As spring turns to summer in Flanders, a new Visit Bruges route app has blossomed, proposing five new free walking routes in and around Bruges. The UNESCO World Heritage City looks its absolute finest bursting with flowers and greenery, waterways reflecting blue skies, so now is a great time to download the new app and enjoy some of the best heritage, culture, canals and sunshine Belgium has to offer.
1. Inside the app
The app is cleanly designed, with easy-to-navigate mapping by Mapbox. Download and open the app for iPhone or Android. You’ll be presented with title tiles for the new routes. Choose your tour and a route overview in red is shown on the city. Highlights on each tour are marked with red pins, and you can start anywhere. Move forward and backwards between the pins using arrows at the bottom of the page, to get a sense of your itinerary. Tap on the pin and the detail expands to tell you more about the attraction. It’s really impressively simple.
2. Tell me about the walks
Five walking routes, all loops for convenience, are currently available on the app, ranging from 4 km to 6 km in length. There’s nothing to stop you combining elements from different walks too, to create your own bespoke discovery tour. [Of course guided walks are still available from a range of Bruges’s partner organisations, but the app is a great alternative, allowing you freedom to design your own experience and explore at your own pace.]
You might choose to begin with a walk in the tourist centre of Bruges on the “Amazing World Heritage” route, a great way for new visitors to the city to take in all its palaces, ramparts, spires, and squares big and small.
The “Calm and collected” tour takes curious visitors a bit further off the beaten track, into the appealing old working-class St Anne district, where the eponymous St Anne’s Church hides a stunning Baroque interior; and archers’ guilds, convents, mills and a confluence of canals will feed the senses.
Bruges is charming but not completely cut off from modernity and the “Surprisingly now: Contemporary Hotspots” tour takes a different look at the city, bringing visitors’ gaze to how the new has been woven sympathetically into the fabric of the place. Whether it’s expressionist sculpture at St Boniface Bridge, the austere 1970s Biekorf library, or the marriage of a new housing estate with ancient almshouses, this 5.5 km walk will give you fresh eyes on Bruges.
The longest route takes you all around the city’s canals. Surrounded on three sides by water, Bruges has been shaped by its intimate connection to the River Reie and the sea, its trade and industry. Walk the quays, bridges and canal paths, hear the clink of boats, peer into craft studios and warehouses, and feel your blood stir with stories of revolt during the Battle of the Golden Spurs.
Discover the rich Golden Age of Bruges on the “Luxury and Bling Bling: Burgundian Splendour” route. Alternatively, the longest route, called ”The Story of Bruges”, takes you all around the city’s canals. Surrounded on three sides by water, Bruges has been shaped by its intimate connection to the River Reie and the sea, its trade and industry. Walk the quays, bridges and canal paths, hear the clink of boats, peer into craft studios and warehouses, and feel your blood stir with stories of revolt during the Battle of the Golden Spurs. River lovers will want to note the Reie river and canals will be having their own festival this summer, with more than 50 performances over three days in mid-August, from concerts and theatre to audio and light installations and processions. Tickets are already on sale and the programme is here.
3. Making a meal and a night of it
Bruges has an incredibly vibrant food scene, with over 31 of its chefs now listed by Michelin, Gault&Millau and Bib Gourmand. Whether it’s classic bistro fayre on the lively Grote Markt or a fish dish to die for, whenever you choose to visit, you will not be short of dinner dilemmas. And why not stroll to a friendly Bruges pub afterwards, for post-dinner drinks.
Nightfall with the ancient city holds a special kind of magic, and early risers will not want to miss the sunrise on their favourite bridge. If you’re looking to treat yourself or a loved one to a stay in Bruges, check out this great selection of overnight options, from self-catering to guest rooms with locals, to pampering in the hotel of your choice.