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Bruges is a city that is often described as elegant, romantic, medieval, charming, and relaxing. This is a wonderful place to take a talk, join a tour, and enjoy the simple pleasures of life. If you love chocolate and beer, you’re in luck because Bruges has plenty of these and other local specialties to keep your taste buds satisfied. So, if you’re new to Bruges, here are some of the very best ways to spend your days here.
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It sounds simple, but one of the best things to do in Bruges is to simply take a walk along the canals. It’s also fun to rent a bike and ride around the Old Town trails. The entire city has a compact size, which is great for wandering around and stumbling upon areas you didn’t even plan for. Make a point to check out Rozenhoedkaai for your postcard-perfect photos and amazing scenery on your walk or ride.
After you’ve gotten your fill of exploring the city on two feet, why not take to the water to see the city from a whole new perspective? Bruges has been referred to as the “Venice of the North” because of its canals. There are canal tours that depart from Huidenvettersplein and last about 30 minutes. Canal boat tours are always a bit touristy, but this experience will literally make you feel like you’re living in a fairytale. It’ll also allow you to see sights of the city that you probably wouldn’t get to otherwise. Boat rides typically run from March to November and cost about €8 per adult.
Throughout history, Belgians have made some of the most amazing beer in the entire world. There are lots of bars and nightclubs in Bruges, but we love the Bourgogne des Flandres Brewery for local beer. The brewery is open every day except for Monday and offers tours for €10.50 per person over 16 years old, which includes a complimentary drink. Another great brewery to visit is the De Halve Maan (Half Moon Brewery). This family-run brewery offers guided tours every day and serves lunch daily from noon to 3pm. These 45-minute tours are €10 per person and are operated in English, French, and Dutch daily between 11am and 4pm. The lunch menu includes tasty dishes like shrimp stuffed with tomato and fries, spaghetti bolognaise, Flemish beef stew, and vegetarian lasagna.
The entire nation of Belgium is known for its delicious homemade chocolates, and there are some great places to sample the local goods when you’re in Bruges. Chocolate lovers will definitely want to make a stop at Choco-Story, which is a chocolate-themed museum. The museum tells the story of chocolate in Belgium and has various rooms, a library with works about chocolate, and opportunities to talk to chocolate experts. The museum entrance fee is €8 per adult, and it’s open from 10am to 5pm or 6pm on most days. Don’t forget to branch out from basic pieces of chocolate and try pralines, truffles, cream liqueurs, and waffle toppings made with chocolate too. Top-rated chocolate shops in town include Chocolatier Dumon, the Chocolate Line, and Pralinette.
The name “Minnewater Lake” means the “Lake of Love,” and you very well may fall in love when you spend some time here in Bruges. There are canals at each end of the lake, as well as walking paths, beaches, and swans. Come here with someone special when you’re in the mood for romance. It’s nice to take some time out of your busy sightseeing schedule and simply sit on a park bench and gaze at the weeping willow trees here. And if you get hungry, there are some great restaurants around the lake for a snack or meal.
Architecture buffs love Burg Square because there are some excellent examples of Gothic and Renaissance architecture here. The Stadhuis, or Gothic Town Hall, is full of history and dates back to 1376. This is one of the most historic places in the city and was once home to a fortress. Other sites to see here are the Deanery in its Baroque style, the Basilica of the Holy Blood, and Blind Donkey Alley. There are quite a few bars and restaurants in this area where you can sit and take in the sights and sounds of the city.
Regardless of what religious beliefs you have or don’t have, it is definitely interesting to check out the Basilica of the Holy Blood when you’re in Bruges. This impressive church holds which is believed to be the blood of Jesus Christ. The blood is contained in a small vial, and the interior of the church is a sight to behold in itself. There is no fee to enter the church, but a treasury/museum ticket costs €2.50 per person. This is an active church that holds masses, venerations, and adorations. At certain times of day, the vial of blood is brought out for visitors to line up, see it up close, and receive a blessing.
There’s no denying that Bruges is a romantic city, so embrace your romantic side and take a horse-drawn carriage around town. This is a fun way to celebrate the city’s old-world charm and see the sites, especially if your feet are starting to ache from walking around all day.
Windmills are most often associated with the Netherlands, but you can also see some when you visit Bruges. There are several windmills that date back to the 18th century around the northeastern end of the canal around Old Town. The Sint Janshuysmill, for example was built in the mid-1700s and actually still grinds grain. A couple of the windmills have small museums. But even if you don’t go in, snap a few photos and take this peaceful walk.