Bruges is brimming with historical and medieval influences. This is one of the most popular medieval cities in Europe, especially after the movie “In Bruges” highlighted its beautiful architecture. I found this city was very charming, though expensive and touristy. It’s not a wild party city, and I would only go back if I was with people (it’s quite boring alone). That being said, if you pass through Belgium, you’re crazy for not stopping off here.
Hostel prices – Hostel dorm rooms will cost on average $22 USD per night and $47 USD for a private room. Snuffel Backpackers Hostel is the best place to stay in town (they also have great beer specials).
Budget hotel prices – Hotels start at about $50 USD for a single and $80 USD per night for a double room.
Average cost of food – Casual meals and fast food cost around $13 USD. A meal in a sit down restaurant with table service will cost from $27 USD. Frites (french fries and a great snack) cost around $4 USD. If you want to cook your meals, there are some great markets throughout the country. Expect to pay around $60 USD for a week’s worth of groceries. Read more: Eating in Belgium.
Transportation costs – Most of the city is walkable, but if you wanted to take a taxi, expect to pay $13 USD for anywhere in the city. A better option is by bus, at an average cost of $2 USD per trip. Be advised that bus tickets are about $1 USD more if bought on the bus.
Money Saving Tips
Youth discounts – If you’re under 25, then you can gain entry to the city’s museums for just $1.50 USD.
Walking – Unless you’ve over indulged on beer and chocolate and are too full, walking is the best way to get around. Most of the city’s main attractions are within 15 minutes of each other. There’s really no reason to take a bus or taxi.
BrugesCard – This handy little card entitles you to discounts at many of the main attractions and on bike rental.
Visit the market – On a Wednesday morning, the Grote Markt square is taken over by a market which offers cheaper food and drink that what you’ll usually find. Restaurants are expensive, so loading up on fresh food at the market will cut down your food expenses.
Top Things to See and Do
Canal tour – Take a canal trip down the arteries of Bruges. A half hour boat trip on the waterway takes you around secret gardens, picturesque bridges, and ornately designed medieval buildings. This is a perfect way to capture the magic of the city, which costs around $8 USD.
Hot air ballooning – If a canal trip is not your cup of tea, you can take a romantic balloon trip over the city. There are departures at sunrise and two hours before sunset offering a glass of champagne.
Gorge on chocolate – With 49 chocolate boutiques, the chocolate museum, a chocolate trail, and a chocolate fair, this city is a chocolate-lovers paradise. You will find more of the higher end, refined chocolate in this city.
Visit the museums – Bruges has its fair share of museums. The City Museum of Fine Arts is perhaps the most popular, exhibiting works from Bruge’s own Jan van Eyck. There is also a world famous collection of paintings by the Flemish Primitives. Overall, most of the museums are small so you can see them all in a day but they do a thorough job highlighting the city’s medieval past.
Grote Markt – This is the city’s central square with restaurants and bars around it. You can look at the city’s belfry from this square as well. I’d advise skipping the restaurants here though–they are for tourists and priced as such. During Christmas time, this area is transformed into a gorgeous Christmas market, complete with its very own ice-skating rink.
Belfort Belfry – Climb the Belfort tower, and enjoy some spectacular views of the city. This 83 meter tall bell tower is definitely one of Bruges’ best known landmarks. From the top it’s easy to get an idea of exactly how compact the city is.
The Burg – The Burg sports the ‘Stadhuis’ or Town Hall which was completed in 1376 and boasts a Gothic stone decor inside and out. The Basilica of the Holy Blood also stands in the corner of the square, so named because it is believed to contain a vial of Jesus Christ’s blood. Inside, the church contains two distinct areas; one being the Romanesque style lower chapel and the upper chapel, which is alive with color and is extremely beautiful.
Drink beer – A trip to the Brewery De Halve Maan entitles you to a guided tour through this family run brewery and a chance to sample the beer at the end. If you don’t want to do a brewery visit, head to Snuffel hostel as they have a bar with a huge variety of Belgian beer to choose from.
Tapestries – They hang in many major museums all over the world, and there are tons of shops that sell them exclusively around the city. Tapestries are a big deal here and a great souvenir.
Belgian lace – Lacemaking is a big part of Belgium’s heritage. While needle lace is more common throughout Brussels, you are likely to see bobbin lace all over. There are many lace shops in the city as well as workshops and street artisans.
The English Theatre – This theatre is open all year round, and there are several, high end productions to check out throughout the year. It’s not that expensive and conveniently located in the city center.