Sightseers delight in Bruges's delicious hand-crafted chocolate, gorgeous canals, and genuine medieval architecture. This city in the West Flanders Province of Belgium avoided destruction in both the First and Second World Wars when other European cities were bombarded. Buildings like the famous Belfort Belfry date back to the 13th century. This is one of the few European cities where people have preserved medieval buildings so well. The Hanseatic League, one of the most successful trade associations in history, ensured the city's economic success through the 16th century. In the 14th century, merchants from this organization in Bruges started the first stock exchange in the world.

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Bruges For The Five Senses

UNESCO named Bruges a heritage site for its historical significance, but there's much more to the city than its mercantile past. People visiting the "Venice of the North" will find plenty there to awaken their senses.

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To See

Visitors' eyes will feast on the reflection of medieval buildings in the mirror-like water of Bruges's canals. At night, the city illuminates its waterways, creating an unforgettable sight. According to the city's official website, travelers can take a tour of these canals with one of five shipping companies. Tourists should buy their 10 Euro tickets in person from the company just before taking the half an hour tour. Tour boats run regularly from 10 AM to 6 PM from March to mid-November. They may have alternative schedules in the winter months.

Visitors can also enjoy the city's artwork. In the 15th century, Bruges's most prosperous era, Flemish artists began innovating. Their masterpieces, referred to as Flemish Primitives, paved the way for the Renaissance. Visitors can see these works in the city's museums. One of the most notable museums is Sint Janshospitaal or Saint John's Hospital. In the 12th century, the building was used as a hospital. It is one of Europe's oldest. Today, it houses a collection of medical instruments and Flemish paintings.

Museums with Flemish Primitives and more:

  • Sint Janshospitaal, Tuesday-Sunday 9:30 AM - 5 PM, € 12,00
  • The Groeninge Museum, Tuesday-Sunday 9:30 AM - 5 PM, € 14,00
  • Gruuthusemuseum, Tuesday-Sunday 9:30 AM - 5 PM, € 14,00
  • Historium Bruges, Monday-Sunday 10 AM - 6 PM, € 15,00

To Hear

The sound of bells tolling serenades tourists' ears as they walk through Bruges's squares and parks. In the 16th century, the city adorned its church towers with bells creating four carillons. This instrument consists of a keyboard that controls at least 23 bronze bells. Visitors can hear hauntingly beautiful bell music emanate from the Market Square of Bruges (47 bells), the Grootseminarie--or theological academy--of Bruges (26 bells), Damme Town Hall (39 bells), and the Church of Lissewege (24 bells).

To Taste

What could be more delicious than Belgian chocolate? Eating it for dessert after having fries and beer for lunch. Belgians invented fries, which many people mistakenly know as French fries. Visitors who want to learn more about this delicious side plate can visit the Frietmuseum. It opens every day from 10 AM to 5 PM and tickets cost €7. The best part of the museum may well be its Fryshop where visitors can try traditional fries for €2.20. Their menu includes a range of other dishes, so this could be a fun place for lunch.

Bruges is also home to the Choco-story Museum. This site, located in the Maison de Croon built in the 1480s, tells the story of chocolate. Guests pay an entrance fee of €9.50 and can visit any day between 10 AM and 5 PM. Choco-Story, like Frietmuseum, recommends that visitors purchase their tickets online beforehand. People interested in exploring both attractions can buy a combined ticket for €14.50.

People who want to taste Bruges's beer can take the Beer Walk. This is a 3-hour walking tour of the city. It includes five tastings and hearing tales about how beer and brewing intertwine with Bruges's history. It costs €45 and has received incredible reviews from past participants. People interested in taking this tour should make reservations ahead of time.

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To Smell

As visitors walk around the city, they will encounter the enticing aroma of wisteria trees. People exploring the Begijnhof Ten Wijngaarde in the spring enjoy the faint scent of daffodils in bloom. Perhaps the most delicious smell of all, though, is the one wafting out of the doors of chocolate shops. Anyone who wants help finding these can join in Choc Around the Clock. This is a chocolate-focused walking tour of the city offered by the S-wan tour company. It costs €80 and lasts two hours. For an extra €5, tourists participate in several tastings.

To Touch

Of all the sensations visitors experience in Bruges, the most profound is simply touching the same stones and bricks where countless other humans have left their mark. The area was first populated by Vikings in the 9th century. Travelers take the same 366 stairs up the 83 meter-high Belfort Belfry as carillonneurs have for the past 800 years.

Visiting Bruges

Bruges is easy to get to--it's just an hour train ride away from Brussels with transports leaving about every twenty minutes. Tourists can easily make this a day trip, but if they stay the night, they'll get to see how the city illuminates the canals with floodlighting after dark. Visitors in the winter can avoid the summer crowds. No matter the season, travelers who make it to Bruges will have a sensational experience.

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