When you think of Bruges you probably conjure up images of luxury coffee shops overlooking romantic tranquil waterways graced by royal swans. Your hot beverage will undoubtedly be accompanied by a piece of the world’s premium chocolate and your table will be covered by the finest of lace both of which would have been crafted very close to where you are sitting. You can almost smell the chocolate in every street in Bruges; temptation lurks around every corner.
Here are 10 free things to do in Bruges in between coffee and chocolate.
1. Interesting Rik Poot Sculptures
Look out for the cheeky statues by Rik Poot in the grounds of the Groeninge Museum. The bronze horses and riders depict Death, War, Famine and Plague and are somewhat phallic. Looking at the horses necks, you can see each one represents the various stages of arousal. Looking at the riders, you will see they are mimicking their horses.
2. Where's Froggy in Stefaan and Livia Sculptures
Sticking with the sculpture theme. As you stroll around the streets of Bruges, take a closer look at the bronze sculptures by artists Stefaan Depuydt and Livia Cnestraro. Each one, whether it’s a figurine or a basket of flowers, has a hidden bronze frog somewhere.
3. Free Walking Tour
Bruges is a compact city making it ideal for walking. But if you fancy an alternative guided walking tour, Can You Handle It offers just that. This is a fun tour, not one that will teach you about the history and culture of Bruges. It leaves from one of three hostels daily: The Snuffel Backpacker Hostel, Charlie Rockets or Lybeer Hostel.
4. The interesting Cellars of the Crown Plaza Brugge Hotel
Visit the foundations and tombs of the Church of St Donation, the original cathedral in Bruges. In the 10th century St Donatian's Cathedral was the central religious building of the city. At the end of the 18th century the French occupants of Bruges evicted the bishop of Bruges and destroyed the Church. However, the Crown Plaza Brugge Hotel now stands on the site and you can see the foundations of the church in the hotel cellars.
5. Relax in the Park
If you find it’s all getting too much for you, head for Koningin Astrid Park in the middle of the city. It’s a seven acre medieval convent garden laid out in the style of a 19th century English garden and a tranquil place to relax.
6. Beautiful Architecture
Visit the Church of Saint Basil within the Basilica of the Holy Blood. The museum is not free but the church is and although it is considered a minor basilica it is most famous for housing a phial claimed to contain a cloth with Christ's blood. It is tucked away next to the town hall and has the most elaborate and ornate entrance.
7. It takes two to Tango
Tango club of Bruges meet at the fish market on summer evenings. It draws a decent sized crowd and surprisingly it doesn’t smell of fish despite its normal use between Tuesday and Saturday.
8. Entertainers in Markt
Visit one of the largest markets in Europe at T Zand, on Saturday mornings or at Markt on Wednesday mornings.
9. Tranquil Herb Garden
The nuns and monks of St John’s hospital have a long history dating back to the 12th century of taking great care of sick pilgrims and travellers here. The hospital is now a museum but the herb garden is free to explore and you will find it growing all the ingredients required for Gruut; a herb mixture that was used to flavour beer before hops, comprising lady’s mantle, bog myrtle and bay laurel.
10. Rooftop Views
Finally, for a couple of rooftop views, visit the Brewery in Breidelstraat and head to the rooftop with a cold Belgium beer. Alternatively, nip into Martin’s Brugge, a hotel just off Markt and take the lift up to the 4th floor where you will find a roof top terrace called Belvedere for a great view over the rooftops and spires.