Here are a few hints for first-time visitors to this city:

  • Wear comfortable footwear and be prepared to walk many miles on cobblestones. 
  • Do not forget your camera, water bottle and light weight zip jacket.
  • Do a little pre-trip research and get a map or visitors guide. Maps and guides can be purchased from the Information desk at the railway station or in the main tourist office (In&Uit [Concertgebouw]) on the 't Zand square for € 0,50 for a map and € 2,50 for a visitors guide (Dutch / French / English / German / Italian / Spanish).
  • Some hotels may provide you with a free map.
  • This is a city that you can spend two days exploring and still have only scratched the surface. For people who spend the night in Bruges: just wander around in the evening (after 8/9 pm), and enjoy the tranquility. Of course it's more crowded in the summer period. 
  • It is less than one hour from Brussels by train (2 direct trains every hour).
  • From Brussels International airport to Brugge train station is approx 2 1/2 hours in total.
  • A lot of people come to Bruges from Brussels - and even further afield on fast trains - for the weekend. Saturday and Sunday until dinner time are therefore very busy and the streets are packed. Many restaurants and stores therefore shift their weekend - they are closed Sunday evening and all day Monday - virtually EVERYTHING is closed on Monday. So the worst time to go to Bruges is Saturday to Monday - the first two days it's too crowded to see anything, and then on the last day everything is closed.
  • EVERTYHING is not closed on a Monday - most of the shops and restaurants are open on a Monday - restaurants tend to spread their closing days - some are closed on a Monday, others may be shut on a Wednesday or a Thursday.

Top tips for getting around:

  • Bruges is a great place to wander around, but confusing.  Invest in a good map with street names on.  
  • Canal trips are good fun and you see things you can't see from the road. There are 5 boat companies (marked on the map which you can purchase at the tourist office) which are all located inside the city centre. They operate daily between March and November, the first boat leaves at 10h00, the last one at 17h30. There is a departure every half an hour and the tour takes about 30 minutes. The price is € 6,90 per person, € 3,20 for kids < 12 years (2011 prices).   
  • The horse drawn carriages are romantic, but expensive (€ 39,00 per carriage, max. 5 people in one carriage) and go places you'll probably walk to later.  
  • The cobblestone streets are very tough on the feet and aren't traffic free, so watch where you walk! 
  • Hiring bikes is a great idea if you are good at directions and have teenagers, who will get bored looking at the pretty buildings.  Just be careful what you hire and remember you need a good saddle for those cobbles!  Biking is also the most ideal way to explore the ramparts of Bruges. Maps with cycling routes are available at In&Uit -  the Tourist Information Centre in the Concert Hall in 't Zand. These cycling routes only cover the area around Bruges. If you want to cycle a bit further afield, then cycle along the canal to Damme. About 5 miles there and back, but nice easy riding, and Damme itself is a pretty little place worthy of a visit; it is also possible to return [ with your bike] on the canal boat (Lammegoedzak) from Damme. For a longer ride, pedal on to Sluis [in Holland!] about another hour's easy cycling beyond Damme.
  • The buses from the train station to the centre are good.  You can easily walk to the centre from the train station, but ensure you take the nicer route, head around the ring road a little and walk down Katelijnestraat.  

Food and beer:

  • Go to the market on 't Zand on Saturday morning, they do great food.   
  • Treat yourself to a 'wafel met slagroom' (this means waffle with whipped cream) in a cafe.
  • The brewery is a good tour, but you can just go to the bar for a drink.  It gets very busy in the afternoons and can shut early. 
  • Don't just try white beers!  Try Leffe Brune (looks serious but isn't), Kwak (just for the glass) or De Garre (only available in a little bar down a side street between the Markt and the Burg,  apparently they can legally only serve you two!)
  • Picking chocolates one by one can get expensive, and it's hard to tell the difference between the expensive and cheaper shops.  If you're buying a box of chocolate, make your own selection of chocolates and pralines - the prepackaged ones tend to have ones that are not the most popular varieties.
  • If you are buying chocolate for lots of people, head to a supermarket for cheaper boxes of brands you'll recognize.  Supermarkets are on Oude Burg, Langestraat or Noordzandstraat. 
  • Also try the smaller waffle biscuits with caramelised brown sugar in the middle or 'Speculoos' biscuits.
  • Go to the Central restaurant in the main square and have the Flemish Beef Stew. It is to die for.

Getting your bearings:

  • From the Markt, walk the main shopping loop. With the belfry to your back, take the street to your left, Steenstraat, which turns into Zuidzandstraat and ends at the large square called 't Zand. Turn right and right again up Noordzandstraat, which turns into Gelmundstraat, bear right to get back to the Markt.   (around 30 mins walking + shopping!)
  • Normally a quieter walk.  From the Burg, walk down Hoogstraat, continue on into Langestraat and keep going to Kruispoort, one of the old city gates. To the left, there are a couple of windmills if you wander along the side of the canal. Head back along Langestraat or consult your map and pick your way through the small streets.  (around 30 mins walk + looking at the windmills)
  • Nice walks (shopping, top touristic and tranquile) between 4 and 6km are included in the visitors guide available at In&Uit or the information desk at the train station.

Souvenirs:

  • Lace: Bruges is famous for its lace. There are many shops where you can buy lace souvenirs, most of them however sell lace "made in China". Head to the Lace Centre in Peperstraat or 't Apostelientje (small shop around the corner from the Lace Centre), these are the only two places where they still sell handmade lace. It's a bit more expensive, but it's the real deal.
  • Chocolate: don't need to explain this one! 
  • Beer: Bruges has several beer shops, for instance 2Be in the Wollestraat. You can also find beer shops in Katelijnestraat and Philip Stockstraat.
  • Brugse kletskoppen: very thin & sweet cookies.