The 2008 dark comedy In Bruges didn’t make much of an impact at the box office when it was released, but the film has acquired cult classic status in rapid fashion in the years since. Directed by Martin McDonagh and starring Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, and Ralph Fiennes, the film’s slick direction and fantastic script make the film truly worthy of its newly minted status as a classic.
But the film, which tells the story of two hitmen banished to Bruges to hideaway, also gives viewers a world-class tour of the beautiful Belgium city, compliments of Ken (Gleeson) and his love for sightseeing. In fact, the film has been cited as creating a small boom in tourism for the small city that is one of the most well-preserved medieval cities in all of Europe.
With that in mind, here’s a list of ten amazing locations from In Bruges and a little bit about their histories. Also, it should be noted that this list contains potential spoilers — especially the last two on the list — for anyone who hasn’t seen the movie.
1. Bruges Canals
The first order of business on Ken’s tour of Bruges is a trip down the canals of the medieval city. But Ray (Farrell) doesn’t enjoy it nearly as much as his partner in crime. “Do you think this is good?” he asks Ken. “You know, going round in a boat, looking at stuff?”
These canals are what make Bruges “the Venice of the North,” offering scenic views of the city from an exciting new angle. At just 7.60 euros for adults, a canal tours is a fun, relaxing way to see all that Bruges has to offer.
2. Relais Bourgondisch Cruyce
The Relais Bourgondisch Cruyce is the hotel that Ken and Ray stay at in the film’s hotel scenes, although many shots were also done in a constructed hotel set. The warm and inviting bed and breakfast is the bane of Ray’s existence who continually reminds Ken that he loves city life and would do anything to return to Dublin where he’s from.
The Relais Bourgondisch Cruyce is a magnificent hotel — what Lonely Planet describes as “the very epitome of a Bruges experience.” Located at the intersection of two canals in central Bruges, the hotel is an exquisite getaway with rooms starting at just 215 euros. While there, be sure to enjoy the breakfast on which the hotel prides itself: Les matins du Relais.
3. Belfry of Bruges
It’s at the Belfry of Bruges that Ken proclaims that Ray is just “about the worst tourist in the whole world” after he turns down Ken’s offer to accompany him to the top. After Ken tells him that the view is great, Ray says, “The view of what? The view of down here? I can see that from down here.” Touché.
In spite of Ray’s reluctance, the Belfry is one of Bruges’ most touted landmarks. It stands at 83 meters tall, containing within it a treasure-chamber, a clock mechanism, and a carillon with 47 silver-toned bells. If you make it up the tower’s 366, you’ll be pleasantly rewarded with a sweeping view of Bruges, along with the city’s exquisite surroundings. At just eight euros a climb — and six euros for “youngsters under 26″ — this experience is well worth the price.
4. ’t Zwart Huis (The Black House)
After doing some sightseeing, Ray talks Ken into doing something he wants to do: drink Belgium beer. Ray also tries to coax Ken into cutting their Bruges hideaway vacation short, something which Ken is not having.
You can’t have a vacation without a pint of beer and a taste of the local culinary scene. There’s a reason Belgium is known for its beers, and ‘t Zwart Huis has that reason on tap. ‘t Zwart Huis, cozy and inviting, offers a getaway that any visitor can enjoy. Take in the live local music and historical significance of this landmark, which dates back to 1482. Visit Bruges calls it “a place where you’ll never bored.”
5. Basilica of the Holy Blood / Jerusalem Church
The Basilica of the Holy Blood is one of the most important stops on Ken’s Bruges tour. After scolding Ray for acting like a bored child, he tells the story of the church’s history and how it houses a relic said to hold the blood of Christ. However, it should be noted that while the film is supposed to take place in the Basilica of the Holy Blood and Ken’s historical recount is correct, the scene actually takes place in the Jerusalem church within the film. But both locations are equally stunning.
The Basilica of the Holy Blood does, indeed, lay claim to a relic purported to be the blood of Christ, making it a known destination for sacred pilgrimages. The Basilica’s double chapel consists of the Romanesque Church of Saint Basil on the ground floor (dating from 1139-1149), which was rebuilt according to the Gothic style of the 19th century. Church entrance is free of charge; museum admission is two euros.
Jerusalem Church, a chapel privately constructed by Belgium’s Adornes family in the 15th century, is based on the design of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Visit for an up-close look at the tombs, the tabernacle, the crypt, and the impressive stained glass windows.
6. Groeninge Museum
The next stop on the Ken tour is a trip to the Groeninge Museum where Ray takes a liking to Hieronymus Bosch‘s famous triptych The Last Judgement. Speaking of all the other famous paintings held at the Groeninge Museum, Ray tells Ken, “All the rest were rubbish by spastics, but this one’s quite good.” But a discussion on whether the two hitmen believe in Heaven and Hell soon turns the pair silent.
As you make your way towards the Groeninge Museum, enjoy a stroll through the charming streets of Bruges. The Groeninge Museum is home to a comprehensive collection of Belgian art, with paintings from the Renaissance, Baroque, neo-classical, and realist periods — among others. Visit for a remarkable look into the landscape and history of the Flemish and Belgian schools of art. Adult admission is eight euros, “youngsters under 26″ pay six euros, and children under 12 may enter free of charge.
Cafedraal is the restaurant that Ray and Chloë (Clémence Poésy) go to on their first date. As the pair warm up to each other, Ray manages to start a fight with a Canadian couple while Chloë is in the bathroom, knocking the pair out cold. Although, as he notes, he did believe the couple was American.
Located in the heart of Bruges, Cafedraal is a tasty and relaxing escape from everyday life. Here you can enjoy seasonal and local dishes from the French-Belgian cuisine — all just steps away from the city’s main shopping thoroughfares. Just don’t get in any fights while you’re here.
8. Meestraat Bridge
Immediately after the Cafedraal debacle, Ray and Chloë talk things out on the Meestraat Bridge. There, he tries to justify hitting a woman by saying he would only hit a woman who was swinging a bottle at him or knew karate. “I would never hit a woman generally,” he says.
The Meestraat Bridge is one of Bruges’ most photographed locations, and with good reason. The Bridge is an exquisitely romantic element of Bruges’ central landscape, and a must-see for any visitor to the city. Being located right at city center, it’s hard to miss.
9. Minnewater Bridge
The Minnewater Bridge actually appears very early on in the film during a short montage of Bruges locations at night, but you don’t get a clear view of it until you reach the climax of the film. With insane crime boss Harry Waters (Ralph Fiennes) relegated to phone calls and messages throughout the film’s first two acts, the film is clearly reaching a breaking point when Harry walks briskly over the Minnewater Bridge and into Bruges.
The Minnewater Bridge is another one of the city’s most romantic spots. The bridge is located in the southern part of the city, nestled among trees and aptly crossing over scenic Minnewater — the Lake of Love. According to Visit Bruges, “The tragic romance of Minna and her warrior love Stromberg has evolved into local legend saying that you will experience eternal love if you walk over the lake bridge with your partner.” Commitment-phobes, take note.
10. The Gruuthuse / Church of Our Lady
During the final moments of the film, Ray stares upwards from where he’s been shot and sees the tower of the Church of Our Lady along with the Gruuthuse. It’s at this moment, while he’s taken to the ambulance, that he realizes, “What if that’s what hell is? The rest of eternity stuck in Bruges.” The realization prompts him for the first time to tell the audience, “I really, really hoped I wouldn’t die.”
The Church of Our Lady is home to a valuable art collection, including Michelangelo’s renowned Madonna and Child, painted sepulchres dating to the 13th century, and the tombs of Mary of Burgundy and Charles the Bold. Admire the Church’s 122-meter brick tower, embodying the craftsmanship of Bruges’ artisans. Portions of the Church of Our Lady will be closed for restoration from early 2014, lasting for about two years. Over the course of this restoration, ticket prices will be lowered from six euros to two euros.
Neighboring the Church you’ll find the Gruuthuse palace. Located along the city’s canals, the palace offers whimsical views and a grand perspective into the lifestyle of 15th-century Bruges’ upper class.
Additional reporting by Catherine Northington.