It’s been a few months since I got back from Bruges and I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while.
Bruges was amazing. I loved it (you can read My Bruges Story post here)
It’s the perfect little chocolate box town.
BUT….it is exactly that….
Meaning, there’s not an awful lot to it.
Before my trip, I listed all the sights that I wanted to see which included two tours – the chocolate museum and the fry museum.
(Find all my top tourist sights in the 21 Top Tourist Stops You MUST Make in Bruges (With Google Map))
I managed to see everything on my list in just one day.
So, for the rest of my trip, I had to get creative as I didn’t want to just sit in my hostel all day.
Luckily for me, the hostel reception was filled with tourist maps – including those that listed the ‘not so touristy’ tourist sights.
I collected them up and my next day was spent exploring the back streets and canals of Bruges.
It was a great day. I felt as though I was off on my own little adventure hunt.
I’ll be honest and admit that even though some of these small sights were quite cool, others were a bit naff.
To help you out on your trip to Bruges, I’ve listed only the best off-the-beaten-track tourist sights complete with photos and a Google Map of where to find them.
…although I’ll leave it up to you to decide what order you would like to visit them in. I’m just going to list them off in a totally random order of remembrance.
1. The Secret Garden
I know, cool right?
I bet you got excited just by seeing the word ‘secret’…so did I.
This ‘secret’ garden was created by neighbors who reclaimed an old abandoned house.
The roof had rotted away along with most of the timberwork, so they decided to fill the space with potted plants, herbs, and flowers.
It’s only small – once you’re inside you can only take about two steps in each direction – but it’s quaint and has a nice community neighborhood feel to it.
The flowers and gardening skills that are on show aren’t going to blow your mind, but I still think that you’ll enjoy this stop and appreciate the work that people have put into maintaining it.
Whilst we on the subject of maintenance…
…please be warned that you are entering an abandoned building. Therefore, you enter at your own risk as it could fall down at any minute(!).
2. Kiss the Frog
Not really a tourist sight per say, but I still thought that this was a cool thing to include on my list.
This is a frog that is hidden in a bronze statue in Burg Square.
The map that I was using instructed every tourist to kiss the frog. They claim that after the frog had been kissed 100,000 times, then it would turn into the prettiest prince(ss).
And – even better – they would carry your backpack! For free!! For life!!!
I thought it was worth a try …
…sadly, it didn’t happen for me. But maybe you’ll have better luck.
(you can find other frog-kissers by searching the hashtag #USEITmademekissafrog on Instagram)
3. The Traitors Skull
This is a good one, but first I need to give you a bit of history.
Back in the day, Bruges was protected by walls that formed a circle around the whole city – they even had sand walls that were used to catch cannonballs.
The only way to enter or exit was through one of the four town gates which were guarded.
As you can imagine, back in medieval times, this made Bruges hard to take.
But in 1688 a traitor opened the gate from the inside….and his skull is still hanging on the Smedenpoort gate today.
…well, nowadays it’s just a bronze copy, but at one point it was real.
It took me a little bit of time to find it, but it is there.
And whilst you’re trying to find it, have a look inside the town gate – you’ll notice that the guards also had fireplaces to help keep them warm during their winter shifts.
Go to the corresponding point using the map above and look for a canon.
I bet you can’t see it, can you?
I wandered around Bruges for a whole day and never even noticed.
The reason why you can’t see it is because it has been placed in the ground upside down.
It was put there to help protect the houses from the horse-drawn carriages. This way, when they turned to go down a side street, they didn’t hit and damage the house.
I thought this was a really quirky and great way to recycle.
5. Is Bruges that old?
(No point on the map for this one as the buildings are kind of everywhere)
I love medieval gothic architecture as much as the next person, so I was a little disappointed when I found out that a lot of Bruges isn’t really that old.
The problem is that when you have a city that’s famous for being old, it’s difficult to build anything modern.
There is a conservation action group that gets angry about modern additions to the city center. Whereas some younger local architects are begging for more experimentation.
Here’s a little trick to help you distinguish if a building is really old.
Look next to the door. If it has a yellow-and-white plaque, then the building is preserved as a monument and is genuinely old.
Have a little look around at the windows.
Notice anything a bit odd?
…some of them are missing or have been faked by painting them on.
This is because, back in the 19th century, people had to pay taxes based on the number of windows their property had.
To help reduce the amount of tax that they had to pay, they simply bricked up the windows.
Talk about finding a solution to a problem.
7. Café Vlissinghe
This is the oldest bar in Burges.
It’s been there for over 500 years – that’s half a millennium!!
And even better, it’s almost completely in its original condition.
There you have it
Those are my favorite off the beaten track spots to explore in Bruges.
Keep your eyes on my blog (or even better, subscribe using the box below or in the sidebar) as I’ll be publishing a post detailing the must-sees and must-dos of Bruges.
If you know of any other off-the-track spots, please let me know about them in the comments.
Here’s to your next adventure.
- My Bruges Story: Buses, Chocolates & Waffles
- 21 Top Tourist Stops You MUST Make in Bruges (With Google Map)
- How I Travelled Around Europe For 18 Days For Less Than €760
- 24 Adventurous Activities That Should Be on Your Bucket List