Bruges (Brugge in Flemish) lies bout 100km from Brussels, close to the port of Zeebrugge. It may not match the cosmopolitan shopping and nightlife of say Antwerp or Brussels however it is an impossibly picturesque city. Romantic and intimate with its canals and lanes, Bruges (sometimes referred to as the Venice of the north) has only roughly 115,00 inhabitants however its medieval cobbled streets, charming squares and plethora of art treasures attract over 3 million visitors every year. It was once one of the Benelux countries’ most important trading centres which made it one of the most prosperous cities in Europe, today the city offers something for everyone from fascinating museums and wonderful medieval architecture to traditional breweries and beautifully sedate canals.
Neatly marking the city centre is the Markt, overwhelmingly medieval in character this cobbled square houses some of Bruges’ impressive gothic and renaissance buildings including the 13th century Belfort (Belfry). Offering unrivalled views of Bruges and beyond, be sure to climb the 366 steps to the top where a picture postcard perfect panorama awaits you.
Bruges’ other beautiful square is the Burg which once again contains architectural treasures but also features many pavement cafes and bars which are the perfect spot to take in the atmosphere and watch Bruges go about everyday life. Burg square also houses the Basilica of the Holy Blood, named after its prize relic; a phial containing a few drops of Christ’s blood which found its way to Belgium about 1,000 years ago. Meanwhile, The Church of our Lady is one of the city’s most interesting churches containing many works of art, most notable being Michaelangelo’s Madonna with Child marble.
On Dijver Street you will find Bruges’ premier art museum the Groeninge Museum its displays concentrating mainly on Dutch and Belgian art. Still on Dijver Street the Gruuthuse Museum is housed in the former Palace of the Lords of Gruuthuse, the building itself is as much an attraction as its various collections displayed inside. Alternatively for a more light-hearted outing head to the Choco Story Museum, here Bruges celebrates its love of chocolate with a fascinating account of the history of chocolate!
Lastly Lake Minnewater in the south of the city is ideal for a picnic or just a relaxing walk.
Once in the city centre you probably wont even need public transport, as it really is very small and compact. All the main tourist attractions are within easy reach of each other and half the pleasure of visiting Bruges lies in wandering through its cobbled medieval streets. However, there is a bus network serving the city and its surrounding area, should you arrive in Bruges via train you will probably board the bus at Stationsplein to get into the city centre on one of its regular services. Lastly, for locals, bicycles are the most popular way of getting around with plenty of bike paths allowing you to travel without being interrupted by traffic.