Walking Tour: Bruges' Parks & Canals

  • Start Vismarkt
  • End Vismarkt
  • Length 3km; two to three hours

The handsome colonnaded 1821 fish market is still open for business most days. Fishmongers have been selling their North Sea produce here for centuries, though these days only a few vendors set up on the cold stone slabs. Join locals buying snacks such as maatjes (herring fillets). Several seafood restaurants here back onto pretty Huidenvettersplein, where archetypal Bruges buildings, including the old tanners’ guildhall, are located.

Walk south along Jozef Suvéestraat for a few minutes until you reach local hang-out Koningin Astridpark, named for the Swedish wife of King Léopold of Belgium; you'll come across her bust when you reach the park. Walk through the park, pass the Gothic revival Magdalen Church and you'll reach the scrumptious Patisserie Schaeverbeke at Schaarstraat 2.

Continue south to Gentpoort, one of the town’s four medieval gateways. From here, a pleasant footpath leads through the greenery along the water’s edge. Follow the path west until you reach Minnewater and its eponymous park, a scenic green space with orderly flower beds and secluded paths. It’s hard to believe that the serene waterway, known to locals as the ‘Lake of Love’, was once the city's inner harbour, where exotic cargoes of wool, wine, spices and silks were unloaded.

Just north of the park, Wijngaardplein, a touristy but still irresistible square, is ringed by cafés (pubs) and features a horse-head fountain where the city’s carriage horses are watered. The cafés here are a little on the pricey side, but the views are refreshing. Over the little arched bridge from the square, the 13th-century begijnhof is one of the delights of Bruges, its whitewashed buildings encircling a garden with tall trees and swathes of daffodils in spring. It’s well worth visiting Ten Wijngaarde, the house museum here, as well as the church.

From the begijnhof, cross the water and head up Wijngaardstraat to turn left onto Katelijnestraat. Bear right onto Gruuthusestraat (which becomes Dijver) and head back to the Vismarkt.