Bruges is Belgium's most popular destination and one of Western Europe's most visited medieval cities.
Brugges' incredibly well-preserved medieval architecture makes it one of the most exciting tourist attractions in Europe and Trip Advisor travellers voted Brugge a top World destination.
Historic Centre of Brugge is on the Unesco's World Heritage List since 2000.
Bruges lies within a circle of canals and earth banks, the remains of centuries-old fortifications, and is the best preserved example of medieval Flanders. At its heart are two squares: Markt, the medieval marketplace; and Burg, the ancient seat of government, dominated by the City Hall.
Hotels in general, because of the nature of the city, tend to be charming, small and family-run. One family making a name for itself in Bruges is the Vanhaeckes, who not only own Bonifacius, but also The Pand Hotel (Pandreitje 16) and Maison le Dragon (Eekhoutstraat 5); all are stunning individual properties, which manage to successfully combine stylish interiors with a warm welcome.
Market Square (Grote Markt ) and Belfry (Belfort) The market square is the medieval commercial centre of the city. One of the city's most impressive monuments is the Belfry and Cloth Hall and on the north side the Provincial Court. For excellent views of the city climb the 366 steps to the top of the 83-metre high Belfry tower.
The rest of the square is occupied by restaurants and cafes located in guild houses. The statues at the centre of the square are of Jan Breydel and Pieter de Coninck who were leading figures in the resistance against the French occupation in 1302.
City Hall (Stadhuis) 12 Burgbr>
Built in the 14th century, this is the oldest town hall in Flanders and certainly one of the most beautiful. On the first floor is the stunning Gothic Hall with its beautiful vaulted ceiling. The historic wall paintings depicting the city's history were added in the late 19th century during the hall's restoration.
Basilica of the Holy Blood (Heiligbloed Basiliek) 13 Burg - Apr-Sep 9:30AM-11:50AM & 2PM-5:50PM, Oct-Mar 10AM-11:50AM & 2PM-3:50PM. Both Lower and Upper Chapels date back to the 12th century and were built in Roman style, but it is the Upper Chapel that was converted into a neo-gothic style in the 19th centuries and has beautiful stained glass windows, intricate wall paintings and decorated wooden ceiling. The Upper Chapel is also home to the treasured relic of the Holy Blood, a crystal phial containing a few drops of Christ's blood, brought back around 1200 from the Holy Land after the Second Crusade. The phial stored in a silver tabernacle is exhibited every Friday. Don't forget to visit the chapel underneath, in heavy Romanesque style - a contrast to the lovely light Gothic above. The adjacent museum displays a collection of vestments, paintings and artefacts.
The Church of Our Lady (Onze Lieve Vrouwkere) - architecture from the Romanesque and Gothic periods. Mariastraat This 13th century church with 122m tower was built over three centuries in various different styles and with more work carried out in the 18th century, the church was transformed again, into a more contemporary design. Since 1900, all renovations have tried to re-establish the old medieval style and the church now houses an impressive array of art treasures. Michelangelo's wonderful sculpture, Madonna and Child is without a doubt one of the highlights, and is the only sculpture by the great Italian artist that can be seen in the Low Countries. In the choir are the magnificent mausoleums of Charles the Bold and his daughter, Mary of Burgundy, along with some remarkable painted tombs.
St Saviours Cathedral (St Salvator Kathedral) St Salvatorskerkhof Work started on Bruges' oldest parish church in the 10th century but after being destroyed by fire, rebuilt and alterations and additions made in the 13th and 14th centuries, it displays a mixture of styles. Given cathedral status in the 19th century and suffering damage when a fire destroyed the roof, the cathedral underwent extensive restoration and the tower made higher so as not to be overshadowed by the neighbouring Church of Our Lady. There are several paintings, beautiful wall tapestries and medieval tombs.
In a quiet area of the city, a highly unusual church with octagonal tower built by the Adornes brothers, merchants of Italian extraction. It includes a fine black tournai marble tomb, late Gothic stained glass, and a tiny chapel containing an effigy of the dead Christ. The entrance fee also covers the Lace Museum in the former Adornes mansion.
Beguine Convent (Begijnhof) Bruges begijnhoven dates from the 13th century and was traditionally the home of Beguines. The modest but dignified whitewashed houses are now home to 50 single women of all ages. The large convent at the rear of the tree-lined square is inhabited by Benedictine nuns. In the spring a carped of daffodils covers the grass. All the quaintness makes it one of Brudges' top attractions but despite the numbers it remains a tranquil haven and a must see.
Minnewater Park (Lake of Love) Situated by the gates of the Beguinage, this picturesque park used to be a dock for the barges which operated between Bruges and Ghent. Today it has a pretty lake, lawns swans and meandering lakeside walks.
Lace Centre (Kantcentrum) 3a Peperstraat Both a museum and workshop situated in charming old almhouses. Demonstrations of the intricate art of lace making take place in the workshop whilst the history of this art is illustrated in the museum were ancient examples of skilled lace work are on display. There is also a shop for those wanting to buy souvenirs.
7 days 9:30AM-5PM.
Known as 'The city museum of Fine Arts', it houses a collection of artworks that span several centuries (14th-20th), focusing mainly on works by painters who lived and worked in Bruges. €8 / €6 (audioguide and ticket Arents House and Forum + included in the entrance).
Diamanthuis Museum 10:30AM-5:30PM
050 33 63 26
Diamond museum has a large range of exhibits ranging from mining all the way to polishing and all the history in between. Everyday at 12:15 there is a live polishing demonstration. Individuals €6, Groups €4.5, Students €3.
The Hospital of St John 09:30 - 17:00, Closed Mondays.
Sint-Janshospitaal contains a museum of six paintings by Hans Memling, within the early medieval hospital buildings. €6 with Bruges card / €8.
Take a ride on one of the Tour boats around the canals - the multilingual guides provide a potted history of the city in just a few minutes - at only a few Euros, it's the best introduction to Bruges. A boat tour will show you places which are otherwise unreachable, as not every canal runs next to a street. They are worth the €6.5 and I do them every time I visit Bruges with an out off town visitor.
Discount Cards: 2 Museum combination tickets (€15 each) are available.
One gives entry to 5 municipal museums and monuments. The other gives access to 3 municipal museums plus a day's bike hire and a free drink (at the cafe inside the Museum Voor Volkskunde)
It is work buying if you plan to visit the most expensive attractions (Groeninge, St Janshospitaal and Gruuthuse museums, or the belfry)
Visit the Tourist Information: In&Uit Brugge 't Zand 34 to find out more about this splendid city