The classic, medieval-styled historic center of Brugge (or Bruges in English) is layered in history pinned in between fairytale canals and Middle-Aged cathedrals. The city looks much like it did when its Belfry clock tower was still used to make announcements to the village. Standing in the middle of one of its picturesque cobblestone roads, your eyes will follow the narrow alleyways up to the unique roofs of a Middle-Aged home and onto the peaceful meadow of budding, brightly-colored flowers. There are numerous things to do in Bruges Belgium whether you are a history buff or simply a photographer looking for a visually stunning city to take photos in. You’ll always know what to do in Bruges after reading this guide.
But there’s more to do in Bruges Belgium than medieval architecture and calm meadows. If you don’t know what to do in Bruges, take a walk down the narrow streets of the historic center of Brugge and find a plethora of quaint boutiques and signs of the past. Anything from tasting Belgium’s world-famous beer during a brewery tour Bruges, to traditional fresh seafood, to the sweetest chocolate you will ever devour, you will notice that your Brugge itinerary will be busy! I’ve backpacked around over half of Europe in the span of three years, and I still believe the uniqueness, the cuisine, and its long history makes Brugge a very underrated European backpacking destination.
Belgium is a country geographically placed in the north-central part of Europe. It borders its Dutch neighbors to the north, French neighbors in the west, German neighbors to the east, and Luxembourg neighbors in the south. It is, truly, very well-located for any American tourist backpacking through Europe routes. Another fascinating medieval Belgian city, Ghent, is located only a half hour train ride away.
While in Bruges, make sure to get a view of the city from atop the Belfry clock tower. The things you learn about the city’s history while inside complement the view very nicely.
I’ve been traveling and living in Europe for almost three years and it has given me the ability to see over half of the continent. Along the way, I’ve picked up some knowledge on how to travel in Europe efficiently and on a budget. I’ve written a series of guides for Flying and Travel to help you get the most out of your trip abroad.
What to do in Bruges
There are plenty of things to do in Bruges Belgium that make it an excellent day trip from several larger Belgian cities in the region – that’s part of the reason Brugge makes an excellent stop on anyone’s ‘Euro Trip’ and one of the top things to do in Belgium.
Historic Center of Brugge – Brugge is a fantastic example of a historic medieval city, which has remained its historic self as times have evolved over the centuries, and where original Gothic constructions form the entire identity of such a small, beautiful place. If you don’t know what to do in Bruges, a simple stroll through the center will satisfy your itinerary.
Burg Square – The other main square in Bruges is just on the east side of the Grote Markt. From the Markt, take an easy stroll along Breidelstraat (next to the post office) to arrive at the Burg. It’s not only one of the top things to do in Bruges Belgium, it’s one of the top things to do in Belgium – period.
The Markt – Located in the heart of the city and covers an area of about 1 hectare. Some historical highlights around the square include the 12th-century belfry and the Provincial Court (originally the Waterhall, which in 1787 was demolished and replaced by a classicist building that from 1850 served as the provincial court and after a fire in 1878 was rebuilt in a neo-Gothic style in 1887. In the center of the market stands the statue of Jan Breydel and Pieter de Coninck.
Belfort – The Belfry of Bruges is a medieval bell tower in the center of Bruges. One of the city’s most prominent symbols, the belfry formerly housed a treasury and the municipal archives and served as an observation tower to spot fires and potential danger outside of the city. Exploring the history of the tower was one of my favorite things to do in Belgium.
De Halve Maan Brewery – For centuries the Maes family has been brewing beer on the Walplein in Bruges. The history of the brewery is contained in a unique museum. Guided tours are organized every day. Don’t know what to do in Bruges? Belgian beer is always the answer.
Minnewater Lake – In the south part of Bruges, surrounded by trees and the adjacent Minnewaterpark, you’ll find a small rectangular lake called ‘Minnewater’ or Lake of Love. Done exploring city center and don’t know what to do in Bruges Belgium? Here’s an excellent picnic idea.
Basilica of the Holy Blood – The Basilica of the Holy Blood is a Roman Catholic minor basilica in Bruges. It was originally built in the 12th century as the chapel of the residence of the Count of Flanders. Usually, cathedrals and basilicas aren’t my thing, but this was one of my most memorable things to do in Belgium.
Bourgogne des Flandres Brewery – Bourgogne des Flandres is a Belgian beer brewed by Timmermans Brewery in Itterbeek in the municipality of Dilbeek which is located in Flemish Brabant. A Belgian beer tour is obviously one of the top things to do in Belgium, as well.
Beguinage – A beguinage, from the French term béguinage, is an architectural complex which was created to house beguines: lay religious women who lived in the community without taking vows or retiring from the world. It’s one of the top things to do in Bruges Belgium and one of the top things to do in Belgium overall.
Stadhuis – The Bruges City Hall is one of the oldest city halls in the entire Netherlands region. It is located in Burg Square, the area of the former fortified castle in the center of Bruges. If you find yourself wandering without a clue of what to do in Bruges, you’ll most likely find yourself in front of the City Hall. There are plenty of things to do in Bruges Belgium even if it is a tiny medieval city.
Best time to travel to Bruges
Bruges is a not necessarily known as a top winter destination of Europe. With that being said, the beauty of its medieval architecture doesn’t disappear when it gets cold, so you can certainly still include it on your December Euro Trip. However, one of the best things to do in Bruges Belgium is take in the budding flowers in its beautiful meadows.
A Brugge summer brings with it budding nature, a typically cool climate, and gobs of tourists. The historic center of Brugge is overrun by tourists every summer, and it takes away from this quaint, little walled city, in my opinion.
My favorite time to visit Salzburg is early springtime. Particularly in the March and the beginning of April when there are fewer tourists, lower prices (in the traveling ‘off-season’), and the colorful flowers and trees are blooming.
Where to stay in Brugge?
Let me first start by saying that Brugge, as beautiful and worth a visit as it is, isn’t worth staying more than a day or two. There are other cities in Belgium, such as Ghent, that are worth your time, too. A Brugge Brussels day trip is certainly worth it, as well.
If you’re staying the night or a few nights in Brugge, there’s an excellent ambiance in the historic center of Brugge after the moon comes out with plenty of hotels in Brugge. It’s calm and quite romantic after all the day-trippers leave. That’s the benefit of staying the night.
If you’re staying a night or two, the best hotel in Brugge is any hotel within the ring of city center. If you’re staying in a hotel within city center, everything is within walking distance and you’re in the middle of the action.
What to eat in Brugge
If you want a taste of the local cuisine, try these four traditional foods:
Moules Frites are the Mecca of Brugge cuisine. In case you were wondering, it is simply mussels and French fries. Although, good luck calling those potatoes “French” fries in Belgium. In local minds, Belgians created the fries (frites). Moules frites are one of the must-do things to do in Brugge Belgium.
Chocolate is a country-wide specialty, but there is no shortage in Brugge. Inside the Choco Story Museum, the converted fifteenth century wine tavern, there are chocolate experts who will let you ask them anything and also secret recipes to be seen. And you might even get a few samples!
Asparagus The ground in the Flanders region of Belgium is pretty fertile, which is very good news for their vegetables. The best asparagus is grown in Mechelen which is about an hour from Brugge, which is why you’ll find it on most menus in Brugge.
Carbonade Flamande – Flemish stew – also called stoofvlees or stoverij – it’s a proper winter warmer. And it’s also slow cooked in beer, another Bruges specialty, which means super tasty!
What to do in Bruges: The Bells of Belfry
I was living in Belgium at the time. My temporary stay with a host family in Ghent, Belgium had just begun. I figured I would check out the city along with the surrounding area. Luckily, Bruges is no more than a half an hour train ride from Ghent. This made it an excellent day trip and one I gladly took several times while living there.
I arrived in Bruges and was immediately struck with its fairytale-like atmosphere. It was springtime, so the flowers were blooming and the tourist season had hardly begun. The city was quiet. I didn’t know what to do in Bruges so I just started wandering the city center.
The whole entire city center is an attraction, but I knew the Belfry Tower was Bruges’ main stop. When I finally made it through the “Oooo”-ing and “Aweee”-ing of the rest of the city into the main square and set my eyes on Belfry, I instantly knew what to do in Bruges; I had to climb its stairs to the bells.
During the climb (which is not nearly as tiring as it looks), I learned everything I know about medieval lifestyles and culture from the informative artifacts on every level you climb.
I had my “long way from home” moment right when I had reached the top. The bells seemingly knew I was coming and started chiming as soon as I first set my eyes on the beautiful red roofs of Brugge. The red roofs, to me, represent the small towns and narrow alley-ways of Europe. It was perfect.
The Tale of the Tape on Brugge, Belgium
Salzburg is the sixth-largest city in the country of Belgium with around 120,000 citizens within its city limits bordering the North Sea and the English Channel. Bruges is known worldwide for multiple things. It’s renowned “Historic Center of Brugge” is one of the best-preserved city centers in Europe with its Medieval architecture. In addition, Bruges happens to be the capital and largest city of West Flanders in the Flemish region of Belgium. The historic city center is a prominent UNESCO Heritage Site. It’s sometimes referred to as the “Venice of the North”.
How to get there/get around:
I imagine if you’re in Bruges, it’s because you have just come from a larger Belgian city such as Ghent. Being that Bruges doesn’t have its own International Airport, I would recommend riding in by train anyway. It’s a part of the Bruges experience.
If you are arriving by train at the Bruges Central Train Station, it’s a very simple walk to city center. A few minutes after leaving the train station, you’ll find yourself in the thick of the city with all its majesty and instantly know what to do in Bruges.
American Survival Guide
Traditional Belgian Meal
A traditional dinner near the main square will cost you quite a bit; you pay for the ambiance. Usually, $20-30 isn’t out of the ordinary for a delicious traditional entrée.
A Night Out
A beer in the heart the main square isn’t exactly cheap. Expect to pay anywhere from $3.50-$6 for a world-famous Belgian beer. It’s worth the price.
While in Belgium, your options for fast food are pretty wide. However, I think if you didn’t include the infamous Belgian frites on that list it would be criminal. You can get a side of frites for around $3-$4. If you find yourself without a clue of what to do in Bruges, stopping for some frites (fries) is a good idea.
Bus or Train
Public transport is fairly inexpensive in Brugge when compared to other cities more regularly on a backpacking itinerary. It costs anywhere from $1.70 to $2.40 for a single ride ticket depending on how far you are going. However, everywhere in Brugge is very walkable because it is a small place.
The city of Brugge does offer a 3-day tourist pass that enables you to get discounts at 14 different locations throughout the city.
However, since it’s likely that you won’t spend more than a few days in Brugge and a majority of the 14 locations are museums, I would suggest not to invest in the card; unless you really enjoy museums.
Brugge doesn’t have the widest AirBnB selection. It’s a small place and therefore not that many options. Generally speaking, you can usually find an entire apartment in near the historic and beautiful main square for anywhere from $90-$120 on a nightly basis.
For an individual room, one person can normally find a bed for less than $50 per night.
However, if you journey outside of the heart of the city just a bit, prices drop dramatically and you can find a bed for as cheap as $11.
Belgians (in Brugge) are Flemish and therefore Dutch speakers with their own dialect. Check out this basic Dutch language guide before you go! However, overall, everyone can speak pretty clear English in this region of Europe.
If you want cell service, it’s important to check with your provider about international charges. In addition, it’s always a good idea to alert your provider (and your bank) that you’ll be traveling internationally.
Credit Card Transaction Fees
It’s important to check your credit company’s policy on international transactions before using it abroad. There are plenty of credit cards available that advertise “No International Transaction Fees”. If you want to get a new card before leaving, find one like this.
Things to have before you arrive
It’s not imperative; however, I’ve always found travel much more relaxing when you arrive without a dire need of any essentials. Here are a few of them:
- Electrical Adaptors
- Power Bank
- Offline Map (app)
- Directions to your accommodation
Brugge – or Belgium, in general – is a country a part of the European Union – which means Americans are granted 90-days in a 180-day period to travel freely throughout the E.U. This means if you plan to be in Europe for longer than three months, you should take a look at this.
There are a lot of stereotypes that Americans have adopted over time. There are, also, a lot of stereotypes we have made about Europeans that just aren’t true.
With that being said, there are some cultural differences in everywhere you go. Embrace those – they’re the best part about traveling because those differences educate you.
In Belgium, tipping is not common. A 10-15% service charge is usually already applied to bills in Belgium. Check to make sure before you leave an extra tip!
Discover Brugge and Top Things to Do in Bruges Belgium
Brugge is a quaint, little city that left me feeling at home. I can’t imagine ever spending more than a day in Brugge, however, I do plan on taking another daytrip there in my lifetime.
If you want to find out more about how to travel Europe on a budget, and all that it has to offer, click on over to our Europe travel blog page dedicated to tips for backpacking Europe! You will find these to be informative, giving you excellent insight into planning a trip through this multi-cultural continent.