Known as one of the most romantic cities in Europe, the Flanders’ capital of Bruges definitely has its fair share of beauty to flaunt, including charming cobbled streets, panoramic castle views, wonderful boat trips along the canals and the Lake of Love. Here, you can revel in the medieval atmosphere while you stroll across old bridges and explore majestic historical buildings. It’s no coincidence that Bruges’ historic centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And if that’s not enough, you’ll also find numerous lace shops, art spaces, and a whole lot of French fries to enjoy before a trip to one of its many chocolate shops. Find out which 22 attractions we recommend visiting during your trip to Bruges.
- Loppem Castle
- Chocolate Factory
- Lake of Love
- Belfry Tower
- Market Square
- Notre-Dame Church
- Boat Trips on the Canals
- Basilica of the Holy Blood
- Groeninge Museum
- Arentshuis Museum
- Old St. John’s Hospital
- Sint-Janshuis mill
- Bruges Beguinage
- French Fry Museum
- Historium Bruges
- Near Bruges: St. Michael’s Bridge
- Near Bruges: St. Bavo’s Cathedral
- Near Bruges: The Castle of the Counts in Flanders
- Near Bruges: King Baudouin Stadium and Grand Palais du Centenaire
- Royal Castle of Laeken
- Near Bruges: Damme
Fancy kicking off your visit with a bit of mystery and intrigue? Loppem Castle, which is located just outside the city centre, is a neo-Gothic building of great artistic value. Here, you can admire numerous art collections and ornate furnishings. The castle’s interiors offer great insight into what noble life used to be like in the tenth century. Inside, you’ll find sculptures, large stately rooms, a kitchen and a chapel.
Although the family’s descendants still live on the second floor, the rest of the castle is yours to explore. It’s also home to a glorious 20-hectare English-style park, where you can enjoy a drink among the centennial trees, fountains, ponds and caves. We also recommend visiting the castle’s absolute best attraction: the maze, which is a great way to spend a few hours filled with fun and adrenaline.
Lake of Love
This is one of the most colourful and popular roads in Bruges and it has a very interesting past to boot. Its name roughly translates as ‘road along the river’ and it dates back to the 1500s. A beautiful quay, this is a great place to take photos of Bruges as it offers fantastic views of a number of interesting attractions. Here, you can also admire pretty street corners with houses and turrets whose reflections shimmer in the water, along with ivy flowing down from balconies towards the canal. This is a key spot to admire the scenery and appreciate the city in a different light.
The local terraces, cafés, bars and restaurants offer plenty of room to relax and take a break while you admire the bell tower in the distance and town hall in the foreground. Several canal trips also depart from here. Nearby, you can take a tour of the traditional fish market or even explore Huidenvettersplein, where people used to buy and sell hides back in the thirteenth century
Boat Trips on the Canal
Basilica of the Holy Blood
The Basilica of the Holy Blood is actually a double church, the first of which belongs to Saint Basil. This charming, well-preserved Romanesque church is incredibly striking thanks to its stained glass windows, which you can also admire from outside. You’ll find the real star of the show, however, inside the church.
Built in 1100, the basilica is home to a vial supposedly containing Jesus’ blood. Legend has it that the Count of Flanders brought the vial to Belgium after a crusade in the Holy Land and it has remained unopened since 1150. The church sits in Burg Square near the town hall, and although initially a Romanesque building, it later adopted a more Gothic style.
You’ll find the Arentshuis Museum in a neoclassical building dating back to the 1700s. It’s divided into two sections, the first of which is dedicated to Flemish craftsmanship and antique lace, in particular. This area of the museum sheds light on Bruges’ importance as a trade centre for the textile industry, and it’s also home to a few temporary exhibits.
On the upper floor, you can admire works by Frank Brangwyn, who is famous for his painted scenes en plein air. The artist was born in Bruges but lived and painted mainly in England, where he was impressed by the Industrial Revolution. After his death, he left several paintings of industrial scenes featuring strong colours and brush strokes to his home town. He was also a jeweller and decorator.
While we’re on the topic of museums, we also recommend visiting the diamond museum. Originally intended to house documents and tools for diamond workmanship, the museum is now home to a rough 252 carat diamond. If interested, you can also learn about the diamond-cutting process.
Old St. John’s Hospital
This is a peaceful place offering a great opportunity to learn more about the beguines – a community of single women and widows who dedicated their lives to God. They lived in what were known as beguinages, which were buildings on the outskirts of cities that operated independently from the church. Here, women led austere lives, devoted to their work and charitable activities.
Just imagine a charming group of white houses surrounding a wooded garden. In fact, the Princely Beguinage of the Vineyard is one of the best preserved beguinages in Flanders and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s also home to a museum, which is a great place to find out how the beguines lived in the 1700s. The beguinages are now home to Benedictine nuns, who moved in back in 1938.
French Fry Museum
No, this is not a drill, or a joke. There is an actual, real-life French fry museum in Bruges. And it has a noble purpose: to tell the story of one of Belgium’s most popular foods. The Friet Museum is emblematic in Bruges and offers a playful perspective on Belgium’s famous chip. First of all, it explains what fries should look like: thick, crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. And they also have to be fried twice, using a special variety of potato.
You’ll find this museum in a historical building offering its visitors several potato-related anecdotes. The exhibition itself spans three floors, and starts with the tuber’s South American origins. The museum also features information on the chip’s European history and a practical demonstration of how the various machines are used to make French fries. There’s obviously also a French fry kiosk so you can try them out for yourself, as well as a series of vintage fryers on display.
Near Bruges: St. Michael’s Bridge
Near Bruges: St. Bavo’s Cathedral
Near Bruges: The Castle of the Counts in Flanders
Near Bruges: King Baudouin Stadium and Grand Palais du Centenaire
King Baudouin Stadium is a sports facility in Brussels that’s also known by its previous name of Heysel Stadium. It was built between 1929 and 1930, before undergoing renovation in 1970. It was completely overhauled in 1994 and subsequently reopened with a new name. It has hosted four European Cup finals. In 1985, it was the location of the Heysel disaster at a Liverpool-Juventus match. During a serious assault on Italian fans by English nationals, a group of Juventus supporters huddled against a collapsing wall before falling ten metres onto the pavement below. 39 people died and over 600 were injured.
The Heysel district is also home to another building with an important history: the Grand Palais des Expositions, which occupies over 14,000 square metres of land and was originally built to celebrate 100 years of Belgian independence. It was constructed according to the dictates of Art Deco architecture and was also used to host the Brussels International Exposition in 1935.
Royal Castle of Laeken
Near Bruges: Damme
Visit Bruges with Costa Cruises
Often called the Venice of the North, this is a highly recommended destination, full of charm, history and things to do. The best way to appreciate the local spirit and travel back to when Bruges was an important port, is to take a boat ride along its canals. While on board, you can admire everyday Belgian life, along with numerous city attractions from a unique perspective. Bruges is a sweet city, and not just because it’s home to a chocolate museum, but also because it’s bursting with so many charming colours and romantic views. It is also home to one of the world’s best diamond museums and some delicious local cuisine to boot, which we recommend washing down with a renowned local beer. All that’s left to do is book your trip and explore the city yourself, perhaps as part of a Costa cruise.