I have to admit that I was a bit hesitant to write this blogpost. Many quiet hidden spots are undiscovered by most tourists so maybe I should leave them to the locals? I guess only the social, alternative traveller would read a travel blogpost when planning a trip so the chance that these places will suddenly be swarmed by tourist groups as a result of this post is rather small or even non-existant.
You can read on but you have to promise to treat these places with respect and refrain from being an obnoxious tourist when coming here. Deal?
99% of the tourists follow the same small circular route through Bruges, fighting for walking space with a million other tourists walking the same route. Bruges is a real small city where you never really get lost, inviting you to wander away from the main tourist grid.
More tourists are hiring bikes as Bruges is a very bikable city (apart maybe from the cobble stone streets). Many tourists unfortunatley never properly learned to drive a bike at home and are a a real danger in traffic. Some are not even aware of the fact that you have to keep to the right hand side of the road. We locals often curse the inappropriate way tourists walk and bike around Bruges. Then again, we want to promote Bruges a a bike-friendly city so I will share the best places to rent a bike in Bruges at the end of this post.
Once you rented a bike you can follow this circular route around Bruges and discover many beautiful sights along the way.
CIRCULAR ROUTE AROUND BRUGES:
We start the route at the Gentpoort, one of the old city gates located on the old ramparts around the city. You can easily reach the gate coming from the centre, it is close to the bike rental place ‘De Ketting’ in the Gentpoortstraat.
You first cross a little iron bridge, the Conzettbridge (that can be lifted if pleasure boats need to pass), and enjoy the view over the little harbour on your left. The bridge is designed by the Swiss architect Jurg Conzett. It is a very picturesque place, and you can see many of the towers of Bruges from here. The road goes a little uphill and then back down after which you reach the next city gate, the Kruispoort.
Enjoy the bridges going up when boats need to pass (locals lose a lot of time waiting in front of these bridges!). Continue further North and here you pass four windmills, the second windmill can normally be visited but is now closed because of corona. (The four windmills are: Bonne Chiere, Sint-Janshuismolen, De nieuwe papegaai and Koeleweimolen).
Climb the hills of the windmills and enjoy the view over the city from up here. In front of the first windmill you can see an area where people still practice archery. When you go into the street just in front of the second windmill (Rolweg) you can visit a small museum (nr 64) dedicated to one of the famous poets of Bruges (Guido Gezelle). The garden is a beautiful place to rest and entrance to the garden and museum is free of charge. The area around the windmills is a great picnic spot! Further down the same street (Rolweg), on the corner of the second street to the left you find the Museum of Folk Life. In the same street, Balstraat, you can visit the Lace centre and museum and The Jeruzalemchurch and Adornes domain.
Turn left at the Jeruzamenchurch and go back in the direction of the windmills. Continue the bike road next the canal to the left where you will pass the two remaining windmills. On your right you see some old barges that have been renovated into modern living spaces on the water.
You arrive at the next two bridges at the Dampoort (where the old gate has been demolished). Here you can take the bike route to Damme, a route I will describe in the next blogpost. From here we will stray a bit from the circular route on the old ramparts, to avoid a busy road with little of interest to see.
We turn left and follow one of the canals, on a cobblestone street: Potterierei. On your left you pass the church and old hospital “Onze-Lieve-Vrouw-Ter-Potterie” which can be visited. You pass the “Grootseminarie”, where new catholic priests are formed. On your right a small old wooden bridge “Duinenbrug”. Follow the canal keeping the water on your right just to where two canals intersect. Before you cross the pedestrian bridge on your right, turn left into the small street: Blekersstraat. On your right you find the oldest tavern of Bruges: Herberg Vlissinghe. You can have a beer or if you are hungry you can order a light meal.
After your break, go back to the canal, cross the small pedestrian bridge at the end of the Blekersstraat, go straight and follow the canal on the Spinolarei till you reach the small square called Jan Van Eyckplein where the water dissapears underground. In the Middle Ages boats sailed up to this square that was as a harbour where they unloaded their goods. Cross the square and turn left into the “Academiestraat”.
Then turn right into the Vlamingstraat, cross the small bridge and immediately turn left into the small car-free street: Pottenmakersstraat.
Enjoy the views from the many small bridge over the canal where beautiful houses and gardens border the water. At the end of the Pottenmakersstraat turn right into the Ezelstraat. You can visit the church of the Karmelieten at number 28 (built in 1688), the entrance is free. At the end of the street you join the circular bike path around Bruges, by crossing the street. Here you see the Ezelpoort, another one of the old gates of Bruges. Turn left and continue your way on the comfortable bike road paralell to the water. Cross the big road at the end of the Gulden Vlieslaan, and continue your way on the bike path through the beautiful park. (parallel with the Hendrik Consiencestraat) Half way you pass the next city gate: Smedenpoort. Continue further in the park on the left side of the water. A bit further at Hendrik Consiencestraat 2-11 en 12-18, you see small (whitewashed) houses which are almshouses. These houses were built to accomodate elder people in need. Today these houses are still allocated to elder people with low incomes.
At the end of the street, take the bike tunnel under the intersection, where you come back up just before the train station. Cross the street just after coming out of the tunnel. On your left you see the huge modern concertbuilding “Concertgebouw” in the distance. Cross the street and go straight into the street Oostmeers. Take the first small pedestrian path on your right that follows a small canal. At the end you see a tower (Poertoren) where they used to store gunpowder. Enjoy the view from the small Minnewaterbridge. Turn left just before the bridge and enjoy the Lake of Love! At the end you can enter the beguinage, at the small square (Walplein) where the horse carriages take a rest.
In front of the beguinage you can admire the swans. Cross the small bridge into the beguinage, where Benedictine nuns and single women live. You sometimes see the nuns cross the inner garden. Visitors are asked to keep quiet. Around Easter the grass courtyard is filled with yellow dafodills.
Retrace your steps tot the Lake of Love and cross the Minnewaterbridge next the Poertoren, or gunpowder tower. Here you join the old ramparts around the city again. You first pass the Katelijne bridge where the old gate is gone. Continue (you pass a water tower) until you reach the Gentpoort where you started the tour.
Bicycle rental points
Gentpoortstraat 23, 8000 Brugge
phone: +32 50 34 41 96
Snuffel Backpacker Hostel – fietsverhuur
Ezelstraat 42, 8000 Brugge
phone +32 50 33 31 33
Hendrik Brugmansstraat (Stationsplein) 3, 8000 Brugge
phone +32 50 39 68 26
’t Zand 8000 Brugge
phone +32 479 97 12 80
More biking routes: “Hidden Gems in Bruges – Discover Bruges by bike 2“
Finding the best picnic spots in Bruges: “Picnic on a sunny day in Bruges part 1“
Best pubs and tearooms: “Best tearooms and pubs in Bruges“