We had been to Bruges many years before and had spent most of the day eating Belgium chocolates while we walked along the canals.
Despite our short visit all those years ago, Bruges had left a strong impression of amazing architecture, bountiful beer and chocolaty chocolate.
No wonder we were looking forward to our visit and staying longer. Our plan was to stay three days in Bruges, with Ghent next on our travel plans.
Where to Stay in Bruges
We arrived at the train station and, with only just over 1.5 km to our hotel, decided to walk, towing our bags behind us.
This was a mistake as cobblestones are used on the footpaths and the roads, so maybe a taxi next time.
We booked into Hotel Notre Dame on Mariastraat near Simon Stevin Square for a warm and friendly welcome.
The rooms are fairly basic, but the downstairs dining room is very nice, and the breakfast is amazing.
We found out the hotel owners also own a chocolate shop next door, so a visit was quickly planned.
A Short History of Bruges
The history of Bruges goes back to the Bronze age, but most documented information is from 1BC when the Romans under Julius Caesar built fortifications here.
Bruges experienced a golden era during the 12th to 15th centuries due to a tidal inlet that allowed trade to boom, and the population grew to 200,000.
Things declined after the 15th century as other cities became the focus for trade, but in the 19th century, Bruges became one of the world’s first tourist destinations as English and French tourists flocked to the city.
Now over 2 million people visit Bruges every year.
How to Spend Three Days Exploring Bruges
Bruges is one of the most stunning places we have travelled to and even more beautiful than we remembered.
The city has many canals and is referred to as The Venice of the North (as is Amsterdam and Stockholm.)
We had three days to wander around this incredible old city and have put together a walking guide to help the next time you visit.
Here are 20 reasons to visit Bruges.
Discover Bruges and its Medieval Old Town
1) La Grand Place de Bruges (Bruges Markt)
La Grand Place de Bruges, or Bruges Markt, is a great place to start a walk around this beautiful and historic town.
At one end, the Belfry dominates; at the other is a lineup of Stepped Gable restaurants. The stunning City Hall and several restaurants line the other two sides. The square is busy for lunch or an evening meal.
On a Wednesday morning, the Bruges Markt has food and flowers to sample and buy.
Wandering a market is a chance to sample a variety of new foods different from your own country.
2) The Belfry
The Belfry, at 83 metres tall, dominates the Bruges skyline so that you can see it almost everywhere within the old city boundaries.
When you climb the 366 steps to the top, you get terrific views of Bruges from all sides of the tower. To check out times and prices, click here Bruges Belfry Website.
3) Burg Square
The Burg Square is the administrative centre of Bruges with beautiful medieval buildings.
Not only can you find the tourist information centre here but also the:
- Old Town Hall
- Old Civil Registry with its gold statues
- Basilius Church and
- Chapel of the Holy Blood with a vial said to contain Christ’s blood
Just one of the places where you can wait for a boat ride on the canal.
Vismarkt was originally the site of the town’s fish market until complaints about the smell forced it elsewhere.
Near here is restaurant t’Lammetje for the most delicious Flemish Stew.
The corners Rozenhoedkaai and Pandreitje are one of the best places for taking photos of the canals in Bruges.
Make sure you come back at night, as the bridges and buildings are beautifully lit.
The bridge is one of the main streets of Bruges and showcases more of Bruges medieval charms.
Restaurants and bars around Wollestraat are perfect to watch the activity on the canal on a sunny day.
7) Gruuthuse Hof
If you are looking for a good meal at a reasonable price, Gruuthuse Hof is very popular. Make sure you book ahead, as they can be very busy.
It is located where Mariastraat, Heilige-Geeststraat, and Guido Gezelleplein meet. Across from the restaurant is the Church of Our Lady Bruges.
8) Tea-Room De Proeverie
Our favourite place to visit Bruges for delicious hot chocolate is Tearoom de Proeverie.
For € 4.50, you get hot chocolate, praline chocolate, three chocolate pieces and whipped cream. And guess what? You get to stir a lump of delicious chocolate into your warm cup of milk.
The chocolate comes from their store Chocolaterie Sukerbuyc just across the road.
9) Horses Head
The horse’s head fountain has been used to water the horses as they pull the carriages carrying tourists around the town.
And when Terry’s mum said she would be visiting us in Europe, we knew a carriage ride in Bruges for her birthday would make an ideal gift.
A World Heritage site, Begijnhof was founded in 1245.
A home to the Beguines, emancipated lay-women who led a pious and celibate life.
11) Lovers Lake
This is an excellent place for taking shots of the Begijnhofbrug Bridge.
You may also get great shots of the swans that reside here. And if you are lucky, you may get a kiss.
Saint Salvator’s Cathedral dates to the 10th century and has been a cathedral since 1834.
After a fire in 1839, the tower was rebuilt, making it higher than other churches in the city of Bruges.
13) Simon Stevinplein
This square is an excellent spot for lunch or dinner, with many restaurant options. We can highly recommend Ellis Burgers.
We enjoyed eating out here with trees to shade you in summer and a live band playing in the evening.
But of more importance is the Statue of Simon Stevinplein, who invented the decimal system.
14) The Old Chocolate House
Just a few steps away from Simon Stevinsplein, you will find The Old Chocolate House.
This is reputed to have the widest selection of 37 hot chocolate flavours in Bruges.
Yip, our hot chocolate was very good.
15) Hotel Dukes Palace
Hotel Dukes Palace is one of the highest-rated hotels in Bruges and the only five-star hotel in Flanders.
The hotel was the former residence of the Burgundian aristocracy.
If you love fries, then The Frietmuseum is the place for you.
The museum is dedicated to potatoes and the production of Belgian Fries. If you decide to visit, your entrance fee will get you a discount on a portion of fries.
As you walk down Vlamingstraat and just before heading over the canal to Augustijnenrei, you will see a little bar on your right called Rozenbrouw.
Stop in here for a drink with the locals, where the price of a beer here is much lower than the tourist spots closer to the Belfry.
18) Augustines Bridge
A beautiful old stone Augustines bridge dates to the 14th Century.
Walking along the canal, you won’t find too many tourists. It’s very peaceful.
The Burghers’ Lodge, built in the late 14th and early 15th centuries, was the meeting place for the more important members of Bruges society.
And nearby is Trattoria Trium, an excellent Italian restaurant with great service and reasonable prices.
The complete history of chocolate and a sample of chocolate made before your eyes are included in the entrance fee when you visit.