There are few medieval cities as beautifully preserved as Bruges, a picture-perfect scene of canals, bridges, secret gardens and colourful houses.
Nestled in the top corner of Belgium, most people come to explore the old city, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Although the city walls themselves have long gone, four gates, the ramparts and one of the water towers remain and just looking around, you know you’re somewhere special.
The city is characterised by imposing Gothic architecture, the City Hall arguably the finest example of all. Its façade is impressive enough but reaches a new level once you step inside and see the murals and golden vaulted ceiling.
There are plenty of attractive, small squares in Bruges but you’ll pass through Burg and Markt more than once on your wanderings. Markt is flanked by narrow houses in shades of red and orange with characteristic crow-stepped gables. Towering over the square is the Belfry, and climbing the 366 steps to the top rewards climbers with spectacular panoramic views across the city. Historically Burg was the home of political power and is home to the City Hall, Court of Justice and the Basilica of the Holy Blood.
While Bruges has many impressive sights, winding your way through the cobbled streets and along the canals is one of the best ways to get to know the city. Cross the picture-perfect little bridges, explore the parks and gardens and wander through the Saint Anna neighbourhood, past the windmills on the eastern side of the city.
The Belgians are famous for their chocolate, chips, beer and lace and Bruges has all bases covered with a museum for each. They also have museums celebrating the history of the city and its inhabitants and the Church of Our Lady, home to Michaelangelo’s Madonna and Child, should not be missed.