Bruges - (c)Jan D'Hondt

Some call Bruges an open air museum. And to be honest, they are not wrong. The city centre as UNESCO cultural heritage, masterpieces all around town and a vibrant atmosphere day and night: feast your eyes on the beauty all around you. Did you know Venice is sometimes referred to as the Bruges of the south? Or is it the other way around?

1. Get lost in the city

Bruges

The whole city centre of Bruges is listed as UNESCO cultural heritage. Do you need to know more? Just wander in one of the many winding, small streets and go where feet take you. If we may make a suggestion, make sure to visit Jerusalem's Church, a 15th century house of God built by a wealty Spanish family, a unique and macabre monument with a gruesome altarpiece covered in skull motifs. Not something you see every day.

2. Masterpieces all around

Masterpieces all around - (c)Jan D'Hondt

The Groeningemuseum is Bruges' most celebrated art gallery. It displays a marvellous collection that focusses on the classical painters: Flemish Primitives and Renaissance artists. 'Madonna with Canon George Van der Paele' by Jan Van Eyck is one of the collection's masterpieces and a work of exquisite detail. You'll also find works of surrealist pioneers such as Paul Delvaux and René Magritte. Looking for something else than fine arts? Go to Choco-Story, a museum dedicated to one of Belgian's specialties: chocolate.

3. A city with a pulse

A city with a pulse - (c)Korneel Cools

Bruges is a lively, vibrant and youthful city with its own culture. Be sure to pay a visit to Cactus, a concert venue that organises its own grand festival in the summer. Other options are republiek (a great bar affiliated with art house cinema Lumière), the jazz joint De Werf or Bar Jus, for the best glass of wine in town. also worth checking out: the creative free haven Entrepot for music, culture, theatre and other arts and projects.

4. Go to the beach

Zeebrugge beach - (c)Jan D'Hondt

We mean it, go to the beach. It's really close by. If you want to get away from the centre, rent a bike and ride to the coast. Half an hour later, you're in Zeebrugge (literal meanin: Bruges of the Sea). Perfect for a relaxing walk by the coastline or in the dunes. If you prefer to blend in with the beach boys and girls, stop by at Icarus surfclub. It's where all the surfers hang out and enjoy life.

5. Bruges by night

Bruges by night

A must for the gentle and romantic souls. During the day Bruges is gorgeous, at night it is simply irrestistible. Wait until the sun sets and go for a stroll through the medieval city. You'll see beautifully lit statues, facades and monuments. If you like it even more quiet, wander down to the Minnewater. In the middle of the park there's a beautiful lake, which the locals call the lake of love. And that pretty much says it all.

6. Interview a vampire

Interview a vampire - (c)Lucifernum

The most bizarre bar in Bruges is without a doubt Lucifernum: an old freemason's temple that now has turned into the wonderful world of the wonderfully weird Willy Retsin, a self-proclaimed vampire. Ring the bell and he will gladly let you in for a drink, surrounded by rare antiques and obscure works of art. It'll be an interesting evening, you can count on it. Only open in the weekend! Souvenir hunters on the other hand can head to De Bierboom, a café and beer shop with over 150 different types of beer. Rudy, the owner of this beer Valhalla, will gladly answer all of your questions, so feel free to ask.

7. A church of this day and age

A church of this day and age - (c)YOT

Magdalena Church looks like your average house of God, but it isn't. On the inside it's truly a house of experiment: art exhibitions, concerts, plays, Japanese themed parties, pretty much anything is possible. From the top of the ceiling, a swinging chair is dangling. For a church in the more traditional way, go to the Church of Our Lady. There you'll see Michelangelo's statue 'Madonna with child'. This classic work is to Bruges what the Mona Lisa is to Paris. You really can't miss it.

You'll always find something to your taste in Bruges, that's for sure. Want to know more? Check out Lonely Planet and Use-It for more tips.

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