From the very first settlers charmed by this natural seaport, Bruges has been a hotbed of trade, innovation and tradition. Early merchant traders took advantage of what became known as the Golden Inlet: a natural channel, which provides Bruges with easy access to the sea. Finance and commerce flourished, with merchants bringing prosperity and diversity to Bruges to develop the city you can see today. Firmly located in the Flemish side of Belgium, Bruges has been a celebrated cultural hub since the 16th century, when it was home to many prominent artists and scholars, including the painter Jan Van Eyck, of The Arnolfini Portrait.
After silt blocked the canals and halted trade in Bruges, industry moved to nearby Antwerp. Bruges lay sleepy and undisturbed until the 19th century, when English and French tourists flocked in to admire its well-preserved beauty.
Now full of life once more, Bruges continues to inspire. Bruges is simple to explore whether on foot or cycling. You can even take a horse-drawn carriage for that truly historic experience. However you choose to travel, you are sure to fall in love with the city’s cobbled pavements and breath-taking medieval architecture. With plenty of opportunities to try the finest foods in the most beautiful of settings, Bruges is bound to delight.
Historic Centre of Bruges
If you could travel back in time you’d find that surprisingly little has changed in the medieval centre of Bruges. Spend even an afternoon here and it will be little wonder as to why over two million people visit each year. The Markt is a busy square surrounded by many beautiful buildings from throughout the ages, the most noticeable of which is the Halle. First built in the 13th century, the Halle belfry stands at an impressive 83 metres high, complete with almost 50 bells. The bells can still be heard playing today and those willing to climb almost 400 stairs will be rewarded with panoramic views.
Nearby is the equally striking Basilica of the Holy Blood. Named after the crystal vial brought back from the Crusades that is thought to contain Christ’s blood, this ornate basilica is gilded in gold.
The Groenerei canal
In a city famed for its canals, the Groenerei canal – “green canal” – is considered to be the most romantic. Take advantage of the city’s waterways and see the city from a different perspective with a peaceful boat ride on the canals. Travel up to the Rozenhoedkaai junction, where the Groenerei meets the Dijver. This spot is thought to be the city’s most photographed, and with the way it’s framed by dreamy willows and almshouses; it’s easy to see why.
For romantics, or those just looking for a peaceful spot to read or stroll, there is Minnewater Park. Found south of the city centre, there’s a rectangular reservoir called ‘The Lake of Love’ within the park. The water is named after the Romeo and Juliet-style legend of a girl called Minna and a warrior called Stromberg. Swans are recognised as a symbol of Bruges and can often be found swimming here.
Those with an interest in the supernatural must pay a visit to Retsin’s Lucifernum. Owned by a self-proclaimed vampire, this former Masonic lodge is part of the museum and part nightclub. Still also a private residence (the vampire has to sleep some of the time!), there are limited opening hours, but the curiosities and rum cocktails are worth the effort for those brave enough to enter.
De Halve Maan brewery
Belgians are famed for their beer, so visit De Halve Maan brewery to find out what makes Belgian beer so delicious. A guided tour will reveal the secrets of the centuries-old tradition of brewing, as this brewery has been established since the 16th century. Even better, the tour ends in the tavern so you can take a taste and decide for yourself.
It’s difficult to mention Belgium without discussing chocolate. Bruges is a chocoholic’s paradise. There are many artisan chocolatiers to choose from, but be sure to look for those with a kitchen at the back of the shop to know that the chocolates are handmade on the premises. Alongside the usual milk, dark and white, you can enjoy a selection of unusual flavours ranging from basil to wasabi, all of the finest quality. If choosing between chocolates is too difficult, many offer free samples to help find your favourite.
With a remarkable number of Michelin-starred restaurants to boast about, Bruges is known for its love for food. When in season, usually from June through to April, fans of seafood will be delighted by Belgium’s unofficial national dish, moules-frites. This casserole of mussels, preferably harvested from neighbouring Zeeland, is made to taste and always served with a hearty side of fries or crusty bread.
If you’re looking for a snack, line up outside the vans in the Markt Square for the most typical Belgian fast food: fries and mayonnaise. For something sweet, you can choose between the two types of waffle available, Brussels and Liege. The Brussels-style waffle is lighter with deeper holes for sauces to pool in, while the Liege is thicker and chewier. In order to decide on your favourite variation, we recommend that you try both, generously covered in Belgian chocolate, of course.
Bruges is spellbinding at any time of the year. This historic city has centuries of secrets to uncover and is certain to please any traveller looking to be charmed by its picturesque squares and scenic waterways. Begin your holiday relaxed and refreshed by booking your accommodation and flights through easyJet holidays. With a wide variety of hotels to pick from, you will be surprised by the great savings you can find when choosing easyJet holidays.