Thinking of a short break to Bruges? Then read on for my guide to some cool things to do during your stay.
Bruges is a historic and romantic city in the northwest of Belgium, famous for its medieval architecture, canals, and it’s bridges. The city reminds me in a way of my home city of Cambridge, both are steeped in history with similar architecture. Bruges is a small city so is it worth a visit? Yes, it’s most definitely worth a visit, it’s a beautiful city with lots to see and do. Whatever the season, Bruges is a beautiful city, although my favourite time to visit is around Christmas when the winter markets are on.
How long do I need for a visit to Bruges? I would say 2 full days would be enough to see most of the city, although if you wanted to take your time then allow 3 days. Bruges is easy to reach from the UK, with easy access by air, rail, and road. If you wanted to drive to Bruges, take the Eurotunnel from Folkestone to Calais, then it’s only 1 hour 30 minutes from Calais to Bruges.
The city has lots to offer, and here are my top 10 things to do in Bruges.
1. Bruges by boat
While you can see the city on foot, or by horse-drawn carriage, for me, the best way to see this city and its spectacular sights is from the water by taking one of the Bruges boat tours. The canal tour takes approximately 30 minutes and is one of the must-do things while in Bruges. Jump on board at any one of the 5 stops along the tour. The tour runs from 10:00 am until 18:00 pm and is great value for money, costing €10 per adult and €6 per child.
2. Bruge Markt
The Bruges Markt is the beating heart of the city, where a weekly market was held from 985 and a place steeped in history. The square is now a lively hub of the city, with bars, restaurants, cafes, and a market selling local and handmade produce. The iconic Belfry overlooks the main square which is also home to the Historium, which is an exhibition on medieval Bruges, (more on this later). If a horse-drawn carriage sounds like a fun way to see the city, then the square is where you will find them.
Between the months of November-January, the square transforms into a magical winter wonderland Christmas market, full of light colour and the smell of fresh waffles.
This medieval bell tower is one of Bruge’s most iconic landmarks and stands tall in the market square. The 13th-century landmark stands 83 meters high and leans slightly to the east and was once used as a treasury and a lookout tower for spotting dangers to the city such as fires. If you have a head for heights then climb the 366 steps to the top for stunning views of the city. There are rest points on the way up, thankfully, it takes some effort to climb without stopping.
Tickets to the Belfry cost €12.00 per adult and €10.00 for ages 6-25.
4. Bruges city hall
Bruges city hall (Stadhuis) is a stunning piece of Gothic architecture and a sight you won’t want to miss if you are sightseeing. It’s one of the oldest city halls in the lowlands at nearly 600 years old. Decorated in a beautiful gothic style, including an impressively decorated gothic room inside, and vaulted ceilings. The interior of the city hall is relatively new compared to the structure, undergoing complete renovation work in 1890 after it was completely destroyed by fire.
The entrance to the museum is €5 for those over 18’s and free for those 0-17. The entrance is also included in the Bruges museum pass.
5. Bruges beer experience
If you love beer or are even interested in the brewing process then this tour is for you. Belgium is one of the best countries in the world for beer, and its production has become so important to the country. Come and see for yourself the brewing process and smell and touch the ingredients that go into making it.
Part of the Bruges beer experience also includes the bar and the shop. In the bar, you can sample some 16 draught beers, including a sweet fruit beer and a gluten-free beer, as well as non-alcoholic beers. Before you leave, don’t forget to look in the shop where they sell beers, glasses, merchandise, and literature.
6. Belgium chocolate workshop
Who doesn’t love chocolate? There is no chocolate like Belgium’s chocolate, and the country produces the finest in the world. For years it has been a significant part of the country’s economy and culture and today produces over 725,000 tones of it. For chocolate lovers like myself, this workshop is the perfect opportunity to learn how to make your very own delicious treats. The workshop lasts 2 hours and 30 minutes, and during this time you will learn to make over 30 chocolates from scratch, don’t worry if you have very little cooking skills as you will be guided from start to finish. The chocolate-making workshop is a really fun way to spend a few hours and really worth the money, plus you get to take your chocolate home with you.
The price is €35 per adult and €29 for 12-18-year-olds.
7. Try some of the best waffles around
You have probably guessed I have a very sweet tooth and one of my favourite sweet treats is a fresh Belgium waffle with endless toppings. Although these mouthwatering treats originated in Brussels, Bruges still has some of the finest waffle stalls and some of the best out there. Some of the best places to have waffles in Bruges are the House of Waffles, and Fred’s.
8. Hire a bike
Another great way to explore the city is to hire a bike and explore yourself. Ride along the canals at your own pace, throw a picnic in the basket and go and chill on one of the city’s many green spots including Minnewaterpark or take a ride outside of the city. Hiring a bike for the duration of your stay is a great idea because it’s cheap and an extremely easy way to get around, and as Bruges has no metro or tram, the only public transport is the bus, while you can easily get around on foot, bikes are more fun. Check here for prices and availability.
9. Visit the Bruges beer wall
In Belgium, they love their beers, and outside the 2be bar and shop, you will find the beer wall, an eye-catching display of all sorts of Belgium beer bottles, and glasses on display behind a glass case. Go and try one of the 60-plus beers on offer and sit inside the bar or outside on the canal side terrace for a lovely view of the city while chilling out with one of Bruge’s best beers. It does get pretty busy with tourists, especially in high seasons. The 2be bar is located just a 1-minute walk from the Basilica of the holy blood.
10. The Bruges night tour.
A wonderful sight is the city of Bruges at night and under the moonlight and what better way to experience this than by taking a tour off the beaten track by one of the excellent and enthusiastic local tour guides. On the 2-hour walking tour, you will discover Bruge’s must-see sights as you wander down the cobbled streets and picturesque canals, which look spectacular at night and gain an idea of what to do in the city at night. The tour ends with a free drink in a local bar which is really cool as you get to see where the locals hang out after dark. Check here for tour guides, prices, and availability.
So there you have my guide to 10 things to do in Bruges on a short break. Enjoy this beautiful city.