Belgium

The Complete Bruges, Belgium Visitor Guide

If you have dreamed of visiting the canals of Venice, Italy, but aren’t overly thrilled about having to contend with the large crowds that flock to the beautiful coastal town of Italy, you may want to think about visiting Bruges, Belgium instead.  Located less than an hour away from the capital city of Brussels by train, the small town of Bruges is frequently voted as one of the most beautiful cities in Europe because of its breathtaking canals, unique and wonderful architecture, long and interesting history, and tasty cuisine.  The city of Bruges might be small, but it is home to more castles per square inch than any other country on this planet. In fact, roughly 50 of the 470 castles that are found in the Flanders region are located around Bruges.

However, most people who visit Bruges come to see the amazing canals. Bruges has roughly 80 bridges throughout the city that make navigating from one end of the city to the other quite easy.  Although, if you really want to experience Bruges, I would strongly recommend taking a ride through the canals on a boat tour.  No matter what brings you to Bruges, you are guaranteed to be blown away by the beauty, the history, and the kindness and hospitality of the wonderful people who live there.

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In this guide, I am going to give you all of the information you need to plan a successful trip to Brugge, Belgium.  I cover the best times to visit and the best ways to get there so that you can maximize what you are able to see and do on your trip.  In addition, I outline the top things to see and do while you are there and where the best places to stay and eat are.  With this information in hand, you can be confident that your trip to Brugge will be one that you remember for the rest of your life.

At A Glance
Top Things to See
How to Get There
Best Time to Visit
Where to Stay
Where to Eat
Recommended Tours and Excursions
Photo Gallery

At a Glance

Before you start making any travel plans, you will want to make sure to take care of all of the passport, VISA, and immunization requirements for your trip.   In addition, you will want to make sure you have a clear understanding of what language they speak in Belgium and what currency they use so that you can plan any translation needs you might have for your trip and exchange currency before your trip if necessary.  I have included some of this key information below for you to review as you start to make your travel plans.

Passport requirements exist. See below for details.
Immunization recommendations are listed below.
The official languaged in Belgium are Dutch, French, and German.
The official currency in Belgium is the Euro.

Passport, VISA, and Immunization Requirements

passport

In order to assist you in navigating the legal requirements for visiting Belgium, I have included a link to my Belgium Passport, VISA, Customs, and Immunization Requirements for Visitors Guide as well as some information on the EU’s new ETIAS VISA requirements below for you to review.  These guides will give you all of the information that you will need to meet the VISA, passport, customs, and immunizations requirements and recommendations for visiting Belgium.

READ MORE:
Passport
Belgium Passport, VISA, Customs, and Immunization Requirements for Visitors
READ MORE:
Travel VISA
New Visa Requirements for Americans to Visit Europe Starting in 2021

Packing Tips

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Outside of taking care of the passport, visa, and immunization requirements so that you can get into Belgium and don’t get sick, there is no more important pre-travel planning task than making sure you pack the right clothing and gear for your trip.  To help make sure you are properly packed and prepared, I have included links to some of my packing resources below for you to review.

READ MORE:
Suitcase Travel
The Ultimate Travel Packing Check List
READ MORE:
Overhead Bin Airplane
The Essential Carry-On Checklist

Top Things to See and Do

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Two things that the city of Bruges is definitely not in short supply of is breathtaking views and fun things to do.  If you are looking for a quiet place to get away, relax, enjoy the beauty, and have fun with family and loved ones, then you will be hard-pressed to find a better place in Europe than Bruges.  Whether you choose to get out on the canals in a relaxing boat ride, take a walk thru the beautiful streets and do some shopping, or eat at one of the amazing restaurants in town, you will not have trouble finding things to do to fill your itinerary while in Bruges.  If you are looking for some ideas, I have included a list of my favorite things to see and do in Bruges below for you to review.

Bruges, Belgium - Top Things to See and Do Map

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Take a Boat Ride Down the Canals
Check out the Shops in the Markts
The Belfry of Brugess
Church of Our Lady Bruges
Basilica of the Holy Blood
Burg Square
Bruges City Hall
Rozenhoedkaais

Take a Boat Ride Down the Canals

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It will probably come as no surprise to you that one of the most popular activities for visitors who come to Bruges is to take a boat ride thru the city’s beautiful canals.  It is this extensive system of canals and bridges that have earned Bruges the nickname “Venice of the North”.  As beautiful as they are to look at, the canals were actually built for a more practical purpose.  During the Middle Ages, this extensive canal system served as a transportation system that made Bruges one of the largest commercial hubs in Europe.  While it isn’t the commercial hub that it once was, you can still appreciate both the beauty and the practicality of the canals when you get on the water and explore them by boat.

Try the Delicious Belgian Waffles

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One of my absolute favorite things to do while in Bruges is to eat as many of the delightful and delicious Belgian Waffles as my stomach can hold.  Made fresh and topped with either fresh fruit, chocolate, or other delicious toppings, the waffles in Bruges are to die for.  They are served all day long, so you can eat them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner if you’d like, though I would recommend trying some of the amazing cuisines in the city’s many wonderful restaurants as well.

See the Belfry of Bruges

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Near the city center and the famous Grote Markt (more on that in a bit) sits one of the most recognizable landmarks in the city of Bruges.  Towering above the other historical buildings in the market square, the Belfort Belfry is both majestic and beautiful.  Dating back to around 1240, the 47 bells in the tower were once used to announce the time, alert about fires, and to celebrate festivals.  If you are feeling up to it, I would highly recommend climbing the 366 narrow, steep spiral stairs to the top of the belfry.  If you have ever seen the movie “In Bruges”, this is the tower where one of the characters of the movie meets their end.  It’s a great movie, but it is even cooler to see the tower in person.

Visit the Church of Our Lady Bruges

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With its 400-feet high (122-meter) brick steeple, the Church of Our Lady Bruges is another beautiful landmark that dominates the skyline of the city of Bruges.  Even though the steeple and the intricate stonework on the church are quite captivating, they aren’t what makes this church one of the most famous in Europe.  That distinction goes to the inside.  Or, more accurately, what is stored inside the church.  In case you aren’t aware, the Church of Our Lady Bruges is the home of one of the legendary Michelangelo’s most famous pieces of work.

Although there are many different adaptation of the Madonna and Child, the most famous of all is undoubtedly the marble sculpture named the “Madonna of Bruges”.  Created in his home country of Italy and exported to Belgium in 1504, the statue has been drawing visitors from around the globe to view it ever since.  To see this statue alone is worth visiting the church, not to mention the beauty of the church itself.

Taste Authentic Belgian Chocolate

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When it comes to making chocolate, few other countries in the world do it as well as the Belgians.  Some of the creamiest and most delicious chocolate I have eaten during my many travels have been in the countries of Belgium and Switzerland.  If you are visiting Bruges, even for just a short stay, then I absolutely recommend that you stop in a few of the chocolate shops and try some for yourself.  However, you have to be careful in which shops you choose to make sure the chocolate you are tasting is authentic.  Here are a few tips that should help you find the best shops in town to taste some authentic Belgian Chocolate.

  • Looks for signs that say “freshly made chocolate”.
  • Prices may be a bit higher along Katelijnestraat, but the chocolate will be authentic.
  • Dumon – Has some of the creamiest (and my favorite) chocolate in Bruges.
  • The Chocolate Line – Pricey, but worth it.  It has a wide range of gastronomique varieties of chocolate.  One of the more famous chocolate shops in Bruges.
  • BbyB – Owned by a Michelin-starred restaurateur, this is another one of Bruges’ high-end, popular chocolate shops.  You will pay more for the chocolate, but it is well worth it.

Check out the Shops in the Markt

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While you are in the city center tasting the chocolate and searching for Belgian waffles, I would also suggest that you take some time to explore the shops in the historical Markt.  It is located in the historic center of Bruges near the Belfry and some of the other tourist attractions in the city, so it really isn’t out of your way.  In the shops you will find some amazing items that are authentic to this region of Europe and to Belgium.  One of my favorite things I got to look at in these shops were all of the neat cuckoo clocks that originated in the German-speaking region of Europe, including parts of Belgium.

Walk Thru Burg Square

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Named after the fortress that was built by the first Count of Flanders, Baldwin Iron Arm, built in the 9th Century, the Burg Square has been an important political and cultural center for the city of Bruges ever since.  In addition to government buildings such as the Old Court of Justice and the Palace of Liberty of Bruges, the square is also home to one of my favorite buildings in Bruges.  The Basilica of the Holy Blood is one of the more beautiful ornate churches that you will find in the Flanders region.  Taking a walk thru the cobblestone streets of the square and admiring all of these beautiful and historically important buildings is a great way to learn more about the city.

See Bruges City Hall

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Speaking of Burg Square, one of the more difficult to miss governmental buildings in the Square happens to also be one of the more important buildings in the city.  Dating back to 1421, it is one of the oldest city halls in the Netherlands region of Europe.  The beautiful, yet flamboyant, design of the building reflected the political and economic power that was centered in this region of Europe at the time.  Its design would go on to inspire similar city hall designs in the cities of Brussels, Ghent, and Leuven.  It is a great building to photograph if you are into an architectural photographer, or just to admire if you are taking a casual walk thru Burg Square.

Admire the Beauty of Rozenhoedkaai

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If you are a travel photographer, one spot that you absolutely will not want to miss while you are in Bruges is the beautiful Rozenhoedkaai, which is otherwise known as the Quay of the Rosary.  It is one of the most popular photography spots in the city, so if you have seen shots of Bruges on Instagram on travel websites, those pictures were most likely taken here.  With gorgeous weeping trees, ornate buildings that touch the water, and picturesque old bridges, it is one of the most breathtaking spots along the many canals in Bruges.  If you frame your pictures right, you are very likely to capture some postcard caliber beauty in your shots.

Visit the Basilica of the Holy Blood

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In my opinion, the Basilica of the Holy Blood is one of the most beautiful and interesting buildings found in Bruges.  Located in the popular Burg Square, the church’s facade is ornately decorated with golden statues and medallions of the Counts of Flanders.  While the facade makes the Basilica one of Bruges prettier buildings, the church is actually more famous for what is stored inside of it than what covers its exterior.  The church is said to house a relic of the Holy Blood of Jesus Christ that was collected by Joseph of Arimathea and brought back to Bruges from the Holy Land by the Count of Flanders, Thierry of Alsace. It’s a pretty church to tour if you have the time.

How to Get There

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The city of Bruges is located in Northwestern Belgium in the Dutch-speaking part of the country.  It is a very short train ride from the larger cities of Brussels and Antwerp and relatively close to both Paris and Amsterdam.  In fact, if you wanted to combine a visit to Bruges with a trip to either France or the Netherlands, you could probably even fit a visit to Bruges in as a day trip from those countries.  However, I would certainly recommend you stay more than a day because there is so much to see and do.  To help give you a better understanding of where Bruges is located in proximity to some of the other popular tourist destinations in Western Europe, I have created a map with estimated travel times to Bruges from various cities for you to review below.

Bruges, Belgium - Getting to Bruges Map

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There are three primary languages spoken in the country of Belgium, with Dutch being the prevalent language spoken in Bruges and the rest of Northern Belgium.  If you are traveling to other cities in Belgium during your visit, you will want to keep the different lingual regions of Belgium in mind.  To help you understand where each language is primarily spoken, I have included a map for you to review below.

Bruges, Belgium Regional Languages Map

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Best Time to Visit

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Average Temperature (°F)

While the average low temperature in Bruges doesn’t get insanely cold during the winter months or the average high temperature uncomfortably hot during the summer months, there are distinct seasons in Bruges.  During the winter months of December thru February, the low temperatures will drop into the lower 30’s and on many days a warm jacket will be required.  During these months, tourism in the city is at its lowest.  In the summer months of June thru August, the average high temperatures will range between the upper 60’s and lower 70’s, making it one of the most comfortable times to visit the city.  However, it is also the busiest time of the year for tourism.  The shoulder months of April and May, as well as September and October, are typically much less busy and the temperatures are still quite nice.

Average Precipitation (Inches)

If you are planning on spending a good amount of time outside while visiting Bruges, then you will want to consider the average precipitation levels in the city throughout the year.  The late autumn and early winter months of October thru December are typically the wettest months of the year, while the late winter and spring months of February thru May are typically the driest months of the year.  Along with the fact that it’s just before the busy summer tourism months and the temperatures are starting to get comfortably warm, this is why May is my favorite month to visit Bruges.

Where to Stay

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One of the most important decisions you are going to have to make when planning your trip to Brugge is where you will stay.  When you travel, the accommodations you choose are oftentimes amongst the biggest expenditures for your trip.  So not only do you need to be comfortable where you are staying, but you also need to be comfortable with how much you are paying to stay there.  Finding the right accommodations for your trip involves looking at the amenities, the location, and most importantly, the price.  If you are starting to plan your trip to Brugge and want some hotel and hostel suggestions, I have included some great options at different price points below for you to review.  As always, don’t be afraid to expand your search to room sharing sites such as Airbnb or VRBO if you aren’t finding a hotel or hostel that meets your needs.

Bruges - Recommended Hotels and Hostels Map

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Lybeer Hostel Bruges ($)
Snuffel Hostel ($)
Hôtel Adornes ($$)
Hotel Fevery ($$)
Grand Hotel Casselbergh ($$$)
Hotel Navarra Brugge ($$$)
Hotel Dukes’ Palace ($$$$)
La Maison Bruges ($$$$)
Hotel Van Cleef ($$$$$)
The secret garden luxury suites ($$$$$)

Where to Eat

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When most people plan a trip, the primary focus is one how to get there, where to stay, and what is on the list of things to see and do.  What many travelers neglect to plan, is where to eat when you are there.  Granted, it is sometimes fun to be spontaneous when choosing a restaurant while traveling, and it is always smart to get recommendations when you arrive.  However, it can also be advantageous to have some ideas of restaurants you would like to try during your trip written down beforehand as well.  This way you can be assured that you won’t miss out on a highly recommended culinary experience that you will regret.  To help you decide on some restaurants in Brugge to add to your list, I have included a list of some highly recommended options for you to review below.

Bruges Restaurant Recommendations
Restaurant Cuisine Price
‘T Pallieterke Belgian, European, Veggie $$-$$$
Park Restaurant French, Belgian, Veggie $$$$
In’t Nieuw Museum Steakhouse, Brew Pub, Barbecue $$-$$$
Je Restaurant French, International, European $$-$$$
Pomperlut International, Mediterranean, Central European $$-$$$
pro Deo Belgian, Dutch, European $$-$$$

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There is an abundance of amazing things to see and do in the Brugge area and one of the best ways to experience those things is on a tour.  If you are looking for fun tours and excursions to fill out your trip, I have included some category links to recommended tours and excursions you can review below.

There is an abundance of amazing things to see and do in the Bruges area and one of the best ways to experience those things is on a tour.  If you are looking for fun tours and excursions to fill out your trip, I have included some category links to recommended tours and excursions you can review below.

Art & Culture
Food & Drink
Outdoor Activities
Tours, Sightseeing & Cruises
Transportation & Travel Services
Unique Experiences

When people say that Bruges is one of Europe’s most beautiful cities, they aren’t kidding.  I have been to few cities in my travels that are as naturally beautiful as Bruges is.  If you are interested in seeing some of the many beautiful pictures that I was able to take while touring Bruges, I have included a gallery for you to review below.

Bruges, Belgium

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10 replies »

  1. Thanks for sharing your guide of Bruges Josh, it is amazing, wish I had it before I went there eheh all the best and greetings from Lisbon, PedroL

  2. Love love love this town. We stayed right in the middle of town and loved walking the deserted streets first thing. And no where better to sample chocolates 🙂

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