Bruges often tops the list of Europe’s most picturesque cities, and its Historic Center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, abounds with photo opportunities. A warren of cobbled lanes and scenic canals opens out onto grand medieval squares framed by colorful old buildings and dramatic Gothic facades.
No sightseeing tour of Bruges is complete without a visit to Old Town landmarks such as Market Square, the Belfry of Bruges, and the Basilica of the Holy Blood. Join a walking tour to learn more about the city’s medieval history, take a leisurely cruise around the canals, or cycle around the city on a bike tour. Many visitors opt to explore Bruges on a day trip from Brussels, often combined with a stop in nearby Ghent. It’s also possible to visit on a day tour by train from Paris or London.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Many of Bruges’ museums are located in the Historic Center, including the Groeninge Museum, the Gruuthuse Museum, the Historium, and the Hospital of St. John.
- Bruges’ Tourist Information Center is located in Market Square in the Old Town.
- The best way to get around the Historic Center of Bruges is on foot, and most of the area is pedestrianized.
- Most of the attractions in the Old Town are wheelchair-accessible, but some of the narrow cobbled streets might be tricky to navigate.
How to Get There
The Historic Center is the heart of modern-day Bruges and impossible to miss—most hotels, restaurants, and tourist attractions are located in or around the district. Most travelers arrive at the main train station, around 1.5 miles (2.5 kilometers) south of the Historic Center. Regular buses run to the center throughout the day (about a 20-minute journey), and taxis are available outside the station.
When to Get There
Bruges’ Historic Center is full of life at all hours of the day, and it’s worth returning in the evening to admire the illuminations and soak up the atmosphere of the city at night. The busiest time to visit is during the peak summer months (July and August), when the small center can get extremely crowded—for the best chance of unobstructed photos, visit top landmarks first thing or in the early evening after the day-trippers have left. Bruges is particularly magical over the festive season, when a giant Christmas Market and open-air ice rink take over the Historic Center; and at Easter, when the traditional Procession of the Holy Blood takes place.
Beer and Chocolate in Bruges’ Historic Center
Belgium is world renowned for its beer and chocolates, and the Historic Center is lined with bars, brewpubs, and chocolatiers. The Bruges Beer Experience is a must for beer lovers, and beer-tasting tours often include a stop at the 2BE Beer Wall or the De Halve Maan Brewery. Those with a sweet tooth can learn more about Belgium’s chocolate-making heritage at the Choco-Story Chocolate Museum, join a chocolate-tasting tour, or pick up some handmade chocolates at shops such as Dumon, Chocolate Line, and the Old Chocolate House.