Bruges, often referred to as the “Venice of the North,” is a city that effortlessly blends medieval charm with modern allure.
I spent about a week in Bruges, including my few days of dedicated waffle-hunting, and found the city to be very walkable, spacious, clean and photographic.
In this guide, I’ll take you on a journey through the enchanting streets of Bruges, offering insights into the city’s character, the best neighbourhoods, and a breakdown of some of the finest places to stay.
What’s Bruges like?
Bruges is a postcard-perfect city that seems to have stepped out of a storybook.
Like many others, I first heard of the city in the film “In Bruges” – which is what spurred me to add the city to my Eurotrip itinerary.
With its cobblestone streets, winding canals, and well-preserved medieval architecture, Bruges is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that invites visitors to step back in time.
The city is renowned for its picturesque market squares, historic buildings, and of course, its world-famous Belgian chocolate, beer and waffles.
For those who appreciate a tranquil and culturally rich atmosphere, Bruges is a gem waiting to be discovered.
Unlike bustling metropolises, Bruges invites you to stroll leisurely along its canals, savouring the beauty of each historic building and charming bridge.
Choosing the Right Neighborhood:
Bruges is relatively compact, making it easy to explore on foot or by bicycle.
I spent my entire trip walking the city, however, I don’t mind long walks and will generally be comfortable walking anywhere from 60-90 minutes rather than using transport.
Each neighbourhood exudes its own unique charm, catering to different preferences.
City Centre – The Heart of Bruges:
The Market Square is the centre point of Bruges and everything else revolves around it.
The ancient buildings give it a medieval vibe and it’s especially wonderful at night to wander and take photos, snack on the Belgian treats and enjoy the serenity.
Many of the top attractions are here, so if you plan on doing a few days of sightseeing, staying close to Market Square is a good choice.
Where to Stay in the City Centre
Stay at the Bruges Grand Place Guesthouse.
Right in the middle of the Market Square in Bruges, just a few steps away from the Belfry – the iconic 83-metre tower in the centre of town.
It’s also footsteps away from the Basilica of the Holy Blood, another popular sight in Bruges.
The rooms are modern and minimalist but with a touch of class, and classically European. The breakfast is superb and the rooms are soundproofed so you can still get a good night’s sleep (although Bruges is generally quite peaceful at night, anyway).
For the backpacker:
Stay at Charlie Rockets!
It’s a youth hostel and probably the best located hostel in Bruges, a couple of blocks from Market Square.
Comes with a bar, restaurant, darts, billiards, free wifi – what more could you need!?
St. Anna Quarter
St Anna allows you to escape the crowds a little and enjoy a quieter atmosphere.
A popular thing to do here is stroll along Minnewaterpark, a serene lake surrounded by greenery.
If you’re travelling as a couple, St Anna is perfect – you’ll get a more relaxed and romantic setting, and everything around here is just a little prettier too!
Where to Stay in St. Anna Quarter
Stay at Hotel Van Cleef.
One of the most luxurious hotels in all of Bruges, it’s on the south end of St Anna making it perfectly located for exploring the city. Market Square is about a five-minute walk away.
The suites are all sound-proofed, air-conditioned, with spa baths, extra long beds, mini-bar, while the hotel also offers a spa, a library, a tea-room alongside the canal, and bicycles to hire to explore at your leisure.
If you’re looking for centrally located luxury, there is no better spot than this!
Sint Gillis is considered the “artsy” side of Bruges, which features a few more galleries and cultural spaces.
To be honest, I didn’t find it to be that much different to the rest of Bruges, it was still very ancient/medieval and touristy to me (but still lovely of course!)
I didn’t get the chance to visit at night, which is maybe when/where the magic happens.
Overall still a cool place with some nice cafes, and still close to the centre too.
Where to Stay in Sint-Gillis:
Stay at Hotel Ter Brughe.
Housed in a delightfully preserved old-fashioned building alongside the canal, this hotel almost feels like it’s from centuries ago while still offering all modern comforts.
Extremely charming and delicately decorated, you can enjoy the small gardens, water-views and dining in the vaulted cellar.
It’s also conveniently located on the southern side of Sint Gillis quarter, meaning you’re just a short walk from Market Square.
I’m sure you’ll love it!
For the backpacker:
Stay at be house.
It’s a very basic guesthouse, but has everything you need for a good night’s sleep. Centrally located with free bikes and a shared kitchen to take care of your meals.
For about $30 a night, it’s a steal in this part of Bruges.
Ezelstraat – Arts and Crafts Haven
Ezelstraat is known for its boutique shops, art galleries, and craft stores.
It’s a quieter side of Bruges and a bit more bohemian, which can make it a popular place for backpackers or shoppers.
One of the most well-known parts of Ezelstraat is Blinde-Ezelstraat (translated as “Blind Donkey Street”) which connects the Burg and the fish market, and one of the most happening places in the area, if not the whole city.
If you love hip, alternative vibes, this might be your spot.
Where to Stay in Ezelstraat:
Stay at Maison de la Rose.
It’s a small guesthouse that’s more like a bed and breakfast and caters to a small number of guests.
Beautifully maintained and getting all the small details right, it’s perfect for a couple wanting somewhere upper-end but outside of the big hotels. Of course, it comes with everything you could expect from a high-end hotel, such as toiletries, free wifi, and a wonderful Belgian breakfast.
Fantastic location, too! Literally a two-minute walk to Market Square.
For the backpacker:
Stay at Snuffel Hostel!
This is a clean and modern youth hostel, very well managed with a terrace, bar, restaurant, free wifi and bike rental.
It also has a mini concert hall where they host events – the perfect place to socialise and mingle with other nomads.
Also about a ten minute walk from the centre.
Langestraat is the longest street in Bruges, and is filled with all kinds of stores and boutiques.
This is the place for shoppers (both the window-shopper and the actual splurger!)
Just walking Langestraat can be a mesmerising experience in itself.
It also comes alive at night with small bars and tapas restaurants feeding the after-dark crowd.
Nightlife is not big in Bruges, but if you’re after a crowd and a buzz, here is probably where you’ll find it.
Where to Stay in Langestraat
Stay at Guesthouse La Clé Brugge.
It’s a minimalist style guesthouse with white and brick built rooms, sophisticated yet simple with a focus on sustainability.
There is a coffee shop on site, but breakfast is not served. You’ll need to head out for coffee and waffles to get your morning feed!
If you’re looking for something basic but of higher quality than a basic guesthouse, this is your spot.
For the backpacker:
For something cheaper, stay at St Christopher’s Inn.
I stayed here on my first backpacking trip through Belgium and it was great!
It’s a basic hostel with everything you’ll need, built on top of a beerhouse. The crowd was good and it was social without getting too crazy.
Nicely located too.
Sint Kruis is further outside Bruges town centre, and you’ll find it more suburbian around here.
If you want to be outside the tourist crowd (but not too far!) and enjoy a side of Bruges that is a little more steeped in quiet, nature, and traditional Belgian neighbourhoods, Sint Kruis is your place!
Most people head straight for Market Square when visiting Bruges (naturally), however out here you’ll have a little more space to explore freely by bike and enjoy a coffee in the local cafes.
Where to Stay in Sint-Kruis
Stay at Hof Ter Beuke!
If you’d prefer to stay outside of Bruges centre, this is the perfect place for you.
It’s a sustainable bed and breakfast about 4km (2.5mi) out of the centre, surrounded by nature and offering a 5-star level service.
Breakfast and pastries available daily, as well as packed lunches if you’re exploring the area for the day (bicycles for hire!)
The rooms are immaculately furnished and come with all amenities you’d expect in a top tier hotel.
There’s also a restaurant, pool, garden, outdoor fireplace and free parking if you’re renting a car.
For a slightly more peaceful time in Bruges, but with the Market Square just a short drive away, there’s no better place.
How To Get To Your Accommodation
If you’re arriving by train, the centre is pretty close to the station.
I walk to my accommodation and it was really no trouble at all.
However, if that’s not possible for you, there is a taxi stand outside the station and they will take you wherever you need for between 10 to 20 euros.
Public transport is available, but to be honest it is not that convenient for getting around within the city centre.
If you can afford the taxi, it will save you a lot of headache.
More Bruges Tips:
Eat! Belgium is known for its waffles, beer, chocolate and fries, and Bruges is a great place to try them all! Don’t hold back – you’ll find treats on every corner. You can read about my mission to find the best waffle in Bruges here!
Cruise the canals. For something relaxing, try one of the canal cruises. They’re a fun way to see the city and not too expensive. Your accommodation will help you get organised!
Bike! Renting a bike is a popular way to see the city. Bruges is not perfectly flat and has many cobblestone roads, but overall it’s a decent place to explore by bike. Most accommodations have bike rental, or can help you arrange one.
Internet. In my experience – getting a sim card wasn’t necessary. Free wifi is everywhere and unless you need to stay connected 24/7, that was enough. However, if you do want a sim to stream or go live, then it’s easy enough to buy one at one of the local telcos – Proximus, Base or Orange. All are reasonably easy to find. You will need your passport!
Walking tour. I did the free walking tour and thought it was great. Remember – free walking tours are not exactly “free”, the guides survive on tips so if you can afford a few euros, do give. The providers change all the time, so ask your accommodation for the best options.
Safety. By world standards, Bruges is very safe! At all times of night, you can see tourists, old and young, male and female, wandering the streets of central Bruges. However, you should note that scams do take place in the city, and pickpocketing can be very common too. Tourists are the obvious target, which is you! If you are approached by locals and they seem too “friendly”, don’t let them get too close and kindly excuse yourself and keep your hands in/on your pockets.
Questions about Bruges? Leave them below!