Bruges - City GuideRelatively cosmopolitan and bourgeois given its compact size, Bruges (official name in Dutch: Brugge ) is one of the best preserved pre-motorised cities in Europe and offers the kind of charms rarely available elsewhere. Part of Flanders, the Dutch-speaking northern part of Belgium, Brugge is a postcard perfect stop on any tour of Europe.
climateEven by Belgian standards, Bruges has a poor reputation for its weather. Compared to other western European cities like London and Paris, the weather in Bruges is colder and more damp. Even in July, average daily maximum temperatures struggle to exceed 21c (70F) and rainfall averages 8 inches a month.  After October, temperatures drop off quite rapidly and winter months are damp and chilly.
getting aroundThe 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.
seeOnce over the circling canal and inside the city walls, Bruges closes in around you with street after street of charming historic houses and a canal always nearby. In recent years, the city has turned so much towards tourism the locals sometimes complain they are living in Disney-land. The newly cleaned houses should however not confuse you; they are truly centuries old. And if you can get away from the chocolate-shops, you can visit some more quiet areas s.a. St. Anna, and imagine what life in the late middle ages must have been like. The Bruges Card  provides discounts to most of the major attractions, and can be picked up at any of the hostels around town. The reduced rate cannot be used in conjunction with a student rate (both student and Bruges card rates are identical) and hence is most useful for older travellers. Several Youth Hostels (Bauhaus), and probably the train station and tourist information, offer a useful map with some very interesting, 'non-tourist' places to see during the day and some unique places to visit at night. It provides a good way of getting an authentic feel for the town whilst avoiding the tourist honey-pots and allows you to find some hidden gems. Convent gardenGroeninge Museum, Dijver 12, B-8000, . 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). (51.2061,3.22639) Basilica of the Holy Blood (Heilige Bloed Basiliek), Burg 10, . 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. 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, . 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. edit The Hospital of St John, . 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, . 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. €5 with Bruges card / €6. (51.2107,3.22625) Diamanthuis Museum, Katelijnestraat 43, ☎ 050 33 63 26, . 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. (51.2027,3.22569) The Friet Museum, Vlamingstraat (opposite Academiestraat), . Check out the world's only frites (chips) museum which tells the story of the humble potato from South America and how it has evolved into a chip. Don't forget to try the tastiest chips cooked by the guy who cooked chips 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. The important thing to remember, however, is that very few tourists venture far away from the main shopping area, so if you want some peace and quiet you should simply explore the many small cobbled streets away from the main squares.
doGrote Markt and Belfry Climb, Grote Markt (the big square). 09:30 - 17:00, Closed Mondays. Climb the 366 steps to the top of the 83-metre high tower. Excellent views of the city, Grote Markt and hear the bells ring up close. €6 with Bruges card / €8. Tour boats. It's essential to take a ride on one of the tour boats around the canals - the multilingual guides provide a potted history of the city in just a few minutes - at only a few Euros, it's the best introduction to Bruges. A boat tour will show you places which are otherwise unreachable, as not every canal runs next to a street. €6.5. Horse drawn carts, Grote Markt. Carriages can be hired for a romantic 30 minute trip around the old city of Bruge. Carts can carry up to 5 passengers €34. Cycle. There are many rental shops near the main square, shop around for the best prices. You can also rent right at the train station and get to the city center quickly; remember to return them by 7:30p. Cycle 5km to Damme, a picturesque village on the river with a windmill and excellent pancackes, and optionally follow on to the coast (another 15km). €7 for an entire day. Snow and Ice sculpture festival, Station Bruges, . Nov. 21 2008 - Jan. 25, 2009.. Every year from the end of November to January you can visit the Snow and Ice sculpture festival on the station-square of Bruges. The festival is built by an international team of 40 professional artists from no less than 300 tons of crystal clear ice and 400,000 kilos of fresh snow in a cooled hall where the temperature remains a constant -6°C. Don't forget to wear warm clothing! Running. If you are a runner, try running the 7km circle around the old center. Walk along the canal and see all of the medieval gates that used to control the traffic in and out of Bruges. Simply stunning! edit Compare the real Bruges to the one depicted in the movie "In Bruges".
shopChocolate shops -- These are plentiful and the standard is always high, so too are the boutique-style beer shops. Plenty of arts and crafts too, with some excellent local artists. A fairly cheap option is Stef's on Breidelstraat (betweeen Markt and Burg). If you are willing to spend a little more, Chocolatier Van Oost on Wollestraat is a must for high-quality artisinal chocolate. Word on the street is, that you can get ANYTHING covered in chocolate and moulded. Dumon -- Stephan Dumon Chocolatier Excellent, very high end chocolate creations. They also make chocolate drinks. Three locations in Bruges. 11 Simon Stevinplein; 6 Eiermarkt; 6 Walstraat Supermarket -- For those who do not wish to buy chocolate in the chocolate shops, the local supermarkets also sell a good variety of mass-produced chocolate at fairly low prices. For the frugal, you can buy 100-200 gram gourmet bars of chocolate for about €1 each. Good brands to buy are Côte-d'Or and Jacques, both are Belgian. If you don't want anything more than a sampling of the most famous Belgian beers, supermarkets (not night shops!) are probably your best choice. They even have gift packs with glasses. Times -- Most European tourists come for the weekend, so shops are open Tuesday through Sunday, but many shops and museums are closed on Mondays. Be sure to plan ahead.
eatRestaurants are not always cheap or wonderful; sad to say that Belgian cuisine is a long way behind French in terms of variety, although mussels and frites or fricadellen, frites with mayonnaise are outstanding here. Stay away from the central market place ("Grote Markt") and the Burg Square (e.g. the Tom Pouce Restaurant) when eating. Tourists are easy victims here. One tactic used by tourist traps is to present items (e.g. bread) as if they were free with your meal, then charge you exorbitantly for them. Brasserie Forestière, Academiestraat. Nice and calm restaurant, good food, not too expensive. Good menu for vegetarians. Meal of the day (soup, main dish, dessert or coffee/tea) costs € 11 although this is the cheapest menu it has little choice. L'estaminet, at the Astrid Park. Good food, nice terrace, cool bartender. Try the renowned spaghetti for €8 or the delicious croque monsieur. La Romagna, Braambergstraat 8. Excellent family-run Italian restaurant and pizzeria. Inexpensive. Good menu for vegetarians. In't Nieuw Museum, Hooistraat 42, ☎ 050331280, . Belgian grill restaurant, well off the tourist track. Excellent steaks, reasonable prices. De Botellier, Ezelstraat (close to Sint-Jacobsstraat). I live in Bruges and it has always been my favorite restaurant. Very reasonable prices and excellent food. Closed Sunday and Monday nights. Tom's Diner, West Gistelhof 23. Fantastic upscale take on satisfying, home cooked food. Prices are reasonable, as well. Kok au Vin, Ezelstraat 19/21. The Kok au Vin was memorable (both the entre AND the restaurant); the prices are reasonable for the high quality. Family owned and run. Reservations recommended. Restaurant Aneth, . With only 7 tables, we like to keep it small and cosy, with a personal touch. Brasserie Medard, Sint-Amandsstraat 18. Huge deal for low budget: mountain of spaghetti with tomato sauce, cheese, mushrooms and meat for €3. Double it size adding just €2 extra. Unbeatable. Plus the owner looks a bit like Freddie Mercury De Carmelieten. This restaurant belongs to the world's top 50 best restaurants t' Gulden Flies, Mallebergplaats 17, ☎ 050-334709. 7PM-3AM. An excellent night restaurant. Small romantic restaurant east of the Burg with excellent food and reasonable prices. Menus from 16 €. Bierbrasserie Cambrinus, Philipstockstraat 19, ☎ 050/33 23 28, . Popular place with hearty food and great beer. Try the dark house brew and their €26 prix fixe "Menu van de Brouwer", which features several Trappist beers. Sometimes they also have Westvleteren available. Le Pain Quotidain, 21 Philipstockstraat. A sort of fancy sandwich shop. Most of the food is organic, and the sandwiches (in particular the Tartine Bouef Basilic) are delivious. Somewhat expensive. Maximiliaan van Oosterijk. Midrange restaurant offering plenty to eat including oysters and meat cooked several ways, plus of course frites. There is not much for vegetarians.
drinkDe Drie Zintuigen, Westmeers 29, ☎ 050-34-09-94. Off the beaten track but not far from all the bars, this lovely restaurant does more than moules et frites. Prices are about €30 a head and the atmosphere is nice too. Brewery ‘De Halve Maan’, Walplein 26 8000 Brugge, Belgium, ☎ 050 33 26 97, . Apr.-Oct. Mon-Fri, Sat 11-4PM and Sun. 11-5PM. Beer museum which offers a tour of the beer making process as well as tasting and a great view 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. 5.50 Euro includes beer tasting. (51.2026,3.22416) De Garre, 1, De Garre, ☎ 32 50 34 10 29. Hidden in a backyard, this pub offers a nice atmosphere and about 100 different kinds of beer, including home-brewed ones. The house beer is called 'Triple de Garre' and is 11% strong, a good way to start the night. (51.2085,3.22611) 't Brugs Beertje, Kemelstraat. This excellent pub (recommended in the CAMRA guide to the Benelux region) has hundreds of different beers and an authentic beer-cafe atmosphere. Clientele is majority tourists. The front bar is crowded; what looks like the door through to the restrooms opens on another bar area. In 2005 it was closed for most of July - this might be an annual occurrence. Curiosa, (just off the main square), . A good place for a lunch as well as a beer. Art tavern 'De Kogge', Braambergstraat (near the fish market). A wonderful place to stop by for a few drinks. This family-run place is amazingly friendly, and with 6 beers on tap, as well as 20 more on offer, it is a great place to sample some beer along with the local crowd. The building was previously owned by the Guildhouse of the Cereal-Carriers (the owners will be happy to fill you in on the specifics!) Vlissinghe tavern, Blekerstrat (on the way to the Jerusalem church). closed Mondays and Tuesdays. One of the less touristy bars, with a nice selection of draught and bottled beers. It's probably the oldest pub in Bruges dating from 1515. The area just north of the performing arts center has various cafes, most with sufficient beer selections, such as Cafe Leffe. The Druid's Cellar, St Amandsstraat 11/b, ☎ 050614144, . A very nice cozy place to drink a beer and listen to some good music. The bar is located underground and actually gives the impression of a cellar. Usually plays rock music. The bar has a wide selection of drinks, from simple beer to 16 year old Bushmills whiskey.