Bruges is a city that you can perfectly visit in one day. If in a hurry, in half day, but I would not recommend that, although of course, what I would recommend is renting an apartment and staying here for two weeks. When I went to Belgium I stayed with some friends in Ghent and used it as a base for 9 days; being able to stroll peacefully in Bruges as much as I wanted is something I missed.
We start at the southernmost point of the map, the train station, as it is most likely that we have arrived by train into the city.
From the train station we walk to the historic center (UNESCO heritage since 2000), which is basically all that is left inside the main circular canal.
We’ll arrive at Minnewaterpark, a small park with exceptional views of the canal and adjoining buildings.
Moving north, there are two bridges that take us to the south and north entrances (preferably the latter) of the Beguinage / Begijnhof. It is a beautiful square surrounded by small buildings painted in white with a central green area that serves as a recreation place on warm days. In this place lived the beguines, an association of Christian women that began around the year 1000 in what today is Belgium and disappeared formally in 2013 with the death of the last one of them; they acted as charity nuns. In many Belgian cities beguinages are conserved, being the one of Bruges the most notable of the country. It began to be built in the 13th century, and its current structure dates from the 18th century. Benedictine monks reside here now, so at night it is closed to the public.
Continuing north, we reach the church whose tower we have been contemplating for a few minutes, that of Our Lady of Bruges, an imposing brick building. It is the second highest in the world made of this material.
Inside is the only statue of Michelangelo that left Italy while he was still alive, the Madonna and Child.
Now we cross the beautiful Bonifacio Bridge.
The following building is important but not excellent: towards the west we will find the Cathedral of St. Savior, that was not built to be it; it gained its status when the previous cathedral was destroyed by the French at the end of the 18th century. It is another imposing building, but as a cathedral it lacks of something else, both the exterior and the interior.
So if we do not have much interest, we can go directly to MARKET SQUARE, the most beautiful in the city, in which the Belfort (you can go up for € 8, 366 steps) and the Provincial Court stand out. It is full of shops, restaurants and cafes, so it is a lovely place to stop for something to drink, if we can afford the prices.
Inmediatly east is the second important square, the one of the TOWN HALL or BURG.
In addition to this, there are two other notable buildings, the Basilica of the Holy Blood (which supposedly retains blood of Jesus Christ as relic), and the Brugsevrije, a historic building that is nicer on the back side. To see it, we will pass through a gallery just on the east side of the town hall that takes us to the most beautiful canal of the city, the one of Groenerei.
This covers the best areas. If you want to continue a little further north, there is Jan Van Eyck Square, curious as one of its sides ends on a canal. Further to the north-west there are two mills along the main canal, called Koeleweimolen and Sint Janshuis Mill, which I consider worth the walk up there, especially in good weather, as it is a very pleasant green area.
And now it’s time to go back, but the return will be same interesting.