Bruges can feel like a huge relief if you arrive here from Brussels. In Bruges, it’s easy to walk around the compact historical center; you can enjoy numerous well-preserved ancient streets, mansions, stone bridges and squares full of noble history. The fairytale atmosphere of the city attracts many visitors, yet sadly only a few of them travel to Bruges for more than a half-day.
Undoubtedly, it’s possible to tick off the best attractions in Bruges within 24 hours, but why would you want to miss out on all the local gems, while you play tourist at a slow pace? In this article, you’ll learn about the best things to do in Bruges, which we suggest stretching over at least three days.
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Hotels in Bruges
Staying longer & booking a hotel in the center of Bruges is the key to enjoying this town at a slower pace. To embrace the old center, find a hotel with a history. We stayed at the Hotel Prinsenhof; just a few minutes walk from the main square of Bruges.
It’s a 4-star boutique hotel in a well-restored building from 1930 located in a quiet alley. Apart from luxurious ambience with tasteful design, the Prinsenhof offers more than just a room to sleep in.
Their professional and extremely kind receptionists treat their guests with incredible care, making sure you have all you need during your stay.
Starting from arranging a free tour with a local guide, so you don’t roam around the old town without knowing the stories behind the main points of interests in Bruges.
You’ll also be able to able to enjoy a luxurious breakfast or have a drink in the hotel, and you can arrange a fabulous turn-down service, while the staff prepares your room for the night in a very special way.
There are 24 rooms at the moment, and we stayed in a spacious double bedroom with a seating area, a huge bathroom, and a small terrace looking out over the backyard. Breakfast is served in an equally elegant dining room with oodles of fresh and local food. Allow yourself to be spoiled in Bruges, because this is the right place to do it. Check the availability and latest prices of the Hotel Prinsenhof.
Things to do in Bruges
Do your morning jogging at one of the parks
Disregard how small Bruges is, there are plenty of green spaces where you can come for an early morning run. You can keep up with your daily jogging routine at the Kon Astrid Park, Minnewaterpark also called Lovers’ Lake, Baron Ruzettepark, or Koning Albert I park, or on the promenade at the Kruisvest near the famous Bruges’ windmills.
Get to the Grote Markt before everybody does
The central square is one of the busiest in the town, so if you wish to capture it without crowds of tourists, come before 9 am. Protip: waiting for a sunset in the light of the street lamps turned on ain’t bad either.
Relax in the Beguinage
Bruges’ center can get pretty busy during the day. To escape rushing groups of tourists, have a stroll around the serene garden of the Benedictine monastery from the 13th century. The best time to visit is spring, when the garden is studded with daffodils.
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See the first inhabited place in Bruges
Once at the central square, walk to the Burg square, which is currently one of the main meeting points for visitors and locals, as well as the major political hub thanks to the impressive town hall located here. Don’t limit yourself only to its facade. Step inside and check out the fabulous Gothic Hall in the City Hall.
Climb up & get the best view of Bruges
We didn’t manage to get the panoramic view ourselves, but if you’re a collector of bird’s-eye views from the city towers, head to the 83 m tall Belfry Tower in the historic center of Bruges. Judging from the photos of other travelers, you won’t be disappointed.
Admission: 10 €
Find the unique Basilica of the Holy Blood
Inconspicuous gem on the main square. Surely one of the best things to do in Bruges is to enter this Catholic basilica and absorb the mysterious atmosphere of the place. It’s also very quiet as not many people visit it.
Check the windmills
The best part of staying in Bruges for more than a half day is that you’ll have time to wander further from the center and its main attractions.
Head to the old windmills from the 18th-20th centuries located along the canal path Kruisvest between Bapaumestraat and Sasplein. To see them from the outside is free, and if you’d like to see a small museum inside the Sint Janshuismolen mill, you’ll pay a small fee of 3 €.
Take a chance to see the sculpture of Michelangelo
The story of why the work of Michelangelo ended up in Bruges is a bit concealed, but the scholars agreed that the artist was persuaded to sell the marmor sculpture of Madonna to a wealthy man in Bruges instead of keeping it on its original place: Siena Dome. You’ll find the Madonna and Child in the Church of Our Lady in Bruges.
Admission: 3-4 € due to restoration work (August 2017), otherwise it’s 5-6 €.
Have a pint with THE view
Unless you’re preoccupied with the right setting on your camera for the best shot of the sunset at the Rozenhoedkaai, find a spot in one of the pubs and have a beer. The view over the canals deserves more admiration than just a quick snap.
Alert to art lovers visiting Bruges
Bruges is far more than simply the ancient churches and stone houses along the river. That’s why it’s worth spending more time in the city. If part of your travels is ticking off the exhibitions of world famous maestros, Bruges has some artsy surprises for you.
You can start at the Groeningemuseum where you can admire a comprehensive collection of Flemish & Belgian paintings of six centuries.
Admission: 8 €
At the Museum-Gallery Xpo, you’ll find works of Salvador Dalí: sculptures, drawings, aquarelles, and graphic works.
Admission: 10 €
The Diamond Museum in Bruges displays some shiny pieces, including a 252-carat raw gem. Worth going for a diamond polishing demonstration for an extra 3 €.
Admission: 8 €
See the local life
One of the best parts of this slow travel mode is allowing yourself to get lost, or go for a detour without worrying about catching up with a group or arriving on time to other sightseeing.
Forget the itinerary of “must see attractions” in Bruges, and just walk further from the touristy city center. Our favourite part of Bruges was a local neighbourhood on the streets of Strosstraat, Rolweg, and the streets nearby.
Check out Jeruzalemkerk
From outside: a random religious building. From inside: a quirky medieval chapel from the 15th century with the altar covered with skulls. We haven’t managed to enter the Jerusalem Chapel, as it was closed during our time in Bruges, but check out these photos to help you to decide whether to visit it or not.
Stuff your face with Belgian classics … or not
There are some commercial places and guided tours in Bruges where you can learn about the Belgian fried potatoes, chocolate, and beer, but honestly, the price of the tickets and the online reviews put us off, so we got our dose of the Belgian classics at random restaurants and pubs throughout the city.
To pick the best place to eat in Bruges, get inspired by this article, or this one. In case you’re on a budget, there are a few small restaurants with take-away pasta box meals for only 3.5 – 6 €. Try Bocca or Pasta Maria. For healthy options, check out the chain EXKi.
The best photography spots in Bruges
To not have a photo of the view of Rozenhoedkaai (Quay of the Rosary Quay) would be like you’ve never been to Bruges. Go to the corner of Dijver Street and Wollestraat, or find the best angle for your sunset image of Bruges.
This is a must-do thing in Bruges, especially during the blue hour when the setting of old mansions reflecting in the canal with yellow street lamps is just magical. Other photogenic spots in Bruges are: Bonifacius Bridge, a view of the Poortersloge from the Spiegelrei, Spinolarei and Sint-Annarei streets, or Kasteel Minnewater Restaurant in the Minnewaterpark.
Hope these tips on things to do in Bruges at a slow pace helped you, and if you have any other suggestions about what to do & see in the town, feel free to drop a comment below.
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Disclosure: We were kindly invited to stay a couple of nights at the Hotel Prinsenhof. Our words and opinions remain our own.
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