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Chock-full of medieval masterpieces, inspiring monuments, and stunning architecture, the Historic Centre of Bruges is a sight to behold. With all of the Gothic constructions and its extensive history as the commercial capital of Europe, Bruges developed many cultural links to different parts of the world. There are some amazing historic landmarks in Bruges to visit in order to get a full grasp on how important a role the city played. Given how well-connected it is to Europe, Bruges makes for a doable day trip from Paris or the Netherlands!
Bruges has preserved most of the architectural and urban structures which document the different phases of its development. This includes the central marketplace with its Belfry, the Béguinage, as well as the Hospitals. No wonder Bruges is a listed UNESCO World Heritage Site!
Thanks to its rich history, medieval buildings, and cozy canals, the city of Bruges has become one of Belgium’s greatest tourist attractions. And for good reason! It’s got so many beautiful canals and bridges – in fact, its nickname is actually ‘Venice of the North’ (which is shared with Amsterdam). All of this makes Bruges a very Instagrammable city, where it’s easy to create a unique photograph.
in a rush? pin it for later!
Table of contents
- basilica of the holy blood
- belfry brugge
- city hall
- sint-janshuis mill
- market square of bruges
- saint bonifacius bridge
- saint-salvator cathedral
- the princely beguinage ten wijngaerde
- quay of the rosary
- the city gates of bruges
- ‘t zand (concert hall)
- saint john’s hospital
- hof bladelin
- arentshof & arentshuis
- pin it!
basilica of the holy blood
Address: Burg 13, 8000 Bruges
The Basilica of the Holy Blood is a church located in Burg Square. It consists of an upper and a lower chapel, conveniently situated in the city center.
The church, built in the 12th century, houses a flask which is said to contain a piece of cloth with the blood of Jesus Christ. Pretty incredible! Of course, this had to be number one on a list of historic landmarks in Bruges, regardless of your religious affiliation.
Aside from its ornate interior, the well-preserved chapel has many vibrant stained glass windows and exquisite detailing.
Address: Markt 7, 8000 Bruges
The Belfry of Bruges is a medieval tower located on the Grand Place of Bruges. It’s the most striking tower in Bruges, standing tall at 83m high.
The Belfry was built in the 13th century. It’s a key component of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Historic City of Bruges. This building also is a prominent feature of the famous movie “In Bruges”. If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth a watch, for sure. Catch Collin Farrell and Ralph Fiennes in some of their finest roles.
Climb all 366 steps of the tower to marvel at the panoramic vistas of Bruges – be sure to stay hydrated!
Insider tip: See the little green food trucks right outside the door? That’s where to get your chip & waffle fix!
Address: Burg 12, 8000 Bruges
The construction of Bruges City Hall was finalized in 1376, making it one of the oldest town halls in the entire region. The building is located on the Burg Square in Bruges. This building has housed the city’s governance since the time of its inception.
The City Hall also includes an impressive Gothic hall, depicting various murals of the history of Bruges.
Address: Kruisvest, 8000 Bruges
The Sint-Jans Mill is located on the Kruisvest, at the edge of the city center. It’s one of the four remaining mills in Bruges, however, it’s the only one originally from Bruges.
The mill was built in the 18th century and is a part of the city’s heritage. It’s a reminder of the time when grain was still being ground until the 19th century.
Apart from this mill, the Kruisvest houses three others that have been moved to Bruges. The Bonne-Chière Mill (1888 by origin from Olsene), De Nieuwe Papegaai Mill (1970 from Beveren-aan-de-IJzer) and the Koelewei Mill (1996 from Meulebeke).
Insider tip: Climb the steep stairs of the mill to get a breathtaking view of the city and (most of) the historic landmarks in Bruges.
market square of bruges
Address: Markt 20, 8000 Bruges
The Market Square of Bruges – “Markt” in dutch – is situated in the heart of the historic city center of Bruges. It’s ideally located, surrounded by historical landmarks and monuments.
The most prominent and popular buildings on the square are the 12th-century Belfry Tower and the Cloth Hall. However, in all four directions of the square are unique monuments that provide insight into Bruges’ medieval history.
For example, in the center of the market, you’ll find a statue of Jan Breydel and Pieter de Coninck, both of whom were prominent figures during the Battle of the Golden Spurs. A must-stop in the market is at the foot of the Belfry. The little food trucks right outside the door! Here, you’ll find the most popular chips and waffle shops of Bruges.
saint bonifacius bridge
Address: Groeninge 6, 8000 Bruges
The Saint Bonifacius Bridge is a small bridge built in the early 20th century. It’s most pronounced feature is for sure the view! The surrounding buildings barely changed over time, making it the most medieval view of Bruges you can find.
The distinctive area of the bridge and Arentshof will appeal to many tourists. The combination of the medieval architecture and the warm romantic atmosphere it creates is second-to-none. If you’re anticipating struggles walking on the cobblestone streets of Bruges, check out this compilation of best women’s shoes for walking on cobblestones!
Minnewater is a lake in the center of Bruges, surrounded by a park which includes the De La Faille Castle. The castle was built in 1893, in neo-gothic style.
The Minnewater lake is also known as the “Lake of Love”. Its nickname is derived from a folk legend about the tragic love story about Mina and Stromberg. Today, the park is an idyllic romantic haven for couples to visit.
Every year, the Minnewater Park hosts Cactus Festival – a music festival where different national and international groups and singers perform.
Address: Sint-Salvatorskoorstraat 8, 8000 Bruges
This church, built in the 12th century, was not originally intended to be a cathedral. However, it became Bruges’ most important catholic building in the 19th century when René Boussen became the diocese of Bruges.
Additionally, the Saint-Salvator Cathedral has a well-stocked treasure chamber! It boasts paintings by Dieric Bouts, Hugo van der Goes and other Flemish artists.
the princely beguinage ten wijngaerde
The Princely Beguinage Ten Wijngaerde is the only surviving beguinage in the city, and certainly one of the most-visited historic landmarks in Bruges. However, it no longer holds any beguines. In fact, the only remaining residents since 1927 are the Benedictines.
The Beguinage of Bruges was founded in 1245. It was established on an old vineyard – “Wijngaard“ in dutch- which explains Ten Wijngaerde’s name.
It was a community where women dedicated their lives to God and lived according to their spiritual and material needs.
By now, the Beguine movement in Flanders has gone extinct. Still, because they were so unique, the Beguinages are registered as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
quay of the rosary
Address: Rozenhoedkaai, 8000 Bruges
The Quay of the Rosary – “Rozenhoedkaai” in Dutch – has gained its fame as “Bruges most Instagrammable place”.
This reputation is due entirely to the view from the Rozenhoedkaai on the city canals and classic buildings. To see it at night is especially breathtaking!
the city gates of bruges
The city gates of Bruges were built during the Middle Ages, to protect and defend the inner city. The gates had an additional function – they served as toll gates for importing and exporting goods.
Bruges still has four well-preserved medieval city gates (Gentpoort, Kruispoort, Smedenpoort en Ezelpoort). These were built in three phases from the 9th century to the 13th century.
Starting from the 16th century, the city gates became more and more redundant. With the arrival of more sophisticated canons, the defense wall around the city began to lose its value. As a result, the canals around the city got deepened and the walls fortified.
‘t zand (concert hall)
Address: ‘t Zand, 8000 Bruges
‘t Zand is the largest public square in the historic city of Bruges. It fulfills an important social function by hosting over 200 events per year!
The square’s location – in the heart of Bruges – is the start of the old town center. It’s also the entrance of the main shopping area, giving access to various storefronts, restaurants and nightclubs.
saint john’s hospital
Address: Mariastraat 38, 8000 Bruges
Saint John’s Hospital is one of the oldest surviving hospital buildings in Europe, dating back to the 12th century. At the time of its foundation, its main function was to give sick nomads, travelers, and pilgrims a place to heal and find shelter. This gradually evolved into an actual, fully-functioning hospital.
After 1978, the clinic moved to outside the city center. This gave the building the function it serves today – a museum and a venue for exhibitions, congresses, and events.
The museum tells the story of the evolution of hospitals and healthcare in Belgium. However, it also houses art collections. Unique combination, right?? One of the museum’s most impressive collections is Hans Memling’s collection of paintings.
Address: Naaldenstraat, 8000 Bruges
The Bladelin Court – “Hof Bladelin” in dutch – is a palace in the Naaldenstraat. It was built in 1435 by Pieter Bladelin and is one of the most popular historic landmarks in Bruges.
Pieter Bladelin was treasurer of the order of the Golden Fleece (an exclusive knightly order). At that time, Pieter Bladelin was one of the richest people in the Belgian region.
The Bladelin Court is still accessible to the public and gives an indication of how buildings in the 15th-century looked. The elegant courtyard, for example, is decorated by stone medallion portraits of Lorenzo de ‘Medici and his wife. This was actually one of the first Renaissance artworks in Bruges!
arentshof & arentshuis
The Arentshuis is a museum in Bruges, housed in an elegant 18th-century townhouse.
The museum introduces you to the works of the British-Belgian artist Frank Brangwyn (1867-1956), who made many British propaganda posters during World War I.
The Brangwyn collection housed in the Arentshuis museum is highly varied. It includes paintings, watercolors, drawings, graphics, furniture, tapestries, as well as pottery.
The Arentshof is located next to the Arentshuis, which is an attractive place in itself. It creates a unique atmosphere with its tall trees, hidden benches, and mysterious pieces of art. Next to that you also have a wonderful view of the Church of Our Lady and Gruuthuse museum.
Author: Kenny, Wanderlust Pulse
What historic landmarks in Bruges do you know? What did we miss? Which is your favorite? Drop a comment and let us know!