The city has a very varied selection of museums. Something to suit most people no matter what your interests.
As mentioned previously the tower that dominates the Market square is a museum too, it is called The Belfort (Belfry). On this square is also situated the Historium.
Moving through to the Burg square you are confronted with a real wow factor of architectural styles - The ornate white building embellished with gold leaf is the 'Brugse Vrije ' or Liberty of Bruges. To the right of the Brugse Vrije stands the magnificent Stadhuis or Town hall.
On the right hand corner of the square is the Basilica of the Holy Blood, which was built in 1534 to house the relic of Christ's blood. If you are an art lover then head for the Dijver number 12, where the famous Groeningemuseum stands. Backtrack to the Market square then walk along Wollstraat and turn right after the bridge into the Dijver. The Groeninge Museum is also known as the Fine Arts museum and houses works of art spanning six centuries. A little further up this street is the Gruuthuis Museum This was a former palace, belonging to a very wealthy family. You are now very close to the Onze Lieve Vrouwkerke (Church of our Lady)and it's treasures in Mariastraat and at no 38 is the Memling museum in The old hospital of Sint Jan, also the Archeology Museum To the East of the city there are several museums of interest and they can be visited when you explore this area out as far as the Kruisport. You need to walk from the centre, through the Burg square into the Hoogstraat and the Langestraat. The first sign you see will be to the Volkskunde's Museum (Folk Museum). Well worth a look, especially if you have children with you. Here is also housed the Lace museum telling the story of this cottage industry. You are now in the vicinity of the very special Jerusalem church. Continuing east, make your way to Rolweg 64 and the Guido Gezelle museum. He was a much loved poet and scholar. From the gardens of the museum you can see the first of three windmills on the outer ring of the city. You can even visit one ST Jan's Mill and see it in action. This is definitely a photo opportunity! Retracing your steps to the first windmill, you will see in front of you a castle like building with flags flying. This is the Kruispoort, one of the old city gates, unfortunately not open to the public it is he home of a fencing club! It spans the canal and you may be lucky enough to see the bridge raised to allow water traffic to pass. You will be amazed at how quiet those huge barges are, yet they carry so much freight! If you still have energy, and do not need to walk back into town down the Langestraat or take the 6 or 16 bus from nearby the Kruispoort, then a walk along the canal (past the ING bank) will take you on a pretty route to the Coupure (cutting) where a footbridge crosses a canal where pleasure boats moor up. Crossing this bridge you soon arrive at the Gentpoort, another of the original gates to the city. This one IS open to the public and has recently been made into a super little museum. The path by the canal continues to Minnewater and the Beguinage museum.
These 13th century medieval buildings from which the bells toll were once an indoor market place The Market square is dominated by the cloth hall and the 83 meter high Belfry tower, one of the symbols of the city. The original cloth hall and tower date from 1240. The first tower, however, was destroyed by fire in 1280. At the time of the fire the four wings of the cloth hall already existed, as well as the two square segments of the belfry. The present octagonal lantern was added to the tower between 1482 en 1486. The wooden spire that crowned the tower was again destroyed by fire in 1493 en 1741. As the poet Longfellow wrote; 'In the market-place of Bruges stands the belfry old and brown;Thrice consumed and thrice rebuilded, still it watches o'er the town'.
After the last fire the spire was never rebuilt. Like in most cities of the Low Countries the belfry tower was the place where the important documents of the city were preserved. At the same time such towers were used as watchtowers. Inside hung bells, each bell having a distinct sound and function (e.g.: bells for danger, bells for important announcements, bells to indicate the time, etc.). The entire complex still bears witness to the importance of Bruges as a medieval trade centre. In the cloth hall, the Flemish cloth which was manufactured in different other cities was sold to the rest of the world. In 1399, for instance, there were 384 sales stands inside the hall. From time to time these halls house exhibitions and are worth a visit for the wonderful roof structures alone. Nowadays, the belfry tower charms the visitor with the lovely music of a Carillon, which consists of 47 bells. There are panoramic views from the top if you are brave or indeed fit enough to climb the 366 steps !. As you climb you will see the old Treasury room, a huge clock mechanism and the carillon. You'll certainly know it if you time your arrival at the top to coincide with their chimes!.
The Belfort Tower - (Belfry) - Bruges
The Brugse Vrije - Bruges
In the Burg square, number 12, the ornate white building embellished with gold leaf is the 'Brugse Vrije ' or Liberty of Bruges. This building was originally a treasure house and a courthouse. In the Renaissance chamber there is a huge fireplace in marble and alabaster designed by Lancelot Blondeel in the 16th century in honour of the Emperor Charles V. It was made by various local joiners and sculptors.
The Town Hall (Stadhuis) - Bruges
The Bruges Town Hall was built in 1376 and amazingly, the city has been governed from this building for more than 700 years Bruges Town Hall, built between 1376 and 1420 is one of the oldest in the Low Countries. A ceremonial staircase leads from the entrance hall to the first floor, where visitors can view the Gothic Chamber. This former council chamber continues to play an important part in the life of the city. . As in the UK locals get married here and very lucky they are - The Gothic chamber on the first floor has magnificent 19th century wall paintings and the ceiling is amazing. The wooden, polychrome ceiling is decorated with a profusion of late-mediaeval carving. The murals illustrating Bruges' glorious past were added during the chamber's restoration in the late 19th century. The adjoining 'historical chamber' contains several objects, documents and works of art with a bearing on the city's past.
Even if you have no time to make a full visit you can enter the ground floor and learn a little more and see some wonderful paintings.
Chocolate Museum - Bruges
The museum, housed in a wonderful step gable building, dips its visitors in the history of cocoa and chocolate. From the Maya and the Spanish conquistadores to the chocolate connoisseurs of today. A chocolate hunt gives children the chance to discover the museum. Chocolates are made by hand and of course you get a chance to taste some!
The Lace museum
The Lace museum is now housed in the Folklore Museum and tells the story of Lace through the ages. This cottage industry thrived in Bruges as it enabled the poor to make extra money. If you are lucky you may see a demonstration. There is a shop in the same street where you can buy everything you need to start making lace at home yourself. As From 19 Sept’ 2014 it reopens after much restoration work.
The Lace Museum - Bruges
Friet Museum (Chip) - Bruges
Absolutely incredible! Up until now there was no Friet museum in the whole world, which means that the Friet museum in Bruges is the first and only museum dedicated to potato fries. The Belgian potato fry is certainly the product that is the most characteristic of Belgian culinary expertise. Over the years, fries have become known world wide to the delight of adults and children in practically all countries and we can be proud that they actually originate from Belgium.
There is always some confusion because in Belgium potato crisps are called chips, whereas chips are of course called frites! Now you know!
This interesting museum evokes the atmosphere of bygone days. Historic objects are used to reconstruct a classroom, a cobbler's and a hatter's workshop, a Flemish living room, an old kitchen, a confectioner's and an old chemist, and not forgetting a public house! The numerous folkloric exhibits include a large collection of pipes, examples of old costume and items relating to popular worship.
Well worth a look, especially if you have children with you. It really gives a taste of life in former times for the ordinary working classes and I am sure that when you leave you will be quite glad that you live in this century!.
Also in this building is the Lace Musuem.
Folklore Museum (Museum voor Volkskunde) - Bruges
The Groeninge Museum - Bruges
The Groeninge Museum is also called 'The city museum of Fine Arts'. The collection was already started in the beginning of the 18th century, but the building itself is recent and dates from 1929-1930. The collection in the museum spans several centuries (from the 14th to the 20th century) and focuses primarily on works by painters who lived and worked in Bruges. A splendid and very valuable collection of Flemish masters is the pride of this museum. First of all, there are two works by Jan Van Eyck, the first and most important 'Flemish Primitive'. The museum's masterpiece is 'The Madonna with Canon Joris van der Paele', which Van Eyck painted in 1436. The rich detail of the clothes of the personae on this painting make it one of the true treasures of early Flemish medieval painting. A second work by Van Eyck is the portrait of his wife 'Margareta Van Eyck'. Other medieval Flemish masters from the 15th century are represented here with some of their masterpieces unsurpassed; the richness of velvet gowns and delicate lace for instance. There are works by Constant Permeke, Gustave de Smet, and Emile Claus (one of my personal favourites , because of the charming portrayal of the Flemish countryside). There is a nice museum shop to visit with unusual gifts and souvenirs.
The Gentpoort is one of the original gates to the city. This one IS open to the public and has recently been made into a super little museum. It is easy to imagine people centuries ago passing through this great gate - the gates are no longer in existance but evidence of their hinges can be seen. Winding steps take you up to the first floor where the intricasies of archery and armour are explained and there are views from slit windows, however if you climb up further you are on the roof and have a superb view of the canal and back into town. You may be lucky enough to see the bridge raised below and see a passing barge!
Gentpoort Museum - Bruges
Guido Gezelle Museum - Bruges
The literary and biographical museum of Guido Gezelle (1830-1899) is incorporated in the house where the famous Flemish poet was born. Gezelle's birthplace in a quiet working-class district displays handwritten letters and writing paraphernalia. He was a much loved poet and scholar and although there is only a handout in English, the old house and garden are charming and there is a statue by Jan Fabre in a corner - 'the man who gave fire' - superb!! If you are wondering why his shoes are on a separate plinth - apparently even as a very successful artist and sculptor, he felt unworthy in the presence of Guido Gezelle. In the section 'further afield' I will mention another of Jan Fabres famous works 'Searching for Utiopia' on Nieupoort seafront. From the gardens of the museum you can see the first of three windmills on the outer ring of the city. They are beautifully restored and you can even visit one and see it in action. This is definitely a photo opportunity! Also don't forget that I mentioned the cafe 'The Verloren Hoek' ( the forgotten corner) near the windmills!
This most diverse of all the Bruges Museums is situated in the 'House of Gruuthuse', more like a palace, which belonged in the late Middle-Ages to the very wealthy family, also known as the lords of 'Gruuthuse'. This family owned the monopoly of 'Gruut' selling. Gruut was a medieval mixture of spices used to flavour beer.There are many decorative articles to see - mainly beautiful but also a guillotine! You can really get a good idea of how the rich lived and there is a surprise when you visit the chapel! Even the Ladies toilet is unique, housed in a round tower!
Gruuthuis Museum - Bruges
The Diamond Museum Bruges was opened on June 19,1999. The museum has since been extended in several phases. In 2005, the Brazilian Collection and exhibitions on synthetic and industrial diamonds opened. Investigations in the city archives of Bruges, together with local historian Ludo Vandamme confirmed that diamonds were traded in Bruges long before diamonds were heard of in Antwerp and Amsterdam, and a number of diamond polishers, active in Bruges in the 14th century, were identified. No free samples here unfortunately!
The Diamond Museum - Bruges
The 'De halve Maan' family brewery (The Half Moon) has been active since 1856. The cooking and brewing cauldron, the cooler and the malt store were the authentic working instruments for the brewing of the 'Straffe Hendrik' beer ( Henry's punishment) and can be seen working today! On your tour, you can enjoy a panoramic view of Bruges. After your visit, you can taste the homemade beer.
The Half Moon Brewery Museum - Bruges
The museum contains the world's largest collection of lamps and lights. More than 6.000 antiques tell the complete story of interior lighting. From torch and paraffin lamp to light bulb to LED.
The Lamp Museum - Bruges
St. Jans Hospital Museum - Bruges
There was a hospital on this site already in the Middle Ages, one of the first in Europe. It was still in use until quite recently and people are still living that were born there! You can see the old sedan chair 'ambulances' and surgical instruments used. The beautiful paintings show us what it was like with each patient housed in a wooden bunk with curtains. The conditions were very primitive. There is a hospital infirmary and pharmacy as well as a beautiful chapel.
Also within this building is the Hans Memling Museum Hans Memling is considered one of the most important 'Flemish primitives', although he was actually born in Germany, near Frankfurt. There is not a lot known about him and his life. In 1465 Memling is mentioned for the first time in the city books of Bruges. In 1480 he is considered to belong to the group of wealthy inhabitants of the city. He married Anna de Valkenaere and had three children with her. He died in Bruges on August the 11th 1494 and was buried in the local St.Gilles church. The reason why some of his most beautiful paintings were made for the St. John's Hospital has given rise in the 19th century to a legend about his arrival in Bruges. Hans Memling might have been a soldier in the army of Charles the Bold, duke of Burgundy. When he arrived severely wounded in Bruges he was taken care of by the sisters and brothers of the Hospital. To reward them he made the paintings that are still to be seen in the Memling Museum. The overwhelming treasure; the shrine of St. Ursula is housed here intricately carved and painted. It is said that it contains the relics of the saint, put there in 1489.
This houses contain a wide variety of material witnesses to Bruges’ past discovered during excavations. They include pottery, glass, leather, metal, wood and stone items, and a series of murals. Together, the exhibits recall the city’s history from the Stone Age to the Middle Ages and beyond.This museum presents the unwritten history of Bruges. Its motto: feel your past beneath your feet. Discover the history of the city through different kinds of search and hands-on activities. A fascinating mix of archaeological finds, riddles, replicas and reconstructions shed light on daily life in times gone by, from the home to the workplace and from birth till death.
Archaeological Museum - Bruges
This beautiful old house is devoted to the extensive work of Welsh artist Frank Branwyn, who was born in Bruges and returned to the city in 1936. He followed the arts and crafts movement and was an apprentice to William Morris It is an incredibly versatile collection of furniture, prints and rugs as well as paintings depicting the harsh reality of life for people in factories and docks.
In the courtyard garden is the sculpture by Rik Poot 'Four Horsemen of the Apocolypse', which represents the horrors of war, death, famine and revolution.
Arenthuis Museum - Bruges
This was a former hospice, founded in 1276. It contains a curious collection of items used in medical care, tapestries, furniture, sculptures, Delftware and paintings. In the church's treasury there is silverware, Books of hours and a 16th century Book of Miracles.
Potterei Museum - Bruges
Bruges' city walls were dotted with windmills from the late 13th century until the 19th century. You can see this on the old map on our Home page. St Janshuis' mill, which dates from 1770, is the only one to survive in its original position. The mill is usually in operation, and visitors can climb its steep staircase and visit the museum inside. You may even be lucky enough to see the sails turning in the wind!
The St. Janshuis Mill - Bruges
The Sound Factory is an interactive place for sound art and creativity, an auditory voyage of discovery, which is spread over the Lantern Tower’s fifth floor and roof terrace. Experimenting, experiencing and composing. Great fun for all and superb views over the town!