Many travelers planning their European vacations stick to the big cities and sights like Rome, Paris, Munich, Prague, Barcelona, etc. But ask any traveler who has done a big Europe trip at least twice and many times Bruges, Belgium pops up on their most recommended list. My sister did this many years ago and recalled it as one of her most favorite European stops.
Finally, 15 years later, I made it to Bruges. The canals added to the fact that the World Wars didn’t destroy Bruges, makes for an amazing architectural city with a great vibe and plentiful and hopping town squares.
Visiting the squares, exploring the beverage options, and soaking up the quaint Belgian vibe. The city is full of tourists so an authentic Belgian experience is better had elsewhere but Bruges is an amazing place and one you should visit.
There are a few churches, brewery tours, museums to go inside and tour but for the most part, things in Bruges are outside. The 83 meter tall Belfry, overlooking the main Markt square, has 47 bells that ring at 11am. It was a cool, free show to hear. Head into the Belfry Courtyard for the music or pay the 12 Euro entrance fee and climb to the top.
The nearby Basilica of Holy Blood (built in the 11th and 12th century) has what is considered to be a vial of Christ’s blood. It is encased inside of a relic that is shown to the public in May, every year. The blood resides in a museum in part of the chapel attached to the upstairs neo-gothic style church.
Another free church to visit in Bruges is the Church of Our Lady (built in the 12-14th centuries). This church was undergoing major restorations so it was not impressive on the inside at the moment. Michelangelo’s Madonna with Child resides inside the paid entry section.
Walking around outside in the streets of Bruges is always free and the Burg Square, the “political square” was gorgeous as always. My AirBnB was steps from here so I wandered through here a lot to get to and from restaurants and sights. I saw three wedding parties coming to and from the town hall here. It was fun people watching here.
On my way to the windmills of Bruges, there was a swim meet in the canals that diverge throughout Bruges. Both children and adults competed against their respective ages with many parents and tourists cheering them on.
Talk about an awesome backdrop for a long distance swim meet. But I have a feeling that the water is very cold!
The windmills on the outer canals of the central zone overlooked parks, a canal, and had a long bicycle and jogging path so all could enjoy the views. A few of the windmills you could go inside or at least up to the front doors.
This area was mostly free of crowds. Maybe because it was a Sunday and all the restaurants and shops in the area were closed or maybe because everyone was watching the swim meet in the canals!
Adorable Bruges rowhouses in the historic district:
While most people might find these very small, and they are smaller than the rowhouse I live in, the charm and very central location in such an amazing city make up for the lack of space. I could live in one.
My fun Belgian vacation has come to an end. I’m off to Amsterdam to hang out with my friend Lauren and then headed back to the USA. Stay tuned for some Amsterdam adventures!
Reader Question: If it was just you, big house in the suburbs or small rowhouse in the historic city center? I’m definitely going to go with location!!!