“If I grew up on a farm and was retarded, Bruges might impress me. But I didn’t, so it doesn’t."
- Quote by Colin Farrell's character in the movie In Bruges (2008) -
If you ignore this cruel statement and decide to go to Bruges anyway, you will soon find that there are plenty of reasons why this charming Belgian town is truly worth a visit! Especially fans of historical films will love it here as I discovered on my most recent trip…
So here are my top five reasons for a visit to Bruges:
1. Because The White Queen was filmed here
I’m a huge history buff! So when I heard that one of my favourite historical TV Series, The White Queen (2013), was shot in and around the city of Bruges, discovering the White Queen filming locations was obviously my number one priority to visit.
Although the stories surrounding the former Queen of England, Elizabeth Woodville (aka The White Queen), are historically set in medieval England, the filmmakers decided to go to Flanders, Belgium because of the many medieval buildings that still exist here.
To walk several of the series’ original filming locations, you can pick up a free White Queen movie map from one of several tourist offices in Bruges, for example the centrally located tourist office at the Market square (Markt 1).
Here are five film locations from The White Queen:
1. The Bell Tower Courtyard
My personal highlight was the royal courtyard, which is actually the courtyard of the Bell Tower right in the middle of Bruges' main market square. This is where King Edward IV, his brothers and other followers in the series ride out to war while their wives bid them farewell.
2. The City Hall
If you're an avid fan of the series, you will also recognize Bruges' Stadhuis (City Hall) as the building that was used as the Royal Court at Westminster Palace.
3. The Basilica of the Holy Blood
Right next to the City Hall is this smaller church. In this series, the inside of the church was used as the Chapel near Grafton Manor where Elizabeth and Edward’s secretly got married.
4. The Church of Our Lady
The inside of this church was used as London’s Westminster Abbey. You have to pay an entrance fee if you like to see the whole of the church and the so-called "Madonna of Bruges" – a Madonna and Child sculpture created by Michelangelo in about 1503.
As it was later stolen by the Nazis, the "Madonna of Bruges" sculpture also plays an important role in WW2 art drama The Monuments Men (2014).
5. The Nuit Blanche B&B
The bridge and guesthouse of the Nuit Blanche B&B (a real guesthouse by the way, so you can stay in the charming medieval rooms) is another pretty film location that features in The White Queen. The outside was used as a tavern and Valognes townhouse (Warwick family in exile) and the inside as Elizabeth’s bedroom in Grafton Manor.
2. Because In Bruges (2008) was (literally) shot here
Colin Farrell’s character in the movie In Bruges is a hit man in training and not impressed when his colleague tries to win him over for all the beautiful historic sites of the Belgian town. Quote: "I am not retarded, am I?"
He also calls Bruges “a shithole”. But the slightly weird movie with a pitch black sense of humour only did the opposite from people staying away: It attracted even more visitors to Bruges!
3. Because the most successful Bollywood production ever was filmed here
After the “shit hole” promotion by In Bruges, even India’s dream factory Bollywood discovered the small little Flemish town… and that quite recently and with enormous success.
In 2013, Bollywood movie PK was partly filmed here. Of course, it was a whirlwind romance of two Indians that met in Bruges. Released in 2014, the satirical science fiction comedy directed by Rajkumar Hirani became the highest-grossing film that Bollywood has ever made!
4. Because you can spend a whole day in the 15th century
In the 15th century, Bruges was one of the most important towns in Europe thanks to its flourishing, international trade business and famous Renaissance painters such as Jan Van Eyck.
At the interactive museum Historium (Markt 1, right in the centre of the city just outside the Bell Tower), you can relive the so-called Golden Age of Bruges by following Jacob, an apprentice of Jan Van Eyck, through a day in 1435.
Using film and special effects, seven themed rooms will take you back in time – giving you a glimpse into Jan van Eyck's workshop and telling the story of how one of Jan Van Eyck's most famous Madonna paintings may have been created.
At the top of the building, enjoy the panoramic view over the market square of Bruges and finish off with a cool Belgian beer at the Duvelorium Grand Beer Café.
If you’re a big medieval art lover, I would recommend you check out the Groeningemuseum Museum (Dijver 12) as well. For 17,50 € you can get a combo ticket for both the Historium and the Groeningemuseum Museum. It is a bit hard to find (the entrance is from the courtyard), so make sure you go to the courtyard when entering from the street level.
It also doesn’t have THAT many paintings, but therefore it has very important ones, including the real Jan van Eyck Madonna – the painting which development you’ve just witnessed at the Historium.
5. Because Bruges is just a very rare example of a perfectly preserved medieval town
Just wandering around town is an experience in itself. For the best places to eat and see on a budget, I recommend the Use-It city map of Bruges.
Especially designed for young people and students written by the city's locals, the USE-It map is packed with dozens of great insider tips of “exploring Bruges on the cheap.”
One more tip for your trip: To get an overview of the most important films and series made in Bruges, check out this trailer playlist before you go: