Length 7.1 km (4.4 miles), terrain: flat
Pictures courtesy of the creative folks at Flickr Creative Commons. Thanks!
For other running routes, see Route List.
Bruges (Brugge in Dutch, the local language in Flanders) is one of the most beautiful towns on the planet. Its unique mix of medieval buildings, canals spanned by old stone bridges, gate-towers, windmills, rich merchants' homes, impressive churches and long riverside parks make it one of the most fascinating places you'll ever go. And the trails along the river and canals also make for some great runs.
|Along a Bruges canal, photo by Robert Vignola|
So, if you're lucky enough to spend some time in this great old town, let's do a run along (in my humble opinion) the best route around, combining the riverside, some canals and the most interesting sights in the old town.
We'll start the run at the 700-year-old Church of Our Lady (Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk in Dutch), with its collection of art treasures, including one statue by Michelangelo. At the street-corner, near the church tower, turn south and start running down Mariastraat.
|Church of Our Lady, photo by Alex Torres|
Keep running south for two more blocks along this narrow shopping street, then turn right into Walstraat.
Run just one block to the first tree-filled square, Walplein, and turn left.
At the next crossing, Wijngaardstraat, turn right, heading into the next little square, lining a canal, the Minnewater. Here you cross the bridge over the canal and head straight through the little gate-house into an amazing little neighborhood, the Begijnhof. You find yourself in a peaceful, tree-filled square lined by old white houses. Almost every town in the lowlands has a Begijnhof: a lay society of Christian women who live like nuns but are not bound by vows. The benches seem to beckon to sit down for a minute, an afternoon or a lifetime.
|Begijnhof, photo by nuance1979|
You'll come out to the Minnewater again where a cool old brick house, the Sashuis (the sluice-keeper's house), spans the water. Turn right here to continue southwards along the Minnewater, on the dirt path under the trees. There's a house that looks like a little castle across the small lake.
At the end of the water, at the one-kilometer mark, you'll come to a remnant of the old city walls, the round gun-powder tower. Now turn left and cross the bridge over the Minnewater and head east along the main canal, the Ghent-to-Ostende Canal.
You are now following a footpath in a canal-side park, skirting the old town along the site of the old city walls. You'll run by other old defensive towers and cross over a few side-canals. The trail follows the canal as it slowly curves towards the north.
|Canal-side trail with windmill, photo by nadiology|
After the fourth windmill (at the 4-km mark), the canal-side trail ends at Potterierei (Pottery Row). Turn left here. This beautiful street follows a smaller canal as it winds into the heart of the old town.
|Along Pottereirei, photo by Isabelle Puaut|
|Van Eyckplein, photo by Mark W. Weston|
Turn left onto Vlamingstraat and run past the old theater and shops for a few blocks, straight towards the massive tower of the belfry (bell tower), on the city's main square, the Grote Markt. It's still used as a market on some days, so you might see food stands packed into the square. This is also the 6-km mark. You're now in the heart of town, where there will probably be some crowds to slow you down, but it's worth it to see this part.
|Restaurants on the market square, photo by Roger Marks|
The square is dominated by the huge, 700-year-old belfry. When you get to the belfry, turn left to exit the square to the east along Breidelstraat. In just a few steps you'll come into the next beautiful square, Burgplein (Castle Square), with its collection of amazing buildings.
|The castle and Liberty, photo by Rose Trinh|
Now keep running northeast along Hoogstraat (High Street) for two blocks until you reach the little lane called Meestraat, where you turn right and run over the bridge spanning the next canal. This is perhaps the most beautiful canal in town, with its trees and footpath, and it's where most of the tourist boats cruise.
After the bridge, turn right and follow the canal westwards along Steenhouwersdijk (Stonemasons' Dike). You'll pass the arcaded outdoor fish-market.
|Steenhouwersdijk, photo by fmpgoh|
Turn right onto Rozenhoedkaai and follow the canal on your right side. You now have one of the most beautiful views you'll ever see to your right, with the old buildings, churches and the belfry rising above the bend in the canal. I find it hard to not stop and gape at this spot, but you can always come back again later.
|Dijver, photo by N1D0|