You’ve probably heard that walking through Bruges is like stepping into a medieval fairy tale. Well, believe it! The city’s charming gabled buildings, secret gardens, gentle canals and mysterious alleys will transport you back in time.
It can get crowded, especially in the summertime, so start your trip early and don’t be overly ambitious. What makes Bruges special is its feeling of living history and the best way to soak it in is to simply meander around.
Here are suggestions of things to do in Bruges that will especially appeal to children, including some excellent chocolate to sweeten your stay!
Hospitaalmuseum Sint-Janshospitaal and the Memling Collection
There’s something deliciously creepy and darkly Dickensian about old hospitals, especially those from centuries ago. Built in the 13th century, Sint-Janshospitaal is one of the oldest preserved hospitals in Europe. For centuries, it welcomed travelers, the homeless, and the sick, which were cared for by nuns.
The museum also features works by 15th century Flemish painter Hans Memling. Most notable is the sumptuous Shrine of St. Ursula, a richly painted box in the shape of a small chapel. It was commissioned by two nuns, who are portrayed kneeling before Mary.
Benedictine nuns must take a vow of silence when they enter the sisterhood and so must you if you want to peek at the serene 12th century whitewashed houses and central green where the nuns make their home. The place is especially beautiful in the spring, when the green is covered in a yellow carpet of daffodils.
Taking a boat tour is a must with kids and a great way to give their little legs a break from all the walking you’re bound to do in Bruges. You’ll get a feel for the canals and a great view of some of the city’s oldest homes. You’ll also see plenty of swans and ducks to keep the littlest ones entertained. Boat tours are about ½ hour long. Expect lines in the summer months. We used the Gruuthuse Boat Excursions but the five or so companies offering tours are virtually undistinguishable in price or substance.
Koningin Astrid Plein
This beautiful park is tucked away between in a residential area just a few blocks away from the touristy center. It has a playground and a beautiful little park with a fountain, a duckpond, and a brightly-covered pavilion. It’s a perfect place for a picnic. Pick one up at the Freyne Deli right off the park.
Although you’ll see lots of chocolate shops in Bruges, only two of them are homemade: Dumon and the Cholocate Line. Dumon’s chocolate selection runs the gamut from traditional with a very creamy ganache to the more modern, unusual combinations. The shop is bright, modern, and inviting, and the place to get hot chocolate in Bruges. Order one and you’ll stir a hand-picked selection of chocolates into a glass of hot milk for one happy kid (and adult!)