If you think that in spite of being one of the most famous places to visit in Belgium that there’s no quirky attractions that are off the beaten path left to see in Bruges, then you’d be wrong. From unusual museums to historic city gates, here’s your guide to the best of hidden gems and secret spots in Bruges you’ll love discovering for yourself.
The picturesque city of Bruges can be found in the West of Belgium, in the region of Flanders. In fact, it’s so important as a cultural and historical hub, that Bruges is actually the capital of Vlaanderen, as the area is known in the local language of Flemish. Boasting a population of just under 120,000 residents, the city is known as ‘Brugge’ in Flemish.
Medi-Market on Brugge Grote Markt
One of the more adorable façades in the historic market square, which lies in the heart of the city in the shadow of the world-famous belfry, is that of the pharmacy in the Grote Markt. Though there is little out of the ordinary once you step inside this pharmacy, the façade is nevertheless beautiful to catch a glimpse of.
Arcade behind the Belfry
Many visitors wander through the market square with the sole purpose of admiring the impressive belfry. Indeed, the centuries old structure can be seen from various viewpoints all around the city and is well worth climbing up the 300+ steps or so in order to enjoy a bird’s eye view from the top.
However, what many people don’t realise is that there’s a particularly interesting painted arcade right behind the bell tower. This covered walkway can be found on Oude Brug road and is the perfect place to snap unique photos of or simply shelter from the weather on a rainy day!
Rock statue on the Canal
Though not the kind of Bruges hidden gem that you should go out of your way for, one of the more off the beaten path spots that helps to reveal the history of Bruges and its many waterways can be found along a canal a little way out of the historic city centre. The rock statue commemorates the original groundbreaking of the Bruges canal, which occurred in 1753.
Gentpoort (Ghent Port Gate)
Once upon a time, the entirety of Bruges would have been surrounded by medieval city walls that would keep the city safe from potential invaders. Today, few traces of this great wall remain, though vestiges of the past can be spied if only you know where to look.
The Ghent gate is one of four remaining gates in the city and is likely the most impressive of them all. Known as Porte de Gand in French, the gate was designed by architect Jan van Oudenaerde during the 15th-century. During WWII, the gate was used as the entrance point by the Nazis during the Nazi occupation of Belgium.
Yet another remnant of the former Bruges city walls which can be found around a ten to fifteen minute walk away from the Porte de Gand when meandering along the canal which wends its way around the historic city centre of Bruges is that of Schietbaan.
Though not nearly as impressive as the Gentpoort, Schietbaan is a tower which can be admired from its exterior. In times gone by, this medieval structure would have been used as an outlook post for the city.
Fries museum (Frietmuseum)
As well as a carefully curated selection of museums featuring local history exhibitions and Flemish paintings, one of the more unusual museums in Bruges is that of the fries museum, which is known as the Frietmuseum in Flemish.
Located on the edge of the historic city centre, the museum is a great rainy day activity when in Bruges and is fun for all ages. The museum is pretty small and so you’ll only need an hour or two to explore its exhibitions about the history of potatoes and fries in Belgium.
For those looking for a relaxing place to spend a couple of hours enjoying a picnic or reading a book, Minnewater is the place to head to. Literally translated into English as the ‘love of Lake park,’ this green space features giant chess boards, and even a historic castle, Minnewater Kasteel, which has since been transformed into a restaurant.
One of the cooler and modern modern bridges that can be found in Bruges (and there are, indeed, many bridges in the canal laden city) is that of Bargebrug. Somewhat of an Instagrammable spot in Bruges, the red bridge was constructed to commemorate that Bruges was Cultural Capital of Europe in 2002.
Located in the very heart of the historic city centre, Sint-Janshospitaal was founded in the 12th-century and remains home to some of the oldest surviving hospital buildings in Europe. Though you’ll have to pay a fee to enter the interior of the museum, you can still wander around the hospital’s exterior, admire the recreation of the apothecary garden, and the secret little courtyards.
Windmills of Bruges
Yet another hidden gem of Bruges that most visitors accidentally miss out on are the four windmills which are located a little out of the city centre to the Eastern side of Bruges. The oldest of the windmills was built over two hundred years ago.
Once upon a time, 23 windmills graced the landscape surrounding Bruges and these were used to grind corn, flour, and oil. Today, the windmills can be found a short walk away from the historic city centre. There are four left of the original two dozen.
Jan Van Eyck Square
One of the more charming photo spots in Bruges can be found in the form of Jan Van Eyck Square, which offers a unique view of many of the city’s most historic and charming buildings. Though somewhat off the beaten path, this place still gets pretty popular and so be sure to head to jan Van Eyck Square earlier in the day and midweek if possible.
Last but not least, when it comes to secret spots in Bruges you can see that there are plenty to discover, if only you know where to look. With this being said, if you prefer guided visits, then this hidden gems tour of Bruges will surely reveal more city secrets to you.
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