Things to do:
The Belfry (7) on Markt is the most prominent feature of the city. The climb of 366 steps can be broken at the Treasury Room where 13th-century ironwork grills protect the cavities where the city's documents and money were stored. The top provides magnificent views. Try to time your ascent to coincide with the hour, when an enormous brass drum with pegs in square sockets activates the bells. Admission is €5 (£3.60). Open daily 9.30am-5pm.
After you've climbed the 366 steps you must have a coffee or hot chocolate at Cafe Craenenburg (Markt 16 - 003250 333402) this is where Maximilian of Austria, son of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III, was imprisoned in 1488.
Then walk over to the Basilica of the Holy Blood (1) in the south-west corner. This is where the phial of what is believed to be Christ's blood is kept, in the silver alter and taken out twice daily, in the upper of two contrasting chapels.
Find the Almshouses, the Diamond Museum, then continue down on Mariastrasse to the Church of Our Lady (18) dates from the 13th to 15th centuries and has an impressive 122-metre brick tower and spire. Its main glory is the white marble Madonna and Child by Michelangelo, situated to the right as you enter. The church (which is hard to miss because its tower is the highest in Belgium) also has paintings by Van Dyck, Pourbus and Caravaggio.
Hire a bike - From the station or one of seven other outlets for around €9.50 (£6.80) a day.(One is next to the Belfry) Cycle the streets, follow Hoogstraat, Damse Vaart canal, past a fine windmill,to Kruisport, then back - on the way you must try a real bakery called the DESOETE at Calvariebergstraat 40-42 and ask for a Frangipan and try the BOETERKEOKENs. Its delicious!
A canal boat trip is a must!
Visit Minnewater & the Beguinage - visit to Bruges is not complete without having seen the idyllic Beguine Convent and the romantic Minnewater. In the Beguine convent, there are no longer any Beguines, but Benedictines in 15th century costume still maintain the historic atmosphere. The legendary swans swim on the Minnewater. The people of Brugge look after these noble creatures in fulfilment of the punishment imposed on them by the Maximilian of Austria, after they had beheaded his councillor Pieter Lanchals.
EAT OUT -
T'Schrijverke - Gruuthusestraat 4, www.tschrijverke.be (great Bouillabaise)
Breydel de Coninck - Breidelstraat 24 0032 50339746 (try the moussels in the pot, they measure a kg per person! )
Spinola Restaurant - Spinolarei 1, (great however expensive food)
T'Gulden Vlies - Mallebergplaats 17 - great for dinner
De Torres - Hoogstraat - great for lunch
Try the 'friet' fresh from chip stall at the Markt, the flemish stew, or mussels in the pot with wine or with cream! Specialty eels which are cooked in green sorrell or cream sauce or seabass.
DRINK BEER -
Cambrinus Beer House - has got 400 types of beer
T'Brugs Beertje - 300 types of beer
Cafe Vlissinghe - the oldest cafe from 1515!
BUY Chocolate -
Chocolate Line- at Simon Stevinplein square or
DUMON - the oldest chocolatiers
You must be aware that this is a true turist trap. They catch you once, and this is it, and they know it. Therefore do not expect anything outstanding for your money. If you get it then get pleasantly surprised but again do not expect it 'cause it's not around.
We stayed in the Grand Hotel Casselbergh but other than paying a fortune for a small room - it started as a special deal which then was cancelled as we arrived as apparently the weekend is not included in the special deals! - no great shakes! I always think that it feels less painfull if they smile and rip you off...
Prices in Bruges are expensive, you will not enjoy it if you are on a budget. Dining out for two in a mediocre restaurant (not having traditional 3 course menu!) is from 60 eur - to the 340! eur. A simple hot chocolate between 4 eur - 7 eur ! etc.
Overall I think it was a great decision to go and see it for ourselves. It is like a fairytale town, it was truly magnificent as it snowed in the morning and night and the sun came out during the day.
I found a great visitors guide on www.bruges.be/tourism that you can download for free.
Hope the above will help your decision!