a relic of the Holy Blood collected by Joseph of Arimathea and boasts impressive Romanesque and Gothic Revival details.
- Climb the Belfry Tower. Bruges’ historic city centre has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000, and the Belfry Tower is one of its highlights. This medieval structure was built around 1240 and is 83 metres tall. Climb the 366 steps for sweeping views of Bruges and the surrounding landscapes.
- Take a boat tour. There’s no better way to admire Bruges’ beauty than from the water. The Bruges-Ostend Canal stretches for 24 kilometres (15 miles), linking the North Sea with Belgium’s inland. Several tours depart during the day and night; hear anecdotes about Bruges’ past and its people from the captains.
- Stroll around Minnewater Park. In Bruges’ Old Town, Minnewater Park offers a peaceful getaway. The Lover’s Bridge and the Lake of Love are the park’s most popular attractions, especially among couples. Rumour has it that if you and your partner kiss on the bridge, your love will last forever!
Restaurants in Bruges
Whether grabbing a quick bite or celebrating a special occasion, Bruges’ food scene won’t disappoint. Here are some of the city’s best restaurants serving authentic Flemish food.
- De Gastro (££). De Gastro offers traditional Belgian food in an intimate setting overlooking the charming Rosary Quay. The menu’s highlight is the moules frites (mussels with fries).
- Den Heerd (££). In the heart of Bruges, Den Heerd offers three and four-course menus to suit all tastes. Must-try dishes include the stoofvlees, a traditional Flemish beef stew.
- Bonte B (£££). Authenticity and seasonality are the key ingredients of Bonte B’s menu. The restaurant celebrates Flemish cuisine by serving traditional dishes in a cosy atmosphere.
- Zet’Joe (££££). This restaurant offers a luxurious dining experience in the heart of Bruges. The menu’s highlights include the Suprême of pheasant and the baked codfish.
Where to stay in Bruges
Whether you prefer staying in the heart of the action or a little further afield, Bruges has it all. We’ve picked some of the city’s best 3 and 4-star hotels for a relaxing holiday below.
Every accommodation option we've curated offers a distinctive taste of Bruges and can be booked as part of our Bruges City Break package. Designed for your convenience to include not just your travel arrangements, but also these unique stays, this package delivers an all-encompassing, unforgettable experience.
Best 3-star hotels
- Hôtel Adornes. Perched along Bruges’ canals, the Hôtel Adornes offers 20 comfortable rooms, a rich breakfast buffet, and free bike rental to explore the city at your own pace.
- Hôtel Albert I. A stone’s throw from Bruges’ Concert Hall, Hôtel Albert I has 13 spacious rooms equipped with a flat-screen TV, a safe, and air conditioning. Enjoy a luxurious stay while being close to the city’s main attractions.
- Hôtel du Theatre. This 4-star hotel is within walking distance from the Grote Markt, meaning you’ll have Bruges’ top attractions on your doorstep. Each of the 35 rooms has an en-suite bathroom, a tea and coffee machine, a safe and a flat-screen TV.
Best 4-star hotels
- Dukes’ Academie. Dukes’ Academie is next door to Minnewater Park and boasts excellent facilities. The 90 rooms are equipped to suit business and leisure trips, while the intimate bar and restaurant serve authentic Flemish food and drinks.
- Boutique Hotel Sablon. Boasting a prime location, Boutique Hotel Sablon is among Bruges’ oldest hotels. Each room features a different theme and is equipped with a safe, an LED TV and a mini fridge. The on-site bar offers delicious drinks, perfect after a sightseeing day.
- Hôtel de Castillion. This family-run 4-star hotel benefits from an ideal location near Bruges’ main sights. The airy rooms have en-suite bathrooms, a TV, a radio and a minibar. The hotel’s highlight is the Art Deco Salon, where you can enjoy a delicious afternoon tea.
Seasonal events in Bruges
- Procession of the Holy Blood
When: Yearly on Ascension Day (9th May 2024)
The Procession of the Holy Blood dates back to 1150 when the Count of Flanders, Thierry de Alsace, is said to have brought back a phial with some of Jesus’ blood from Jerusalem. The relic has been kept in the Basilica of the Holy Blood ever since and is showcased during the annual procession. This tradition is part of the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Find out more.
When: Last weekend of September.
Kookeet is the food festival par excellence. It occurs annually over the last weekend of September and brings together the city’s best chefs. The event’s highlights include cooking demonstrations and the ‘En Garde’ competition. Find out more.
- Bruges Christmas Market
When: Typically, from the end of November to beginning of January.
Bruges' Christmas Market gives the city extra charm, with beautiful decorations and twinkling lights scattered throughout the Old Town. You can shop for handcrafted souvenirs and local delicacies, too. Find out more.