48 Hours in Bruges: explore the jewel of Flanders
As soon as you arrive in Bruges, you’ll feel drawn toward the bustling Markt Square. Circled by pretty gabled guild houses, this square is one of the most popular places, especially since it’s located in the shadow of the impressive Belfry Tower. There are restaurants, chocolate shops and places you can sample beers brewed according to tradition. However, if you want to avoid waiting to climb up the Belfry’s 366 steps you should arrive here early – the panoramic views at the top of the tower makes the ascent worth the exertion.
Just across the square, you can also discover the Historium Bruges which immerses you in the day-to-day life of the city during the 15th century. Also, fans of the amber nectar can swing by the Bruges Beer Museum for an interactive tour. If you’re not a beer fan, the Basilica of the Holy Blood and the stunning City Hall with its Gothic interior in the nearby Burg square are the perfect alternative.
Flemish Primitives in the Afternoon
If you’re feeling hungry (or thirsty) visit the bar in Bourgogne des Flandres Brewery. Their signature brew, a Flanders red ale, bears the name of the brewery and can be ordered alongside some nibbling snacks like cheese platters and cold meats. Once your hunger is satisfied, you can feast your eyes on the works of our Flemish Primitives by exploring the Groeninge Museum, one of Bruges’ finest galleries, where you’ll spot Van Eyck’s masterful ‘Madonna with Canon Van der Paele’.
Cross the scenic Bonifacius Bridge to reach the 11th-century St. Jans Hospitaal where you’ll find the Memling Museum and six works by the renowned Flemish Primitive Hans Memling displayed in all their glory. Keep an eye out for the incredible ‘Shrine of St. Ursula’. Just across the water you can rest your legs at De Proeverie Chocolaterie Sukerbuyc. This family-run business is the perfect pit stop for coffee, hot chocolate, waffles or even some indulgent, handmade Belgian chocolates.
When the day starts to close many visitors also depart: have no fear though, Bruges has plenty to offer when the sun goes down. Take in a show at the Concertgebouw where you’ll enjoy the most masterly performances from a selection of premier visual artists, musicians and dancers.
For those looking to dine out on something local, you can’t go wrong with Flemish beef stew (Stoofvlees), steak tartare or, as Bruges is so close to the sea, shrimp croquettes or mussels are a top choice. If you want to keep the party going till late, head to 27b Flat. This popular jazz club is famous for its cosy ambiance and live performances from up-and-coming artists and established talent.
Start with a Cycle
Like many cities in Flanders, Bruges is best explored either on foot or if you want to go a little further, on two wheels. There are several towns located a cycle ride from the centre of the city, but one of our favourites is Damme. The short, scenic journey along the canal and past the windmill of Damme is flat and easy for all ages. Stop off for refreshments at Tante Marie. This cosy spot is famous for its home-made jams, fresh local products and specialist coffee and tea.
Riding back into the city, make sure to pause at the windmills that have stood by the city’s ramparts since the 13th century. Of the four remaining mills that still stand, Sint-Janshuis is the last one that grinds flower to this day and is open to the public for tours.
Next up is a chance to discover the Volkskunde Museum of Folk Life. This lesser visited gem allows you to wander through a variety of renovated 17th-century almshouses, with everything from classrooms, a pharmacy and a Flemish living room. Next, quench your thirst at one of the city’s oldest pubs – Café Vlissinghe – which celebrated its 500th anniversary in 2015.
You simply can’t visit Bruges without tasting the creations of our finest chocolatiers. The Chocolate Line is run by ‘Shock-o-latier’ Dominique Persoone whose offbeat flavours – like bacon, wasabi and tobacco – have made his sweet-toothed treats famous the world over. You can even buy a rock ‘n roll chocolate shooter that fires cocoa powder right up your nose: it’s not for the faint hearted!
A Farewell to Bruges
One of the oldest surviving breweries in Bruges is De Halve Maan. This brewery offers a fantastic tour that takes you through the beer making process – with a highlight being the view of the city from the rooftop and the chance to sample a freshly poured beer right from the source. Just moments from the brewery, you won’t want to miss a chance to gaze upon the city’s UNESCO World Heritage Beguinage. This area is an enclosed community still inhabited by nuns of the Order of St. Benedict. With its white gabled houses and peaceful garden, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time.
To seal Bruges’ place in your memory forever, end your visit with a stroll through Minnewater Park. Nestled among its leafy trees you’ll discover the Lake of Love. Legend has it that if you walk over the lake bridge with your partner you’ll experience eternal love. But even if the magic doesn’t work, you’ll always have Bruges.
There’s so much to discover here, and 48 hours in Bruges only offers a taste of what this beautiful city has to offer. Whether it’s the incredible history, the cosy ambiance or simply the moreish chocolates, Bruges will always bring you coming back for more.
Story created on October 10, 2017