The small town of Bruges, Belgium located in West Flanders is one of the most well kept medieval towns in all of Europe. In 2000 the city centre was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The city is full of beautiful buildings, delicious Belgian chocolates, Venice like canals and so much more. There are so many great things to do in Bruges. With so much to do in such a small town where to start when visiting? Here are the best places to visit in Bruges.
Best Places to Visit in Bruges
Bruges famous Burg square
1. Visit Burg Square
Bruges is the type of town that surprises you at ever corner. One moment you are walking down a quaint cobblestoned street inside the old town city center and the next you are standing in a town square surrounded by stunning architecture. Burg square is one of those places that will leave you in awe. It is a great place for a picture / selfie and is filled with tons of history.
People have been living in Bruges since around the 2nd century and because of that here in Burg square you will find some pretty old buildings. The most prominent building in Burg Square is the town’s city hall, which dates back to the 15th century. The largest building in the square, Bruges City Hall is opulent and designed in a gothic style. It is also covered in beautiful large statues of religious figures and rulers of Flanders.
One of the prettiest buildings in the square however is the Old Civil Registry. Once the old court house, under the left side of the building is an archway called Blind Donkey Alley that will take you to the old fish market. Here you will also find a great starting point for a canal boat tour.
2. Visit the Relic of Christ
Tucked in the corner of Burg square is the Basilica of the Holy Blood which dates back to the 12th century. Inside this Roman Catholic church visitors can see a relic of the Holy Blood of Christ. Now that’s old.
One of the most photographed locations in all of Bruges
3. Visit The Canals of Bruges
Bruges is often referred to as Venice of the North because of the many canals throughout the old town. The canals connect the city to the North Sea and played a large roll in the city’s history. Today they are a large tourist attraction and make for some beautiful photo ops. One of the most popular spots for a canal photo in the city is by the corner of Rozenhoedkaai and Pandreitje looking towards the Dijver Mansions. Take a relaxing stroll along the canals, go in search of the love bridge and don’t be afraid to get a little lost.
What to do in Bruges? Take a boat tour along the canals of Bruges
One of the most popular things to do in Bruges is to take a boat cruise along the canals. There are multiple boarding points along the canals that are easy to find and tours leave quite frequently. The tours are fully narrated, last roughly 30minutes and only cost 8 euros. The canal boat tours of Bruges are a great way to see the city from a different perspective and to quickly learn a lot about it too.
4. Visit the Frietmuseum
Bruges is home to a bunch of museums including a chocolate museum and the worlds only fry museum. (FYI Belgians don’t necessarily like it when you call them French Fries as they originate in Belgium not France. Visit the museum and you can find out why they mistakenly were called French fries!) The Frietmuseum is as unique as it sounds, it is extremely informative and is definitely one of the best places to visit in Bruges. You will be blown away by just how much information they have have about the history of fries, potatoes and even ketchup. Honestly it was almost too much information. Less learning, more frieten eating!
Learn more about the Frietmuseum HERE. And yes if all of the fry information overloads you, you can also then stop to enjoy some for yourself in the basement cafeteria.
The colorful buildings of Bruges Markt Square
5. Explore the Markt Square
The Markt square in Bruges has been a market square and gathering place of the city since the 9th century. These days the market takes place in the center every Wednesday from 8am to 1pm. The Markt is also a great place to begin a free walking tour of the city with Legends of Bruges, grab some frieten (fries and mayo), take awesome pictures of the stunning Belfry, people watch and more.
The iconic Belfry of Bruges
6. Climb the Belfry of Bruges
Speaking of the Belfry you should visit it too when exploring Bruges. As mentioned the Belfry is located in the Markt Square and stands 272 feet high. Originally used to spot fires and danger in the city, visitors can now pay to climb its 366 steps to the top for a beautiful 360 view overlooking the city. If you are a fan of the film “In Bruges” you will probably recognize this iconic landmark for its role in the film.
A delicious box of chocolate from the Chocolate Brothers
7. Visit All of the Chocolate Shops
There are a LOT of chocolate shops in Bruges. On two city blocks in particular I counted at least 10 so who knows how many are throughout the whole town. Belgium is known as the capital of chocolate so you definitely need to try some when you visit. Many shops have chocolates in various forms from truffles to bars, pralines and more. There are also many moulded to be different amusing shapes and objects. Basically anything you can imagine made in chocolate, they have it.
A lot of the chocolate is great, however the very best chocolate shop (IMO) in all of Bruges is called Chocolate Brothers. Opened in the fall of 2017 this chocolate shop is owned by three brothers with over 100 years of chocolate making experience. Most chocolate shops in Bruges sell mass produced and packaged chocolates and aren’t making their chocolates fresh right there. When walking into Chocolate Brothers however the smell of chocolate smacks you in the face and it is the best smell ever.
A burlap sack of fermented cacao beans, ready to be made into chocolate
One of the chocolate brothers combs through the fermented cacoa beans
The Chocolate Brother’s chocolate is hand made in shop right before your eyes. The fermented cacao beans are shipped in large burlap sacks to the shop where the chocolatiers sort and choose the very best for making their chocolates. They then crush and press the beans to make their chocolates from scratch, so the chocolate is as fresh and pure as possible. You can definitely end up spending a lot of money here, but it is all worth it.
Sea salt caramel hot chocolate with roasted marshmallows and waffle at the Old Chocolate House in Bruges
Another great chocolate shop to visit is the Old Chocolate House. It is a chocolate shop on the main floor with a cute cafe upstairs serving 27 different types of delicious hot chocolate. No matter the weather or time of year you definitely need to visit and give one of these a taste. It is definitely one of the best things to do in Bruges. You can even make it an “adult beverage” if you please. In the shop they also sell delicious chocolates and your own hot chocolate mix to make at home. To learn more visit HERE.
What to do in Bruges? Make friends with the famous swans
8. Visit the Swans of Bruges
When walking along the canals or taking a boat tour of the canals there is no way that you can miss the many swans that you will see floating around. There is a lot of folklore behind the reason for so many swans being in the city. One story being that the swans kept a young women locked up in prison company in the 13th century. Once released she left the city a fortune to take care of them. Another story is an Emperor avenged his servant whose name translates to “long necks” and declared Bruges must forever keep swans in its canals.
Whatever the reasons for the swans, they are a beautiful sight to the see in the canals and are a symbol of the city. For a guaranteed view of the swans head to the Parque de la Viña and Minnewater Park area where they are always sure to be hanging out.
A delicious leige waffle in Burg square, Bruges
9. Visit the Best Waffle Truck
Waffles are very popular in Bruges and Belgium so you must try at least one or more when you visit. There is your typical Brussels waffle that is perfectly formed with deep holes and the batter is like a yeast-leavened pancake batter consistency. The other type of popular waffle is the Leige waffle which is named after a Belgian city. Leige waffles are made from more of a thicker type of dough that is pressed, giving the waffles uneven edges. A key ingredient in the Leige waffle dough is pearl sugar which caramelizes and gives the waffles a nice crunch.
There is always a line at the Arlecchino Gelateria waffle truck!
Where are the best places to visit in Bruges for a waffle you ask? The best Leige Waffles in all of Bruges come from the tiny Arlecchino Gelateria truck that hangs out in Burg square. They are reasonably priced, always served fresh and you know they are good because they always have a huge line. They are so popular they are actually prone to selling out, so make sure you go there earlier in the day.
A tasty leige waffle with chocolate sauce from Chez Albert in Bruges
If you can’t find the delicious waffle truck then your second option for waffles in Bruges would be Chez Albert. Located on the small road between Burg square and Markt square not that far from the waffle truck. Chez Albert is a bit more of a massed produced waffle place and when I ate there they simply heated up an already cooked waffle, so it wasn’t as fresh as the truck. It was of course still delicious though.
To get a proper taste of the waffles it is recommended to eat them plain. They are just that great no extra toppings are required. So hold off on the mountains of whip cream, chocolate and strawberries for your first taste.
To learn more about the different waffles visit my friend Sherry’s post about them HERE.
What to do in Bruges? Eat the best frieten in all of Bruges!
10. Go to the Best French Fry Cart
The French Fry has Belgian origins and aren’t actually french at all. But whatever you call them French fries, frieten, Vlaamse frites, frites, Flemish fries, frietjes they are also a must try when in Bruges. In the Markt square there are two frieten carts (frituur) located in front of the Belfry. From experience and suggestions from locals, the fry cart on the right appears to be the best out of the two.
The typical way to eat frieten is with a huge dollop of mayo, but the fry carts offer many different options as well. Also don’t worry if you would prefer plain old ketchup the have that too. The frieten are the perfect snack especially after a night out on the town.
Old Bruges toppings fries with a beef burger at the Potato Bar
If you prefer more of a restaurant setting for delicious fries then I also recommend the Potato Bar. thepotatobar.be . They serve delicious fries with various unique toppings like Old Bruges cheese, bacon, truffle mayo and even mussels. You can also get a few other items like delicious burgers and croquettes.
A Belgian beer at Le Trappiste
11. Visit the best place in Bruges to have a beer
One of the most searched questions about Bruges is where to have the best beer? That is a very good question and the answer might be – everywhere. Belgian beer is known as some of the best in the world and not often is it exported so if you want the best you need to visit. Here are a few suggestions of the best places to visit in Bruges for a great beer.
Inside Le Trappiste, one of the coolest bars in Bruges
Le Trappiste is a cool underground bar in an 800 year old medieval cellar dimly lit by candle sticks. There are at least 20 beers on tap and more than 100 by bottle are available. You can do sampler sticks to taste test as well. They open at 5pm daily and are closed Wednesdays.
‘t Brugs Beertje
Cafe ‘t Brugs Beertje aka Bruges Little Bear has up to 300 beers available by bottle from around Belgium with 5 on tap. To see a list of their beers available visit HERE. They open at 4pm daily and are closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
De Halve Maan
De Halve Maan aka the Half Man Brewery is a brewery inside the old town. They offer great brewery tours, beer and food. One of their most popular beers is the Brugse Zot which stands for “Bruges fool” and it is one of the only beers brewed in the UNESCO city. Book a brewery tour HERE.
Bruges Beer Experience
If you want to get a little more in depth knowledge about Belgian beer aside from just tasting it then you must visit the beer museum, Bruges Beer Experience. The museum is open daily and offers activities and information for people of all ages. Aside from learning everything there is to know about Belgian beer culture you can also sample 16 different Belgian beers. Learn more HERE.
Learning about Bruges from our Legends of Bruges tour guide
12. Visit the Whole City on a Walking Tour
A great way to find out the best things to do in Bruges and in any city you visit is to take a walking tour. Legends of Bruges offers several great free walking tours in the city and will show you all of the best places to visit in Bruges. All of the tour guides are locals and know everything about the city. They are full of information about everything from it’s ancient history to the best places for a great Belgian beer.
Legends of Bruges offers 5 daily walking tours of the city. Three times a day there is a walking tour giving you a grand overview of Bruges. Daily at 11:30am (aside from Mondays) there is also a tasting tour of the best eats of the city. Then additionally at night there is a walking tour of the dark side of Bruges. With 5 walking tours to chose from everyday you will be sure to cover everything that there is to see, eat, do and drink in Bruges.
Since the tours are free make sure you don’t forget to tip at the end! To learn more about Legends of Bruges visit HERE.
Where to Stay in Bruges?
There are many places to stay in Bruges from fine hotels to hostels. While there I stayed at the St Christopher’s Inn Hostel at the Bauhaus in a semi private apartment. My room was purely just a bed, table, lamp and window. The apartment also shared a large common area and kitchen with two other rooms and one bathroom/shower between the three. The hostel is a 10-15min walk from the Markt square and is located in a quiet area of town. There is also a grocery store and corner store near by if you wish to cook your own food.
There is a bar in the lobby of the hostel where a continental breakfast is served in the mornings. From lunch time until late the bar has a small menu with pizzas as well as a great beer and drinks menu. The hostel bar is actually a popular spot in the city due to its great selection of over 50 Belgian beers, live music and trivia nights. This makes it quite ideal that one of the best places to go out at night is also right where you are staying when you stay here.
For more about the St Christopher’s Inn Hostel at the Bauhaus click HERE. If you book directly on their site you receive a free €4 continental breakfast daily.
To see more accommodations and hotels in Bruges click HERE.
To learn more about the best places to visit in Bruges watch my video:
Have you been to Bruges? Where else would you suggest are the best places to visit? Leave a comment below!
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Thanks to St Christopher’s for hosting my stay. All other costs, opinions, experiences and more are my own.