The Top 10 FREE Things to Do in Bruges, Belgium

By on February 8, 2018 in BELGIUM, Budget Travel Ideas, Europe, Top 10's with 2 Comments

The 10 Best FREE Things to Do in Bruges, Belgium

The Belgian city of Bruges is a feast of fairytale delight of twisting cobbled lanes, peaceful canals and old churches!

Stone bridges cross the tiny waterways, as swans float past weeping Birch trees and the clip-clop of horse-drawn carriages pervade the vehicle-free streets.

An ancient walled Medieval town, and a UNESCO-listed site, about an hour from the capital Brussels, Bruges is perfect weekend getaway material with great European connections by ferry, plane, train and Eurostar.

Not known for its price-friendly status however, even a few days in this picturesque city can set you back a fair bit.

After my recent trip there however, I’m happy to report that exploring the quintessentially pretty place on a budget is more than possible and to get you started here’s my list of the top 10 free things to do in Bruges.


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#1 Wander the Beautiful Streets

Belgium, Bruges, Streets

Undoubtedly one of the best free things to do in Bruges is wandering the picturesque streets there.

Cobbled winding lanes lead you around the city and each is filled with a delightful array of independent shops, cafes and chocolate boutiques.

Backed by peaceful gliding canals, ancient stone churches and beautiful buildings, strolling the city is also easy given the tiny size of the city.

And without any vehicles speeding past, bumbling around and soaking the city up by feet is a very leisurely-paced and stress-free affair.

In fact you really don’t need to take any public transport in Bruges, with everything being in easy walking distance, so wandering the beautiful streets will help keep your travel costs down even further!

READ MORE: The Best Weekend Bruges Itinerary… on a Budget!

#2 Meander the Fish Market

Belgium, Bruges, Vismarkt

The area of Bruges known as Vismarkt is the traditional, outdoor fish market and a couple of stalls still maintain the trend.

Otherwise, local art and craft sellers make up the rest of stalls and meandering around them is definitely one of the best free things to do in Bruges.

There’s also some of the best canal views to be snapped from near this spot too, as watery vistas complete with gorgeous reflections expand in front of you.

 

BUDGET ACCOMMODATION IN BRUGES

A popular European destination, Bruges has a good range of hostel accommodation suitable for those of us travelling on a budget.

Top of the list is St Christopher’s Hostel – Bauhaus Hostel, located in the gorgeous suburb of St-Anna. A short walking distance from the city centre and with some better priced eating options around as a result, this is a great budget choice.

I also stayed at St Christopher’s Inn Gare Du Nord in Paris and was really impressed with the value offered in this other expensive city. Read my full review here.

 

#3 Visit the Basilica of Jesus’ Blood

Belgium, Bruges, Heilig-Bloedbasiliek

The Heilig-Bloedbasiliek is one of the most famous Bruges religious buildings, not least because it contains a phial supposedly filled with some of Jesus’ blood.

Brought out on display a couple of times a day, you can even head over to see the phial up close if you want.

Otherwise, you can just enjoy the spectacle from afar and wander this very ornate cathedral for free.

 

#4 Marvel at the Markt

Belgium, Bruges, the Markt

Bruges’ premier square is definitely the central hub of the city and still buzzes with life, as tourists and locals alike mingle between the horse-drawn carriages, shops and street performers.

As well as a prime photo spot with a plethora of old buildings around it, huge flags and central statue, top of the must-see list is the Belfort.

Made famous by the movie In Bruges – which if you haven’t seen, you definitely should – you have to pay to get up inside the Belfort, but the view of this architectural beauty outside is just as grand in my opinion.

 

#5 Wander the Burg

Belgium, Bruges, the Burg

After the Markt, Bruges’ second most important square is just a street away and is called the Burg.

Again take your camera here to snap the beautiful buildings that frame it, as well as the beret-ed locals relaxing on benches, walking their dogs or enjoying a waffle or 2!

When I visited the Burg there was also a free photo exhibition taking place in the Brugse Vrije, so check out this space aswell to learn if there are any more free things to do in Bruges happening here.

 

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#6 Shop at the Wednesday Market

And while we’re talking about Bruges’ central squares, it’s worth pointing out that every Wednesday there’s a central market that happens here too.

Situated in the Markt, wandering the plentiful food stalls that set up weekly in the middle of this hustle and bustle is definitely one of the best free things to do in Bruges.

A real local affair, shopping outdoors from regional producers adds to the sense that you’re stepping back in time when in Bruges even more.

 

WHEN TO VISIT BRUGES

Bruges is definitely a popular summer hotspot, when crowds of people flood the tiny streets and accommodation is at a premium.

As such, I’d highly recommend making Bruges a winter destination if you’re on a budget.

I visited in January and although cold, the log fires, and cosy indoor atmosphere added to the magic of the city. Plus accommodation was much cheaper and the crowds much thinner!

 

#7 Peer into the Church of Our Lady

Belgium, Bruges, Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk

Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk is one of the oldest churches in Bruges, with its construction beginning on 1220!

Even though it took them 200 years to complete the job, it’s still a pretty impressive affair and is delightfully free to wander around.

Although the museum inside will set you back a couple of Euros, seeing the impressive parapet and vaulted ceiling of this huge church won’t cost you a penny.

 

 

#8 Stoll Around the Love Lake

Belgium, Bruges, Minnewater

Minnewater, otherwise known as the Lake of Love, is one of the prettiest spots to see in Bruges and wandering along its banks and admiring the swans cruising along the canal is certainly magical!

This is also a great spot for photos, as weeping Birch trees sway into the water and the ancient stone bridges feel like you’ve stepped right into a fairtytale.

At night, when this area is sensitively lit up, it’s even more dazzling… and instaworthy!

 

HOW LONG TO SPEND IN BRUGES

Another great way to keep your costs down when visiting Bruges is to make your trip short!

Given the small size of the city, most of Bruges’ sights can be seen in a day and 2 nights, should give you plenty of time to fully explore the city.

Alternatively, make a day trip to Bruges from Brussels and get more accommodation bang for your buck there.

 

#9 Step into the Cathedral

Belgium, Bruges, St-Salvators-Kathedraal

Situated along one of Bruges main shopping streets, the St-Salvators-Kathedraal costs nothing to step inside and, as such, is definitely one of the best free things to do in Bruges.

This huge place of worship is impressive to say the least and inside feels like a real place of repose in contrast to the busyness outside.

 

#10 Walk to the Windmills

Belgium, Bruges, Windmills

A little out of the centre of Bruges, in the lovely suburb of St-Anna, the city’s 4 remaining windmills are a great reminder of just how close to the Dutch border you are here.

St-Anna is a very pretty suburb to explore in its own right, with gorgeous houses lining the cobbled streets and churches and statues on almost every corner.

Along the canal here, 2 of the windmills still operate and the café named after them, De Windmolen, is a great local place to enjoy a cheap drink!

Otherwise just enjoy a stroll along the canal and a snap of the iconic wind-driven structures.

 

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So that’s my list of the top 10 free things to do in Bruges.

Have you visited this classic Medieval city?

What did you enjoying doing most there and do you have any great budget tips?

Please share the Bruges love in the comments box below….

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About the Author

About the Author: Creator of Big World Small Pockets, Stephanie Parker is a budget travel addict! Originally from Jersey in the Channel Islands, Stephanie backpacks the world collecting tips, advice and stories, to share with a smile .

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There Are 2 Brilliant Comments

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  1. Thank you! I’m heading to Belgium soon, and this is really helpful 🙂

    • Steph says:

      Oh fantastic Olivia, great to hear! Are you just visiting Bruges or exploring some of the other cities aswell? I’ve heard Ghent is really nice and I’m keen to get there too one day 🙂

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