In the northwest part of Belgium lies canal-based Bruges, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A city since Roman times, Bruges has a strategic location, important in history as well as today for travelers. Most of the medieval architecture is intact and this makes Bruges a wonderful place to spend a few days.


Things to see:

  • The Church of Our Lady has Michelangelo’s sculpture Madonna and Child, the only piece to have left Italy during his lifetime.
  • The Belfry – dates from the 13th century with a carillon of 48 bells (free concerts).
  • Check out the beautiful lace shops. (‘t Apostelientje is off the beaten path, authentic).
  • The Burg – a beautiful square with the palace of the Counts of Flanders.
  • Markt – large square with many open air restaurants, beautiful old buildings.

Try a museum:

  • Folklore Museum – learn about 17th century Bruges (Thursdays – fresh sweets).
  • Groeninge Museum – Flemish paintings.
  • Salvador Dali Exhibition – can be seen in an hour.

Do something fun:

  • Choco-story – a chocolate museum with sample pralines made as you watch.
  • Canal tour – See this fairy tale city from the water.
  • Ride in a horse-drawn carriage.

Sample the cuisine:

  • Kaffee Pergola – romantic café right on a beautiful canal.
  • Bar Choc – a café devoted to chocolate: fondue, pancakes, rabbit in chocolate sauce.
  • In’t Nieuwe Museum – family run, cooks meat in a 17th century fireplace at night.
  • ‘t Brugs Beertje – “a perfect beer-bar” with a book full of brews to choose from.

Shop for:

  • lace
  • chocolate
  • all things “Tintin”, Belgium’s favorite character

Using Bruges as a base (less expensive), easy day trips can be done to:

  • Amsterdam
  • Ghent
  • Brussels

In this beautiful city, “the Venice of the North”, take time to walk, have a coffee, take pictures, catch a concert and count swans as you decompress from the stresses of travel.


  • “Carpe Diem”, in a 17th century building, is a beautiful tea room great for breakfast. For 8 euros you get ham, cheese, boiled eggs, warm rolls (baked here), and coffee. Also a boat trip on the canals should not be missed (6 euros for adults and 4 for kids).

  • Belgium has many fabulous restaurants but never eat near a famous monument – tourist trap! The beer is amazing here, better than the wines. If you see a translated menu or Visa, American Express, etc., avoid this place. I always ask local shopkeepers where they like to eat. You’ll get authentic, delicious food, and it’s usually cheaper than what the guide books recommend.

  • From Bruges, Amsterdam is about two hours away by train and definitely worth a visit, even for a day. What I love about Europe is there are so many things to see and do in a close range. Brussels is another good day trip, about an hour from Bruges by train. Let the kids eat something on board, an experience they probably wouldn’t have in the US. A croissant and hot chocolate as you watch the farms and animals out the window is a pretty memory.

  • Visited the Chocolate Museum in a 16th century building that was originally a wine tavern, located on Sint-Jansplein. They give tours and you get a chocolate bar on the way in to keep you going. You watch chocolate being made, learn about the history and end in a gift shop that has some of the best prices for chocolates in Belgium (where chocolate can be very dear). Explanations also in English.

    • With 55 + chocolate shops in this small city, it’s still worth a visit to the Chocolate Museum (Wijnzakstraat 2, 8000 Bruges), even just for the free samples. The history is fascinating and a live praline making demonstration is fun.

  • We made our trip a moving math class! We had the kids (ages 9 and 12) do a lot of the conversions (euros to dollars, kilometers to miles, etc.) until they mastered the metric system (much easier than you would think). This gave them math practice as well as confidence and a fun thing to do while waiting for our food.

    • Why stop at math? Keep a map with you and make it an on-going geography lesson. Kids can keep a travel diary and this becomes a lesson in creative writing. So many opportunities to engage children in meaningful activities. My kids keyed in to all the different license plates and tried to figure out where the cars were from.

  • My kids were just 3 and 4 1/2 years old on our first trip to Europe. I got them used to omelettes, yogurt and salads which I knew I could find all over, in addition to pasta and pizza. They ate really well and opened up about trying many new foods.

  • Eleanor and Peter are spot on! I recently found out that with the purchase of any Eurostar ticket, a connecting train to ANYWHERE in France, Belgium or the Netherlands is INCLUDED! And the canal boat ride is just a few euros per person and SO RELAXING! Bruges is so kid-friendly because the cafes here serve waffles, omelettes, crepes, frites (chips) – so many choices that kids love. And there are so many lovely tea rooms for a rest or afternoon snack.

  • Eleanor and Peter

    From London or Paris the most fun way to get to Belgium is by Eurostar Train (to Brussels) and then 1 hour more to Bruges. Once in Bruges, make sure you take a canal ride. Tours are given in all languages and the views are unbelievable. And there’s plenty of great chocolate in Bruges to keep everyone happy!

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