Bruges (Dutch: Brugge) is a town in Flanders, the northern part of Belgium. Relatively cosmopolitan and bourgeois given its compact size, it is one of the best preserved pre-motorised cities in Europe and offers the kind of charms rarely available elsewhere. Bruges is a postcard perfect stop on any tour of Europe.
The historical center is not so big and thus quite walkable. The only mode of public transport inside city is bus. Buses are operated by the Flemish public transport company De Lijn . Taxis on the market place and station cost about €10. Bicycles are easy to rent and make getting around the city very speedy, although the cobblestoned paths can make the rides a little bumpy and uncomfortable.
Some highlights: official site
- Groeninge Museum, Dijver 12, B-8000, [official site]. 7 days 9:30AM-5PM. Known as ‘The city museum of Fine Arts’, it houses a collection of artworks that span several centuries (14th-20th), focusing mainly on works by painters who lived and worked in Bruges. €8 / €6 (audioguide and ticket Arents House and Forum+ included in the entrance).
- Basilica of the Holy Blood (Heilige Bloed Basiliek), Burg 10, [official site]. Apr-Sep 9:30AM-11:50AM & 2PM-5:50PM, Oct-Mar 10AM-11:50AM & 2PM-3:50PM. A beautiful church on the Burg square. It houses a relic – a vial of blood that is said to be that of Jesus – and was built in the Gothic style. Try and get there early so you can view the chapel when it is quiet and not filled with tourists. And don’t forget to visit the chapel underneath, in heavy Romanesque style – a contrast to the lovely light Gothic above. Free.
- Brewery De Halve Maan, Walplein 26, ☎ +31 50 332-697, [official site]. Apr-Oct M-Sa 11:00-16:00, Su 11:00-17:00. This brewery annex beer museum offers a tour of the beer making process. A history of the brewery is provided, as well as an overview of the city from its tower. The tour lasts for 45 minutes and is a good way to get a feel for Belgian beer making. The tours start at the exact turn of the hour, be at least fifteen minutes early as there is a maximum amount of people that can join. The entrance price includes one drink of Brugse Zot or Straffe Hendrik and is served after the tour at the outside terrace or indoor bar. €6 including 1 beer.
- Onze Lieve Vrouwkerk, Mariastraat. A fascinating church with architecture from the Romanesque and Gothic periods. In the east end of the church are very fine tombs of Charles the Bold and his daughter Mary of Burgundy – in contrasting Gothic and Renaissance styles, despite their superficial similarity. The church also houses one of the few Michelangelo sculptures outside of Italy, the «Madonna with child». Free.
- Jerusalem church, [official site]. In a quiet area of the city, a highly unusual church with octagonal tower built by the Adornes brothers, merchants of Italian extraction. It includes a fine black tournai marble tomb, late Gothic stained glass, and a tiny and rather spooky chapel containing an effigy of the dead Christ. The entrance fee also covers the Lace Museum in the former Adornes mansion, where you can see local women and girls learning this traditional craft.
- The Begijnhof. Also known as the convent, between the centre of the station and the city, with white painted small houses and fine plane trees, is a quiet place to walk – groups are discouraged.
- The Hospital of St John, [official site]. 09:30 – 17:00, Closed Mondays. Sint-Janshospitaal contains a museum of six paintings by Hans Memling, within the early medieval hospital buildings. €6 with Bruges card / €8.
- Choco-Story Museum, Wijnzakstraat 2 (Sint-Jansplein), ☎ 050/61.22.37, [official site]. 10AM-5PM. This museum is a must see for chocolate enthusiasts as it describes chocolate’s transition from cocoa into chocolate. Its low cost tasty exhibits make it well worth the time (and Belcolade’s gently overt marketing). Be sure to stay for the chocolate making exhibition to get some excellent samplers. €6 with Bruges card / €7.
- DiamantMuseum, Katelijnestraat 43, ☎ 050 33 63 26, [official site]. 10:30AM-5:30PM. Diamond museum has a large range of exhibits ranging from mining all the way to polishing and all the history in between. Everyday at 12:15 there is a live polishing demonstration. Individuals €6, Groups €4.5, Students €3.
- The Friet Museum, Vlamingstraat (opposite Academiestraat), [official site]. Check out the world’s only frites (fries or chips) museum which tells the story of the humble potato from South America and how it has evolved into a fry. Don’t forget to try the tastiest fries cooked by the guy who cooked for the Belgian Royal Family.
Bruges is visited by a huge number of tourists and it sometimes becomes quite annoying, especially around the Markt and Burg squares.
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