Bruges City Guide Contents
BRUGES is too often called a fairytale city. But this doesn’t do justice to the vibrant and youthful scene that is just as present as the city’s historic beauty. Any Bruges City Guide will tell you that it’s the perfect destination for a romantic weekend with your partner, or the perfect luxury getaway filled with chocolate. But this Bruges City Guide will tell you which basement bars you can’t miss, and how to find the hidden ruined remains of a 1,000 year old Church.
Bruges City Guide: Where To Drink in Bruges
Apparently, this is where all the kids go these days. But that didn’t stop my mum and I spending an hour or two propped up on bar stools in this dark cellar bar. We had the pleasure of meeting the owner, who definitely knew more than a thing or two about beer. And the craziest part is that the bar is located in old church foundations going back god knows how many years!
The uninitiated have no idea that there is any kind of nightclub in Bruges. But if you want loud music and a party atmosphere, Ma Rica Rokk is one of the places you’ll find it. It’s not much of a day-drinking place, but as it’s open until 3am most nights and 5am on weekends there’s not much need to head there before midnight anyway!
Another hole in the wall, but one of the cosiest bars in Bruges. Staminee De Garre is famous in the beer world for it’s locally brewed 11% beer, and reminds me of a proper English old man’s pub. You can’t sit at the bar, and it’s not a young person’s typical hangout – but it’s got one of the most extensive beer menus in the city and the friendliest staff!
The best place to drink in Bruges for a view of the main Markt square. The best time to go is on a Wednesday lunchtime, when the weekly market is shutting down and the buzz of the city can be watched from your barstool on the Historium balcony.
Bruges City Guide: Where to Eat in Bruges
Blackbird is a delightful café that looks on the inside like every page of a lifestyle blog. Beautiful lighting enhances the soft interior colours, and to top it off the coffee is fantastic. I last visited at Christmas, and they even had little boutique gifts that you could buy in-store. Visit for the ‘Best Breakfast in Bruges’ or take a seat outside and watch the locals go by their way on bicycle while sipping on a steaming hot chocolate.
Books and Brunch is one of my favourite places to grab breakfast or lunch in Bruges. The food is homey and so tasty, but to top it off the owners themselves are incredibly welcoming and friendly. Books from every genre (including books written in English) line the walls of the café – any of which you can pick up to buy along with your meal. A truly beautiful concept, enhanced with hip design and great food.
You may have to wait a while to get to the front of the queue at Lizzie’s Wafels. But trust me, the length of the queue is a pretty good reflection of the taste and size of their incredible homemade waffles. Top them off with strawberries or chocolate sauce and you won’t want to move for a long while after.
Bruges City Guide: Sightseeing in Bruges
St Donation’s Cathedral Ruins
The ruins of the 1,000 year old St Donation’s Cathedral is an incredible hidden secret in the very centre of Bruges. Sint-Donaaskathedraal in its original Dutch, the Cathedral began as a church around the year 950 AD and became a Cathedral in the 16th Century. What’s most incredible is the lack of information online about St Donation’s. Which is why you should definitely make the time to explore the ruins.
Amazingly, the ruins are now located in the basement of the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Bruges. But to see them, just pop in to the reception and ask a staff member who will direct you to the staircase which leads to the ruins. It’s completely free and open to anyone, unless there is a function taking place in the hotel.
Michelangelo’s Statue of the Madonna
In 1514 a merchant from Bruges called Alexander Mouscron donated a statue of the Madonna and Child to the the Church of Our Lady in Bruges. He had bought it whilst on a trip to Florence, where it had been sculpted by none other than Michelangelo. The statue remains in this Church to this day, and whilst you can’t get very close, and others would disagree with me, I think it’s still worth the €6 entrance fee.
Note: As the Church is currently undergoing renovation, the ticket price is reduced to €4 and some of the artwork may not be visible.
I stumbled on this bridge while cycling round the city with a Canadian, but I was just as intrigued by this bridge as she was happy to see it! The entrance to the bridge is guarded by two large stone buffalo, and an engraving reads: “This bridge was erected in memory of the Canadian forces who liberated the city of Bruges on September the 12th 1944.”
It’s not something I’ve seen before in a Bruges City Guide, which is a shame because the Canada Bridge (or Canadabruc as it’s labelled) is a beautiful monument of gratitude from one country to another. And why the buffalo? The animal was the mascot for the 12th Manitoba Dragoons, who were the regiment of the Canadian Army responsible for liberating Bruges from the Germans.
This sounds gruesome, and the concept kind of actually is. But the teeny-tiny 12th Century Basilica houses such stunningly intricate architectural detail that I just have to recommend it!
And the deal with the blood? Rumour has it that a piece of cloth stained with the blood of Jesus Christ was brought from the Holy Land to Bruges, where it’s now on display every day for half an hour from 11.30am, or from 2pm – 4pm. I’m not religious, but I did queue up to bow my head in front of the very old priest guarding the vial, before he handed me a prayer sheet and bid me on my way.
And if you are religious, the Basilica is beautiful and I would highly recommend the Mass that takes place from 11am every day except Monday.
A béguinage (or begijnhof in Dutch) is an area of land that was set aside for the most pious Christian women. They would live there unmarried and devoted to God, and in Bruges the houses of the béguinage are still reserved for nuns of the Order of St. Benedict.
It’s an incredible peaceful experience to walk through the Béguinage. Take a moment to watch the nuns walking from their front doors of the 17th century houses to the gothic church in the corner of the walled-off oasis. It’s a a simple occurrence that has been repeated by countless women on that same plot of land since the 13th century.
Bruges City Guide: Things To Do in Bruges
Circle The City By Bicycle
There is one ring-road that encircles Bruges, and thanks to the city’s bicycle-friendly nature it’s an absolute pleasure to cycle around. I’ve done it, and I did manage to get lost a few times but getting lost is all part of the fun! And thanks to the ring-road it’s pretty easy to find yourself back on track.
Not only will you get to see the beautiful outskirts of the city, cycling through green parks and along idyllic canals. But you’ll get plenty of chances to sightsee outside the main centre and find gems such as The Kruispoort (a 15th century gateway to Bruges), the 18th century windmills that are still standing today, and the stunning Minnewater park and lake.
Cost: The price of bicycle hire for one day. I hired mine from St Christopher’s at the Bauhaus.
Climb the Belfry
Bruges is relatively flat, so getting a good view of the rooftops can be tricky. One of the best views I’ve found is from climbing the 266 steps to the top of the Bruges Belfry.
It’s not an easy climb, and there is wire over the windows which is a little frustrating. But you still get to see the beautiful architecture form the highest point in the centre of Bruges.
Shop The Wednesday Market
To get a true taste of Bruges, head by their central market which takes places every Wednesday from 10am to 1pm in Markt Square. There’s a lot of fresh meat and produce on sale, which is great if you’re cooking for yourself while in Bruges. If not, pick up a vanilla waffle from the Roesje Wafels stand!
Cost: Free to visit (but I spend a lot on food when I’m there!)
The Legends of Bruges Free Walking Tour is undoubtedly the best free tour company in the city. I had a hilarious guide on my last trip to Bruges, and their wealth of knowledge about the city always astounds me. But my favourite part is hearing the local legends that you don’t find anywhere else but from the locals. Definitely worth the tip money!
P.s. they also run a Bruges By Night Free Tour which I haven’t had the chance to take yet but have heard great things about from other hostel guests!
Cost: As it says on the tin, this walking tour is free to join. However, proper etiquette is to tip between €5 – €10 at the end (the tour guides usually ask you to tip what you think they deserve).
St Christopher’s at The Bauhaus (one of my recommended hostels below) has teamed up with the Legends of Bruges team to offer a fantastic beer tasting experience that runs every night from 9.30pm! I’ve taken it (see the video here) and the beer guide was so hilariously funny! It’s also well worth the €12 for the amount of beer you taste!
Look out for Brass Sea Shells
If you haven’t heard of the Camino de Santiago, it’s the main pilgrimage walk in Europe that leads to the city of Santiago de Compostela. The most amazing thing is the markers of St James can be found as far away as Bruges! The markers are small brass sea shells – see if you can spot any while walking around the city!
Bruges my be full of historical monuments, but there is a vibrant arts scene that continues to thrive to this day. The Bruges Art Route is a set of three walks designed to share this artistic vibrancy with visitors to the city. There are guided tours, but budget travellers can download the map for free to print and take with you on your trip!
This is something I’ve not done personally yet. But I’m a huge fan of taking photo tours and Andy McSweeney’s tours of Bruges come highly recommended. Tours cost from €50 per person, so joining one is definitely a budget splurge and one I’m factoring in for my next trip to Bruges!
Cost: from €50 per person (+1 non photo taking buddy free of charge) on a group tour, and €200 for a private tour with up to five of your friends.
Bruges City Guide: Hostels in Bruges
My go-to Bruges Hostel! A mix of classic dorm rooms and beautiful pod-bed dorms, with great room security and lockers for each guest in the room. The staff are super friendly (I ended up drunk with quite a few of them on each night of my stay) and the hostel has great facilities. Hire a bike, take the pub quiz with your roomies, join the beer tasting at 9.30pm, or just chill at their public bar and make friends.
I ended up at Charlie Rockets on my first ever trip to Bruges. It’s not a boutique hostel, and there are no pod beds. In fact, the metal bunks squeaked a lot, wall chargers were hard to come by, the showers are rarely warm and the lockers are placed haphazardly along various corridors throughout the hostel. But the common area is a lively pub open to the public with a few pool tables. And I was in Bruges with friends that time, so I wasn’t too concerned about the rowdy social atmosphere.
Cheap, rough and ready.
How To Get To Bruges
How To Get To Bruges By Bus
Getting to Bruges with Eurolines couldn’t be easier. It’s also the cheapest option for budget travellers looking to visit Bruges. The Eurolines bus stop is located at the entrance to Bruges Central Station. And from there it’s super easy to jump on a local bus or grab a taxi to your accommodation.
Read more: Travelling Europe By Bus – The Guide
How To Get To Bruges By Train
Bruges doesn’t have a direct train link from many cities, so first you’ll need to get a train to Brussels. Direct trains run to Brussels from London (via the Eurostar), Amsterdam (via the Thalys) and Paris (again via Thalys). From Brussels, a one-way ticket to Bruges via direct train costs around €15.80 and takes just one hour.
Visit Rail Europe to find the best fares and book your tickets.
How To Get To Bruges By Plane
The easiest way to get to Bruges by plane is to fly directly into Ostend Bruges Airport. From there you can get a bus (line 6) to the city centre that costs just €3.00.
However, the cheapest way to get to Bruges by plane is to fly into Brussels Airport. You can then get the train directly from the airport to Bruges Central Station.
Visit Skyscanner to find the best fares and book your tickets.
Bruges City Guide Map
Click the image below or click here to open the interactive Bruges City Guide map. It lists all the places included in this guide, and a few extras that I’ve included in the Bruges City Guide ebook.
Bruges City Guide eBook
Looking for an offline way to plan your trip to Bruges? Or a practical travel guide to Bruges that will take you straight to the best places to eat, sleep, drink and visit in the city? My 30 page Bruges City Guide is the perfect option! It costs just £3.99 and comes as a PDF. So once you download it you’ll have it for life!
Bruges City Guide eBook Preview:
I really enjoyed putting together this guidebook for you to one of my favourite cities in Europe! And I hope you find it useful. If so – please let me know in the comments section, as I hope to make this a new series on the blog for 2017!
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