My wife and I are setting up a trip to Europe and want to include Bruges. How much time do we allow? 1 or 2 days? We are not much into museums, but which one or two are a must? What are don't miss things to do? Thanks, Bill
You'll like the city as a whole, wandering around and perhaps taking a boat trip.
The Groeninge Museum has a beautiful collection of the famous Flemish masters.
We enjoyed the De Halve Maan brewery tour and a full day tour of WW1 battlefields around Ypres as well as a boat ride around town. We stayed 4 nights & loved it.
We also spent four nights --- saw the Groeninge, the Bruges Madonna, took a canal boat tour, did the full-day Quasimodo Flanders field tour, the brewery tour. Loved it. You could probably squeeze that into 3 nights, or 2 if you skip the Flanders Field tour.
I think a key to enjoying Bruges, like many tourist favorites, is to occasionally get away from the main Tourist areas and the crowds. Just a few minutes from the center of town are lovely quiet canals where you can walk or bike peacefully. Try to make time for this on your visit.
The streets along the Augustijnenrij and around the Jeruzalemkerk like the Balstraat are of the beaten track and nice for a walk. Further the old windmills north of the town centre.
Bill,it would be useful to know if you've been to Europe before, where you come from, and how long the whole trip is - in order to give you the best answer. Month of year also makes a difference because it's so crowded a destination. I've been to Bruges twice on daytrips from Antwerp, and I don't consider it to require multiple days. But if you have the time, want a romantic, quiet stay in a lovely place (when you could be seeing ither cities), maybe you'll stay longer.
We've done Brugge as a day trip and as a 2-night trip. While we loved our day trip, the town gets very crowded. Being there in the evening after the crowds have departed gives you a completely magical feel. As a day trip, we arrived on a Saturday and toured the street market before visiting the town hall, the chocolate museum, some lace stores and chocolate shops, a canal tour and the Madonna of Brugge. Our two- night stay allowed a more leisurely pace. I still remember walking round after breakfast and watching the first tourist surge of the morning coming towards us.
Don't forget the Beguinage.
I agree with Norma, the Beguinage is lively. Swans and the horse drinking fountain are nearby.
We've loved Bruges; spent 4 nights there (including one day trip to Ghent) and found lots of things to do!
The streets along the Augustijnenrij and around the Jeruzalemkerk like
the Balstraat are off the beaten track and nice for a walk. Further
the old windmills north of the town centre.
The windmill walk is fun, and Jeruzalemkerk is a must-see, IMHO. Also Basilica of the Holy Blood, Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk (Church of Our Lady), St Salvators Cathedral, St-Janshospital, Ten Wijngaerde Benguinage and the Groeninge...although if you're really not into art just St-Janshospital vs the Groeninge might do you: I wouldn't miss that one.
It would be a good idea to do a little reading up on all of the above so you have an idea why they're important to the Bruges story?
Kathy - Just an idea about reading :) .....
One thing I am a bit missing about all the posts on the forum about Bruges is that the Church of Our Lady has to my opinon something more interesting besides Michelangelo’s sculpture. In the church you can find the two tombs of Charles the Bold and his daughter Mary of Burgundy, their historical link make to my opinion the two so interesting. It was Mary her son Philip the Handsome who married Joanna of Castile, being the daughter of Isabella I of Castille and Ferdinand II of Aragon. Isabella and Ferdinand were the two persons who supported and financed the expedition of Christopher Colombus in 1492 leading to the discovery of the New World / Americas.
Joanna’s sister was Catherine of Aragon (mother of queen “Bloody Mary” I of England), first of the six wifes who married Henry VIII king of England. Further was Joanna also mother of Charles V ruler of the Spanish and Holy Roman Empire. Think it is interesting to read more like a few wikipedia articles to learn more about Mary and Joanna, the relationship they had with persons who played such an important role in European history.
We spent 3 nights and for us, that was perfect. We aren't into museums but love to look at the architecture and take pictures. We had 2 1/2 days in Bruges and loved it, especially at night when the crowds went away.
We rented bikes and rode around town and out to Damme. We loved riding out to Damme - probably one of the highlights of our trip to Bruges. There's a beautiful windmill out there where we saw a herd of sheep coming through town.
We also visited the church with the Madonna, the De Halve Maan Brewery, and the Markt (where we climbed the Belfry). We also took a boat ride and sat in a bar on the canals and enjoyed some drinks. Oh, and I don't want to forget to tell you that we also spent lots of time wandering in and out of chocolate shops and watching older women make lace.
Kathy - Just an idea about reading :) .....
WII, yessiree I knew all of that before I went. This is what I wrote about it for a different travel site (skipping the part about the Madonna):
"But that’s all I’ll say about that since she’s had oodles written about her already. More significant to the Brugge story are the two tombs in front of the high altar which I wasn’t able to access due to construction. Charles the Bold and his daughter, Mary, were the last independent rulers of Flanders and died within 5 years of each other: he in battle (1477) and she in a hunting accident (1482). Their effigies are slightly different styles as Charles had originally been buried in France and his remains transferred to this church by his great-grandson some 50 years after his death...or so the story goes. Exploration underneath both monuments in the ’70’s turned up Mary - her coffin missing and her bones strewn about - but no trace of Bold Charles at all. A history of Brugge (Ernest Gilliat-Smith, 1901) seems to indicate that both graves had been vandalized by the French occupiers during the Revolution so maybe they made off with him?
Also in Mary’s tomb is a box or urn containing the heart of her son, Philip I of Castile: a Brugge-born Duke of Burgundy and the first Hapsburg ruler of Spain. This is where it gets interesting as all of these people were ingredients in the strange brew of European royalty.
Mary had married a future Holy Roman Emperor, Maximilian I, and had two children, Philip and Margaret, before her death at age 25. Both of those children married offspring of Ferdinand II and Isabella I of Spain: Margaret to the only son, Juan, and Philip - also known as “The Handsome” - to Johanna. Juan and Johanna were brother and sister to Catherine of Aragon, first wife of Henry VIII of England.
Bold Charles’ third wife was Margaret of York: his second cousin, and sister to Edward IV and Richard III. While not his daughter Mary’s mother - that was wife #2, Isabella of Bourbon - she essentially raised her and both of her children after her stepdaughter's untimely demise.
Back to Philip: he inherited his mother’s Burgundian holdings after her death and acquired Spanish Castile through his wife. Both of Johanna’s older siblings - Juan and Isabella - died young, without heirs, and while Johanna was very much alive, she was pronounced mentally unfit to solely assume the succession. Philip was proclaimed King of Castile 1506 when Johanna’s mother, Isabella I, died but kicked the bucket himself several months later. His 10-year marriage to poor, possessive “Juana la Loca” had not been a happy one but they somehow managed to produce 4 girls and 2 boys, all of whom became queens or Holy Roman Emperors. It was one of those sons, Emperor Charles V, who'd brought his great- grandfather’s (seemingly at large) remains back to Brugge for burial beside his only child.
You might also be able to see several uncovered Medieval floor tombs similar to those in Sint-Salvator’s, and works by Pieter Pourbus, Gerard David (buried in this church) and others. I’ve included Isenbrandt’s “Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows” (c.1530) above. What confounds me about Notre Dame is that with the loftiest spire in all of Belgium, she wasn’t a shoo-in for St. Donatian’s replacement? Hmmmm...."
You impress me Kathy. Was just provocing a bit as a reaction to the last sentence in your other post, but did not expect a responce like this :) . This is more than just a bit of homework. Don’t have to tell you reading further and further there is a whole lot to discover. Anyway it proves that despite the struggle between nobility, they where very much intertwined, so actually no surprise that one person can easily be linked to many events in history. And also says a lot as you say about the Bruge’s story. Thank you for your response, learned a few things.
Aw, thanks for the very kind words, WII (blushing). A place or a thing can be much more interesting if you can uncover a good story about it, eh? Then they're not just another church or ruin or painting or whatnot. :O)
I agree with that very much, (some) background info can make an experience or a visit more understanding and so more involving. Can be really rewarding to discover how things went in history, so it’s worth looking a bit further as you see what is generally seen as interesting.
When I was in Bruges, I stayed only one day, including an overnight, and leaving early the next morning. I really wished I had had more time, as it is such a charming city worth wandering through at leisure. You can view Rick's sightseeing priorities for Bruges at the following link: https://www.ricksteves.com/europe/belgium/bruges. (Scroll down and select the "At a Glance" section.) I didn't have enough time to also do museums. I spent my time exploring the town, the chocolate shops, and also doing a wonderful boat ride on the river. But according to Rick's list, the Groeninge Museum and the Memling Museum at St. John's Hospital are his top two museum picks for Bruges.
Stefanie – Have no idea how much attention about this is payed in one of Rick’s guides, but I think the link with Colombus is ofcourse interesting for those from the other side of the Atlantic, maybe worth at least a footnote, don’t you think so? Can’t help, but for a more complete picture I like/have to mention a few other remarkable relations one can link to Mary of Burgundy:
Her grandfather Duke of Burgundy Philip the Good, let capture Joan of Arc, one of the great icons of French history in Compiègne, after handing over to the English her life ended tragically at the stake in Rouen.
Her granddaughter and sister of Emperor Charles V , Eleonora of Austria / Castile became the second wife of king Francis I of France, one of the big promotors of French Renaissance (Château Chambord) who invited Leonardo da Vinci spending the last years of his life in Amboise.
Queen of France Marie Antoinette, married with king Louis XVI was a descendent in direct line, both ending their lives under the guillotine during the French Revolution.
Also a descendent in a direct line was Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria heir presumptive to the Austro-Hungurian throne. His assassination in Sarajevo in 1914 triggered the outbrake of WWI.
Thank you for the posting and replies. I have made quite a list complete with list of things to do. We will be in Bruge May 5, 6 & 7 before our 6th RS trip begins in Rome May 8. All the postings were helpful. We are starting our trip in Belgium in order to see the Mystic Lamb Altarpiece in Ghent but staying three nights in Bruge.
I just got back yesterday. Wanted to give another vote for bicycling. We rented bikes around 10 am, and rode until around 4, so we missed the most crowded time of day in Bruges. We rode to Damme, walked around the town and had lunch, then on to Sluis and back through the countryside. The bike rental company provided a great map that corresponds with signposts all over a vast network of bikepaths all over the area. The majority of the paths are bike only, so you do not encounter hardly any vehicles.
ted – What do you think about Sluis, is it worth a visit?
We did not actually go into Sluis, we rode to the edge of town, and headed back, but the ride was beautiful.
Thanks, pity as otherwise interesting to learn if it is worth to mention and promoting a bit too in future posts.
How far is it to Damme. I would love to do the bike trip there, but my wife doesn't like to be on a bike for too long. Does it take more than an hour to bike there?
Any suggestions on where to rent the bikes and how much it costs? Thanks.
Also, do you have any restaurants not to miss or hotel suggestions.
We are going there for 2 night in late June.
ddmenzies, if you've only 2 nights, you only have one full day to explore Bruges. There is a lot to see in the old town so I wouldn't use that time to go elsewhere.
I'm going to Bruges soon & have found the following 3 bike rentals ( I'm sure there are more) Eric Popelier, De Ketting & Bruges Bike Rental. It is only about 5 miles from center of Bruges to Damm, 20 to 30 minutes 1 way. We will only be in Bruges for 1 1/2 days and plan on renting bikes for a few hours.
We used Bruges Bike Rental, just off the main market square, the bikes were in good condition. Figure an hour to Damme, very nice ride.