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Things to do in Bruges

By Lauren Jade Hill

Celebrated for its meandering canals and cobbled streets leading people between medieval buildings and picturesque market squares, Bruges exhibits a unique identity that’s defined by its history. Then along with this history comes a reputation for producing exceptional beer and chocolate, along with traditional Belgian cuisine, making it one of Europe’s gastronomic hubs. We take a look at the best things to do in Bruges to uncover the city’s great appeal.

Cultural Exploration

With such a rich history, Bruges is home to a bounty of well-preserved medieval sites, from the Basilica of the Holy Blood—originally built in the 12th century as a chapel for the Court of Flanders—to the Gothic 13th-century Church of our Lady, which famously houses a statue of Michelangelo and is the tallest structure in Bruges owing to its 115-meter tower. Also commanding a dramatic presence, St Salvador’s Cathedral impresses with its cavernous interior and collection of Flemish art, some of which was created especially for the church. And by venturing to Zedelgem, just outside the city, visitors can reach the 19th-century Loppem Castle and its idyllic landscaped gardens.

Of course many stories are intertwined into this city’s history, including a past in the diamond trade and the production of Belgian beer and chocolate. Reflecting this, Bruges is home to the Diamant Museum Brugge, which recounts the diamond industry in Belgium, and the Bruges Beer Experience, which combines a museum and tastings.  The Chocolate Museum, Choco-Story, goes on to reveal this side to the city’s reputation, with a 16th-century former wine tavern as its atmospheric setting.

The Outdoors

One of the most memorable ways to see the city is from the idyllic canals its intersected by. These trips can be arranged through Boat Trips Brugge, More outdoor space can be found in the city’s areas of natural beauty such as Minnewaterpark and the Lake of Love, Minnewater, where the romantic legend of Minna and the warrior Stromberg is based. Many people come here to walk over the lake’s bridge, which is said to bring eternal love. The former monastery garden, Koningin Astridpark is another tranquil escape, and one that’s just moments from the city’s historic monuments.

Where to Stay

Hotel Dukes’ Palace

This five-star hotel is considered the grandest hotel in Bruges in a former convent that stands on the site of the 15th-century palace of the Dukes of Burgundy, and it’s located just moments from the city’s historic Markt. Interiors reflect the grandeur of this setting, with the addition of a wellness center, restaurant and bar.

The Pand Hotel

The 18th-century building of this luxury boutique hotel is situated in Downtown Bruges, just a short walk from the historic heart. The décor combines antiques and art objects with contemporary design including the fabrics of Ralph Lauren, giving the rooms a distinct style. The wood-paneled library and lounge is made especially cozy with an open fire.

Hotel Van Cleef

Set in a canal-side neoclassical mansion, the boutique Hotel Van Cleef provides a peaceful base within Bruges, while also being within walking distance of the many sites. The interiors here combine contemporary furnishings, fabrics—including some by Missoni— and artwork with classic elegance having been decorated by interior designer Pascale Vanhaecke-Marcantuoni. The hotel’s bar sits alongside an adjoining terrace.

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Die Swaene

With sites situated on both sides of a tree-lined canal in central Bruges, Die Swaene is another of the city’s most coveted boutique hotels. Rooms here are fittingly opulent, particularly in the private dining area and main lounge, with a swimming pool, sauna and inviting conservatory also within the building.

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