Bruges is a picturesque medieval city nestled in the heart of Belgium that has been popular with tourists for centuries, and for good reason. With its cobblestone streets, scenic canals, and well-preserved architecture, Bruges is often referred to as the “Venice of the North,” and this enchanting city is a treasure trove of cultural heritage. There are dozens of things to see and do in Bruges, but here are five that you really need to experience when you’re there.
1 The Belfry of Bruges
Our first tip for something to see is the iconic Belfry of Bruges, a medieval bell tower that proudly stands tall in the historic city center. Climb the 366 steps to the top, and you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of the city. The belfry’s carillon bells, which have been chiming for centuries, provide a truly immersive experience that you won’t soon forget, and the tower’s impressive architecture and its historical significance make it a must-visit attraction for any visitor to Bruges.
2 The Markt
As you descend from the Belfry, you’ll find yourself in the Markt, the lively central square of Bruges. Surrounded by colorful buildings and adorned with a statue of Jan Breydel and Pieter de Coninck, two local heroes, the Markt offers a vibrant atmosphere. Indulge in some people-watching at the terrace cafés or exploring the nearby shops for souvenirs and local delicacies. Don’t forget to try the famous Belgian waffles and chocolates—a true treat for your taste buds! If you’re here for a while or you’re on a stop on one of the many PO cruises that pass this way, you’ll want to enjoy the Markt.
3 The Canals of Bruges
Bruges is synonymous with its intricate network of canals, which meander through the city like veins, adding to its romantic ambiance. Hop on a boat tour and glide along the serene waterways, passing under charming stone bridges and past picturesque medieval houses. The tranquil boat ride provides a unique perspective of the city’s architectural splendor. Uncover the secrets of Bruges as your knowledgeable guide narrates fascinating stories about its history and hidden corners.
4 The Basilica of the Holy Blood
Prepare to be amazed by the Basilica of the Holy Blood, a spiritual sanctuary that holds a revered relic—a vial containing a cloth believed to be stained with the blood of Jesus Christ. The basilica, with its Gothic and Romanesque architecture, is an architectural masterpiece in itself, and you can step inside and witness the mesmerizing craftsmanship, stained glass windows, and intricate woodwork. Whether you’re a person of faith or simply an admirer of art and history, the Basilica of the Holy Blood is a must-see.
5 Minnewater and Begijnhof
Our final suggestion is the tranquil oasis of Minnewater and the adjacent Begijnhof. Stroll through the serene Minnewater Park, where the picturesque lake and surrounding greenery create a serene setting. As you continue your journey, you’ll come across the Begijnhof, a charming courtyard that was once home to a community of beguines (lay religious women). Explore the quiet alleys and admire the beautiful, white-washed houses that enclose this peaceful retreat.