Get inspired to visit Bruges! Splendour and wealth of world-class art, perfectly preserved medieval architecture, silent canals, cosy little squares and exquisite delicacies on every corner make it spectacular to visit Bruges. This small Belgian town is deemed one of the most romantic cities in the world – and it really is. Exploring it is an endless pleasure – read on to see why you’ll love it!
1. Full immersion into the Middle Ages
Bruges (Brugge in Dutch) is one of the best preserved medieval towns in the world. It’s incredible how vast is it’s perfectly intact medieval area. You can just keep on walking and turn into any small cobbled lane or little square – and there is just more and more of beauty and history all around. It’s extremely lovely during the day, but in the night it turns into pure fairytale. Honestly, Bruges was one of my best travel experiences ever.
- Book here the trip From Brussels: Bruges Full-Day Discovery Tour for € 40
2. Incredibly rich Flemish art
Flemish art and architecture is world-famous for a reason. Flanders – nowadays the northern part of Belgium – was in the past one of the richest and most advanced parts of Europe. Since the Middle Ages until Baroque, its main cities: Ghent, Bruges and Antwerp developed culture so rich and sophisticated that it was rivalled only by the Northern Italian kingdoms. It is reflected in unique style of Flemish architecture with lavishly ornament buildings with golden figures and hundreds of turrets. And it is well visible in the masterpieces of Flemish paintings of Jan van Eyck and Hans Memling. The list of the art treasures of Bruges is much longer. The city became rich also for making the best tapestries in the world, and for its extremely intricate lace – again, the best in Europe (along with Venice).
3. Medieval hospitals, almshouses and beguinage
Bruges surprises with the fascinating variety of its historical heritage.
The 12th-century hospital Sint-Janshospitaal is one of the oldest preserved hospital buildings in the world and a place of surprising discoveries. Not only it houses some a bit torture-looking primitive medical tools, but it also has an amazing Flemish art collection. And just think about it: all this spectacular art was here to comfort the poor and ill ones in the Middle Ages! What an advanced society it must have been!
You can see it also in the great number of medieval almshouses – residences for impoverished or elderly craftsmen. They are scattered all around the city – there were impressively many of them.
Another type of a historical complex unique to the Low Countries is beguinage – common residences for religious spinsters and widows living together as a community, but not as nuns. All these interesting charity buildings show a lot of the advancement of social thinking in Flanders already in the Middle Ages.
4. Step-gabled facades
There is no way to miss this detail: the Belgians love the “toothed” facades! The vast majority of the buildings of Bruges have the same distinctive step-gable roof decorations and brick facades. The coherence of the same style throughout the city creates a unique harmony and gives the rows of buildings a lot of character.
5. Tens of towers, hundreds of turrets
In its Golden Age between the 12th and 15th centuries, Bruges was one of the wealthiest and most affluent cities in Europe. It gained its richness as an important trading centre belonging to the Hanseatic League at the crossroads of the northern and southern trade routes, especially due to wool and weaving industry. To show off the wealth and richness of the city, impressive city building were built, and their grandeur was enhanced by opulent decorations. Thus, many typically Flemish buildings feature lots of beautiful little turrets and towers for ornamental reasons. The spectacular Gothic Bruges City Hall is second only to the one in Leuven in the number of its turrets. Obviously, also churches are crowned with towers and turrets around them.
And the most iconic building of the city, visible from almost everywhere around, is 83m high Belfry – civic bell tower, on which you can climb over 366 steps.
6. Perfect mirror views in the canals
Over a year spent in the Netherlands made me used to the canals, but the Belgian ones in Bruges and Ghent take them into a new level. The width of the canal allowing to see the reflection of the entire buildings, their spectacular illumination and the stillness of water create an incredible visual effect of a perfect mirror image. If you visit Bruges not just for a day, but staying for a night or two, in the evening, if you find a quiet spot in one of the canals, you can spend half an hour sitting on its bank and just admiring the optical illusion of “underwater” floors of the buildings disappearing into infinity. Mesmerizing.
7. 1,000 types of Belgian beer
Belgian beer is often deemed the best in the world and it really is a different level of sensorial experience. The richness of beer heritage in Belgium is impressive, with several centuries old traditions. It seems that every abbey in the country produces its own type of liquid paradise. The biggest beer shop in Bruges, “2 Be in Brugge”, offers several floors of labyrinth rooms filled with endless rows of shelves of thousands of beers. The variety is overwhelming. Bruges has also a Beer Museum and two historical breweries offering beer tours and tasting – De Halve Maan and Bourgogne de Flandres. The latter claims to be the country’s most romantic brewery, with its charming setting on a terrace spread along the canal.
8. Idyllic canal cafés and restaurants
All those spectacular beers taste best in the local cafés and bars, with their wonderful old-fashioned style and atmosphere – and it’s definitely another reasons to visit Bruges ;) Bruges is a sophisticated, elegant city and it’s visible also in its restaurants and pubs. Beautiful settings by the canals or marvellous squares are matched by warm, cosy and inviting interiors. Cafés and restaurants of Bruges are so ideally romantic that you just want to sit there forever and make the moment last. Food is exquisite, too, so the overall experience gives you beaucoup de plaisir – a lot of pleasure.
9. Chocolate overdose
Speaking about pleasure… Bruges might possibly be the city with the highest percentage of chocolate shops per the number of inhabitants in the world. There is a chocolate shop on every street, in every square, at the end of every alley. There are rows of them one after another, making it absolutely impossible to resist the temptation. Pralines, truffles and classic Belgian “Fruits de Mer“ come in every shape and flavour, but that’s just the beginning. There are chocolate stones, chocolate rusty tools, chocolate covered freeze-dried fruits, chocolates filled with beer, liquid sugar pyramids called Cuberdon, jellies tasting like fresh fruit, fresh marshmallows soft like a cloud, colourful macarons light like feathers, chocolate-shaped lipsticks, hundreds of flavours, fantasy shapes and aromas, and more and more and more…
10. The magic of Bruges
The Spanish name of the city reflects best its nature: it’s called Brujas, which means “Witches”. Bruges is bewitching indeed. This city really has that “something” that captures your heart. Its beauty is irresistible. Its intact authenticity takes you aback. Its splendid art impresses and inspires. And last but not least – it’s really incredibly romantic. All those stone bridges, canals, little lakes with swans, hidden passages, small gates, a secret terrace with a view at towers where you can be all alone, narrow cobbled streets, idyllic little gardens and silent courtyards where only cats pass by – they add up to real magic. A magnificent city indeed.
- Order private 3h walking tour: Bruges: Highlights and Hidden Gems for € 20
- Book here Bruges: 30-Minute Private Tour by Bike Carriage for € 25