Saying “aah” at every turn: Bruges, Belgium

Waterfront buildings: Bruges, Belgium

Move over, Prague. We just may have a new favorite place: Bruges, Belgium.

Yes, we had heard that Bruges was pretty, interesting, intriguing, and it was also the site made popular as the setting for the movie In Bruges. But we weren’t sure the city could live up to its reputation.

Immediately upon arrival, however, all accolades were confirmed.

Waterfront property: Bruges, Belgium
Canals and bridges border beautiful old homes, enhanced by nature’s touch.

The area now known as Bruges has been a region/city since Roman times. But the name Bruges probably didn’t appear until the 9th century. The name may have been derived from “brugj,” a word that means “mooring” ( With its lovely network of canals and waterways running through it, we were ready to anchor down and stay awhile.

It’s no wonder that the city of Bruges as a whole was named a UNESCO Heritage Site in 2000.

Waterfront scene: Bruges, Belgium
The beautiful canals of Bruges

Here’s a taste of what we loved best.

Canals of Bruges

Part of the beauty of Bruges lies in its smallness (only 20,000 people) and limited size. You can see much of the city from the comfort of a canal boat while listening to a guide point out architectural and cultural details. He’ll also let you know when to duck as you pass under the low bridges. Be sure to line up for a trip — it’s the best way to see the city and its waterways.

Lovers and red umbrellas: Bruges, Belgium

Flemish Architecture

And while you’re in that canal boat, get your camera ready. You’ll love the rooflines of Bruges — fabulous stair-step gables, overlapping tiles, wonky chimneys, steeples, and inset sculptures.

Belgian facades -- Bruges

A tour on foot with an informed guide will give you quite a lesson in what all these insets have to offer, but for us, it was enough just to appreciate the art forms.

The variations were magnificent — from facades bearing the date of construction (sometimes early 1600s even) to the mixture of rooflines that look great in almost any light. We couldn’t hold back on taking pictures!

Church of Our Lady

This 13th century church reminded us of Antwerp’s place of worship by the same name. Even down to signature black and white interior.

But this one — Church of Our Lady in Bruges — boasts the tallest spire (112 meters) in Belgium and a glorious sculpture of Virgin and Child by Michelangelo. Build in extra time to stroll, read about the people buried there, and observe the beauty of the art forms within the structure.

The Princely Beguinage Ten Wijngaarde

The placid white-washed exteriors of Beguinage established in a lovely, quiet place in Bruges was home to beguines — women who lived a pious life without taking the usual vows associated with religious orders. Today it houses the Order of St. Benedict and other women who choose to live alone. We loved it for the quiet glimpse it gave us of a monastic life amid a very touristy city.

The comings and goings in Bruges

From bountiful markets to horse-drawn carriage rides, people were on the move in Bruges. We loved the colorful, touristy vibe of the city even though there were plenty of quiet moments available near the canals and beyond the popular spots.

We dipped in and out of chocolate shops, eating gooey treats, and we listened to music by a local band performing classics. It’s a city bustling with activity but one that offers a respite from the “bigness” associated with other glorious versions like Paris, Brussels, Prague, etc.

Hotel Heritage

The quiet, tasteful atmosphere of Hotel Heritage started our day with a gourmet breakfast and ended with plush, luxury bedding. If you’re going to treat yourself to Bruges, you might as well do it in style!

Arranged by Lauren Gunnels of Ortelius Travel Advisors, our tour of Bruges included relaxation in a classy hotel yet much time to see the beauty of this lovely, old-world city.

Rooflines -- Bruges, Belgium
Roofline details: Bruges, Belgium

Be sure you’ve put Bruges on your list of must-see cities in Europe. You’ll love what you see!

Travel beautifully,

Rusha & Bert

If you’ve been following our series on Holland & Belgium, please know that our Viking cruise portion of our trip ended in Antwerp. Thanks to Ortelius Travel Advisors, we had a personal guide who accompanied us on the additional sightseeing opportunities in Bruges, Ghent and Brussels. We can highly recommend this travel mode as we learned as much from our guide as we did from seeing the notable places and points of interest he shared with us.

25 thoughts on “Saying “aah” at every turn: Bruges, Belgium

  1. Pat

    What enticing photos and you do a very masterful job of presenting information the support the photos. Thanks so much. I’m going to keep this in mind for a future trip.

    1. Oh, the Places We See

      You have got to go there. It is not, however, an unknown city. Tourists love it. But we found that even though it was relatively crowded, there’s room for everyone. And our wait for a canal boat was only a few minutes. Please go. It’s a treat.

  2. Armando

    I could not agree more with your assessment of Bruges. When we spent one very rainy day there in 2017 we fell in love with the city and could not wait for our second visit. Sorry we did not run into you while we were there. By the way, we’d never even heard of beguines until this trip!

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