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Best attractions in Bruges: Top 15

Bruges is one of the most romantic and beautiful cities in Europe. It is a museum city because of its monuments of antiquity. Many places of interest in Bruges are included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. In the 14th and 16th centuries, Bruges was considered the business and cultural center of Europe. What to see in Bruges, you need to decide in advance, because in one visit to see all the sights of this Belgian city is not possible. Here for the first time appeared exchange for trading, appeared oil painting, the founder of this painting technique was the painter Van Eyck. Many ancient treasures and shrines are concentrated in this city.

What to see first in Bruges

An overview of the sights for which tens of thousands of tourists from all over the world come here every year. Some require guides in Bruges, while others prefer to explore the city on their own. Both are good in their own way, but with a guide the tourist doesn’t have to think about the organizational nuances.

1. Grote Markt, Market Square

Market Square in Bruges

The central location of the Market Square shows that in old times it was the scene of all major events and a bustling trade in goods as well as administrative buildings. The first information about the trades goes back to the 10th century. In the beginning, the rows of stalls were made of wood, and then they were replaced by stone ones.

What to visit in Bruges, being on the central square? One of the oldest buildings on the square is the Bowkhout on the west side. It has 15th century stained glass windows and a weathervane made by craftsmen in 1682.

On the east side of the square there were covered piers. Then, after a fire the structures were demolished, and in their place a group of buildings was erected, where now there is the Governor’s residence, the courthouse, the Post Office, as well as the museum “Historium”. In the center of the square is a monument to the heroes of the liberation movement.

In 1995, after restoration work, cars were prohibited on the Central Square and it became pedestrian. Many souvenir shops and stores, small restaurants and cafes are located around the perimeter of the square. There is a market on Wednesdays.

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2. Church of Our Lady

The Church of Our Lady of Bruges

If you don’t know what to visit in Bruges, start your tour with a visit to Notre Dame Cathedral (Church of Our Lady). This brick tower is more than 120 meters high with a square base and a 45-meter crown spire. The church dates from the 12th century.

In this Bruges landmark you can admire a great work of art - the statue of Virgin Mary with Child by Michelangelo. It is the only lifetime work by the artist that has been exported outside Italy.

Among the relics of the church are the sarcophagi with the ashes of Charles the Bold, during whose reign Bruges became a prosperous and wealthy city, and of Mary, his daughter, who died tragically in the hunt.

3. Holy Blood Basilica

The Basilica of the Holy Blood in Bruges

The Count of Alsace, who lived in the 12th century, was the owner of a two-story chapel built in Bruges. For buildings of that time, such architecture was considered commonplace. What to see in Bruges if you happen to be on a tour of the Basilica?

A spiral staircase leads up to the second floor, where there is an observation deck with magnificent views of the square and the naves of the church itself. This was usually reserved for the local nobility and aristocracy, while the first floor was reserved for the commoners. At first, the chapel was dedicated to the Greek Saint Basil, whose relics were brought from Jerusalem. Later, after the discovery of a relic of the Holy Blood, it was renamed.

The lower chapel consists of 3 naves on which the upper part of the chapel is built. The stone walls, vaults and pillars are of limestone quarried in Eiffel. After the restoration work, the statue “Jesus on the Cold Stone” and the display “Christ in the coffin” were installed in the aisles, which are carried during the procession of the “Holy Blood”. Interesting conclusions were made by scientists when they found statues of a cross and two vessels embedded in the wall in the nineteenth century. Presumably these were made by Freemasons during the restoration of the chapel. The chalices are a prototype of the Holy Grail, and this theory is supported by the fact that the blood of Jesus was deposited in the church.

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4. Gruninge Museum

Municipal Museum of Fine Arts in Bruges Jennifer Morrow

The date of the foundation of the museum is considered May 9, 1929, and the opening of the exhibitions took place in June 1930. During the erection, the measures necessary for the display and storage of museum exhibits, including an air-conditioning and lighting system, were thought out and implemented.

The light is directed so as not to create glare when viewing the paintings. The collections of paintings are constantly being added to. What to see in Bruges at the Gruninge Museum? The diptych “The Annunciation” was bought with money from the city government, and a “Portrait of Paul de Nigro” by the 16th century Dutch painter Isenbrandt was purchased at auction. Of artistic interest is a collection of ancient manuscripts, paintings and faience products donated by Baron Houtgar. In 1955 the exposition was enlarged with works from the Grüthuse Museum, one of them very famous is the “Family Portrait” by Nicolas Mas, a pupil of Rembrandt.

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5. St. Salvatore’s Cathedral

Panorama of the city with St. Salvator's Cathedral in Bruges

Many sights in Bruges are closely related to religious themes. For example, the Cathedral of St. Salvator, located in the central part of the city. Over the centuries, the church building was rebuilt and changed its appearance, and in 1834 it was given the status of a cathedral. In the 19th century, a fire destroyed the roof, stained-glass windows and bells. The architect Chantrell from England was appointed to supervise the reconstruction. According to his drawings rebuilt the tower, the top of which was made in the form of a crown. In 1871, a copper spire was installed, and in the same period new stained-glass windows were obtained. The walls of the cathedral are decorated with tapestries, woven in the XVIII century in the manufactories of Brussels, and paintings with stories from the Bible. The sights of the Cathedral are the old organ, created in 1717, and acting today.

Be sure to watch this beautiful video about Bruges!

6. Bruges Bell Tower

Bruges Bell Tower Dimitris Kamaras

Many tourists wonder what is the most famous thing to visit in Bruges? The Belfort Bell Tower is one of the sights worth visiting. It was erected in 1240 and is 83 meters high. The tower has been rebuilt several times and got its present appearance in 1822, when the upper part was decorated in neo-Gothic style. The lower part houses the city archives, while the top is used as an observation deck and bell tower.

During the day there is a bell ringing every hour over the city, the melodies are unrepeated. The bells are powered by an ancient carillon, a drum. Tourists can watch the birth of the music, because the carillon is separated from one side by a transparent window.

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7. Holy Cross Gate

The Holy Cross Gate in Bruges NH53

Got some free time left and you’re looking for something to see in Bruges? Visit the Gate of the Holy Cross, one of the city’s oldest landmarks. It was erected in the 14th century and was a structure for protection against unfriendly neighbors. Now it is a complex consisting of a massive arch and towers with flags.According to legend, if you go through the gate three times, your deepest wish will come true. During wartime, soldiers, going through the gate, read prayers, asking for a blessing.

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8. Loppem Castle

Loppem Castle surrounded by a beautiful park

The first owners of the castle were Baron Karl van Caloen and his wife Savina de Gursi. They were religious people, and so the interior of their newly built castle was decorated in the spirit of Christianity. The ceilings in the Main Hall are amazing - almost 17 meters high, the fireplace is decorated with the family coat of arms of the family. An interesting feature: the building did not have toilets, were completed later.

The spiral staircase leading to the second floor of the castle is supplemented with carved banisters. The château was the royal residence of Albert I in the 20th century and during the First World War was the headquarters of the Belgian army. You can see the paintings of Van Dyck, as well as artists - pupils of Rubens.

Many places of interest in Bruges have an interesting history and many mysteries, not the exception and Loppem Castle, which is surrounded by a beautiful park of more than 100 hectares. Its shady alleys harmonize with small ponds with waterfowl. And fans of solving puzzles should definitely walk through the famous labyrinth, which consists of long corridors.

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9. Bruges Chocolate Museum

The Chocolate Museum in Bruges Mark Healey

Authentic Belgian chocolate has an unmatched and original taste. Many lovers of the delicacy opt for the Belgian brand. So it’s no surprise that Bruges has its own Chocolate Museum. When visiting attractions in Belgium, you must see this museum! Like many attractions in Bruges, the museum has collected real works of art, but only in chocolate: from ordinary bars to chocolate sculptures. The institution has a rich library collection, with many books on the history of the delicacy, as well as recipes for making it.

Experienced confectioners will teach lessons in the preparation of this delicious delicacy. The museum has a bar where visitors are invited to taste a variety of chocolate treats and cocktails of more than forty kinds.

Bruges is famous for its annual Choco-Late chocolate festival, during which pastry chefs hold cooking duels and surprise you with real chocolate fountains.

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10. Gentpoort Gate

Gentpoort Gate in Bruges Charlie

During the Middle Ages, fortress walls with gates were built around Bruges, but only four gates have survived to this day. Ezelpoor, Smedenpoort, Gentpoort, Kruispoort are their names. Like all attractions in Bruges, the Gentpoort is imbued with the spirit of the Middle Ages. Tourists have the opportunity to touch the walls of a tower made of bricks that are several hundred years old!

The Gentpoort Gate was built between 1400-1406 as a defensive measure in times of war, and in peace time it was the main entrance to the city and a checkpoint for goods in and out and for tribute.

Now there is a museum in the tower of the gate, where you can look at a collection of weapons, various artifacts and ancient manuscripts, telling about the beginning of the construction of towers and gates and other historical events of the past era.

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Bruges sights: what else to see while in Bruges

For those to whom the main architectural and natural monuments are not enough, we suggest excursions to Bruges to less famous, but no less wonderful places. Study the list to finally decide where to go after arriving in this small old town filled with legends and fairy tales.

11. Brewing Museum in Bruges

Bruges Brewing Museum Neil Turner

If you think you’ve already visited all the museums and attractions in Bruges, don’t forget to go to the Brewery Museum.

The first mention of a brewery dates back to the 19th century. Leon Mace brewed beer according to ancient recipes and the beer was dark in color with a sour taste. Throughout its history the technology of brewing has changed and fresh varieties have appeared. And in 1997 the owner of the brewery decided to open halls for visitors where festivals, interesting meetings and other events were held. At the same time the Brewery Museum was opened. During tours you can not only learn a lot of interesting things about the process of making beer, but also take a direct part in it, and then taste a variety of beers stored in the cellars of the brewery.

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12. Bruges Town Hall

The City Hall in Bruges

The foundation of the town hall is the foundation laid back in 1376 by Count Lodewijk van Malet. Many places of interest in Bruges are built in the Gothic style, and the town hall belongs to the same style. The facade is decorated with rich stucco work and niches with statues of characters from the Bible and sculptures of famous historical figures.

The interior decoration is also striking in its magnificence and luxury. Tourists are fascinated by the Gothic hall of the town hall. Wooden vaults of oak are decorated with sixteen slabs, which are depicted in allegorical figures representing the four seasons and the four elements. The walls of the Hall are decorated with many ancient frescoes by the painter Albrecht de Wryndt.

The Room of Renaissance reveals a famous fireplace by the master Lancelot Blondel, made in the 16th century. The Gothic Hall is now used for meetings of the City Council and for the registration of marriages of citizens.

13. Love Lake Park

Lake of Love Park in Bruges

Lake of Love is located in the old Minnewater Park. According to an ancient legend, the bridge on this lake is sure to lead lovers to their wedding, and by taking a promenade across it, they will find happiness in their marriage.

In the old days, there was a small port on Arsenal Street and the lake united the city’s canals with the sea. But after time the harbors grew shallow. Sad as it may be, many of Bruges’s landmarks are linked to tragic events in the fates of famous and ordinary people. In the history of Minnewater Park there is a sad tale of a sailor’s daughter. They wanted to marry the young girl off by force. To avoid her unenviable fate, the bride decided to run away and take refuge in the woods. Her betrothed, on his way home from the war, found his bridegroom in the forest, who subsequently died in his arms. In memory of his beloved, the guy set up a stone on the shore. Hence the name of the lake, and on the place of the stone now stands a tower.

Horse-drawn carriages can be ridden through the park. The jewel of the lake are the swans, graceful birds that have become a symbol of the city.

14. The Beguinage

Beguinage Monastery in Bruges

Attractions in Bruges include the Convent of the Beguinages, which was founded by Countess Margaret of Constantinople in 1244. At the beginning of its existence, it was under the patronage of King Philip IV the Beautiful and had the name “Royal Beguinage”. Ditches were dug around the building and filled with water, which isolated the place from the rest of the world. On the bridge in front of the entrance is a landmark showing the boundary between the city limits and the Beguinage. The phrase “Sauve Garde” written above the gate indicates the right of refuge in the area. The Beguinages are considered nuns, but that’s not quite right. They do not take the monastic veil, have the right to form a family, and have the right to return to ordinary life.

15. Queen Astrid Park

Queen Astrid Park in Bruges Michael Zehrer

The history of this park began after the monks were given land along Bramberg Street to build a monastery. For several centuries the park served as a quiet resting place for the monks. However, during the prohibition of religious societies, the monastery was subjected to destruction, and the territory of the park fell into private hands. In the 19th century, the local authorities bought part of the land for the construction of St. Magdalene Church. Soon, a public park in the Old English style was created on the remaining territory.

The park was originally named after the former owners - Franciscan Park. But after the tragic death of Queen Astrid, the garden was given her name. Sculptor De Wispelare created a bronze bust, “The Snow Princess,” which is located in the center of the park. A small lake and a cozy gazebo add charm and romance to the place. Read also about sights of Brussels and be inspired for further travels in Belgium.

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