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The 11 best things to do in Bruges

The Belfry tower and a trip to the Torture Museum are among the very best things to do in beautiful Bruges

Written by
Amy Ockelford
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Don’t sleep on Bruges for your next European city break. Though it tends to get overshadowed by its big brothers Brussels and Antwerp, Bruges is actually the biggest city in Belgium – and it’s full of great stuff to do too. If you’re into delicious beer, tasty food and, *checks notes*, museums about torture, you’ve come to the right place. 

Bruges is one of those great cities where you can tick off all the sights on your to-do list in one weekend, and still have time to park up with a tankard of cold beer and watch the world go by for a few hours. Our guide to Bruges features everything from canal boats to sticky ribs in chocolate and beer sauce, so you’re sure to find something for you. 

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🇧🇪 The ultimate guide to Belgium
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🏠 The best hotels in Bruges

Planning your next trip? Check out our latest travel guides, written by local experts. 

What to do in Bruges

Basilica of the Holy Blood
Photograph: Ivan Soto Cobos / Shutterstock.com

1. Basilica of the Holy Blood

What is it? A Roman Catholic basilica where you could hear a pin drop. 

Why go? Of course, when checking out any new European city, you’ve simply got to pop into a few churches. But the Basilica of the Holy Blood is less of a shall-we-pop-in-there and more of a we-have-to-go-there kind of place. It’s famous because it’s home to a phial which is said to carry a cloth soaked in Jesus Christ’s blood, and the building itself is rather magical. 

The Canal
Photograph: Shutterstock

2. The Canal

What is it? The best way to see the gothic city is by cruising its waterways by boat. 

Why go? You can see the city by horse and carriage or on foot, but the best way to see its beautiful architecture is by water. Canals weave their way through the historic centre of Bruges and stretch off into the city beyond. Beautiful buildings stretch off in every direction, with the rugged skylines reflecting in the water. Boats depart from jetties throughout the day and evening – and the captains are all full of information, anecdotes and funny stories of the city’s bloodline: the water. 

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The Belfry Tower

3. The Belfry Tower

What is it? At the heart of Bruges city centre – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – stands the Belfort, a bell tower built in the fifteenth century. 

Why go? This is Bruges’ unmissable attraction – the Eiffel Tower or Empire State Building of the city if you will. Make the 366-step climb on the hour to hear the tower’s incredible ensemble of bells ringing out their special tunes. One tip – only a select number of people are allowed to climb up the belfry tower at one time, so the queues can get pretty big. Avoid prime time slots, or take some snacks and an episode of your favourite Netflix show for the wait.

2be Beer Wall
Nataliya Nazarova / Shutterstock.com

4. 2be Beer Wall

What is it? A funky, quirky shop, bar and museum, which is home to more types and brands of beer than even the proudest brewing connoisseur could imagine. 

Why go? If not to peruse the room upon room of Belgian beers, chocolate and souvenirs, or to enjoy a drink in the 2be terrace bar (with one of the best views of the city), then you should visit for the photo opportunity outside: the beer wall. Quite literally a wall of beer.

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Torture Museum

5. Torture Museum

What is it? Set in one of the oldest prisons in Europe, the museum is a collection of instruments of torture from centuries gone by. 

Why go? Fed up of gazing up at architectural points of interest and drinking beer (yeah right!)? Head to the Torture Museum for something very different. The museum explores the origins and significance of torture in society with a series of pain-causing implements in chronological order. Since it’s in an underground bunker, it’s one to visit if the weather turns sour during your visit.

The Lovers’ Bridge and Lake of Love
Photograph: Shutterstock.com

6. The Lovers’ Bridge and Lake of Love

What is it? The Lake of Love is an oasis of calm in the middle of Minnewater Park, a haven of peace and tranquillity with the picturesque and romantic Lover’s Bridge at its heart.

Why go? This is a must-see spot if you’re visiting this romantic city for an intimate weekend away. Rumour has it that if you cross the bridge with your partner and kiss, your love will last forever. (It’s also the perfect spot for Instagram snaps.)

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Bruges Markt
Photograph: Shutterstock.com

7. Bruges Markt

What is it? This market square has been holding a weekly market since 1985. Head on a Wednesday for the regular market action, or pop into the guild houses converted into restaurants around the outside. 

Why go? Every winter, the square transforms into a winter wonderland for Christmas lovers. Between November and January, it’s home to the Christmas market featuring an ice rink and dozens of festive stalls.

Chocolatier Dumon
Photograph: Ralf Liebhold / Shutterstock.com

8. Chocolatier Dumon

What is it? Chocolate has to be one of Belgium’s most famous exports. And in Bruges, you have more choices than you could imagine, but there’s one chocolatier you shouldn’t leave this city without visiting – Chocolatier Dumon.

Why go? Chocolatier Dumon is one of Belgium’s most well-known brands of chocolate, but the giant’s tiny, charming shop just off the Markt is a delightfully authentic building. Watch your head as you step down into this higgledy-piggledy shop filled with chocolates.

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Ribs ‘n’ Beer

9. Ribs ‘n’ Beer

What is it? It does what it says on the tin: serves delectable, delicious ribs and great, local beer. 

Why go? The tastiest ribs you’ve ever tried – smothered in a chocolate and beer sauce (it doesn’t get much more Belgian than that!) The restaurant offers an ‘all you can eat’ menu with a great selection of beers so you may never leave. Although off the beaten track, this popular spot attracts lots of hungry diners, so you’ll have to book if you want a chance to sample the ‘best ribs in Belgium’. 

L’Estaminet

10. L’Estaminet

What is it? A popular spot with the locals, L’Estaminet is a charming and cosy restaurant with a warm and welcoming atmosphere. The restaurant is always busy and doesn’t take reservations, so be prepared for a short wait when you arrive. 

Why go? The food here is well worth the wait – particularly if you go for the house speciality– the oven-baked spaghetti. While pasta might not be the dish of Belgium, this bustling tavern gives any Italian eatery a run for its money. The large terrace offers al fresco dining in the summer, and in the winter, the cosy pub inside offers a snug retreat from the biting chill outside. 

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Bar Des Amis

11. Bar Des Amis

What is it? Planning a night out on the cobbles? Head over to Bar Des Amis (or ‘Friends Bar’) for a night of shots, songs and socializing. 

Why go? Bar Des Amis is a hip nightspot, just off the Markt, with all you need for a great night out (relatively) cheap drinks, loud music and a closing time somewhere in the early hours. What’s more, anything goes in this bar. It’s a great place for making memories or, perhaps, losing them! 

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