A huge thanks to Visit Bruges for hosting me during my stay and helping me write this guide to fun things to do in Bruges (AKA Brugge).
There are many words I could use to describe Belgian city of Bruges: medieval, romantic, historical, incredwaffle, stupe-frying, you name it…
I spent two days in Bruges, and can confirm this city is pure magic (even when you arrive disheveled and alone, AKA the name of my eventual autobiography.
You see, the historic storybook beauty of this city has long sent eager visitors here in droves, waddling through the beautiful street in search of all the postcard photo opps their SD cards can handle, tracing the steps of Colin Farrell’s cult classic In Bruges along the way.
And while it’s no doubt busy, Bruges is a city well deserving of its longtime reputation as Europe’s most idyllic fairytale town.
Save this list of things to do in Bruges for later!
You’ll be very glad you did.
In this post, I’ll be sharing all my favourite unique and fun things to do in Bruges, Belgium that every visitor must experience, from iconic Bruges attractions to more offbeat activities. By the end of it all, I hope you’ll learn to love Bruges as much as I do!
And PS: If you’re still looking for a place to stay, you can check out my Bruges accommodation guide here.
Take in the Beauty of Bruges’ Markt (the Market Square)
Bruges’ market square is the city’s #1 tourist hotspot, flanked on all four sides with picturesque perfection.
There’s the Belfry Tower, the most iconic resident of the Bruges skyline, the beautiful Historium building, and of course, colourful buildings wrapped around the square, as if in some gingerbread Christmas display.
After getting your mandatory photos #forthegram, grab yourself a drink at one of the many restaurants or cafes in the square – the people watching (and gentle clip clop of horse carriages) are too good to miss.
BONUS TIP: Be sure to walk into the Belfry courtyard for a unique perspective of this important monument. A lot of people skip this, which means it’s a quick, peaceful escape from the bustling crowds outside.
Get an Amazing View
Of course, the magic of Bruges is one that is best appreciated from above, so getting up high is a must.
To accomplish this goal, most visitors opt to climb the 366 excruciating steps to get to ascend the Belfry (with its wonderful view over Markt), with views like these:
However, there are other (less physical) ways to get a stunning view in the city as well, including from the Concert Hall and the roof of the De Halve Maan Brewery, a view included with the price of your tour (more on these spots later).
Go on a Canal Cruise
It’s touristy, shameless fun, but fun all the same. Much like Amsterdam, Venice or Burano, Bruges is a city famed for its canals, and the best way to appreciate them (while enjoying a relaxing tour of the city) is by booking a canal cruise.
There are tons of options out there offering more or less the exact same experience! Individual visitors (i.e. those not travelling with a big group tour) aren’t able to reserve tickets in advance, so simply show up on the day of and buy your ticket.
During peak season, this may involve some waiting but they have many tours going at the same time so the wait shouldn’t be too long.
Admire the Beauty of The Burg
One of my favourite activities in Bruges is simply strolling around to admire the beautiful atmosphere and architecture. If this sounds like fun to you too, then 1) high five! and 2) make sure you don’t miss Burg Square.
The mish mash of architectural styles here is delightful, from the gothic Town Hall (one of the most beautiful buildings in the city) to the elegant Baroque Deanery of of Saint-Donatian.
If you’re lucky enough to catch the square when there’s a market taking place, be sure to take advantage. The stall-owners are all really friendly.
Visit the Basilica of the Holy Blood
While exploring Burg Square, be sure to make a stop inside the world-famous Basilica of the Holy Blood, famous for a relic said to contain the blood of Jesus Christ, taken to Bruges during the second crusade.
Of all the Bruges things to do I checked off my bucket list, this is one of the most memorable.
Once inside the church, a simple, unassuming stairwell leads to a delicately ornate upper chapel, and if you time your visit right, you can even sneak a peek at this bloody relic for yourself.
You can find the exact hours for the “veneration of the relic” here on the church website.
NOTE: During the veneration of the relic, no photos are allowed of the relic itself, but you are able to buy candles, sign a guestbook and get an up-close look.
Enjoy the Views from Rozenhoedkaai
Translated to Rosary Quay, the Rozenoedkaii is probably one of the most photographed places in the city, and a must-see when you’re sightseeing in Bruges.
With a view of the towering Belfry over the flowing canals that Bruges is known for, this corner of the city offers up one of the “Brugiest” views you can find in the city.
In my opinion, the best time to come is at sunset, after many day trippers have gone home.
The colours lighting up the sky (and the relatively fewer crowds) turn this already magical spot into something truly special.
Sip a Giant Hot Chocolate (and Gorge on Waffles)
It’s a bit of a cliché, but if you want to go all out when you visit Bruges, I highly recommend checking out The Old Chocolate House for tasty waffles and giant hot chocolates in the cutest granny house setting.
You won’t regret it:
Pay a visit to the 2be Beer Wall
Address: Wollestraat 53
There are plenty of places to go in Bruges for nice photos and fairytale aesthetics, but let me introduce you to one of my favourite Bruges hidden gems that’s a bit different: the 2BE Beer Wall!
I stumbled across this little gem by complete accident while prancing around on one of my photo walks.
This tiny side street houses a beer shop at the very front, and a bar at the very end (with mandatory terrace seating of course).
The real star of the show however is the decor, with a long glass case lining one side of the street, filled with a wide variety of perfectly arranged Belgian beers (and their matching glasses, naturally).
An awesome little stop, and a must for beer lovers.
Take a stroll on Laangestraat
True to its storybook nature, Bruges is home to a wide range of cute boutiques touting artisan goods, antiques and just about anything you can think of.
This of course makes for delightful shopping.
My favourite street for this was Laangestraat, which leads to the Eastern part of town and is dotted with adorable storefronts and boutiques to rummage through, like:
- Den Elder (Langestraat 84), a beautiful little bookstore filled with second-hand books and music
- Lilola (Langestraat 47), a clothing boutique where you’ll want one of everything
- Vie de Vue Antique Shop (on Hoogstraat 40, just one block of Laangestraat), whose coziness is the stuff of dreams
PS: Don’t forget to peep in through the window at Shoerecrafting (Langestraat 13), where master Luc Decuyper restores shoes with love and care. This is probably one of the most charming storefronts you’ll ever come across.
Take a trip around the concert hall (Concertgebouw)
Address: Het Zand 34
Wondering what to in Bruges on a rainy day? Visiting the city’s concert hall is a great option.
Sure, modern architecture isn’t exactly the first thing people think of when it comes to things to do in Bruges, but your trip to this city isn’t complete without at least a stop by the Concertgebouw, a massive and mega-modern relic from Bruges’ stint as European capital of culture of 2002.
This relatively young addition to the Bruges skyline is well worth a visit, with a full circuit tour (the Concertgebouw Circuit) that you can complete to get a feel for this impressive building and is collection of modern and sound art.
PS: it also happens to be home to one of the best views in the entire city.
Learn about the city’s 2 mile beer pipeline at De Halve Maan Brewery
Address: Walplein 26
Spanning back six generations is the Bruges institution of the De Halve Maan Brewery, famed for cooking up the city’s beloved Brugse Zot beer. Naturally, a stop here is a must when you’re in Bruges.
You can grab some drinks and food at the Braisserie, but in my opinion, the tour is definitely one of the best fun things to do in Bruges.
Not only was our tour guide hilarious, we also got our fair share of unique facts and history about the brewery, the oldest in the city.
And while this activity is not really off the beaten path, the viewpoint from the roof (a key part of the tour) truly is. If you’re looking for a unique perspective over the city, you’ve found it.
PS: The tour is also a great way to learn more about the unique (and world famous) “beer pipeline” that connects the brewery to its bottling plant, a project partially funded via crowdsourcing. This unassuming little pipeline moves 6000L of beer each hour, but sadly, there’s way to tap it…. (or so they say)
Grab a drink somewhere unique
Of course, one of the best things to do in Bruges is enjoy the beer. Typically this is done on the countless terraces and patios scattered around the city, or in some well-known hotspots.
For instance, travelers near and far will praise the wonders of Le Trappiste, a friendly Bruges institution renowned for its atmospheric and cozy vibes.
But, if you’re looking for somewhere a little “different”, why not choose a more unique watering hole that will be just as memorable as the beer itself?
If you fancy…
Drinking in an antique shop – Check out Beers Yesterday’s World (Wijngaardstraat 6), a cozy and charming bar set in an antique shop (where yes, you can buy the goods!)
Something macabre – Bizarre, quirky and vampiresque are just a few of the adjectives frequently used to describe the gothic haven of Retsin’s Lucifernum (Twijnstraat 6), where strange oddities adorn every wall and spook visitors as they sip their beers.
Learn to Make Your Own Chocolate
As they say, give a girl some chocolate and you feed her for a day, teach a girl to MAKE chocolate and she’ll be wired & hyper for life.
Something to that effect anyway.
If you’re travelling around Belgium in search of excellent chocolate (which let’s be honest, of course you are), then one fun experience in Bruges you should try is taking a chocolate class!
Chocolate workshops in Bruges like this one are affordable and allow you to learn how to make your own Belgium chocolates, granting you the perfect souvenir to take home, and the ideal life skill you never knew you needed.
Check out the wide scope of unique shops handmade products made with love in Bruges
Craft has always been a big theme at the heart of Bruge’s culture, but these days, the city is embracing the idea of modern craftsmanship and #LocalLove more than ever.
If it’s shopping you’re keen to do, skip the over-commercialized tourist shops touting magnets and packaged chocolates, and head instead to the wide variety of specialty shops scattered around the city, where products are handmade with care and that special little ingredient – love 😉
Learn more about Bruges’ History at the Historium
Those travelling to Bruges with kids in tow (or those interested in learning more about the city’s history) should definitely check out the Historium, a unique Bruges attraction that explains the story of the city through interactive displays and themed rooms.
I didn’t get to make it here during my visit, but I’ve heard great things about it. You’ll find it right in the Market Square, a stone’s throw away from most of Bruges’ other main attractions.
Head to the Groeningemuseum
I shamelessly spent most of my sightseeing time in Bruges at quirky museums devoted to chocolate, fries, and lamps (more on these later), but hands down the most popular museum to see in Bruges is the Groeningemuseum, which is home to an astounding collection of Belgian art, including work from some of the most famous masters of the region.
If you are interested in art, visiting the Groeningemuseum is considered one of the top things to do in Bruges that you can’t miss.
But, if you’re looking for something a bit quirkier, there are plenty of Bruges attractions for that too.
Visit a Museum dedicated to chocolate
While many museum lovers will flock to Bruges to see the iconic works of the Flemish Primitives, Bruges has many more museums to offer beyond its famous Groenige Museum.
In fact, the city is home to over a dozen museums covering a wide range of topics, including some of the city’s most popular vices… like chocolate!
ChocoStory is a really interesting collection of items and exhibits that walk you through the history of chocolate.
It’s mostly meant for kids, but I had a good time too (surprise), especially with the sheer amount of “all you can eat” samples 😉
The visit ends with a fun praline making demonstration too where of course, you get to enjoy one on the house afterwards. Check out tickets online here.
Visit a museum dedicated to… lamps?
Bruges’ Lumina Domestica, AKA the lamp museum, is home to a staggering collection of 6000+ antiques and lamps chronicling the history of indoor lighting.
If you’re looking for something truly quirky and offbeat to do in Bruges, this is it.
I was the only one in the museum (which felt a bit eerie given some of the lifelike sculptures and displays!) but the lamps were very cool to look at. For bonus convenience points, it’s also housed in the same building as ChocoStory.
Check out a museum dedicated to Fries
Yes, this is a real thing you can do in Bruges.
The Frietmuseum is indeed a museum dedicated to fries!
Fight off the tantalizing smell of freshly made fries coming from the basement café as you walk through informative displays all dedicated to the precious tater.
Honestly? It’s not an absolute Bruges must-do, but quite a fun and quirky attraction especially if you’re travelling with kids or someone with a genuine potato obsession. It makes a nice rainy day Bruges activity too.
Enjoy the Tranquility of Minnewater (AKA The Lake of Love)
It wouldn’t be an article about Bruges without mentioning something cringly romantic, and here it is: Minnewater – the Lake of Love, a picturesque lake filled with swans gliding past like a scene out of the Notebook.
This spot is of course best viewed while holding hands with someone you love (or in my case, an ice cream the size of my face).
Admire the city’s remaining windmills
And if you’re looking for a sliver of calm amidst the tourist bustle of Bruges, head to the outskirts of the city to discover some of Bruges’ lost windmills, of which only 4 remain.
You can see them all along the ramparts surrounding Bruges, but only Sint Janshuis Mill is open for visits.
Many recommend coming here by bike, but I have to say the walk to see them is also beautifully quiet – a perfect way to get acquainted with the beauty of Bruges (without the crowds) 😉
Visit Bruges’ Beguinage
If after a long day of sightseeing, you want to take in some peace and quiet, look no further than the beautiful Beguinage, once home to the pious beguines of Bruges.
Here, the simplicity of the white gables surrounding the lush inner garden makes for the perfect photograph, especially at sunset.
Pro tip: Come during the Spring as I did and swoon over the countless yellow daffodils in bloom.
Take a Day Trip to Another Belgian City
Lastly, while Bruges is commonly known as a day trip destination itself, if you find yourself with extra time in the city, you should definitely consider taking a day trip to another Belgian city. Belgium is tiny and well connected by train, which makes day trips like these a total breeze.
Did I Miss Any of Your Favourite Fun Things to do in Bruges?
Let me know in the comments! Bruges is a wonderful city and I’m positive you’ll love it 😉