Essential Bruges

Tour Creator

Robin holds a Masters degree in art history from the École du Louvre and a bachelor's in Dutch from the Sorbonne. Like many former Parisians, she now lives in Brussels,…Read More Bio »

Bruges

GPS-directed

Remote Tour Included

2hrs

2km

Wending through the warren of streets and canals in the center of Bruges, our tour will bring to life the illustrious history of this medieval metropolis. First a thriving trading center in the 1200s before becoming the favored residence of the Dukes of Burgundy, Bruges boasts incredible examples of late-medieval architecture, including the Belfry, City Hall, and Onze-Lieve-Vrouwkerk. Visitors will come away amazed at the vibrancy of the city’s history and absolutely charmed by its beauty.

Avoid the Crowds

Allows you to explore without having to be shoulder-to-shoulder in a large tour group

Expert-created Tour

Written by a Bruges tour guide, who holds a Masters degree in art history from the École du Louvre and a bachelor's in Dutch from the Sorbonne

GPS Directions

Easy-to-follow GPS directions to get you from one point to the next on your tour

Highlights include:

Markt, Rozenhoedkaai, and Gruuthuse

Remote Tour Included

As with all our tours, a remote tour is included that can be enjoyed from home

Itinerary

Essential Bruges

  1. Markt - As the main market square of one of Europe’s premier trading centers, this is where most goods were bought and sold under the watchful eye of the guilds that surrounded the square. The towering belfry, a Unesco World Heritage monument, has witnessed many a tumultuous event, from uprisings and beheadings to the establishment of Belgian standard time.
  2. Burg - Towards the end of the 9th century, Baldwin “the Iron Arm,” first Count of Flanders, built a fortress on this very spot to protect his subjects from Viking raids. Standing in the Burg today, you are in the administrative heart of the medieval city, boasting a spectacular Gothic City Hall and the unique Basilica of the Holy Blood.
  3. Blinde-Ezelbrug - Pause here to take in some of Bruges’s typical sights, from age-old bridges to the former beer tax offices.
  4. Huidvettersplein - By the 1700s the locals near the Markt had had enough of the perpetual stink of fish, so the city sent all the “stinky businesses” downwind – to the Huidvettersplein. Here and in the neighboring Fishmarket, fishmongers plied their wares, alongside the rank smell of leather tanning. Even the statues turn up their noses!
  5. Rozenhoedkaai - Rozenhoedkaai offers the most picture-perfect views of the city. Named Rosary Quay after the rosaries that were sold in stalls here along the water until the 18th century, it was here that salt merchants unloaded their precious wares going back to at least 1390. In addition to admiring views of the Belfry and City Hall, visitors can see on the nearby bridge a statue of Saint John of Nepomuk, protector against floods and drowning – important in a city traversed by canals.
  6. Dijver + Groeningemuseum - Under the patronage of the Dukes of Burgundy in the 1400s the Northern Renaissance blossomed, with artists such as Jan Van Eyck and Hieronymous Bosch producing some of the world’s great Old Master paintings. In the Groeningemuseum, located here along the Dijver, visitors can admire one of the best collections of Flemish paintings in existence. Also of note is the College d’Europe, an elite post-graduate school founded in the wake of World War II to promote European cooperation – it was a building block of the future EU!
  7. Gruuthuse + OLV Kerk - Two of the most majestic monuments of medieval Bruges face off here: the Gruuthuse Museum and the Onze-Lieve-Vrouw Kerk. Learn what “gruut” is and how a Michelangelo masterpiece came to be housed in this church.
  8. Sint-Janshospitaal - This medieval hospice, which welcomed patients and pilgrims for 800 years, contains some of Europe’s oldest surviving hospital buildings. One of its best-known patients was the artist Hans Memling, who paid for his stay in paintings – which are now on display in the former hospital chapel.
  9. Stoofstraat - Learn about the steamy nightlife of the medieval city in this back alley.
  10. Walplein - No Belgian history would be complete without mentioning beer… Dominating the charming Walplein is the De Halve Maan brewery, one of two remaining breweries in Bruges, down from 34 in the early 20th century. And what would you do if you had to move 4 million liters of beer per year from downtown Bruges to your bottling plant 3 kilometers away? Build a beer pipeline, of course! The neighborhood is also known for its 17th-century vernacular architecture, particularly its almshouses.
  11. Beguinage - This is one of the most peaceful places in Bruges, and with good reason. It is a beguinage – home to a community of women founded in 1225 who chose to live according to religious precepts but without taking vows, and who were socially and financially independent. Who said the Middle Ages wasn’t feminist? The beguinage of Flanders are on the Unesco World Heritage list.
  12. Minnewater - Often called the “Lac d’Amour” in French, the Minnewater basin and its park offer some of the most picturesque views of Bruges’s waterways and its famous white swans. Find out where the Minnewater got its name and why the city must always have at least 101 of the long-necked birds.

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