City Profile: Bruges, Belgium
Brief History – Founded in the 800’s, this ancient city is the capital of the West Flanders region in Northern Belgium. Considered by many to be the jewel of northern Europe, Bruges (or Brugge in Dutch) is a must-see for any well-traveled explorer. The buildings and medieval architecture in the city center are so breathtaking and unique that UNESCO added the area to its list of World Heritage Sites. Along with the stunning cityscape, Bruges, like its neighbor Amsterdam, is built on a system of intricate canals, lending credence to the city’s popular comparison to Venice. A popular tourism hotspot, this city is a traveler’s dream, combining one-of-a-kind sights and culture with world class food and an unparalleled beer offerings.
Know Before You Go – Being prepared for a trip is a must if you want to maximize your time and make your experience as pain-free as possible. And because we know that doing research and homework is a bore, we took it upon ourselves to give you some tips – just because we like you.
- While historic, Bruges is a small and notoriously quiet city. Therefore this is the wrong place to come if you’re looking for a thriving nightlife scene. If that’s the case, try neighboring Antwerp or Gent.
- Book Ahead! As one of Europe’s primary tourist destinations, Bruges is perpetually inundated with traveler's from all around the globe. If you want to make the most out of your stay, we recommend booking early. You can find tons of welcoming apartments, houses, and rooms in Bruges at Roomorama!
- Bruges is a very pedestrian and bicycle friendly town, so prepare to spend a lot of your time outdoors. Want to cruise the beautiful Bruges streets by bike? Our favorite place to score two wheels is at City Cycles, where you can save 20% just by being a Roomorama member.
Etiquette – It never hurts to be extra prepared for a trip. Whether that preparation includes shipping your luggage to your pad prior to your arrival or packing an umbrella, it’s all pretty damn important. We’ve got your back – listed below are a few tips that you should know before you go.
- When meeting people, shake hands with everyone present, and again when leaving.
- Be sure to repeat your name when being introduced.
- Accept any and all drinks offered by your host -- it is considered rude otherwise.
- For other nifty tips, check out this site.
Where To Dine -- Belgian cuisine has a lot more to offer than waffles (but seriously, how good are the waffles?!). In a town geared towards tourism, there is no shortage of great restaurants in Bruges. From traditional to modern, and the Michelin-starred to the locally revered, here are the restaurants the discerning traveler should check out in Bruges.
- In Den Wittenkop – A traditional Belgian Flemish restaurant, In Den Wittenkop is a taste of old-world Bruges. Small and intimate, this restaurant offers travelers the perfect introduction to authentic Belgian cuisine.
- Tom’s Diner – Far from a diner, this is an excellent place to share a leisurely meal with friends over a few pints. Added bonus: the head chef of this rustic restaurant is considered by many to be one of the city's best young culinary talents.
- De Bottelier – Its easy to completely walk by and not even recognize this restaurant. Tucked away, this center city haunt is known for its ornate and delicious lunch. Be sure to make a reservation though, as this place fills up fast.
Nightlife – A running joke amongst the residents of Bruges is that their city is “dead” after 10pm. However while it may be true that Bruges doesn’t have the most bustling and dynamic nightlife, that’s not to say that there is nothing to do after the sun goes down. Below we have compiled a list of the most fun and exciting places to be and be seen in Bruges.
- Bierbrasserie Cambrinus –Belgium is the undisputed beer capital of the world. At Bierbrasserie Cambrinus, one can experience all the majesty that this country’s rich beer brewing tradition has to offer. From Saisons to Lambics, and Trappist Ales to Belgian Tripels, this bar has over three hundred different beers in house. And touting a reputation as a local’s hangout, this authentic spot should be on every traveler's list.
- Coulissen – Coulissen is a traditional European club. Decedent and lavish, this spot offers visitors the posh dance club experience typically associated with other major European cities. Open Thursday through Sunday, this mid-sized club boasts a full bar, house DJ, and plenty of room to shake it. Just make sure you pack your dancing shoes.
- Brugs Beerje – With a massive selection of beers ranging from 5-15% ABV (alcohol by volume), a kitchen that stays open late, and a big outdoor area for seating, Brugs Beerje is a must for anyone seeking to have a little fun in Bruges. The staff here is incredibly friendly and welcoming, and helps you navigate through their labyrinth-like beer list. Time seems to stand still at this unique and quintessentially Belgian spot. A personal favorite of mine, I recommend everyone stroll in this exceptional establishment for a nice relaxing pint.
- Nocturne – Nocturne is one of the few cocktail bars in Bruges. It is a hip underground lounge that not only specializes in cocktails, but also wines – a refreshing departure from the beer-heavy emphasis of the rest of the city’s bars. Owned by a Brit, Nocturne boasts a chic, young vibe. Also, they have a piano player come in most nights and serenade the audience to the classics.
Things To Do – Bruges is one of Europe’s great ancient cities. From walking tours, boat rides, museums, galleries, or simply strolling the city’s cobblestone streets, Bruges never ceases to provide the discerning traveler with a plethora of activities.
- Historic City Center – When in Bruges, be sure to visit the exquisite city center which provides a great introduction to Bruges’ architecture and culture, and can be used as a gateway, or point of entry to all things Bruges.
- Eiermarkt – The Eiermarkt is an outdoor square that features loads of different shops and activities. Travelers can amble around this majestic and antique marketplace to find all the essentials items to bring back from their trip to Bruges, including chocolates, clothing, pottery, and all other types of knick-knacks. Filled with bars and restaurants, the Eiermarkt is a great place to spend an entire afternoon.
- Canal Tours – As mentioned above, Bruges is built on a complex and expansive system of canals. One of the best ways to see the city is to take a ride in one of the many boats that weave in and out of these old waterways. Not only will the boats give you a complete and thorough tour of Bruges, the guides will also explain the significance of each building and monument. Affordable and ubiquitous, the canal tours are a must for anyone looking to get an authentic taste of the city.
- Minnewater Lake – Minnewater Lake is one of the most picturesque places, in one of the most picturesque cities in Europe. Located at the entranceway to the old part of the city, Minnewater Lake is the most tranquil and serene place in Bruges. As the Dutch word for love is “minne”, Minnewater Lake is often referred to as the “Lake of Love”. Whether taking it all in from the lakes bridge, or posing for a picture with you sweetheart, Minnewater Lake is a place any traveler to Bruges will never forget. Just be careful not to disturb the swans!
- Bruges Art Route – The Bruges Art Route is an initiative started by local artists that leads tourists on a route to see all the relevant and important artists, sculptors, and museums Bruges has to offer. There are three specific trails in which patrons can walk or bike that lead to the city’s best artistic offerings. While riding or walking the trail, making sure to stop and browse some of Bruges’ famous museums and galleries - the city’s tourism board is now offering an art-pass, so visitors can purchase one ticket that guarantees entrance to all venues.