Looking for a historic and beautiful European getaway? Then Bruges might be just the destination for you. Situated in northwest Belgium, this picturesque gem is a popular place to visit for tourists and inter railers throughout the seasons. Similar to Amsterdam, Bruges is set on canals, with quaint cobbled streets, and features a bustling market square filled with eateries and a medieval bell tower. It’s even host to numerous festivals throughout the year, making it ideal year-round.
Visited by nearly two million tourists every year, this beautifully preserved city has something for everyone; whether you want to tantalise your tastebuds by trying a beer flight at the 2be beer wall or savour the delights of Belgian truffles at a traditional chocolate shop such as The Old Chocolate House.
Whether you’re planning a trip to Bruges in the near future or debating on whether it’s the right place for you amongst other European options, we’ve created an ultimate guide to Bruges to help guide you in the right direction.
So, first things first, what attractions can you visit when you’re in the city?
Things to do and see in Bruges
Peaceful and quaint, the Beguinage of the Vineyard dates back to 1245. Within the monastery resides the Sisters of the St. Benedict Order, and there is a collection of beautiful buildings to walk around. Set on the Minnewater (the Lake of Love), this unique architecture is wonderful to walk around regardless of when you visit Bruges.
Belfry of Bruges
Dating back to 1240, the Belfy tower offers panoramic views of the city. Despite it having 366 steps to climb, the view is well worth the effort (trust us!)! This historic medieval bell tower overlooks the city and makes for a breathtaking picture opportunity. You can even see the cities’ treasury where the seal and city labels were kept within the Middle Ages.
Fancy an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city centre? Then head on over to Minnewater. As aforementioned, this tranquil canal is also nicknamed ‘The Lake of Love’ and it isn’t hard to see why. Part of Minnewaterpark, it was once used as a dock for ships and barges.
Beautiful in the summer seasons, the walk between here and the city centre gives you an opportunity to explore the quiet backstreets, which include dozens of chocolate shops and even a Christmas shop called Kathe Wohlfart that’s open throughout the year.
Set in the heart of Bruges is the iconic markt. Filled with cafes, shops and historic architecture, the market has been open since 958. Also home to the Belfry tower, you can take a relaxing horse-drawn carriage ride around the city from the centre.
Bruges’ bewitching canals
On par with the beauty of Amsterdam, Bruges’ canals are simply delightful. Once a network of canals that allows traders to transport their produce, it now transports tour boats showing sightseers the beguiling nature that surrounds the city. Lined with trees, elegant buildings, restaurants and shops, it makes for a wonderful morning or afternoon out.
Food and drink in Bruges
2be Beer Wall
If you want to enjoy a drink and take in the views of beautiful Bruges, then head over to the 2be Beer Wall. With a quaint terrace, quirky shop and bustling bar area, this tourist attraction is ideal for those wanting to experience delicious Belgian beer. Offering a variety of beer flights, from light options to darker delights, there’s something for every palate.
La Petit Patron
Cosy and intimate, Le Petit Patron fondue house has a mouth-watering selection of wines and a few options of fondue to choose from; including a meat selection (pictured above), steak, fish and cheese!
Fancy a cocktail, good music and traditional Belgian fare? Then Zwart Huis is a great choice. Situated in a 15th Century building, this stylish restaurant and bar is a little off the beaten track, but worth the walk!
If you fancy a restaurant that’s a little more central, then Joey’s Cafe might be the perfect option. Offering great beer, live music and a buzzing atmosphere, this cafe is a good choice whether you simply want a drink or food after a long day of exploring Bruges.
Accommodation in Bruges
Hotel Het Gheestelic Hof – boasting frequently good reviews, this 3-star hotel is ideal for tourists. It also features an interior patio, comfortable beds and a fantastic location in the centre of Bruges.
Martin’s Brugge – a 1 minute (yes, 1 minute) walk from the Belfy Tower, Martin’s Brugge is a 3-star hotel with cosy modern rooms and a chic bar.
Hotel Goezeput – situated in a 19th-century monastery, this contemporary hotel has a lovely bar, stylish rooms and a wonderful location.
How to get to Bruges
If you live in the southeast of England, Bruges is one of the easiest places to get to. Whether you hop on a ferry from Dover (it’s 47 miles from Dunkirk or 72 miles from Calais) or catch the Eurostar from Folkestone, it’s quick and simple to travel to. Even if you live further afield in the UK, you can simply catch a flight to Ostend; which is less than an hour on the train from the centre of Bruges. You could also take the Newcastle to Amsterdam route on the ferry. Once you’re in Holland, the drive to Bruges is less than three hours.
Alternatively, if you’re interrailing to Bruges from another European country, there are plenty of train options to choose from; such as the Interrail Benelux Pass which gives you the opportunity to visit popular cities such as Brussels, Luxembourg City and Antwerp, as well as Bruges.
When should I visit Bruges?
Arguably, the best time of the year to visit Bruges is between June and August, when the temperature is a little warmer and it is less likely to rain. Although Bruges is known for its similar climate to the UK, it really is beautiful to visit regardless of whether it’s in the high 20’s in August or in the late teens in June. However, if you want to experience the charming and festive Christmas markets, then it’s also well worth a visit in the winter months.
The cheapest time of the year to visit Bruges is within either January or November. Off-peak months and generally offering the worst weather, these months are ideal for those looking to save some money. However, despite the worst weather, the crowds are a lot less; a bonus that many people would enjoy.
So, there you go. There is our guide to the wonderful European city of Bruges! An extraordinary city for interrailers to explore, it’s a great option regardless of your age or your budget. With something truly for everyone, it will make you want to visit again and again (and we have!).