Bruges is a storyteller’s imagination of a town set back in the Middle Ages. The capital of the West Flanders region in Belgium, the city of Bruges is distinguished for its cobbled streets, flowing canals, lacework, Belgium chocolates, and beautifully preserved medieval buildings.
What are my 10 best things to do in Bruges, Belgium?
(Fun Fact: Belgium’s first Bollwood production “PK”, featuring mega movie stars Aamir Khan and Anushka Sharma, was partly shot in Bruges!)
1. Burg Square
Coming first on the best things to do in Bruges is the Burg Square. If you walk toward the heart of Bruges (using the towering Belfry as your guide), you will enter Burg Square. It represents a variety of architectural styles, such as Gothic, Neo- Classicist and Renaissance. Bruges’ most prominent landmarks can be found here, and include the Heilig- Bloedbasiliek, Stadius, Old Civil Registry, and Paleis van het Burgse Vrije.
One of the oldest town halls in Belgium, Bruges’ City Hall (Stadius) dates back to 1371. Of its entire facade, the stonework is the oldest segment and shows pioneering carving.
The former house of the deans of St. Donatius Church, the Deanery later became a part of the Palace of Bruges.
The Palace of the Liberty of Bruges was the seat of governance for the surrounding countryside of Brugse Vrije from the late Middle Ages until 1795. It later served as the Old Court House for 200 years.
2. Heilig- Bloedbasiliek
The Basilica of the Holy Blood is definitely on the list of best things to do in Bruges. It is famous for a crystal vial containing a drop of Christ’s blood. It is believed this vial was brought back from the Holy Land by Dietrich of Alsace in 1149 on his return from the Second Crusade. Every May, the vial is carried through the streets of Bruges in the Procession of the Holy Blood.
After Burg Square, the Markt is one of the best things to do in Bruges. The Market Square was once the scene of medieval festivals, tournaments, fairs, and executions. Today, it is home to Bruges’ weekly markets, restaurants, pubs and artisan stores. A great place to spend the evening, though mind you, Bruges’ is extremely popular with tourists and is almost always crowded. The Markt’s most famous landmark is the Halle and Belfry.
4. Halle and Belfry
The Belfry ranks high on the best things to do in Bruges. At 83m high, the Belfry is one of the finest bell towers in Belgium. You can climb all 366 steps for the best views of Bruges from the top of the tower.
Despite the Rozenhoedkaai being one of the best things to do in Bruges, many visitors often miss out on this unique spot. The most photographed site in Bruges, don’t forget to create your own picture perfect postcard at the Rozenhoedkaai! You can find it along the Dijver to the Braambergstraat.
6. Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk
The Church of Our Lady has the tallest spire in Belgium, about 112m high. But this is not what makes this church one of the best things to do in Bruges. The church houses the acclaimed ‘Virgin and Child’, sculpted by the great Michelangelo. If you do wander into the church, you can locate the sculpture on the altar at the end of the south aisle. Note that the sculpture is behind a bulletproof glass, and you are only allowed to view it from 15 feet away.
7. Dijver Mansions
Bruges is filled with canals meandering their way through the historic town, and walking along them constitutes some of the best things to do in Bruges. If you follow the Dijver Canal, you will notice a line of attractive buildings. Dating back to the 15th century, these buildings known as the Dijver Mansions once provided shelter to the fugitive English king Edward IV in 1471.
Checking out the oldest parish church in Bruges is one of the best things to do in Bruges. The Sint Salvatorskathedraal’s fortress-like facade appears imposing to the tiny viewer. And why not? This stoic structure has survived four fires as well as the iconoclastic fury.
These 16th-17th century houses constitute the lacemakers’ district in Bruges. Some of the finest handmade lace can be found here. If you are interested in purchasing any gorgeous lace, Waalstraat is one of the best things to do in Bruges. Be prepared though. The price is stiff!
10. Chocolates and Chocolates
One of the best things to do in Bruges is to completely indulge your chocolate cravings. If there is one thing Bruges (like every other part of Belgium) is famous for, its chocolates. This place is pure chocolate heaven, and there are just all kinds of goodies to be found when walking through the streets. No one leaves Bruges without indulging their sweet tooth! I definitely didn’t!