Bruges

We’ve compiled the best of the best in Bruges - browse our top choices for the top things to see or do during your stay.

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  • 1. Burg

    A popular daytime meeting place and an enchanting, floodlit scene after dark, the Burg is flanked by striking civic buildings. Named for the fortress built by Baldwin of the Iron Arm, the Burg was also the former site of the 10th-century Carolingian Cathedral of St. Donaas, which was destroyed by French Republicans in 1799. The Burg is not all historic splendor, though—in sharp contrast to these buildings stands a modern construction by Japanese artist Toyo Ito, added in 2002.

    Burg, Bruges, Flanders, 8000, Belgium
  • 2. Groeningemuseum

    The tremendous holdings of this gallery give you the makings for a crash course in the Flemish Primitives and their successors. Petrus Christus, Hugo van der Goes, Hieronymus Bosch, Rogier van der Weyden, Gerard David, Pieter Bruegel (both Elder and Younger), Pieter Pourbus—all the greats are represented. Here you can see Jan van Eyck's wonderfully realistic Madonna with Canon Van der Paele. There's also one of Hans Memling's greatest works, the Moreel Triptych. As if this weren't enough, the museum also encompasses a strong display of 15th- to 21st-century Dutch and Belgian works, sweeping through to Surrealist and modern art. The Groeninge is set back from the street in a pocket-size park behind a medieval gate. It isn't a huge museum; nonetheless, its riches warrant a full morning or afternoon. An audio guide is available in English.

    Dijver 12, Bruges, Flanders, 8000, Belgium
    050-448–743

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €14, Closed Mon.
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  • 3. Gruuthusemuseum

    Arguably the city's finest museum lies within a house built in the 15th century for the Gruuthuses, a powerful family who made their money on the exclusive right to sell "gruut," an herbal mixture used for flavoring beer. Louis, the patriarch behind its rise, was a businessman, diplomat, patron, and a lover of culture. Of course, its history didn't end there, and it has stood throughout the ups and downs of one of the great medieval cities. The museum tells the story of Bruges through its most powerful family and their legacy of art and relics, but also through the museum's own collection of crafts—lace, amber, porcelain, jewels—that formed the backbone of the city's trade.

    Dijver 17C, Bruges, Flanders, 8000, Belgium
    050-448–743

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: From €14, Closed Mon.
  • 4. Heilig Bloed Basiliek

    The Basilica of the Holy Blood manages to include both the austere and the ornate under one roof—not to mention one of Europe's most precious relics. The 12th-century Lower Chapel retains a stern, Romanesque character. Look for the poignant, 14th-century Pietà and the carved statue of Christ in the crypt. From this sober space, the elaborate, external late-Gothic De Steegheere staircase, with a reconstructed bluestone facade, leads to the stunningly lavish Upper Chapel, which was twice destroyed—by Protestant iconoclasts in the 16th century and by French Republicans in the 18th—but both times rebuilt. (Note that the Upper Chapel is closed to visitors during Eucharistic Mass on Friday and Sunday 10:45–12:15.) The original stained-glass windows were replaced in 1845, and then again after an explosion in 1967, when they were restored by the Bruges painter De Loddere. The basilica's namesake treasure is a vial thought to contain a few drops of the blood of Christ, brought from Jerusalem in 1149 by Derick of Alsace when he returned from the Second Crusade. It is exposed in the Upper Chapel every Friday 10:15–11, and every afternoon 2–3 (sometimes until 4): queue up to place your right hand on the vial and take a moment for quiet reflection. On Ascension Day, it becomes the centerpiece of the magnificent De Heilig Bloedprocessie (Procession of the Holy Blood), a major medieval-style pageant in which it is carried through the streets of Bruges. The small museum next to the basilica is the usual home of the basilica's namesake reliquary.

    Burg 13, Bruges, Flanders, 8000, Belgium
    050-336–792

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Church: free; treasury: €3
  • 5. Markt

    Used as a marketplace since AD 958, this square is still one of the liveliest places in Bruges. In the center stands a memorial to the city's medieval heroes, Jan Breydel and Pieter De Coninck, who led the commoners of Flanders to their short-lived victory over the aristocrats of France. On the east side of the Markt stand the provincial government house and the former post office, an excellent pastiche of Burgundian Gothic. Old guild houses line the west and north sides of the square, their step-gabled facades overlooking the cafés spilling out onto the sidewalk. These buildings aren't always as old as they seem, though—often they're 19th-century reconstructions. The medieval Belfort (Belfry) on the south side of the Markt, however, is the genuine article. The tower dates from the 13th century, its crowning octagonal lantern to the 15th century. Altogether, it rises to a height of 270 feet, commanding the city and the surrounding countryside with more presence than grace. The valuables of Bruges were once kept in the second-floor treasury; now the Belfort's riches are in its remarkable 47-bell carillon, which rings even truer thanks to the new bells it was given in 2010. (Impressing Belgians with a carillon is no mean feat, as Belgium has some of the best in the world.) However, their playlist can be a little limited, and after listening to at least a half dozen renditions of "It's a Long, Long way to Tipperary," you might wish that they'd skimped on the quality a little. If you haven't walked enough, you can climb 366 winding steps to the clock mechanism, and from the carillon enjoy a gorgeous panoramic view. At the base of the belfry is a gallery containing a permanent collection of sketches and watercolors by (of all people) Salvador Dalí. Back in the square, you may be tempted by the horse-drawn carriages that congregate here; a half-hour ride for up to five people, with a short stop at the Begijnhof, costs €60 plus "something for the horse."

    Markt, Bruges, Flanders, 8000, Belgium

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Belfort €14; Salvador Dalí €10
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  • 6. Reien

    Bruges's narrow and meandering canals, or reien, with their old humpback stone bridges, give the city its character, opening up perspective and imposing their calm. The view from the Meebrug is especially picturesque. Farther along the Groenerei are the Godshuizen De Pelikaan, almshouses dating from the early 18th century. There are several such charitable buildings in the city, tiny houses built by the guilds for the poor, some still serving their original purpose. Steenhouwersdijk overlooks the brick rear gables that were part of the original county hall. The Vismarkt (Fish Market) has 19th-century buildings designed in classical style; fresh seafood from Zeebrugge is sold Tuesday–Saturday. Just beyond is the little Huidenvettersplein (Tanners’ Square), with its 17th-century guild house. Next to it, from the Rozenhoedkaai canal, the view of the heart of the city includes the pinnacles of the town hall, basilica, and Belfry—the essence of Bruges. For a swan's-eye view of the city, 30-minute canal cruises costing €12 are offered by five different companies. All five ply the same route and depart from jetties along the Dijver, between the Gruuthusemuseum and Vismarkt.

    Bruges, Flanders, 8000, Belgium
  • 7. Sint-Janshospitaal Museum

    Home to an impressive collection of Hans Memling paintings, this is one of the oldest surviving medieval hospitals in Europe. It was founded in the 12th century and remained in use until the 20th century. The highlights of the collection are the seven major works (and plenty of minor ones) by Hans Memling (1440–94) that are of breathtaking quality and rank among the greatest—and certainly the most spiritual—of the Flemish Primitives school. Memling was born in Germany, but spent the greater part of his life in Bruges. Note: There are plans for the museum to close for an unspecified period in 2023 for necessary restoration work.

    Mariastraat 38, Bruges, Flanders, 8000, Belgium
    050-448--743

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €12, Closed Mon.
  • 8. Arentshuis

    The upper floor of this 18th-century building is dedicated to the multitalented artist Frank Brangwyn (1867–1956), born in Bruges to British parents. His works include everything from book illustrations to a mural in New York City’s Rockefeller Center, but he is perhaps best known for his World War I posters. He also influenced the reconstruction of many Bruges buildings in a pseudo-Gothic style, and many of his brooding drawings, etchings, and paintings of Bruges are on view here. On the ground floor, special exhibits on a variety of themes cycle through every few months.

    Dijver 16, Bruges, Flanders, 8000, Belgium
    050-448–711

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €7, Closed Mon.
  • 9. Brewery Bourgogne de Flandres

    After almost 60 years away, the Bourgogne de Flandres brewery returned to Bruges in 2015, and added a new visitor center and tour. It's aimed squarely at families, with lots of diversions for kids while their parents get to quiz brewmasters and point their audio guides at various triggers, unraveling the mysteries of the brewing process. For example, did you know that Brussels's famous lambic beer can only be brewed in that region because of a wild yeast that grows in the air there, creating spontaneous fermentation?

    Kartuizerinnenstraat 6, Bruges, Flanders, 8000, Belgium
    050-335–426

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €11, Closed Mon., Tues., and Thurs.
  • 10. Bruges Beer Experience

    Frites and chocolate already have their own museums in the city, so it was only a matter of time before the third comestible in Belgium's holy trinity received its due. It's atop the old post office building on Markt Square, and once you've scaled the many flights of stairs, you'll be handed a tablet to scan the displays' QR codes; these bring up information on the history of Belgian beer (in 10 languages). There is a particular focus on the medieval period, including Trappist and abbey brewing, and "gruut," herbal beers that were once common to the region. A beautifully illustrated kids' tour tells the parallel story of a trapped bear. At the end, visitors get to sample a trio of draft beers from a choice of 16 in the tasting room.

    Breidelstraat 3, Bruges, Flanders, 8000, Belgium
    050-699–229

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €16 (€10 without tasting)
  • 11. Choco-Story

    Choco-Story may deviate from the historical quaintness found everywhere else in Bruges, but it makes for a diverting bookend if you've been trawling the delightful chocolate shops in town. This collection traces the history of the cocoa bean, from its origins in the Americas to its popularity in Europe. There are also chocolate-making demonstrations and a chance to taste. It is certainly the best of a linked trio of disparately themed museums.

    Wijzakstraat 2, Bruges, Flanders, 8000, Belgium
    050-612–237

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €10
  • 12. De Halve Maan

    This working brewery may not be the only one in Bruges anymore, but it's still rather special. It produces the Bruges Zot and Straffe Hendrik brands that you'll see in many bars around town, and if you want to see the brewery in action, daily 45-minute tours include a glass of the house blond beer in its unfiltered form. You'll also find out how a 3-km (2-mile) length of pipeline was laid under the city's medieval streets to allow for enough beer to fill 12,000 bottles an hour to flow beneath the cobbles to a plant outside the city limits. True beer lovers can opt for the extended tour, which descends into the cellars for a more in-depth tasting session and hopped-up tales.

    Walplein 26, Bruges, Flanders, 8000, Belgium
    050-444–222

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: From €15
  • 13. Historium Brugge

    Similar to the tablet-dominated Beer Museum around the corner, Historium Brugge uses technology (film and virtual reality) to depict the story of the city's golden age. Housed on the site of  the old Waterhalle, a vast warehouse that was once at the heart of the trading hub that was medieval Bruges, the museum makes fine use of its impressive setting. However, whether you learn anything depends less on your tolerance for history and more on your ability to absorb tales of romance played out on virtual reality headsets.

    Markt 1, Bruges, Flanders, 8000, Belgium
    050-270–311

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €19 including VR experience; €15 without VR
  • 14. Jan van Eyckplein

    A colorful yet low-key square that lies at the center of Hanseatic Bruges, the Jan van Eyckplein is landmarked with a statue of the famed 15th-century painter. It includes the old Tolhuis (Customs House), built in 1477, where vehicles on their way to market had to stop while tolls were levied on goods brought from nearby ports. The Poortersloge, a late-Gothic building with a slender spire, was owned by the guild of porters and used as a meeting place for the burghers. It's occasionally open for contemporary art exhibitions. The bear occupying one niche represents the legendary creature speared by Baldwin of the Iron Arm that later became the symbol of the city.

    Jan van Eyckplein, Bruges, Flanders, 8000, Belgium
  • 15. Kantcentrum

    The Lace Center maintains the quality and authenticity of the ancient Belgian craft of lace making. This foundation includes a lace museum in the Jerusalem almshouses in Balstraat, as well as a school where youngsters are taught the intricate art of the bobbins. The building is the former home of the Adornes family, and adjoins their mausoleum in the Jeruzalemkerk.

    Balstraat 16, Bruges, Flanders, 8000, Belgium
    050-330–072

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €6; combi tocket with Volkskundemuseum €11, Closed Sun.
  • 16. Minnewater Park

    In the south of Bruges you'll find Minnewater, a pleasant spot of greenery with a large rectangular lake at its center that's dotted with willow trees. So the legend goes: a Saxon warrior returned from fighting to discover his lover dead, so he built a dyke and covered her grave with a lake. Lovers who walk its scenic bridge are said to be blessed. The park lies southeast of the water, and at its far end is Powder Tower, a 12th-century defensive battlement named for the gunpowder it used to store. In summer, the park hosts a number of festivals, most notably the Cactus music festival in July. Combine a visit here with a stop at the Begijnhof.

    Minnewater, Bruges, Flanders, 8000, Belgium
  • 17. Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk

    The towering spire of the plain Gothic Church of Our Lady, begun about 1220, rivals the Belfry as a symbol of Bruges. At 381 feet high, it is the second-tallest brick construction in the world. The art history highlight here is the Madonna and Child statue carved by Michelangelo, an early work. The choir museum contains many 13th- and 14th-century polychrome tombs, as well as two mausoleums: that of Mary of Burgundy, who died in 1482 at the age of 25 after a fall from her horse; and that of her father, Charles the Bold, killed in 1477 while laying siege to Nancy in France. Mary was as well loved in Bruges as her husband, Maximilian of Austria, was loathed. 

    Dijver and Mariastraat, Bruges, Flanders, 8000, Belgium
    050-448–711

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Church free; museum €6, Closed Mon.
  • 18. Sint-Janshuismolen and Koeleweimolen

    The outer ramparts of the medieval city of Bruges used to be dotted with windmills; now four remain along the ring road. The two most impressive are the St-Janshuismolen (1770) and close to it the Koeleweimolen (1765). Of these, only St-Janshuismolen can be visited, and it is still used to grind flour. The wooden steps leading up to it are quite steep and not for the fainthearted.

    Kruisvest 3, Bruges, Flanders, 8000, Belgium
    050-448–743

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €4, Closed Mon.–Thurs. and Oct.–Mar.
  • 19. Spanjaardstraat

    The street leads up to the quay where goods from Spain were unloaded, near Jan van Eyckplein Square. The house at No. 9 was where St. Ignatius of Loyola stayed when he came to Flanders on holidays from his studies in Paris. Directly ahead are the three arches of the Augustijnenbrug. Dating from 1391, it's the oldest bridge in Bruges. On the other side of the canal, Augustijnenrei is one of the loveliest quays.

    Spanjaardstraat, Bruges, Flanders, 8000, Belgium
  • 20. Volkskundemuseum

    A row of 17th-century whitewashed almshouses originally built for retired shoemakers now holds an engaging Folklore Museum. Within each house is a reconstructed historic interior: a grocery shop, a living room, a tavern, a cobbler’s workshop, a classroom, a pharmacy, and a kitchen. Another wing holds a tailor’s shop and a collection of old advertising posters. You can end your tour at the suitably historic museum café, In de Zwarte Kat (the “Black Cat”).

    Balstraat 43, Bruges, Flanders, 8000, Belgium

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €7; combi ticket with Kantcentrum €11, Closed Mon.

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