City guide: Bruges, Belgium | Private jet charter
Bruges is a UNESCO World Heritage City. Its beautifully preserved medieval Old Town is packed with historic houses and churches, beautiful parks and squares, abbeys, chapels and monasteries. The architecture and cobblestone streets provide a charming backdrop to the canals that wind their way through this magical city.
Top five must-see sights and attractions
Bruges Markt, Belfry and Salvador Dali Exhibition
Head to the main square (Markt) in Bruges and you’ll find some of the city’s most famous landmarks. This beautiful market place is a central hub for Bruges and surrounded by cafes, restaurants, museums and a mix of fine architecture, including on the eastern side, the Neo-Gothic municipal Provinciaal Hof building.
On the south side is a collection of 13th century buildings that make up the Halle, with the 83m belfry (Belfort) standing sentinel above. Take the 333 steps to the summit for extraordinary views over the canals and streets of medieval Bruges. On the way up catch your breath at the former Treasury room.
Another treasure on the ground floor of the Belfry is the Museum-Gallery Xpo dedicated to Surrealist artist Salvador Dali. There’s an eclectic collection of his graphics and statues here showcased against a vivid background of mirrors and shocking pink walls.
Choco-Story – Bruges Chocolate Museum
Belgian chocolate is renowned the world over, so it’s only fitting that Bruges has its very own Choco-Story Chocolate Museum. Located on Sint-Jansplein in the Huis de Crone building, the museum cleverly tells the story of how chocolate is made – from the raw cocoa bean to the chocolate bar.
Using artefacts, illustrations and historical records, the museum features the Mayans and Aztecs who were the first to use cacao in ceremonies. Fast forward to the arrival of the Conquistadors who also started drinking the magic brew and took it back to an appreciative European aristocracy. Chocolate bars did not appear until the mid-to-late 1800s once moulds were invented.
The second floor of the museum features cocoa bean and production, while the third floor is focused on the delights of Belgian chocolate. Head back downstairs for a chocolate demonstration and tasting on the ground floor.
Basilica of the Holy Blood
This fascinating ‘double’ basilica is located on a corner in Burg square, a few minutes’ walk east of the Belfry and Markt. You can’t miss the beautiful façade. Essentially two churches, the 12th century Romanesque lower church is dedicated to Our Lady and Saint Basil and is decorated very simply. It’s connected by a grand brick staircase to the fabulously decorated neo-Gothic upper church with beautiful stained windows and a magnificent altar backdrop depicting the Holy Trinity.
There are many walks to choose from including a stroll among the city’s few remaining windmills. During the 16th century Bruges had 23 windmills which were an integral part of the city walls. Today there are just four and you can see them between Dampoort and the Kruispoort. The ramparts are now covered in grass and make an excellent picnic spot.
The only mill still open to the public is the Sint-Janshuismolen. Built in 1770, it is still standing in its original location and has a small museum. Watch the mill in action as it grinds flour.
The walk between the windmills is a calm, relaxing escape from a sometimes hectic Bruges – especially in high season. The walk has views over the canal and its houseboats on one side, and medieval Bruges on the other.
Bruges canal tours
Bruges is quite rightly known as the Venice of the North and gives visitors a beautiful perspective of the city. Passing merchant’s houses, hanging willow trees and charming bridges and gardens, it’s a great way to escape.
The 30-minute cruise follows the city’s ancient fortifications and is an effortless way to see Bruges from a calmer perspective. Boats leave from the quays behind the Stadhuis (City Hall), Belfry and the Church of Our Lady.
Best time to visit
The months between May and September are generally the best time to visit Bruges. However be prepared for rain at any time of the year.
Spring: Between April and May the crowds are less, and the city is blooming with flowers.
Summer: June through August are the warmest months in Bruges. Festivals and crowds are both in high number.
Autumn: A quieter time to visit Bruges but with mixed weather that can change in an instant.
Winter: Can be cold, wet and windy, thanks to Bruges’s northern location and proximity to the Baltic Sea.
Once you’ve arrived foot power is the best way – or hire a bike – e-bikes are also available if you’d rather avoid pedalling. All hotel visitors receive a free DiscoverBruges card on arrival which gives discounts in numerous shops and attractions in and around Bruges.
Bruges is a visual delight with the most well-preserved medieval architecture in Belgium. It’s easy to get around and just a short flight from most European destinations. Savour divine Belgian beer and locally made chocolate, climb the Belfry for superb views over the city and experience Bruges’s medieval architecture from the canals.