Is Bruges Worth Visiting? 15 Reasons That Scream Yes!

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Author:  Caroline

From medieval architecture to some of the best chocolate stores in all of Belgium, Bruges truly has it all! Widely heralded as the prettiest city in the country and with good reason. As a local, I can say that Bruges is worth visiting. Let me show you why!

As a Belgian I have had the pleasure of visiting Bruges on many, many occasions. Be it to show visitors from abroad that Belgium is anything but boring or simply by myself, to get lost in the labyrinthine streets of Bruges. The city still gives me goosebumps, even now, after seeing it countless times.

Bruges is the single most visited place in Belgium, even more so than its capital Brussels. After receiving UNESCO World Heritage status in 2000, tourism exploded. Yet amid tourism madness, it has remained authentic, inviting, and surprisingly affordable.

These are just a handful of reasons why Bruges is worth a visit! Read on to find 15 compelling reasons why you should be booking your tickets right now.


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Rozenhoedkaai Brugge

15 Reasons Why Visiting Bruges Is Worth It

1. The Beautiful Canals

Bruges is often dubbed the “Venice of the North”. As you step inside the historical center you will immediately see why, they are simply everywhere. Of the 31 canals, the most prominent might just be the Dijver and the Rozenhoedkaai, which offer postcard-perfect views you see in the picture above.

Historically, these waterways date back to the 12th century when they were initially constructed for commercial purposes. The canals facilitated trade, allowing goods to be transported efficiently through the heart of Bruges, ultimately contributing to the city’s economic prosperity during the medieval period.

Gliding along the canals is my favorite way to see the city. In fact, I must have taken this 45-minute canal cruise at least half a dozen times. Yes it’s touristy, but in the end, who cares!

Boat tours typically cost €12 (US$13) and tickets can be bought from one of five vendors dotted around the historical center. For the best views perch at the very back of the boat. Tours have English-speaking guides.

SAVE YOUR PENNIES | Combine a guided walking tour and boat tour and learn about the history of the city for a fraction of the price. Also, skip the neverending cue for the boat!


2. Medieval Architecture in the Historical Center

READ | One day in Bruges itinerary

The Historical Center of Bruges was UNESCO-classified in 2000 as an outstanding example of a medieval historical settlement. Most of the architecture is Gothic, with brickwork dating from the Middle Ages. This is one of the main reasons why Bruges is worth visiting! It feels like time has virtually stood still.

Must visit in the historical center

BELFRY: The undisputed icon of Bruges. This UNESCO-classified tower dates back to the 13th century and was once the repository for municipal charts. Nowadays you can climb the 366 steps for 360° views over Bruges.

HISTORIUM: Housed inside an 18th-century palace on the Grote Markt. Inside you can find a historical reconstruction of various medieval scenes. Also has a VR-section to narrate the history of the city.. Pop up to the Duvelorium bar on the first floor for amazing views over the Grote Markt.

DE BURG: De Burg or Burg Square is the prettiest marketplace after the Grote Markt. Houses the famous Basilica of the Holy Blood as well as the Bruges City Hall. Both very much worth popping into.

BONIFACIUS BRIDGE: Constructed in the 15th century and named after the patron saint of Bruges, Saint Bonifacius. Spans the waters of the Dijver Canal, with views of the Church of Our Lady. Flanked by the prettiest B&B in Bruges (Bonifacius B&B).

BEGUINAGE: Clustering of whitewashed houses where the Beguines used to live. The Beguines were devout women who lived a quasi-monastic existence. Gives out of the famous Wijngaardplein with the flocks of swans.

ROZENHOEDKAAI: Probably the most photographed canal in Bruges. Offers a beautiful vantage point over the Belfry, with a clustering of medieval houses in the foreground. Also a great spot to catch a canal cruise.

TIP | The very best view over the city is from the top of the Historium Museum. Costs €5 (US$6) if you purchase a ticket for the Historium. If you just wish the climb up the tower without visiting the museum the entrance fee is €12.


3. The Abundance of Museums

Bruges was once the cultural heartland of the Low Countries in the Middle Ages. It is closely associated with the school of Flemish Primitive painting (15th and early 16th paintings). The most famous painters include Van Eyck, Van der Weyden, Memling, Bouts, David and Matsys. All known for their highly realistic renderings of materials and textures.

The city has 13 main museums covering the history of Bruges as well as showcasing a few of the works from the abovementioned Flemish Masters. Here are a few I particularly loved visiting.

Historium: An interactive museum showcasing the history of Bruges. Great for families with kids!

Groeninge Museum: The Groeninge Museum offers a diverse panorama of the history of Belgian visual art, showcasing top-tier paintings by the globally acclaimed Flemish primitives. Among the masterpieces on display, you’ll encounter Jan van Eyck’s “Madonna with Canon Joris Van der Paele” and Hans Memling’s “Moreel Triptych.

Church of Our Lady: A Roman Catholic Church dating back to the 13th century. Rather unassuming aside from the Michelangelo (Madonna and Child of Bruges) on display right next to the altar.

City Hall: Established between 1376 and 1421, Bruges City Hall ranks as one of the oldest in the Low Countries. The ground floor is free for everyone to visit, but the true magic happens on the first floor. Here lies a beautiful Gothic hall with 20th-century paintings intricately portraying the rich history of Bruges.

TIP | If you are planning on visiting multiple museums, make sure to check out the Bruges Musea Card as it offers free entrance to the main museums. This in turn will save you a pretty penny!


4. Walkability

Compared to many other capital cities, Bruges is actually very compact. The Grote Markt is a 2-minute walk from Burg Square and 3 minutes to the famous Rozenhoedkaai. All of the tourist hotspots are within comfortable walking distance from each other, even the station which is a 15-minute walk from the Grote Markt.

Swathes of the historical center have been fully pedestrianized while others fall under strict color-coded regulations, effectively banning cars from the center for large parts of the day.

Each street has a sidewalk on both sides of the road, even the little cobblestoned roads crisscrossing the historical center of Bruges. Cars are legally obligated to let you cross the road, that is if you do so on the zebra-crossing.


5. The Tasty Beer Brewed Inside the City Walls

Belgium and beer go hand in hand. It is one of the things we tend to do really well! Each city has its very own special brews, and Bruges is no exception. Two breweries still operate within the historical center.

Bourgogne des Flandres Bruges

Opening Hours: 10.30 am – 06.30 pm (closed on Monday) || Address: Walplein 26, 8000 Brugge || Tours: Visit the brewery with an audio guide including 1 tasting for €15 (US$18).

Bourgogne des Flandres dates back to 1911, it managed to weather the storms of both WWI and WWII unscathed. However, the family brewery eventually had to close its doors in 1958. The beer brand made a veritable comeback in 2015 and is once again being brewed inside the heart of Bruges.

The local brewery has a little terrace along one of Bruges’ main canals, offering an ideal setting for enjoying a refreshing beer during the spring or summer. We opted for a tasting of the blond and triple varieties of Bourgogne des Flandres and I honestly really liked both.

Halve Maan Brewery Bruges

Opening Hours: 11.00 am – 06.00 pm || Address: Kartuizerinnenstraat 6, 8000 Brugge || Tours: 45-min tour including 1 tasting for €16 (US$18)


Established in 1856, Brewery Halve Maan in Bruges has a long brewing tradition. The internationally acclaimed Brugse Zot and Straffe Hendrik gained such popularity that the brewery faced a capacity challenge for brewing and bottling within the historic center.

Determined to honor its heritage and continue crafting its renowned brews in the heart of the city, the brewery devised a clever solution. A pipeline was ingeniously installed, running from the historic brewery to a newly constructed bottling facility outside the historical center. T

DISCOVER LOCAL BEERS | Take a history, beer and chocolate walking tour in Bruges and learn about all the delicious treats the city has to offer, with a side of history!


Best hot chocolate in Bruges

6. Chocolate Heaven

READ | 12 Vegetarian Restaurants in Bruges

Bruges is worth visiting for the chocolate alone! Our beloved chocolate traces its roots back to the 17th century when cocoa beans first arrived in Europe. But the ball really started rolling when Jean Neuhaus invented the famous praline in the 19th century.

These little bite-size chocolates, filled with creamy ganache or nutty centers, are readily available for purchase in Bruges. In fact, it seems like every second store is selling “original Belgian chocolate”. Unfortunately, the majority of the stores no longer produce their chocolate in Bruges or even Belgium.

Where to buy chocolates in Bruges

BEST HOT CHOCOLATE: The Old Chocolate House has a wonderful first floor where you can grab all sorts of different hot chocolates. We took the speculoos version, which is divine!

BEST CHOCOLATE STORE: Both The Chocolate Line and The Chocolate Factory produce their chocolate in Bruges and have a wide selection.

CHOCOLATE WORKSHOP: Alternatively, try a Belgian Chocolate Workshop

DISCOVER LOCAL CHOCOLATE STORES | I took a walking tour with 10 food pairings to find local stores still producing chocolate in Bruges.


7. The Bruges Waffle

WHERE TO TRY: Otto Waffle

You might have heard of the Belgian’s affinity for waffles. This little bit of information always makes me laugh as, truth be told, us Belgians do not actually eat waffles on a regular basis. Back in the day, perhaps, but those days are long gone.

Nevertheless, each tourist hotspot in Belgium will sell you an abundance of waffles. They will most likely give you the choice of a Brussels waffle (rectangular, crunchy) or a Liege waffle (oval, soft, with pieces of sugar inside). Atop you can add a sprinkling of sugar or whipped cream.

Bruges however has gone and invented its very own waffle. The waffle is gluten and dairy-free, made from oats and coated in coconut sugar. It is absolutely divine and definitely worth trying! I tried it without topping while my travel buddies coated theirs in salted caramel and chocolate. The discerning eye might notice the shape is in fact similar to lace, which was once Bruges’ most exported craft.


Historical Center of Bruges

8. It Has a Long History Filled With Legends

Every time I visit Bruges, somehow, I manage to pick up a new legend. One day I might sit down and write a book about the many stories that cling to the bones of this city. But for now here are a few of the most well-known legends.

The Lake of Love in Minnewater Park is named after the story of a young girl called Minna. She fell head over heels for a warrior from a neighboring tribe. Her father had other plans for her and arranged a different match. She ran away and escaped into the forest, where she died of exhaustion in the arms of her lover.

The legend of the famous swans in Bruges is another crowd-pleaser. 15th century Bruges was under the rule of Maximilian of Austria. Revolts broke out and the emperor’s advisor Pieter Lanckhals was decapitated. By way of punishment, the emperor decreed the city must have 52 swans in its canals for perpetuity, or else it would be cursed. To this day, at least 52 swans glide in the canals.

MORE LEGENDS | If you have the time why not book a tour focussing on the legends & tales of Bruges. This tour takes place at nighttime when most of the daytrippers have already gone home!


9. Easy To Get To From Brussels, Amsterdam & Paris

READ | Brussels to Bruges Day Trip; Amsterdam to Bruges Day Trip

Belgium is the size of a pocket square and very well serviced by a robust public transportation system. As such, getting to Bruges is very straightforward, both from inside and outside the country.

BRUSSELS TO BRUGES // Travel Time: One Hour // Train Tickets & Schedule: Omio
The closest airport to Bruges is located in located in Brussels. From here you can simply hop on a direct train that takes you to Bruges in one hour. Or take a day tour from Brussels to Bruges.

AMSTERDAM TO BRUGES // Travel Time: 3h30 // Train Tickets & Schedule: Omio
Take the high-speed Eurostar train from Amsterdam Central to Brussels Midi. Once arrived in Brussels take the local train, which brings you directly to Bruges in one hour. Or save your pennies and take a surprisingly good value-for-money tour.

PARIS TO BRUGES // Travel Time: Upwards of 4h // Train Tickets & Schedule: Omio
Getting from Paris to Bruges will require taking a high-speed Eurostar train from Paris Gare du Nord to Brussels Midi train station. Once arrived in Brussels hop on a local train taking you to Bruges. Or take a tour from Paris to Bruges.


10. It is the Most Romantic Place in Belgium

The city’s romantic ambiance is woven into the very fabric of its architecture, where centuries-old buildings whisper tales of a bygone era. The picturesque waterways, crisscrossing the city like liquid ribbons, offer the perfect romantic backdrop.

Is there anything more romantic than a medieval city lined with cookie-cutter gabled houses, cobblestone streets, and the ever-present clippedy clop of horsedrawn carriages. I dare say, Bruges will turn even the most ardent critic into a swooning romantic in about two seconds flat.

Bruges’ gastronomic offerings further heighten its romantic charm. Cozy eateries, tucked away in centuries-old buildings, invite couples to savor intimate moments over exquisite Belgian cuisine.
I dare say there is no place more romantic than Bruges.


Burg Square Bruges

11. Bruges Is Super Safe

As a woman, traveling solo in Bruges, I have walked many parts of the city at just about every time of day and never felt unsafe. As a tourist, you will most likely be walking around the historical center during broad daylight, which is very small, with plenty of people around to help in case anything should happen.

Luckily I have never had anything stolen in all my years visiting Bruges. But just to be safe, be mindful of your valuables when walking around the historical center. As these parts of the city tend to be busy, they form the ideal playground for pickpockets.

There is no prolific nightlight, or to put it bluntly, the city is rather deserted at night. Therefore the chances of running into a group of drunken locals/visitors looking for trouble is slim to none.


12. It Remained Wonderfully Authentic

Bruges has a mere 119.000 inhabitants, yet receives a whopping 8 million tourists each year. In high season the tiny medieval streets are absolutely flooded with people and the canals practically overflowing with snap-happy tourists taking a canal tour.

Yet despite the large influx of visitors, the city has not become laden with tourist traps, service in bars and restaurants is friendly and prices have not risen disproportionately. As a Belgian, it has always surprised me how much more touristy Brussels feels in comparison to Bruges.

On my last trip to Bruges, I spent two nights in the city. What struck me was how empty the historical center was after 06.00 pm. Day trippers and large tour groups had left for the day and what was left were locals and a handful of tourists. Typically the city gets busy between 10.00 am and 06.00 pm, and is an oasis of calm for the rest of the day.


13. They Do Christmas Really Well

READ | Christmas in Bruges

While the Christmas Market in Brussels might be larger and more well-known, the rest of the city is a pretty much business as usual. If, however, you happen to be exploring Bruges during the Christmas period, you are in for a real treat as the city is completely engulfed by decorations.

The entire city is festooned with twinkling lights, brightly lit Christmas displays adorn the majority of storefronts and you cannot take two steps without finding a place that sells delicious hot chocolate. As a local, I can safely state no place does Christmas quite like Bruges.

Two official Christmas Markets are set up yearly, one of the Grote Markt and the other on the Simon Stevinplein. These are rather modest affairs, with little stalls selling mainly food and drink-related items. Christmas Markets run from the last week of November until, and including, the first week of January.


14. It Has a Surprisingly Tranquil Side

This might sound far-fetched, but I assure you it is very true! The historical center of Bruges is made up of 9 small neighborhoods. The vast majority of visitors will stick to roughly 5 neighborhoods: Onze-Lieve-Vrouwe Quarter, West-Brugge-Quarter, Magdalena-Quarter, Steenstraat-Quarter and Burg Quarter.

That leaves a good chunk of the city blissfully free from large tour groups and day trippers. These are some of my favorite parts of Bruges to languorously stroll around. I assure you the architecture is just as Gothic and impressive and the canals equally picturesque.

TIP | If you want to get a bit more off-the-beaten-path in Bruges, consider investing in a walking tour with a knowledgeable local guide.


15. It’s the Perfect Base for Exploring Belgium

As Belgium is a small country, getting anywhere is rarely requires more than 2 hours of travel time. The easiest place to base yourself for exploring the country is Brussels, as it is in the center of the country. But, truth be told, you could also just as easily stay in Bruges and use that as a jumping-off point.

Easy day trips include Antwerp, Mechelen, Brussels, Ghent, and even Namur in southern Belgium. Simply hop on a local train at the Bruges train station. Purchase your tickets at the station right before departure or alternatively check the schedule and purchase your tickets on the Omio platform.

If you happen to be visiting on a sunny day, you might want to head to the Belgian coast. The closest stretches of the coast are Knokke Heist, Blankenbergen, De Haan, and Ostend. Take the train to either Blankenbergen or Ostend and hop on the coastal tram to reach De Haan and/or Knokke Heist.

Additional Reasons to Visit Bruges

THERE IS ALWAYS SOMETHING TO DO: Bruges has a longstanding tradition of supporting the arts. To this day many cultural events still take place in the city. Check the VisitBruges agenda before you go.

VEGETARIAN FRIENDLY DESTINATION: As a vegetarian of 20-plus years, I had absolutely zero problems eating out in Bruges. Most restaurants will have at least a few vegetarian options to choose from.

ITS VERY KID-FRIENDLY: Bruges is a very family-friendly city to visit. However, if you are traveling with young infants you might want to consider bringing a sling as pushing a pram on cobblestones can sometimes be cumbersome.

Where to Stay in Bruges

READ | 15 Sustainable Boutique Hotels in Bruges

I highly recommend spending one night in Bruges to experience the city without the many tourists. The choice of where to stay is important: Further away from the historical center is easier on the wallet, but less fun after feasting on copious amounts of chocolate, while being closer means pricier and the risk of noise pollution. Check out hotels in Bruges.

Where to stay in Bruges
Source: Booking.com

MOST AUTHENTIC EXPERIENCE: B&B Bonifacius ($$$)

A beautiful medieval wooden house with views of the iconic Boniface Bridge. Step back into time as you stay in this cozy, locally-run B&B.

Where to stay in Bruges
Source: Booking.com

A no-nonsense 2-star hotel located right on the Grote Markt, opposite the Bruges Belfry. Great value for money and unbeatable location. Tends to book out very fast.

Hotels in Bruges
Source: Booking.com

Located in a stunning historical mansion with a tranquil garden overlooking one of the many picturesque canals of Bruges. Locally run with 4 rooms, 350 meters from the Main Square.

Bruges Day Trip

Is Bruges Worth Visiting FAQS

Where is Bruges?

Bruges is located in the northwestern part of Belgium, about 90 km (56 mi) away from Brussels

How many days are needed to visit Bruges?

To get a first impression of Bruges, one day is enough. That being said, the city has a lot to offer and personally, I would recommend spending at least two days in Bruges.

Best time to visit Bruges?

Bruges tends to get very, very busy from April to October. If you are looking to avoid large flocks of tourists your best bet is to visit outside of these months, and always aim to visit during the week as weekends tend to get busy regardless of the time of year.

What is Bruges known for?

Bruges is known for it’s medieval historical center and 13th-century Belfry ( both UNESCO-classified), chocolate, waffles, beer (Brugse Zot or Bourgogne de Flandres), and lace. Although the latter is very rarely produced in Bruges anymore.

Is Bruges safe at night?

Yes. I have walked alone at night in Bruges as a women and have never felt unsafe.

How to get around Bruges?

Bruges is a very walkable city, all the main highlights are within walking distance from each other.

Is Bruges expensive to visit?

Compared to other tourist hotspots in Belgium, Bruges is relatively affordable. A beer will set you back €3 (US$3), meals start at €20 (US$22) and a night in a hotel is rarely less than €100 (US$110). The best way to see Bruges is by simply walking through the historical center, and this is completely free!

Brussels or Bruges?

READ | Brussels or Bruges: Which city to visit?

Bruges is the most visited city in Belgium, with good reason. This fairytale town is unparalleled anywhere in Europe. If you have but one day in Belgium, I would combine a visit to Bruges and Ghent and skip Brussels.

So, is Bruges worth visiting?

Bruges is one of the most enigmatic and prettiest cities in Belgium and is worth spending a few days exploring. From the bustling Grote Markt to the tranquil Sint Anna Quarter, there is a side of Bruges that will entice every type of traveler.

As a Belgian, I have visited Bruges on countless occasions and it never ceases to take my breath away. It remains one of my favorite places in Belgium and I will never tire of bringing friends from abroad and seeing their starstruck expressions as they first lay eyes on Bruges.

Is Bruges Worth Visiting? 15 Reasons That Scream Yes!

MORE TRAVEL RESOURCES FOR VISITING BELGIUM

BRUGES: Christmas Market in Bruges
BRUGES: One day in Bruges itinerary
BELGIUM: 16 Castle hotels in Belgium
BELGIUM: Beautiful places in Belgium to visit
BELGIUM: Guide to the bluebell forest near Brussels
BRUSSELS: Best areas to stay in Brussels
BRUSSELS: Day trips from Brussels
BRUGES: 15 Sustainable Boutique Hotels in Bruges
NAMUR: Things to do in Namur

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Is Bruges Worth Visiting? 15 Reasons That Scream Yes!

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Caroline Muller

Thanks for dropping in! My name is Caroline, and I am a full-time writer & photographer. With this blog, I hope to harness the power of travel to do good in the world. Think connecting with local cultures, sustainable tourism, and in-depth guides to known and lesser-known adventures. Adventure awaits!

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