Bruges Historic Centre, Belgium
Bruges is an outstanding example of a medieval settlement that has maintained its historic fabric as it evolved over the centuries. As one of the commercial and cultural capitals of Europe, Bruges—a showcase of original Gothic constructions, which formed part of its identity—developed cultural links to different parts of the world.
Water has played a crucial role in the birth and development of Bruges. When visiting, you will see how its canals and lake played an important part in the city's development - as well as adding a unique sense of charm and beauty to this historic city. By taking a boat ride through the canals you will be rewarded with unexpected views, hidden romantic corners and secret gardens.
In the south part of Bruges, surrounded by trees and the adjacent Minnewaterpark, you’ll find a small rectangular lake called 'Minnewater' or the Lake of Love. The tragic romance of Minna and her warrior love Stromberg has evolved into local legend saying that you will experience eternal love if you walk over the lake bridge with your partner. This of course has turned the Lake of Love into an exceptionally romantic spot. Enjoy the scenery from the lake bridge or one of the nearby benches along the lake.
Bruges has a well-preserved medieval city centre that is ideal for discovering by foot. If you are in love now (or soon to be) the Lake of Love in Minnewaterpark is the place to be. Canals cut through parts of the city with grand houses lining the roads on their edges, next to pathways for walkers or cyclists. The swans on the water, horse drawn carriages in the lanes and daffodils add to the enchantment. With a world-first underground beer pipeline running through the city, Bruges is also the perfect place to discover the Belgian beer culture, which was inscribed on the representative list of the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2016.
During its golden century - the 15th century - a number of leading artists like Jan van Eyck and Hans Membling came to live and work in Bruges. Don't miss the chance to marvel at the masterpieces of the world-famous Flemish primitives in the Groeninge Museum and the St John's hospital.
There are plenty of charming squares for you to discover around the city, the most prominent being Burg Square - the beating heart of Bruges. Surrounded by colourful houses, the square is also home to the Belfry, the most important tower of Bruges standing 83m tall. For centuries it was the city's foremost edifice and an important lookout in case of war, fire or any other type of disaster. Today you can climb the 366 steps to the top and be rewarded with breathtaking views of Bruges and its surroundings.
Beyond the historic centre, but still within walking distance, you can visit plenty of charming and historic neighbourhoods. Explore the lovely parklands where 30 windmills once truned their sails. Today there are just four left, including the Sint-Janshuis Mill which can still be visited today. Climb up the mill mounds and get a great panorama of the city, or stop by one of the nearby cafes. Stroll through the nearby Saint Giles - an important artists' quater during the 15th century.
How to Get There
If arriving by plane, the Brussels Airport receives flights from over 200 destinations in 66 countries every day. From there, it's easy to travel to Bruges by train. A direct connection to Bruges runs every hour.
The Brussels South Charleroi Airport receives several daily, low-cost flights from cities across Europe. Bus company Flibco.com offers direct shuttle buses (nine per day) to and from the Bruges station. Booking is cheaper online and you will pay a surcharge on the bus or at the airport.
When to Visit
Although most visitors come in the spring or summer, Bruges has something to offer all year. The misty months of autumn and winter are ideal for atmospheric strolls along the canals and the cobbled streets, before ending up in a cosy, cheerful pub. The "cold" months are also perfect for undisturbed visits to the many museums and sites of interest, before finishing up in world-class restaurant. The Christmas markets are also world-famous. Many hotels and accommodation providers offer lower rates in January, February, and March.
How to Visit
There is a lot to discover in Bruges, and it is best to plan your visit for at least 2-3 days. Most of the major highlights can be reached by foot. There are many guided walking tours available, as well as bicycle tours. Boat tours are also very popular, and provide a different view of the mysterious canals. If you are feeling particularly romantic, you can take a ride in a horse-drawn carriage. If you want to travel a bit faster, you can take a minibus tour with expert commentary. Finally, there are few experiences that rival a hot-air balloon tour above Bruges.
To make the most of your visit, pick up a copy of the official 'Bruges City Guide' - which gives you all the insider's tips on the best places to visit both in and around Bruges. It provides you with some excellent self-guided walking tours that feature the highlights of the World Heritage inscribed sections of the city. Updated every year, the guide is available in the visitor information centre and in vending machines at major attractions such as the Belfry. You can also download the Xplore Bruge App for information about suggested tours and Bruges' history on your phone.