Known as the “Venice of the North”, Bruges (Flemish Brugge) is one of the most beautiful towns in Europe. Founded in the 9th century by Vikings who settled near the coast, it is the historic capital of the Flanders region in the north of Belgium. The name “Bruges” probably derives from the old Scandinavian Brygga, meaning “mooring place”. The town quickly became an important harbour and an extensive network of canals was developed in the Middle Ages. Today, the canals are used only for tourist boats. However, the local authorities have done everything possible to preserve the medieval architecture and image of Bruges.

Bruges went into decline after its separation from the Netherlands in 1584. Its reputation has only recovered since the Second World War due to a growing tourist industry. In 2002 it was designated “Cultural Capital of Europe” and now attracts millions of visitors every year.

  • See maps of the city.


Bruges is now once again one of the most important settlements in Belgium and has numerous historic and cultural attractions. Many people simply take a day trip to Bruges from Brussels. As a result, the city is generally much quieter in the evenings, particularly slightly off the beaten path of the Market Square and its surrounding area, which are heavily favoured by tourists.

The best way to see Bruges is on foot, as many of the city’s sights are close together in the centre’s “golden triangle”. However, this is also the most expensive and tourist-ridden area, so making the effort to go a little further afield can be a rewarding experience. Guided boat trips are one way to take in the picturesque sights of medieval Bruges; boats leave from the Georges Stael landing stage at Katelijnestraat 4 every 30 minutes from 10am to 5.30pm (closed from mid-November to mid-March). The cost is around €6 per person.

Belgium is famous for its beer and the Half Moon Brewery has been active since 1856, though possibly has roots as far back as the 16th century. Daily guided tours (every hour, €4.50 per person) include the modern brewery, the museum and beer-tasting. There is also a restaurant and an art gallery on the premises.

Groeninge Museum (Dijver 12, 9.30am-5pm every day except Monday, entry €8) houses a collection of art from the 14th to 20th centuries, mainly by painters who lived and worked in Bruges, including the original Flemish Primitive Jan van Eyck.

The city is also renowned for its diamonds, which have been traded there since about 1370 – earlier than anywhere else in Europe. Bruges goldsmith Lodewijk van Berquen developed a technique of diamond polishing in the 15th century. The Diamond Museum is one of only five in the world. Tickets (€6) include entry to a daily diamond polishing demonstration in the museum workshop. For those with a little more disposable income, the Bruges Diamond House on Cordoeaniersstraat 5 offers a wide choice of diamonds and jewellery in modern and classical designs.

Lace has traditionally been produced in Bruges for centuries, quite probably having its ultimate origins in the area. Lace is still made by hand in the city and there are many museums, exhibitions and shops for local work. Amongst these are The Lace Centre on Peperstraat 3A at the Kantwerkstersplein (Lace maker Square) and the Brangwyn Museum on Dijver 16.


The main shopping streets in Bruges are found between Market Square and the old city gates. Bear in mind that shopping for traditional goods such as chocolate (Bruges’ chocolate shops are world famous) or lace (make sure you find handmade, not factory lace) is liable to be particularly expensive in the tourist-focused centre. Another speciality to buy is one or more of the 300 types of Belgian beer, each of which comes with its own unique beer glass. Other than this, there are numerous museum and gallery shops, souvenir and craft stores. De Kaarsengieterij (Sint-Amandsstraat 30) is the oldest candle shop in the centre. All its candles are designed and handmade by the owners, with commissions available for visitors staying more than a day or so.

There are several more mainstream shopping centres. The largest and most attractive of these is Het Zilverpand (just off the Steenstraat), which has an underground car park and includes around 50 shops of all varieties around a central courtyard.

Nightlife and Eating Out

If you stay in Bruges overnight, you will have the opportunity to enjoy a walk by the canals while the city is a little more peaceful. There are many pubs and cafés where you can try some of Belgium’s excellent beers. Local food specialities include North Sea shrimp croquettes or traditionally prepared mussels, with waffles for dessert. If you like seafood, the fish at Zeebrugge harbour is served extremely fresh. Alternatively, you might like to try one of the canal-side restaurants where you can enjoy beautiful views as you eat.

Tourist Information

  • In&Uit – Toerisme Brugge, PO Box 744, B-8000 Brugge
  • Tel.: +32 (0)50 444646
  • Fax: +32 (0)50 444645
  • Email:
  • Website:


  • Zaventem airport is Belgium’s main international airport, 8 miles northeast of Brussels and around 75 miles from Brugge along road E40. It serves destinations all over Europe, including London Heathrow and Gatwick.
  • Charleroi airport is around 90 minutes from Brugge. It is served largely by Ryanair with destinations around Europe, including Glasgow.
  • Brugge’s small local airport is Ostend International Airport, around 16 miles from the city. It mainly serves destinations along the Mediterranean coast. Parking is cheap – a few Euros per day – and the car park is close to the airport building.