Bruges (Brugge in Dutch, which means ‘bridge’) is a medieval and gothic inspired city in the northwest of Belgium, below the province of Zeeland in the Netherlands. Being considered as the Venice of the North due to its numerous bridges and canals, Bruges Belgium is in the lists of the important World Heritage Site of UNESCO. When you immerse yourself in this city, it is easy to get an impression of life during the medieval era, when the nobility, royalties and church were on the peak of their powers in Europe.
My family decided to travel to Bruges since we were curious how this city is different from other Belgian cities, such as Antwerpen, Ghent, and Mechelen, all of which we had visited for several times. Going to different cities in Belgium is very convenient for us since this country is a neighbour country of the Netherlands. From our home in Wageningen, it takes approximately four hours by train going to Bruges Belgium. In our experience, Bruges is expensive in terms of the prices of hotels and restaurants as compared to other Belgian cities. We stayed in Ibis Budget hotel, which is located nearby the train station. This hotel is very convenient for budget family travellers like us since the rooms contain both a double bed and a single high sleeper for your kid. If your family is planning on a trip to Brugge, you can still save on your trip by booking hotel outside the city center, checking the promotion of NS International for cheaper train tickets, and avoiding dining out in the city center area.
Family activities in Bruges Belgium:
Overall, we had a great time in Bruges Belgium and we had fun with all the fun facts that we discovered regarding its history, culture, and specialty foods. Below you can find the lists of activities that my family did and which you can also do to complete Bruges experience in an affordable and less stressful ways.
1. Explore every corner of Bruges Belgium.
The city of Bruges, which stretches to 13,840 hectares, is an excellent example of a medieval city settlement because it maintained its authentic architecture, streets, canals, throughout the different historical periods. Interestingly, the city decayed from one of the most important economic metropolis in medieval Europe during its Golden Age in 12th to 15th century, to what was considered a “Dead City” in the centuries that followed. After 15th century, Bruges was struck with famine and sickness and gradually became less important city in Europe, while its inhabitants reduced from 200,000 to 50,000 in 1900. A walk around the city gives you a feeling on how people lived during the medieval era. Aside from walking, there are other ways for tourists to explore the city, such as by cycling, riding a carriage, using mini-buses city tour or cursing the channels by boat. If you travel with a kid or a baby, it is best to bring both baby cart and carrier to alternate carrying your kids and to prevent getting easily tired. Be warned though, many streets in Bruges are paved with traditional coblestones which can be challenging to cross for baby carts with small wheels.
2. Relax in the nature area of Bruges Belgium.
The canals, ponds, swans, and medieval structures magnificently picture the nature areas in Bruges. Take a walk, relax, drink beers, and do picnic in its beautiful nature areas. Simply taking up the peaceful atmosphere in a medieval setting is already a great experience.
3. Visit Markt Bruges.
The Markt (Market Square) of Bruges is in the heart of the city and extends over an area of about one hectare. The historical highlights around the Markt include the 12th-century Belfry and the West Flanders Provincial Court. The Belfry of Bruges is a medieval bell tower with a narrow and steep 366 stair steps. Climbing the Belfry is open for visitors for a fee and leads you to the top of this 83 meters tower, which is slanted 87 centimetres to the east. The West Flanders Provincial Court is a neogothical building that serves as a meeting place of previous West Flander government.
4. Visit Sint-Janshuis Mill (St. Janshuismolen) of Bruges Belgium.
Taking a walk outside the old town will lead you to four standing windmills in Bruges. One of them is the Sint-Janshuis Mill, which was built in 1770 and is still actively grinding flour today. It is the only mill open for visitors. Try walking in this area to escape the hurly burly of the busy centre and to see other parts of Bruges.
5. Visit Historium Bruges.
The Historium Bruges, which is located in the Markt Square, allows visitors to gain a virtual reality experience of Bruges during the medieval age. You can also find the beautiful panoramic view of the city center at the balcony on the second floor of this museum. Currently, the top of Historium which reaches up to 35 meters is open for visitors to reward them with 360 degrees fascinating view of the city center.
6. Taste variations of Belgian beers when in Bruges Belgium.
Drinking Belgian beers is of course part of a real Belgian experience. Brewing beers in Belgium started in the 12th century when religious people in abbeys (and later on the monks) brewed and distributed beers to raised funds. What is even more fascinating is that currently, UNESCO considered the Belgian beer culture on their lists of intangible cultural heritage of humanity. If you want to learn more about beers and taste different flavours, you can visit De Halve Maan beer museum in Bruges. (TIP: When you visit specialty museums in Bruges, it is best to combine visiting different museums by getting a day-pass, which allows visitors to visit three to four museums at reduced costs.)
7. Visit Choco-Story (Chocolates museum) in Bruges Belgium.
Next to beer, my family also had fun learning some facts about Belgian chocolates via the Choco-Story (Chocolate museum). This chocolate museum tells the history and evolution of chocolates. The chocolates history started from the Mayans and Aztecs, who considered chocolates as a drink from the God. Later on, the Spanish discovered Latin America which also led to their discovery of chocolates, which they brought to Europe. Many nobles, kings, and queens got fascinated with chocolates, until over the years, the chocolate became a hallmark of Belgian culture. Inside the Chocolate museum, you will also find interesting arts made of chocolates (of course, it’s for eyes only).
8. Visit Friets (fries) Museum and eat Belgian fries with various sauces.
It is also incredible to find out that not only Belgian chocolates and beers have history, but also the Belgian fries (Vlaamische friets)! So far, the Friets museum in Bruges is the only fries museum in the world. Since this Friets museum is located in the Saaihalle, one of the most beautiful buildings in Bruges, it also attracts more attention from tourists. This museum explains the history of the potato that started more than 10,000 years ago in Peru, the evolution of fries into Belgian fries (currently known as French fries), and the various sauces and dressings served with fries. Come and visit this museum for a real potato experience!
9. Eat Belgian waffles when in Bruges Belgium.
Finally, tasting the Belgian waffles completes our Bruges (and Belgian experience in general). Funny to say but, Belgian waffles is also a historical food! Waffles were first made in the medieval ages using barley and oats as the ingredients. These were sold as rich snacks by street vendors outside the churches in Belgium. Actually, eating waffles increasingly became popular, which led to King Charles IX of France to declare that the vending stalls should be kept at a safe distance from one another (GoUNESCO). When the waffles was introduced in North America, it was first known as Brussels waffle. Many Americans however were not aware where Brussels is, thus it was then called Belgian waffles.