If you’re thinking about taking a trip to the fairy-like medieval town of Bruges and you’re thinking about what to see in Bruges, be prepared for the most spectacular sights, you’ll be using your camera a lot!
Wander along narrow cobblestone alleys, see the beautiful traditional houses with their colourful facades, the graceful weeping willows at the water’s edge, with their long pendulous branches reflecting in the canals.
But don’t forget that around every corner there’s a photographer looking for the perfect pic, so you may run the risk of taking the same photos. If you’ve checked out a lot of photos before going, you may even have the impression of seeing something you’ve already seen, because Instagram pictures in Bruges are often very similar.
In this article, apart from what to do in Bruges, you will notice that I’ve dedicated a large part to taking photographs. This is because it is one of my passions, which I’d like to share with you. I’ll recommend some unusual places to see where, before even thinking about the perfect camera angle, you will probably be astonished as you gaze upon something completely unexpected. Visit the most famous “must see” attractions in Bruges to get the first impression of the town, but then explore the awe-inspiring hidden beauties which I’ll talk about in this post. Because, as Oscar Wilde said, wonder is the only thing that is worth living for.
What to see in Bruges: Markt and Burg
Go to the Market Square with its colourful brick-Gothic-style houses (Markt) and, close by, you can see the small square of the City Hall and the Church of the Sacred Heart (Burg), which are the two symbols of Bruges.
They are linked by Breidelstraat street where, according to me, the most crunchy tasty waffle-to-go is cooked at Chez Albert. It was so yummy, I just had to buy a second one for my creative photo of the waffle in the foreground with the blurry houses behind… obviously I couldn’t let it go to waste, so forced myself to eat it 😉 If you’re looking for a modern touch, you can choose the contemporary waffle sticks just in front of Chez Albert.
Anyway, don’t miss the Belfort tower in Markt: take the challenge and climb the 366 steps to get the best panoramic view over Bruges! Then go to the Burg and take a 360 degree shot, to capture all the golden historic buildings around the square.
Another lovely square in Bruges is Vismarkt, the site of the fish market. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to go during opening hours, but if you visit it from Wednesday to Saturday during the morning hours you can enjoy some fresh delicacies.
Things to see in Bruges: Bonifacius Bridge, or Lovers’ Bridge
Everyone in Bruges looks for this small bridge, which isn’t easy to find. Go to the picturesque Arents House Park and from there Bonifacius Bridge it’s much easier to see, in the shade of Our Lady’s Church.
This is one of the most romantic places in Bruges but, if you’re getting bored with taking photos of amorous corners, you can take a horror picture inside the iron cage over the canal.
The glimpses on both sides of the bridge are enchanting, and I’d recommend to go North along the canal until another quaint bridge, Boottochten, where you can see a small dock crowded with swans.
Must see’s in Bruges: Sint-Anne windmills
Don’t leave Bruges without having had a walk in Sint Anne borough, both in the inner part, which is not so touristic, and in the park on the canal-side, where you can see four windmills which still remain from the original 20.
Sint Anne is in the outskirts of the town and there are so many beautiful walks to reach the centre from here.
One of them follows the park along the canal and arrives at Minnewater park, this is where you normally see runners, families, cyclists and tourists. But you can also choose to have a glimpse of some residential areas, passing through the idyllic Potterierei along the water or through Carmersstraat, a long street with lots of tiny houses. In both cases, you will reach Augustijnenbrug, a very panoramic bridge 10-mins away from Markt.
Attractions to visit in Bruges: Begijnhof and Minnewaterpark
They are normally the first locations visited by tourists because of their position in front of the railway station. Cross over Minnewaterbrug bridge to enter the park and lose yourself among the quiet paths and magnificent trees that show their bold colours in every season.
Once at Wijngaardplein, you’ll find the South entrance of the Begijnhof on your left, but I’d recommend you to go straight on until you reach the horse-headed fountain, because the view point on the canal and the bridge is amazing. The perfect frame is even better with the swans, ducks and boats floating on the water.
Enter through the gate and you’ll find a big square full of trees and flowers, surrounded by the white buildings of the convent and the beguinage, in an extremely serene atmosphere. The perfect spot for a relaxing stroll.
What to photograph in Bruges: Rozenhoedkaai, the panoramic point
A popular place where everyone takes the most famous postcard-picture of Bruges, at the crossroads between Braambergstraat, Huidenvettersplein and Pandreitje.
While you are here, you could easily think you are living in a fairytale, with the rounded skyline of brick houses, the weeping willows and the colours popping out from a Flemish painter’s palette. I found the best light from Wollestraat bridge at sunset.
This location is really close to the Bonifacius bridge, another top spot for sunset pics.
Dreaming about Medieval villages?
Here’s what you’re looking for!
What to see in Bruges: Langerei Canal Bridge, in front of Hotel Adornes
Among the countless bridges and canals of Bruges, I don’t know why this marvellous part of the town, at the confluence of many streams, is never mentioned. The buildings look like gingerbread houses out of the Hansel and Gretel story, and create a perfect background for every photo.
If you go South along the canal, you reach another really charming nook in Bruges, at the crossroads between Langerstraat and Coupure, the perfect spot to stop and have a break while appreciating the panoramic view.
Things to see in Bruges: Sint-Janshospitaal Canal
Strolling along Mariastraat, the place of chocolateries and souvenirs shops, you will come across one of the best places to take photos in Bruges: the bridge between Kastanjeboomstraat and Vrouwerkhof-Zuid.
On one side, you will see a fascinating canal with exquisite traditional houses and a huge tree that throws its branches over the water’s edge. On the other, the superb facade of the old hospital, today turned into an event centre. From here, you can easily access the pier where boat cruises set sail.
Must see’s in Bruges: Walplein Square
This is my favorite square in town, small and cobbled, always lively, full of cafe terraces beneath the trees, bikes, traditional houses and horse-drawn carriages.
A small statue of a cartoon carriage celebrates these fascinating means of transport that still take people around today.
De Halve Mann, the only operating family brewery of the inner town, opens its doors to tourists and beer enthusiasts on this square.
What to photograph in Bruges: Sint-Salvatorskerhof
Saint Saviour’s Cathedral is Bruges‘s oldest parish church, which looks on to the crowded main shopping street, Steenstraat.
But if, after so much shopping, you are looking for a quieter place, have a walk down the lateral alley of Sint-Salvatorskerhof, to take some photos in a more intimate and characteristic surrounding.
Get to Heilige-Geestraat crossroads, where the narrow alleys and the vines climbing up the brick walls will bring you back to a fairy medieval time.
Go straight on until you reach the central Mariastraat: you’ll find Gruuthuse restaurant on your left, a very instagrammable place, with its vivid dark green walls. Sit down and have a drink at the outside tables, in the shadow of the huge Our Lady’s Church on your left and of the Sint-Janshospitaal on your right.
Attractions to see in Bruges: T Zand square
This massive square is kind of a little concession that Bruges makes to modernity. It’s the perfect spot to relax in a cafe, enjoying the warm northern sun that isn’t so frequent inside the narrow street of the old town.
It’s also the perfect spot for a very entertaining activity I like so much: people-watching! I like sitting here and watching people walking, running, going to work, how they act, dress, move and talk. The contemporary Concert Hall and the fountain with sculptures create a perfect background.
On the West side, there’s also one of the rare murales of Bruges. Between Noordzandstraat and Speelmanserei, you can see the Strook‘s street art on a white wall.
Looking for steet art wherever you go?
How to get to Bruges
As you’ve read, a lot of places I’ve mentioned are repeated more than once. If you trace them on a map, you can easily see they aren’t so far one from the other. Bruges is perfect to be visited in one day, if you want to walk a lot, or during a weekend, if you prefer to take it slow.
The most convenient airports are in Bruxelles: National-Zaventem or Charleroi. I landed in Zaventem, just 15 kms far from the city center. Frequent trains and buses go to Bruxelles centre, I took the direct train to Bruges which stopped in some Bruxelles stations along the way, went to Gand and finally arrived in Bruges after one hour and a half.
I bought a Weekend Ticket from home, that allows you to travel from 7pm on Fridays to the last train of Sundays with a discount price. The round trip Zaventem-Brugge costs 28€. Go to this site to get it, write “Brussels-Airport Zaventem” in the from box, and a generic “Zone Brugge” in the to box. Then click on “Second Class”, “Return” and select the dates.
Be careful: if you select “Zone Brussels” in the departure box, you will have to pay an additional very expensive ticket to get from Zaventem airport to Bruxelles area once you arrive, because Zaventem is considered to be out of the zone of Bruxelles even if it’s so close to the city. For the complete timetables, you can use this simple and reliable site.
If you have any other doubts, please write it down in Comments below!
Ciao! Sono Claudia, la fondatrice di getgoingirl.it, lo spazio web dove unisco le mie più grandi passioni: i viaggi e la scrittura. É sempre il momento buono per un’avventura zaino in spalla, per un trekking al ritmo che senti tuo, per una visuale insolita e alternativa da scovare in giro per il mondo. Naviga per argomento, destinazione o tipo di viaggio e lasciati ispirare!
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