As if fresh from the pages of a Hans Christian Andersen tale, Bruges enchants visitors whatever the weather...
The capital of the Flemish province of West Flanders, in north-west Belgium, Bruges is a wonderful destination for a short break and there is a great supply of hotels in which to base your visit. Begin your explorations of this small but beautiful city at the heart of the action, Grote Markt, also known as the Market Square. The Belfry stands over the square, which is host to many of the best events in Bruges. A maze of streets lead off this area and take visitors away to see a network of canals, on which swans and tour boats float, delightful little bars and cafés, parks and lakes, and a seemingly never-ending supply of historic buildings capped by towers and other interesting shapes.
Be sure to taste a little Belgian chocolate, sample one of the nation's beers, and buy frites and mayo from one of the street-side vendors.
Where is the best location for a weekend break? Use our guide to hotels in Bruges for the answer to this and other questions...
This historic centre of Bruges has been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. This central core of the city is the best place to stay too, as you'll be close to the main attractions, plus it's simply a pleasure to sleep within this charming area and wake up to see the sun hitting the rooftops of Bruges (ask for a room on a high floor for the best views).
The good news is that in Bruges, hotels of all types can be found in the city centre. There are mid-range hotels and four- and five-star hotels, many of which are set in the magnificent buildings of the past, and there are a few budget hotels too. The bad news is that Bruges is a very popular place to visit and hotels book up fast, so be sure to secure your accommodation as early as possible to get a great deal.
If your budget is really tight, you could consider one of the cheaper hotels that sit in the residential streets outside the historic centre.
Parking in the cobbled streets and narrow lanes of Bruges can be quite tricky, and spaces are at a premium. Check to see if your hotel offers car parking if you have driven to the continent or plan to hire a car in Bruges. It's not a bad idea, as castles, abbeys, historic villages and windmills pepper the flat country around the city.
Bruges isn't short of attractions and the city is small enough to be able to take a few in, even during a weekend break...
No one could deny the beauty of Bruges or the pleasure found by simply sitting with a glass of something chilled in summer (or something steaming hot during the icy winter) and watching everyday life take place. But these attractions are certain to add to the fun.
Top five attractions
You can't miss the 83-metre medieval tower that casts a huge shadow on Grote Markt. There are 366 steps to the top and your efforts are rewarded with terrific views of the city and the countryside beyond.
Horse-drawn carriage tour
Some would say to avoid this as it's a terrible tourist cliché, but no one could disagree that this is a lovely way to see Bruges, with the clip-clop of hooves accompanying your guide's observations.
Canal boat tour
Take in Bruges from another angle when you tour the waterways of this ancient destination.
Set next to Minnewaterpark, which is the perfect spot for a lazy picnic, legend has it that if you cross the bridge over the lake with your partner, you will have eternal love. It's not nicknamed the 'Lake of Love' for nothing.
Basilica of the Holy Blood
Said to contain a vial of the blood of Christ, this double chapel is visually stunning, regardless of your beliefs.
Bruges attracts visitors to a range of events throughout the year, though Christmas is when the city is at its most magical...
It's a city for every season, so expect a good line-up of events throughout the year. Here are some of the best:
Brugs Bierfestival; February: More than 300 beers are celebrated in Bruges as the ice is thawing around this well-visited event.
Klinkers; July-August: There are many free events plus a number of paid-for performances at this annual feast of music, comedy, film and art.
Christmas in Bruges; November-January: To really get into the festive spirit you can shop amid the stalls in Grote Markt, skate on the ice rink, and visit the Snow and Ice Sculpture Festival in Stationsplein.