Other places in Europe
The World > Europe > Bruges > Holidays to Bruges
Holidays to Bruges
Bruges - historic, charming old-world atmosphere
If your soul needs replenishing then head to Bruges. This utterly charming medieval city is (some say) Belgium's finest city. A remarkable preservation of an historic European village, with all the mod cons you need to enjoy it with! Thinking romantic weekend breaks? Bruges!
Bruges is a living monument to a world long since past, but if that description has you reaching for the off button, think again. Bruges is one of Europe's most popular city's for short breaks for very good reason.
Set in the west Flanders region, Bruges suffered in the 1800s as nearby towns and ports took over the economic mantle for Belgium. The population declined rather dramatically and so did the city's finances. As a result the old city of Bruges was left relatively untouched until the latter half of the 20th century. The result is a time capsule; albeit a nicely updated one. Cobblestoned streets vie with wide canals for the 'most picturesque' trophy.
The heart of Bruges is its marketplaces. Markt is also home to Belgium's most famous bell tower and the climb is well worth the effort with stunning views of the city and surrounding countryside. Close to the Markt square is Burg, where you'll find the Basilica of the Holy Blood. A few drops of Christ's congealed blood are housed within and no visit to the Burg is complete without wandering through the 11th century church with it's gothic stonework, soaring columns and exquisite stained glass windows.
Bruges is a UNESCO World Heritage sight housing some 120,000 people. This Venice of the North is an easy city to move around - you can walk it over a couple of leisurely days or hire a bicycle to wander from spot to spot. The flatness of the city and its surrounds make it a cyclists dream!
Who should go to Bruges? Those looking to take a break in a picture-postcard medieval city, history buffs and culture vultures.
Eating out in Bruges
Cheap, expensive and everything in between!
If you love your frites (chips), you will love Bruges... not least because there's an entire museum dedicated to their fried deliciousness!
But apart from the ubiquitous pommes frites stalls, the hungry visitor has plenty to choose from. There are plenty of cosy little local bars that serve food and, if you're hankering after some upscale dining, there are good options too.
For a quick and satisfying breakfast try the Het Dagelijks Brood restaurant in Philistockstraat. Comfortable, you know what you're getting, and its reasonably priced. Such a success that there are now branches worldwide!
Lunch demands an appetite so do a little bit of walking a couple of streets out from the city centre and you'll discover De Bretoen Pannenkoeken on a canal just north of Markt. Prices are good (and better value than in the more central area) and the food is of good quality served with a smile.
Something a little more upmarket for Madam? Then search out the Hotel De Snippe on Nieuwe Gentweg. Most certainly not a snip, but the fare is seriously delicious French-based cuisine using fresh, local ingredients. It's classic stuff - think foie gras, oxtail, scallops, seafood and game. Lots of game. Understandable given that Snippe means game in Flemish.
In general avoid the touristy centre of town if you want decent food at a decent price. The city is not big and an easy (flat!) walk of ten minutes or so into the outer streets will have you amongst taverns and friendly, local restaurants. And when in doubt, just ask a local! The best thing about the Taverns is the beer - not for nothing is Belgian beer world-renowned, and you'll often find a very hearty meal to accompany that beer.
Things to look out for; many restaurants in the tourist area will draw you in with what seem reasonable prices and then charge mercilessly for things like bread. The tip is included in the bill. Exceptional service might deserve 10%.
What to wear, when to go
Wet, wet, wet. Bruges is no Greek Island - it's far more scenic! Bruges weather - take a raincoat with a hood and you'll be quite comfortable. The bright side? Bruges is very comfortable to walk around in. The average summer temps are in the early 20s and perfect sight-seeing weather as it's not too hot, not cold. Most restaurants will have an al fresco option and it's a very pleasant way to while away a night.
Winter is often chilly although the coastal aspect keeps extreme cold at bay. You can often skate on the canals however, so cold it is! Average daytime temps hover around 5C.
Spring is delightful as the winter chill abates and the bulbs blossom. Average temps are in the mid teens.
Autumn ranges from 8-13. Dress warmly and you'll still see Bruges at it's best - with less tourists. And there's nothing like a short sprint from your hotel room to a cosy tavern!
Bruges - Belgian beer, Venetian canals and mediaeval market squares
Bruges' history has left it untouched - there are advantages in becoming an economic backwater! Bruges' prosperity in the middle ages and importance as a seaport resulted in a solid town based around an intricate canal system. As politics and economics shifted the attention of Europe elsewhere Bruges stagnated and the city today is an untouched mediaeval town dubbed the Venice of the North. Bruges is a tourist drawcard; all are entranced by the meandering canals, the exquisite architecture and the market squares.
Let's start with historic Bruges. The big three are the Markt square, the city's nerve centre and home to the famous Belfry. Bring your comfortable shoes and a degree of fitness to climb the narrow stairs and get the best view of Bruges in Bruges! The Markt is a perfectly preserved example of mediaeval town square with it's perimeter of shops and restaurants. The nearby Burg is also well worth a visit - some say it's an even nicer market square and a little less crowded. The Burg is also home to Belgium's oldest and most beautiful Town hall.
Canals - the canals of Bruges are the real drawcard in our opinion. Take the time to walk the pathways and cross the bridges, explore the nooks and crannies and you'll come away in a flurry of delight! A must is an afternoon's tour by boat, lying back in a comfortable cushion as you float alongside 800 year old warehouses, homes and churches.
Attractions - Culture vultures should start with the small Groeningemuseum which houses a beautiful collection Flemish art from the 14th to the 20th centuries. Also well worth a look for one painting alone - Michelangelo's Madonna and Child - is the Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk on Mariastraat. And you just simply have to visit the Frietmuseum - a museum dedicated to chips -if only to say you've been to it. You're in Belgium, so you must also visit a microbrewery and DeHalve Maan hosts guided tours and a tasting on Walplein Straat.