Bruges is one of the best preserved medieval cities in the world thanks to the fact that it didn’t become a popular tourist destination until the late nineteenth century. It was founded during the eleventh century surrounding a fortress established as long ago as the ninth century.
Until the fifteenth century Bruges (Brugges in Dutch) was one of the wealthiest cities on the continent due to a strategic location and thirst for trade in goods such as fabrics, Portuguese spices, and grains and wines from Normandy. Like Venice, the town is canal-based, and it rapidly transformed into one of the most important commercial centres in the North of Europe.
At the end of the fifteenth century the Zwin channel that had been responsible for the city’s good fortune began to stilt and the city fell into decline.
At the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries, Bruges was run down and poverty-stricken. However over this time it was completely restored, and quickly became a fashionable tourist destination.
Currently, over 7.8 million people visit the city’s cobbled streets every year, making it into the country’s most visited town, above even Brussels. Bruges is the capital of the province of West Flanders and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000.
Things to see and do in Bruges
Although Bruges is a small city and it is difficult for visitors to miss its top attractions, this is a list of the monuments you must visit:
- The Markt: Known as the Market Square in English, is the heart of Bruges where a market is set up every Saturday.
- Belfry of Bruges: Known in Dutch as the Belfort. It is a medieval bell tower in the centre of the city that stands 272 feet (83 m) tall. It also offers the best views of the Bruges if you decide to climb its 365 steps.
- Burg Square: This is the second most important square in the city and is nearly as beautiful as The Markt.
- Stadhuis: Is Bruges’ Town Hall and is one of the city’s landmarks. Its façade was built at the end of the fourteenth century.
- Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk: Church of Our Lady is the most renowned temple in Bruges and its spire standing 400 ft (122 m) tall is the highest in Belgium.
If you’d like to visit a few museums while you’re in Bruges, we recommend the Gruuthusemuseum, a medieval mansion, offering a glimpse back in time. Another good museum is the Groeningemuseum, Bruges’ most important art museum. And If you have enough time, we suggest taking a boat tour through the famous canals.
How much time to spend in Bruges
Bruges is a remarkable town but quite small, so you will only need from half a day to a whole day to explore this medieval masterpiece. We recommend spending the night in Brussels instead of Bruges, since the hotel prices are more expensive.
How to get to Bruges
Although you can take a bus or rent a car, the best option is to either take the train or book a guided tour of the city:
- Guided tour: We highly recommend this option. For just 32€ (US$35.7) you will get transport included, an English-speaking guide and four hours to visit the city by yourself. If you would like to book an organized tour to Bruges, click here. If you would like to visit Bruges and Ghent in the same day, we also offer this guided tour.
- Train: The fastest and easiest option for those who prefer to see Bruges by themselves. The price of a ticket from any of the train stations in Brussels to Bruges is 14,30€ (US$16) and it takes approximately one hour.
Guided Tour in English
If you haven’t booked the tour from Brussels but would like to get a guided tour of the city in English, we offer a 3-hour tour for 10€ (US$11.2) per person and also a free tour.