Belgium has a whole host of spectacularly spooky places to visit, and the medieval city of Bruges is home to several of them. Inside the beautiful buildings, beneath the charming cobbles and within the picturesque canals there’s more than meets the eye, as Bruges has a mysterious, creepy, and gruesome history that ghost hunters and horror lovers will be dying to explore this Halloween. With day trip fares starting at £39 return for a car and four people, Bruges’ spooky and sinister sights are just a ferry ride away with DFDS.
Basilica of the Holy Blood, Bruges
One of Bruges must-see attractions is the Basilica of the Holy Blood. Once you climb the winding stairs to the upper basilica you enter a beautiful Catholic church, with stunning vivid stained glass and an incredible pulpit shaped like a globe. The real wonder is one of Christendom’s most curious relics – a vial of Jesus Christ’s blood from the crucifixion. The relic was brought back from the Holy Land during the Crusades, and according to legend has the power to become liquid (but only at noon on Fridays). This miracle hasn’t been seen since 1388 but keep your eye on it just in case it happens again!
For visitors wishing to see the vial up close, the Veneration of the Holy Blood takes place every afternoon in the upper basilica from 2pm-4pm and every Friday morning from 10.15am to 11am. There is also a small museum in the basilica, containing relics, artifacts and artwork pertaining to the Holy Blood and its complex and fascinating history. The magnificent reliquary that holds the Holy Blood is also on display there, made of solid gold and decorated with ornate designs and precious stones.
Entry to the Basilica: Free
Entry to the Museum: Adults: €5.00, Children: Free
Torture Museum, Bruges
Nestled between a flower shop and a waffle house (where else?) and beneath the 11th century building that formerly housed Bruges’ oldest prison you will find the city’s Torture Museum. While it may not offer the same level of interactivity as other museums, it does provide a fascinating look at the history of torture, from antiquity until surprisingly recently. The museum has an impressive collection of authentic and replica torture devices, as well as remarkably lifelike wax models in various stages of torture, their faces contorted in scarily realistic agony. This is not a museum for the faint-hearted, but an undoubtedly important one that shows in vivid and gory detail humanity’s horrifying creativity when it came to punishment throughout history.
Entry to the Torture Museum: Adults: €9.00, Students: €7.00, Children up to 10 years: Free
Smedenpoort Skull, Bruges
On the Smedenpoort, one of the four remaining city gates of Bruges, is a sinister decoration – a bronze human skull. The skull there today is a replica, but the original was of a traitorous city official, Francois van der Straeten, who conspired with French troops to help them gain access to the city during the siege of 1691. The plan was foiled, and the man was beheaded, his skull bronzed, and then hung on the arch as a warning to any would-be traitors. The original was lost during the French Revolution, rediscovered in 1876, and the remnants can now be seen in the Bruges Archaeological Museum.
Centrale Begraafplaats Cemetery, Bruges
With the first burial taking place before the French Revolution, the oldest cemetery in Belgium is a must-see for fans of the paranormal and the macabre. Like many graveyards, it has a serene and peaceful atmosphere, where visitors can escape the crowds and the noise of the city and spend time with a more laidback crowd. The cemetery is the resting place of several of Bruges’ prominent residents, and there are some magnificent tombs and graves to look out for. It is maintained and cared for by a dedicated team who strike a perfect balance of keeping the cemetery well-tended, yet atmospherically wild. Make sure to visit the small exhibition near the beautiful gatehouse entrance to learn about the meanings of the different grave symbols, and don’t miss the grave of Antoine Michel Wemaer, which features a moss-covered skull and crossbones resting on a cushion. Spooky.
Entry to the Cemetery: Free
The Lucifernum, Bruges
Part bar, part occult museum, part vampire’s lair; this former Masonic lodge building has been transformed into one of the quirkiest and most unusual bars you’ll ever visit. Owned by local celebrity Don “Willy” Retsin and his wife, the self-styled “vampire” opens the bar to visitors to drink among his collection of spooky artifacts, mysterious artwork, and macabre oddities. Combining his love for the occult with his wife’s Peruvian heritage, the place is a mix of Latin music, rum cocktails, and gothic décor. To add an air of mystery and exclusivity, the bar is only open to the public on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays between 2pm and 7pm, so get there early as it is one of the most popular bars in Bruges.
Entry to the Lucifernum: Adults: €15.00 (includes a cocktail of your choice and tour of the bar)