Bruges

This graceful medieval city with its wealth of historic buildings and canals, has often been referred to as the Venice of the North. Not surprisingly, it has achieved UNESCO World Heritage status and makes a wonderful destination for a city break.

Insider Tip

If you want a break from outdoor activities, visit Historium Brugge, a new all encompassing attraction where sets, film, music and special effects merge into a magical experience. Let yourself be carried away by an exciting love story and learn what it was like to live during the fifteenth century in Bruges.

Sampling local specialities is without doubt one of the attractions of any overseas travel. Belgium offers local specialities including the hearty carbonnade flamandes (Flemish beef stew), mosselen-frites (mussels and chips) and dishes might include Belgian endive and white asparagus, according to season. Waffles dusted with icing sugar, or any number of other toppings are to be found everywhere. And it goes without saying that Belgium, with its long brewing tradition, offers a wide variety of beers to sample.

Noordzandstraat running between 't Zand Square and Markt square is probably best earmarked as the main shopping street in the city, with its large selection of stores selling clothes, household wares, books, music and food.

Locally-made lace and delicious Belgian chocolates are without doubt the most obvious choice for souvenirs and gifts, but you may also wish to consider handmade candles, pretty ceramics and biscuits - often containing Belgian syrup.

Markets are a tradition in Bruges, with a food market on Markt square every Wednesday morning, and a large non-food market on 't Zand square every Saturday morning. A flea market is also held along the beautiful Dijver canal in the centre every Saturday and Sunday between 10am.

Bruges is a compact little city, bursting with historic character and charm, and with so many things to do it's no wonder that this is one of our most popular destinations.

A good introduction to the city might be to take one of the CityTour buses so that you can familiaries yourself with the layout of the city. The tours depart from the main Markt square on the hour, every hour, all year daily between 10am and 4pm in winter, with the finish extending out until as late as 8pm in high summer. A 50-minute tour costs around €15 per adult, around €9 for children.

With a maze of narrow lanes criss-crossing the larger streets, Bruges is ideal for discovering on foot but we highly recommend you pack comfortable shoes for the cobbled surfaces and in case you should decide to climb the 366 steps in the belfry! For those looking to join a guided tour, 2-hour walks depart from In & Uit on 't Zand Square at 2.30pm on Saturdays and Sundays from June until October, daily in July and August. A winter evening walk departs at 5pm during the winter weekends and other selected days. Adults can join a walk for around €9, accompanying children are free.

Bicycles are a common sight in the Loew Countries, and Bruges has a plentiful supply for rental. With motorised traffic through the centre of Bruges relatively light compared with many other cities, a bicycle is a good way to explore. Several outlets renting bicycles are to be found around the city, and a full day rental should cost in the region of €10-€12. Several companies operate guided bicycle tours around the principal sights. You can expect to pay around €20-€25 for a guided bicycle tour lasting a couple of house.

Of course you cannot visit Bruges without taking at least one sightseeing ride on the canals. No matter how much you explore on foot or by bicycle, you really do get a very different perspective of this magical city from the waterways. Boat tours run daily from March until October between 10am and 6pm. a half-hour boat tour costs around €7 for adults, €4 for children.

For a slightly more genteel and romantic way to discover the centre of Bruges you might opt for a horse and carriage ride around the city centre. Horse-drawn carriages carry up to five passengers, and a 35-minute tour around the centre of Bruges will cost around €36 per carriage. Tours depart from the central Markt square, daily from 9.30am until 5.30pm, with summer departures running as late as 10pm.