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hidden Bruges

Yes, I am going to Bruges in July. I made reservations before I read 100 posts that said "great place after the tour buses have left."

So, given that I am there for 4 nights, any recommendations about half-day trips out of town? Secret but not-to-be-missed sights? Gardens? Monasteries? Unknown but superb restaurants? (We will not have a car, but are willing to travel.)

Posted by
10330 posts

There are art & architectural sights in Bruges (French spelling) or Brugge (Dutch) can be explored without encountering hordes.
The locals call it Brugge (Broo-guh).
There's a Michelangelo sculpture in one of the churches.
Also, they love beer & frites in Brugge.

We enjoyed a day trip to Ghent, which is 30 minutes by train--the Ghent Altarpiece is at St. Bavo's Cathedral.
If interested in WW1 history, day trip to Flanders Fields, Quasimodo tours will pick you up at or near your Bruges/Brugge hotel.
Those 2 day trips will leave you a full day or more to explore Bruges. More time in Brugge if you skip the Flanders Fields day trip.

Posted by
4695 posts

Ghent is an obvious and easy day trip - about a half hour away by train. It's not exactly secret.

Posted by
486 posts

What are you interested in?

It's true that Brugge gets real busy during the day but the museums are not. Most daytrippers are interested in walking the main streets to the Markt/Burg squares - taking a boat ride, shopping, eating waffles, ice cream, chocolates. Away from the Markt square is also beautiful and uncrowded, like walking along the canals toward the windmills.

Posted by
597 posts

There is a harpist named Luc Vanlaere that offers free concerts (donations welcome if you want) in one of the community buildings. We went in on a whim because we were hot and tired and it was a very pleasant 45 minutes of music in a cool place. He has a number of very unique instruments that he talks about, including some be built himself. I recommend it as an off the beaten path sort of thing. Perfect way to rest your feet for a bit. I can't remember the name of the building, but if you look it up on TripAdvisor I think you'll find instructions.

Posted by
306 posts

We really enjoyed Ghent last year - can do a lot of walking around doing the tourist thing.
Really liked seeing the old gate entrances to the city.
And don't miss St. Bavo's Cathedral and the Adoration of the Lambs.
The Cathedral is a work of art in itself.
Enjoy and have fun!

Posted by
11708 posts

It's true that Brugge gets real busy during the day but the museums
are not.

That was certainly true for us. The museums were not what I'd call busy at all and they have some very nice ones, along with some interesting churches, lovely canals and picturesque backstreets. Just for efficiency, here's a previous thread about things to do in Bruges:

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/belgium/brugge-for-whole-day

Really, the worst of the mob center largely during peak hours around the Markt, Burg and the canal areas where the boat rides are. Walk those areas in the quiet early mornings and evenings and then explore further away in the middle of the day. And I'd go with the suggestion for a day trip to Gent. While not unknown, it's a really nice little city with it's own treasures to explore.

Posted by
6092 posts

Ghent is a great 1/2 day trip from Bruges. Also, Antwerp is good for a day trip and the crowds are thinner there. The train station itself is an architectural masterpiece and I like the cathedral there if that's of interest to you.

Not hidden, but when I was in Bruges the area around the Beguinage was very peaceful and serene and without crowds even on a mid-day in July. The same goes for the museums in Bruges, they seemed to attract less crowds than the canals and outdoor venues.

Guess it all depends on what things you like to see and do.

Posted by
3340 posts

In Bruges/Brugge, in the bicycling country of Belgium, rent a bike, and do the easy ride north, 4 miles to Damme, or a bit farther, to the Netherlands border (another big bicycling country). Pull off at a tavern along the way and have a refreshing glass of radler (half beer, half lemonade).

Posted by
4656 posts

Not sure how "hidden" it is as it's in all the tourist guides, but the Jerusalemkerk, a medieval copy of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, is very interesting and gets relatively few tourists as it's on the edge of the historic centre.

Posted by
8293 posts

Read about and then visit the Beguine.

Posted by
2487 posts

The locals call it Brugge (Broo-guh)
It is Dutch and not German, so pronounced as »Bruh-guh«.

Posted by
1464 posts

July means high season, the coast will be packed with tourists and Bruges will welcome more visitors as usual. Having 3 full days you can do al lot and if you don’t mind biking Damme is as already said a popular destination. Along the same canal you can bike further to touristy Sluis just across the border in the Netherlands and a few km further to tiny cute Sint Anna ter Muiden, with around 50 inhabitants one of the smallest cities of the country. Worth making a detour is Oostkerke. Instead of biking you can sail four times a day with the Lamme Goedzak boat up and down to Damme.

The huge medieval tithe barn of Ter Doest close to the canal to Zeebrugge is certainly worth a visit and nearby Lissewege too. You can climb the bell tower of the church there like you can do in Damme too for having a fantastic panoramic view. To get there best is biking via Dudzele, Herdersbrug and Ter Doeststraat.

Not to miss along the coast with it’s Belle Epoque architecture is De Haan, Einstein stayed there a half year before finally moving to Princeton N.J. Just south of Oostende Raversyde Atlantikwall, easy to reach with train and coastal tram.

Posted by
4702 posts

I went to Ostend to visit James Ensor’s house, but it was more touristy than artistic. His family church and tomb were deserted. I wanted to see the statue of Marvin Gaye (... one time resident) in the Casino, but it’s not open during business hours. Huge wide beach there, but windy, and beer-y at night in summer.

Antwerp is good for a full day, and I prefer it to Brussels. Note that some other cities also have Beguinages, often smaller. I love the ones in Leuven and Turnhout.

There is no hidden Bruges. I wouldn’t sleep there. (Opinion)

Posted by
11175 posts

I'm not a fan of Brussels (and I'm not alone). But one great thing I did there was my Art Nouveau tour with ARAU. If one of their tours coincides with your dates, it's an easy one hour train ride from Bruges, with twice-hourly service. You can also see the art museums in Brussels if these interest you (they were a highlight for my sister in law).

ARAU information: https://arau.org/en

Posted by
151 posts

I agree with the biking suggestions. When you get out of the city center make a point to ride by the windmills, stop and have a bite and a beer. Even during the day it is pretty quiet out that way. We loved staying overnight in Bruges. Like Toledo in Spain, it is an almost mystical place after the crowds depart.

Posted by
57 posts

I second the suggestion of attending a harp concert performed by Luc Vanlaere. There are 3 concerts daily except Sundays and Mondays, all in the afternoon. I thoroughly enjoyed the small venue (about 50 seats), the music, and the informational talk at the end of the concert. The instruments were quite amazing. It's pay what you wish and he sells CDs and a thumb drive with all his music. It was a highlight of my visit to Bruges.

Do walk some of the back streets, which are quiet and interesting. Things do become much more tranquil after about 6pm and it will be light until 10pm in July, take advantage and walk around in the evenings.

Posted by
614 posts

I just returned from Europe and enjoyed my 4 nights in Bruges very much!
Here are some of my recommendations:

Rick's excellent City Walk early in the morning! Beautiful walk over little bridges and past canals. Be sure to go in the Basilica of the Holy Blood. At the end of the walk, I loved going through the gate into the "peaceful protected area of the Beguines women." We were lucky enough to hear the Benedictine nuns sing vespers in the church.

Visit and buy delicious chocolates from Madame Dumon. We bought one small box for 7€ and wished be had bought several more boxes as gifts. Charming and family owned.

In the evening, buy home made ice cream from Gelateria Da Vinci and eat it in the Markt (Market Square) surrounded by old gabled buildings and an amazing bell tower. Beautiful at night!

We didn't have a chance to do the De Halve Maan Brewery tour (which people seem to love), but we did enjoy a light lunch and Belgium beer in their pretty courtyard.

Make sure you make dinner reservations even at the recommended Cambrinus http://www.cambrinus.eu/biercuisine.htm. We also had a delicious dinner outside at Bistro en Amand http://www.denamand.be/bistro/restaurant-bistro-brugge but do note that there is only one waiter, so be ready to order!

Bike ride to Damme. Rented bikes and peddled along the moat and past windmills to the nearby town of Damme. Early lunch in Damme. Rick's guidebook explains how to do this, but be sure you get some clear biking directions.

Day trip to Ghent! Follow Rick's Ghent City Walk for an easy and satisfying day trip!

Enjoy Bruges! We loved it!