BRUGES – WHY GO?
A medieval time-capsule laced with canals, Bruges charms with its market squares and church bells. Come in winter to skip the summer crowds and enjoy this atmospheric city to the full.
MUST SEE, MUST DO
Look out for swans gliding past on a boat trip through the winding canals – it’s a great way to explore the medieval city from the water. You’ll pass underneath picturesque bridges and be able to see into beautiful gardens, which are especially inspiring when the bulbs are in bloom.
Founded in 1245, the tranquil white-washed houses of the peaceful Beguinage courtyard now house nuns of the Order of Saint Benedict, so try and keep your camera clicks to a minimum as you snap away at the beautiful buildings.
With nearly 50 chocolate shops to choose from even the biggest chocoholic would find it hard to taste treats at every one. Go upstairs to the cosy cafe at The Old Chocolate House and order the Maison Special – hot chocolate with Grand Marnier and Crema Catalana.
Crammed full of history, Bruges is bursting with medieval buildings, historic churches and the spectacular Burg Town Hall, which dates back to the 14th Century. Visit the museum inside and if you’ve got a head for heights climb to the top of the belfry (it’s due to reopen this summer after extensive renovations).
MAKE A DATE
Catch up-and-coming talent at the Bruges Festival of World Music in the last week of February in the Stadsschouwburg.
Inside Bruges is an interior design festival with a twist. This outdoor festival has florists, designers, carpenters and more scattered through Bruges' medieval streets.
Watch films from Latin America, Asia and Africa at the Cinema Novo Film Festival, held in the third week of March.
Locals dress in medieval costume and re-enact scenes form the bible every year on Ascension Thursday as part of the Procession of the Holy Blood.
Hear world music at the popular three-day open air Cactus Festival held during the second weekend in July in Minnewater Park.
Enjoy three days of revelry in the market square in the Bruges Triple Days festival.
Classical concerts are held at churches and venues across the city over two weeks (in late July) at the Early Music of Flanders Festival.
Every three years (including 2010) the Festival on the Canals sees the waterways being illuminated and plenty of eating, drinking and dancing.
Bruges ' biggest festival Klinkers hosts (mostly-free) concerts on the Markt and the Burg in late July/early August.
Get in the festive spirit (or just drink some) at the Kerstmarkten Christmas Market in the Markt.
Take a hot-air balloon ride over the spires of the city for the ultimate panoramic view.