Every year summers are getting warmer in Bruges and on extremely hot days we all look for places to cool down, get out of the heat and have a drink in a cool or shaded area. Bars and restaurants do not always have air conditioning. Until a few years ago we hardly ever needed air conditioning, not even on very warm days since maximum temperatures seldom went beyond 30 degrees Celsius. The rapidly changing climate forces us to go for new habits. For all of you who are looking for that nice cool spot with lots of trees and plants to have a drink or just want to find some nice cool locations while walking through the city, here is a list with some of my favourite spots to look out for on a hot day in Bruges!!
When it gets hot drinking enough is key to staying cool. In Bruges you will never have to walk far to find a bar or pub to have a drink. But during the summer months you can alternatively choose to have a drink in some cozy summer pop-up bars instead:
My favourite by far is Magda’s summer bar in the garden of the presbytery of the Saint Magdalene’s church. Every day from 2 till 6 PM you can have a fresh drink, a beer or wine and some freshly baked cakes in the green garden, sheltered from the hot sun by a large canvas canopy. They even have some board games if you run out of conversation. Take a peek into the church of Saint Magdalene and Saint Catherine where YOT experiments with new ways to experience or religious heritage.
The convent of Saint Godelieve, where the last nuns left some years ago, opens its garden to visitors every day during the summer. You can bring a drink, a picnic or just a book and enjoy this silent green garden and orchard where you find picknick tables. The church of the convent opens its doors for visitors every week during July and August from Friday to Sunday from 2 till 6 PM.
Every weekend the House of Time opens its doors for a pop-up summer bar on Saturday and Sunday from 2 till 9 PM. Every weekend another organisation takes over the bar and on some weekends they organise extra activities. (The programme is announced on their Facebook page)
Salon Arents is an initiative of Musea Brugge. On the ground floor and the outside terrace of the Arentshuis museum a cozy bar inspired by literary and artistic salons in Paris in the 17th century, welcomes visitors for a drink. Salon Arents is an open meeting place where themed events, lectures and debates are organised. On the ground floor of the museum you will also find temporary exhibitions just next to the Salon.
After visiting the Adornes domain and the Jerusalem church you can relax in the honesty lounge and the garden of the domain where you can take a coffee, tea or a softdrink and play one of the boardgames available in the Scottish lounge.
The Museum of Folk life boasts its own pub, where you can have a drink in a nostalgic 19th century atmosphere. If the weather is good you can take your drink outside on the terrace of the cosy inner garden with a great view of the tower of the Jerusalemchurch. Whenever the weather allows they put the folk games outside in the garden. Maybe the museums black cat Aristide will join you. Every first Thursday of the month they make sweets the old fashioned way in the historic candy store of the museum.
When temperatures rise it is great to just lie down in the green grass in the shade of some trees with some friends or family and share a drink or a picnic. Head out to one of the beautiful parks, gardens or green belt around the city. In the area of these green spots you often also find a tap with drinking water where you can refill your drinking bottle.
The area between the windmills on the Kruisvest is one of our favourite picnic spots of the city. You can sit in the green grass or at one of the picnic tables. You also find chairs and benches. On sunny days locals often come and play games, play with their dog, throw a ball or a frisbee or just relax. And from Tuesday till Sunday you can visit the Sint-Johnshouse windmill from 9:30-12:30 AM and from 1:30 till 5 PM and a bit further you find one of the old 14th century city gates, the Cross Gate. If you climb up one of the mill hills you are rewarded with a great view over Bruges.
In one of the adjoining streets of the Kruisvest you find the Gezellemuseum, around the life and work of the important 19th century Bruges poets, set up in his birth house. Behind the house you can discover a beautiful hidden garden, which is free to enter on days the museum is open. (Tuesday till Sunday from 9:30-12:30 AM and from 1:30 till 5 PM) Bring a book and enjoy the silence under the shade of one of the old trees.
Whenever the weathers allows the Queen Astridpark fills up with locals looking for a garden they often don’t have at home. The fountain in the centre of the park adds to the refreshing atmosphere, and the kiosk is a welcome retreat if it should rain. At one side of the park your children find one of the most exciting playgrounds of the city. Next to the playground stands the church of Saint Magdalene and Saint Catherine and Magda’s pop-up summer bar.
A little park unknown to most tourists and even locals is the small park Hof De Jonghe at the Langerei nr. 79 to 81. This used to be the location of an old farm and today sheep still graze here. You can find shade under the trees, lie down in the grass or have a picnic at the picnic table next to the sheep paddock.
The Minnewaterpark is a park most tourist pass by when arriving by bus or train. But it is also a great place to rest in the green grass and enjoy the view over the Lake of Love. So if you want to have picnic and you are at that side of the city, this is where you should head to.
The best way to cool down is to jump into the water. Every summer the city reserves part of the Coupure canal for swimming. You can take a dive every day till the end of August from 1 till 9 PM, you do not need to make reservations. You find showers, toilets, a lounge area with umbrellas, a first aid post and rescuers on a pontoon on the canal.
Around the city centre the old city ramparts have been transformed into a green belt in the style of 19th century English gardens, where you can walk, bike and sit in the grass or on one of the many benches. During your walk you can see the old city gates and the windmills.
When you walk from the train station to the Lake of Love and the Beguinage, you can find underneath the Powder tower, at the Minnewater bridge, a little hidden garden. Take the stairs down just next to the Powder tower. There you can sit overlooking the water and enjoy a quiet moment.
On a hot day the cities’ churches stay cool inside. Many are really worth a visit but often overlooked by most visitors when visiting the highlights of the city. They are free of charge and a good alternative to paying for a drink at one of the bars in the city.
The Church of our Lady, the Basilica of the Holy Blood, the Saint Saviour cathedral and the Church of the Beguinage are churches most tourists visit. In the Church of our Lady you find the statue of Madonna and child by Michelangelo and the beautiful tombs of Mary of Burgundy and Charles the Bold among many other art pieces. In the Basilica you can venerate the Relic of the Holy Blood. The cathedral of Saint Saviour is a beautiful example of gothic architecture on the outside combined with a gothic and baroque interior and in the church of the Beguinage you find one of the oldest statues of the virgin Mary in the city.
But we have many other churches that are equally worth a visit and offer a cool retreat on a warm day.
The Saint Walburga church is an example of baroque architecture on the in and outside.
The Saint Anne’s church may look sober on the outside but surprises with its sumptuous baroque interior with wonderful woodwork, a marble screen and altar and above the entrance the largest single painting of Bruges depicting The last Judgement.
In the Saint Giles’ church several important medieval painters have been buried. The interior is a fine example of neo-gothic architecture.
The Saint Jacobs’ church used to be the parish church of the Dukes of Burgundy who resided in the Princes’ Palace nearby. The chapel in the front right corner is beautifully restored in renaissance style and holds the tombs of Ferry de Gros and both his wives.
The church of the Carmelites in the Ezelstraat dates back to the 17th century. The carmelites were very respected in Bruges as it was their task to take care of people infected by the plague in medieval times. The convent behind the church offers rooms to those looking for silence and seclusion.