Here, you will find the tips about the best free attractions of Bruges. Belgium in general, and Bruges in particular, can be hard on the wallet – everything is pricy here: hotels, restaurants, museums and even beer. However, even if your budget is tight, you can still enjoy this marvellous city. Since a huge part of its charm is in its medieval buildings and canals hiding in greenery, you can see a lot just strolling around.
Honestly, museums in Bruges are spectacular and at world class level, so you can consider seeing at least one or two (see more here), but if you don’t want to, there are still plenty of free attractions waiting for you.
Here are the very best free attractions of Bruges presented as an itinerary from one point of interest to another. We start with the most recommended attractions, so the sequence reflects what you absolutely need to see and if you have no time, skip the last ones.
The most characteristic spot of Bruges – a beautiful “corner” of the canals with a quay offering an amazing view of the historical buildings and the Belfry tower.
2. Groenerei Canal
Stroll along Groenerei canal – it’s the one with the prettiest bridges, historical buildings and most delightful views. Read more about the canals of Bruges here.
Follow to the magnificent little square called Burg, dominated by the silhouette of a beautiful Gothic City Hall, with the Palace of Liberty of Bruges on the left. Go to its right corner to the Basilica of the Saint Blood.
- Order private 3h walking tour for € 20: Bruges: Highlights and Hidden Gems
4. Basilica of the Saint Blood (Heilig-Bloed Basiliek)
There are actually two chapels: the lower Romanesque one and the upper Gothic one. Admire the dazzling wealth of the interiors and beautiful murals.
5. Markt & Colourful Houses
Go around the lively main square of the city, surrounded by lovely Gothic and Neo-Gothic buildings. You will easily notice the Belfry tower and the huge elegant building of the Provincial Court. On the opposite side, there is a row of colourful stepped-gable houses that are another iconic sight of Bruges.
6. Former Hansa Quarter (Hanzekwartier)
Go to Jan van Eyckplein to see the spot where once was the mighty port of the city in its richest times. Bruges belonged to the Hanseatic League and was one of the major trade cities in Europe. The characteristic buildings around this place are a testimony of these times.
7. Saint Saviour’s Cathedral (Sint-Salvatorskathedraal)
To admire more Flemish art, follow to Saint Saviour’s Cathedral. It’s the oldest parish chuch In Bruges, Datong back to the 12th century. You can see here great Flemish paintings, Tapestries from Brussels and medieval tombs.
8. Gruuthuse from the outside
Go to Gruuthusestraat to see the impressive architecture of the Gruuthuse palace from the outside (entrance fee to see the museum).
- Book here Bruges: 30-Minute Private Tour by Bike Carriage for € 25
9. Bonifacius Bridge & Arents Courtyard
From Gruuthusestraat you’ll enter elegant Arents Courtyard with curious sculptures. You’ll quickly see the bridge.
One of the prettiest and most photogenic spots of Bruges is Bonifacius Bridge. It will be hard not to find it crowded, as it’s small and it has little benches on it, which makes it easily jammed, but if you are lucky to find less people on it, it’s quite magical. The view is amazing on every side. A wonderful spot.
10. Church of Our Lady (Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk) from the outside
Follow to the adjacent Mariastraat to admire the Church of Our Lady from the outside (entrance fee to see the museum).
11. Saint John’s Hospital (Sint Janshospital) inner courtyard
You need a ticket to see the splendid art of Saint John’s Hospital museum, but you can freely walk around to see the beautiful inner courtyard with small herb gardens from the pharmacy located in one of the buildings. The complex of the hospital buildings with towers above is very pretty and definitely worth seeing, and it’s even better by night (yes, the area is always open).
Following Mariastraat then continues as Katlijnestraat, you can see on both sides almhouses – medieval dwellings built by charity for impoverished elderly craftsmen of Bruges.
From there, you are already on your way to the Beguinage of Bruges. Currently it’s a convent, but you can freely enter to see the walled area with rows of white medieval dwellings and a pleasant wide garden.
14. Minnewater (Lake of Love) & Picnic
Outside the Beguinage, you can take photos with lovely swans – there are always tens of them around. Then follow to Minnewater lake – called Lake of Love – and the huge park around it. In a good weather it’s a great spot for a relaxing picnic, which will be a budget-friendly alternative to one of the pricy restaurants of the city. Don’t miss the Gunpowder Tower (Poertoren) and the Minnewater Bridge – the Lovers Bridge.
- Book here Bruges: 30-Minute Private Tour by Bike Carriage for € 25
15. Kruisvest Windmills
An alternative park for a picnic and relax is the area with four pretty monumental windmills. It is much further from the city centre, but it’s interesting and very characteristic. One of them, Sint-Janshuis Mill built in 1770, is actually still grinding flour! It is open to visitors, but there is an entrance fee. The area around, however, can be visited freely.
- If you decide to see one museum, choose Groeningemuseum for its world-class collection of the Flemish paintings – they are truly impressive.
- If you decide for two museums, add to it Saint John’s Hospital, it also has a great collection of paintings and being the oldest preserved hospital building, it’s interesting also for the medicinal collection and charming centuries-old pharmacy.
- Book here the trip Bruges From Brussels – Full-Day Discovery Tour for € 40
Cheap Accommodation in Bruges
As we said, Bruges is very expensive, so plan well. If you want to stay for the night, here are some proposals for cheap hostels, B&B and hotels In Bruges.
- The cheapest option is a simple, but greatly located Hostel Lybeer Bruges right in the city centre – great for groups of friends
- Another cheap and basic option, best for young travellers, is Charlie Rockets Youth Hostel offering functional accomodation in very central location
- A super-nice offer is Boat&Bed Bruges – the price for a family or a group of friends is very good and the experience is surely unique ;)
- A very good option is hotel ibis budget Brugge Centrum Station located in the centre and offering very convenient quality/price ratio
- A simple and convenient hostel located in the centre is St Christopher’s Inn Hostel at The Bauhaus
- Pretty and comfortable *** Hotel ‘t Putje offers an excellent value for money – very good price and great location
- *** Lace Hotel offers great value – it’s stylish and elegant, but also affordable and in central location