Straight out of a fairytale, this medieval village in the Northern region of Belgium is full of magic and beauty. The lovely canals weaving through the city give it the title “The Venice of Belgium”. Filled with museums and history, there’s always something to do. Typically crowded with more visitors than locals during summer months, I was glad to explore this town in the off season to truly enjoy it’s charm.
Each day I got up early to wander and take beautiful photos of empty streets and cute buildings before the shops and restaurants opened. It’s easy to spend all day admiring the medieval architecture and pausing at every water way. The historic center itself is listed as a UNESCO site if you still need a reason to visit.
What To Do
Anyone who enjoys a nice pint can’t miss a tasting in Belgium. Even those that aren’t fans of beer might enjoy a red ale (similar to mead), which is only produced at a select number of Belgian breweries. Tastings are offered all over town, and with such a rich history in beer, it’s worth taking a tour at one of the three breweries left in the city.
Halve Maan Brewery– €12 -includes free pint
Tours are offered every hour from 11:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. daily and last approximately 45 minutes, finishing with a Blonde Ale or soft drink in their restaurant. The guide gave us a very detailed history into the history of Bruges beer, and walked us through the malting, brewing, and fermenting process. Halfway through the tour we were taken to the roof of the building to get a beautiful view of the city as well as the equipment. If a tour isn’t for you, you can check the link below for the restaurant’s hours. **Keep in mind that this tour involves a lot walking up and down steep stairs.
The Beer Experience– €10 tour/€16 tour with tasting
Technically not a brewery, this is still a really fun and interactive visit! Take a self-guided tour with a tablet to learn about the history of beer and the brewing process. Scan QR codes throughout the museum for videos and quiz questions. They have a lot of cool information available, even a small exhibition on beer goddesses and women’s history in brewing. The tasting at the end includes 3 beers, I really enjoyed the red ales, but they have a large menu of stouts, amber ales, etc. It’s cool that you can also get your photo on a beer bottle in the gift shop.
Yes, I said Food Museums! Since my diet consisted almost solely of fries and chocolate during my visit (both culinary staples of Belgium), the foodie in me just had to share that goodness with the world.
*Get a combination to ticket to both museums for €14.50.
Freitmuseum– It’s much more interesting than the name let’s on. The exhibitions take you through the history of potato cultivation & growth, different varieties from around the world, and historical events such as the potato famine in Ireland. As you go through, you will also discover how fries came about and how cooking methods have evolved. The museum is also filled with tons of fry art and memorabilia that kids will enjoy. A coupon for the fry shop is included with entry, so stop by and get a snack on your way out.
Choco Story– There are actually many locations worldwide, I’ve even visited the one in Antigua, Guatemala. Similar to the concept of the fry museum, the chocolate museum shares a lot of history on the origin of cacao and the significance it had to the Aztecs and the role it played through the centuries. However, the best part is that there are multiple free chocolate dispensers where you can eat as much as you want. Make sure you show up hungry, my friends.
Other sites and information
Museum Pass– €28(ages 26+)/€22 (ages 18-25) This can be used at all of the city run exhibits in Bruges, but does not cover entrance to private museums, so take a minute to plan ahead of time and see if it is worth it for you. Click here for to see what museums are included and other combination deals.
Die Markt– Popular square in the middle of the city, surrounded by beautiful architecture and famous sites. *Backpacker tip* Avoid food stands in this area if you’re on a budget.
Torture Museum– €8 Not just for the enjoyment of sadists and masochists, take a look inside for bizarre devices and get a cringy history lesson.
Salvador Dali Gallery– €10 A wonderful collection of the surreal world of Dali. If your pockets are deep enough, you can actually bid on the pieces on exhibit.
Groeninge Museum– €12 A small collection of Flemish art from the 18th and 19th century, including pieces from Van Eyck, Bosch, and Magritte.
Minnewater lake and Castle– Also known as the “Lake of Love”. Take a walk through the park, and make sure to see the swans at Begijnhof while in the area.
It’s the little villages that make me fall deeper in love with Europe, quaint cities like Bruges have a charm that pull you in like a warm embrace (even in the middle of winter). The cozy shops, small streets, and friendly people can’t help but make you feel at home.