Described by Lonely Planet as a “fairy-tale medieval town”, when it comes to quaint beauty and an old Europe feel (cobbles, canals, spires and towers), the centre of Bruges doesn’t disappoint. In fact, it is one of the most well preserved medieval towns in Europe and its centre has been a UNESCO world heritage site since 2000.
Situated in northwest Belgium, in the province of West Flanders, weather wise, Bruges isn’t the place to go for endless sunshine – it can be colder and damper than other Central European spots. Be prepared for the odd rain shower, even in summer, and wrap up well in wine. However, don’t let the odd drop of rain out you off – picture postcard Bruges has a charm all of its own which is worth packing a brolly for.
Top Five To Do List
The Belfry – Bruges’ most famous landmark is its imposing 13th century Belfry situated in Market Square. There are 366 steps to the top (it is narrow too so prepare for a tight squeeze) and it holds 47 bells, which may prove rather loud if you happen to be at the top as they ring out. The building also leans 87cm to the east fact finders so no, your eyes aren’t deceiving you – it isn’t straight!
The Markt (Market Square) – Home to the Belfry as well as the Provincial Court and the statue of Jan Breydel and Pieter de Coninck, this is a lovely little spot (aside from the usual tourist shops) for a walk around or to catch up on some people watching. Every Wednesday the market comes to the Markt so if your schedule suits pop down on a Wednesday and see the array of Flemish produce on offer.
Take a canal tour – Bruges has been dubbed the Venice of the North with its cross crossing waterways offering some unmissable views, plus it gives your tootsies a break from the cobbles.
The Stadhuis (City Hall) – One of the oldest city halls in Belgium, this rather imposing Gothic building boasts a beautiful interior which includes a golden ceiling and walls decorated with depictions of historical events. While you are in the area, nip over to the nearby Basilica of the Holy Blood too. Built in the 12th century, this minor Basilica is famed as the home of the relic of the Holy Blood (a vial of blood said to be that of Jesus Christ).
The Begijnhof – This gorgeous garden complex includes a church and a 17th century dwelling open as a four room museum (complete with a blue and white tiled kitchen and a rather austere bedroom). This little gem is also home to a convent of Benedictine nuns which helps with the air of calm but be warned – it does get busy, go early if you can.
The Budget or Broke Recommendation (i.e. free)
Feeling romantic then head to the small but gorgeous Hof Arents park. There you can view the Knights of the Apocalypse sculptures and enjoy the view from the cute little hump back Bonifacius bridge, also known as Lovers’ Bridge.
It’s Belgium so indulge in a little chocolate heaven from one of the many chocolate shops. You could even be really, really bad and throw in a delicious Belgian waffle with chocolate on top. And wash it all down with a Belgian beer (Bruges has three working breweries – Bourgogne des Flandres, De Halve Maan and Fort Lapin). You are on holiday after all!
Bruges is renowned for its lace (a special kind of part lace, with pieces made then joined together later to make the final lace). There is even a lace school (and museum) called the Kantcentrum. So you could get hands on and try making some lace, or just buy a doily for your mum.
*Picture of bruges by Flickr user, Wolfgang Stuadt. Used under the Creative Commons licence: