Bruges, with its picture perfect beauty, seems to be an artist’s vision infused with life and translated into reality. It’s pretty cobbled streets, winding canals, ancient churches, spires and picturesque market squares give it a fairy tale like character. Truly a visual delight, one cannot help but fall in love with this charming and romantic Belgian city.

Best-Bruges-AttractionsWikimedia/© CEphoto, Uwe Aranas

Apart from its beautiful landscape, Bruges has several other attractions, such as its World Heritage Old City Centre, its historical cathedrals, museums and parks. It is often referred to as the ‘Venice of the North.’ It is no wonder that Bruges is an exceedingly popular holiday destination for visitors from all over the world.

Where to stay in Bruges

Best Bruges Attractions

1. Markt

Best-Bruges-Attractions-MarketFlickr/Charlie

Markt (“Market Square”) of Bruges is quite literally, the heart of the city, being located in the middle of the city and the hub of all activities. Decorating the centre of this large open square is a monument and statue of Peter de Coninck and Jan Breyden.  The old Town Hall and the iconic Belfry chapel lie on two sides of Markt square, with various restaurants, eating places and open air cafes flanking the other sides. Pedestrians, cyclists, buses and horse carriages make the market square a vibrant and lively place.

Every Wednesday, the Markt is transformed into a traditional European food mart, selling farm fresh produce such as fruits, vegetables, and flowers straight from the producers to the buyers. A wide variety of dairy products and mouth-watering freshly baked food items, including the famous Belgian Frites, are an added attraction in the weekly Wednesday market. Many stalls sell local handicrafts and an assortment of gift items as well. Markt is indeed the place where visitors can get a truly real Flemish feeling and atmosphere.

2. Basilica of the Holy Blood

Best-Bruges-Attractions-Basilica-of-the-Holy-BloodFlickr/Elroy Serrao

This Roman Catholic basilica dates back to the 12th century. Although the basilica itself is small, it has beautiful interiors adorned with ornate paintings. Its main attraction is the sacred relic of the holy blood of Christ, which is housed in its upper chapel.  The chapel is open every day for visitors who want to view this priceless exhibit. The holy relic is kept in a sealed golden phial adorned with angels at its sides.

It is believed that this holy relic has been brought straight from the King of Jerusalem to Bruges, by the Count of Flanders. Every year on 25th May, celebrated as Ascension Day, a religious procession called the Procession of the Blood takes place. The phial containing the revered relic is carried by the Bishop of Bruges through the streets of the city, accompanied by residents who enact different scenes from the Bible, as well as those related to the bringing of the Holy Blood into the city.

3. Groeninge Museum

Best-Bruges-Attractions-Groeninge-MuseumWikipedia/Jan van Eyck

Groeninge Museum is the Museum for Fine Arts in Bruges. This museum is a treasure house of paintings spanning six centuries of Flemish and Belgian paintings, from the renowned Jan van Eyck to the well known Marcel Broodthaers.

Occupying pride of place in the museum is a priceless collection on Flemish Primitive Art by Renaissance and Baroque artists. Fine specimens of later Belgian paintings and modern art are also exhibited here.

4. Church of Our Lady

Best-Bruges-Attractions-Church-of-Our-LadyWikimedia/Wolfgang Staudt

This church was built during the period around the 13th to 15th centuries. It has a 401 feet high tower, making it the tallest monument in the entire city. The church houses the tombs of Charles the Bold, the last Duke of Burgundy and his daughter, Duchess Mary. Their full bodied gilded bronze sculptures, adorned with crowns, have been laid on black stone slabs in postures of repose.

The highlight of the church is Michelangelo’s beautiful white marble sculpture of Madonna and Child, which adorns the main altar. It is believed that this priceless statue was bought by a Bruges merchant and donated to the Church in 1514. This is the only piece of art by Michelangelo which was carried out of Italy during the artist’s lifetime. The church also has a valuable display of other prized works of art in the form of paintings and exquisite wooden carvings.

5. Belfry of Bruges

Best-Bruges-Tourist-Attractions-BelfryFlickr/Wolfgang Staudt

The Belfry is prominently located in the market square in the centre of the city. Built in 1240, as a wooden tower on top of a stone building, it originally served as the financial and municipal centre of the city of Bruges. Today, this iconic bell tower has 47 bells which chime melodiously at every hour and on important occasions in the city.

The 83 metre high Belfry has a steep flight of 366 narrow winding stairs to reach the top of the tower. The tower is open to visitors and has a ticketed entry. Those who can make it to the top are amply rewarded by a stunning and panoramic view of the city. It is said that the Belfry can be seen from almost all parts of Bruges, and that all parts of Bruges can be seen from its towering height!

6. Sint Salvator Cathedral

Best-Bruges-Tourist-Attractions-Sint-Salvator-CathedralFlickr/Wolfgang Staudt

This is the main church of Bruges, which remains as one of the few survivors, despite the ravages of time and nature. It is a beautiful church with brightly coloured stained glass and richly decorated interiors.

The organ of the cathedral has been expanded three times and is played during services. Its 16th century podium is much admired even today.

Sint Salvator Cathedral has a treasured collection of beautiful wall tapestries from Brussels and original Flemish paintings which are masterpieces of art.

7. Loppem Castle

Best-Bruges-Attractions-Loppem-CastleWikimedia/Velvet

Loppem Castle is located at a distance of about 6 kilometres from Bruges. It was built in 1859 in the Neo Gothic style for a Flemish royal family. It is regarded as a masterpiece of Gothic Revival Architecture. This is the only castle in Belgium where the architecture and interior decoration have been preserved in their original form. A rich collection of objects of art such as paintings, stained glass and statues can be seen in the castle.

This exquisitely beautiful castle is surrounded by a lovely landscaped park with ponds, caves and a labyrinth of pathways.

8. Provinciaal Hof 

Best-Bruges-Attractions-Provinciaal-HofFlickr/TravelingOtter

Like Loppem Castle, the Provinciaal Hof is also patterned on the Gothic Revival style of architecture. This impressive building with its spires stands in the historic Markt or market square. It used to be the Town Hall till 1999. Today, Provinciaal Hof is a ceremonial building and is sometimes used as an exhibition hall.

The hall has magnificent chandeliers and stained glass windows. Sculptures of royal family members and mural paintings of famous Flemish persons are found inside the hall.

9. Minniewater Park

Best-Bruges-Attractions-Minniewater-ParkFlickr/Giovani Racca

This park, with its serene and peaceful setting, is an ideal place to take a breather from the bustling squares. You can stroll in the park, or simply relax and enjoy the greenery and pretty flowers all around.

A special attraction of this park is a rectangular shaped manmade lake, which looks beautiful with swans gliding along its surface.  It is called the Lake of Love.

The lake is separated from the canals by a bridge. There is a legend about this bridge, according to which lovers walking together over it, will surely find eternal love. The view from it is indescribably picturesque, and the legendary bridge itself is considered as being the most romantic spot in Bruges!

10. Stadhuis

Best-Bruges-Attractions-StadhuisWikimedia/Wolfgang Staudt

Stadhuis or City Hall is one of the most spectacular buildings in Bruges. It is from here that the city of Bruges has been administered for more than six centuries. It is a medieval building, the first of its kind to be built in the grand Neo Gothic style. There are six Gothic styled windows in front, which are flanked by 48 statues of royal and Biblical characters.

The grandeur of its external façade is perfectly matched by the opulence of its interiors. The Gothic Hall on the first floor is the focal point of attraction, and a masterpiece to behold. It has a colourful vaulted wooden ceiling. Magnificent wall tapestries, splendid mural paintings and grand portraits inside the hall add to the overall grandeur of the place.

The Historic Hall which adjoins the Gothic Hall, depicts the history of the city and the constant clashes for power between the rulers, the city government and the people living in the city. Exhibits of the first coins which were used are displayed here. The Historic Hall also houses a priceless collection of authentic historical documents, ancient books and valuable works of art.

The ground floor of the City Hall has a multi media exhibition which traces the evolution and growth of the Burg square, the site on which a former citadel used to exist in the centre of Bruges. The City Hall was built on the same location in 1376.

The grandeur of Stadhuis, both in its exterior appearance and in its ornate interiors, makes a visit to this place a visual treat and a wonderful experience. Even today, it is in use as a town hall. It is also the venue for wedding functions.

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