A walking tour of Bruges city centre, covering the main filming locations of the movie “In Bruges”
2018 is the 10th anniversary of the popular and award-winning “black comedy crime” movie “In Bruges” (click for trailer). It’s about two Irish hit-men Ray (Colin Farrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson), and their gangster boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes). All the action takes place, unsurprisingly, in Bruges.
The movie has a good plot and sharp dialogue. It’s well acted, and it’s filmed in stunning locations. I also liked it because it’s so full of contrasts:
- The fairy-tale setting vs. the violence that occurs
- Ken’s interest in culture and history vs. Ray’s interest in beer and girls
- The beauty of the location vs. the coarseness of the language
- The goodness and naivety of the locals vs. the worldliness of the two hit-men
- The beautiful religious paintings vs. the down-to-earth discussions about sin and guilt
- Grace and forgiveness vs. law and retribution
- Self-sacrifice vs. punishment
The Bruges tourist office has produced a map with the locations where the movie was filmed. You can download it here. It’s useful, but as I like walking I’ve created this ‘In Bruges’ movie walking tour. It’s a circular route of 7 km, starting and ending at the railway station.
As the movie covered a lot of the main sights of the city, the walk will give you a great overview of this fantastic city. And an interesting way to spend a day in Bruges.
In line with the contrasts mentioned above, I briefly describe the locations In Real Life vs. In The Movie. Below is the map, which you can also download here to print out and carry around with you.
In real life: This romantic site (the “Lake of Love”) used to be the inland port and landing stage for barges travelling between Bruges and Gent.
In the movie: Gangster boss Harry enters Bruges over the stone bridge over the canal, on his mission to put an end to Ray.
In real life: This former palace of the Lords of Gruuthuse was converted into a museum in 1955. Located at Dijver 17, it houses beautiful tapestries, a 500-year old kitchen and a chapel of prayer. Note that the museum is under restoration and is due to open early 2019. From the inner court you get a good of the Church of Our Lady.
In the movie: Ray walks through the inner court of the Gruuthuse where a movie is being shot. Later, wounded, he looks up and sees the Church of Our Lady and the Gruuthusemuseum.
In real life: In the Arentshof is ‘Knights of the Apocalypse’ by Rik Poot, 1987, an allegoric representation of the earthly horrors of death, war, hunger and revolution.
In the movie: Ray walks through the set of another movie being filmed in Bruges.
④ Groeninge Museum
In real life: The Groeninge Museum at Dijver 12 is a must for every art lover visiting Bruges, thanks to a large collection of 15th to 20th century paintings. Highlights include masterpieces by the Flemish Primitives, Jan van Eyck and Hans Memling, and Hiëronymus Bosch’s “Last Judgement”.
In the movie: Ken and Ray search for deeper meaning amongst the medieval artwork.
⑤ Cafedraal Restaurant
In real life: The Cafedraal Restaurant at Zilverstraat 38 describes itself as offering “tasty French-Belgian cuisine, with an independent streak and a passion for regional products.”
In the movie: It’s the restaurant where Ray goes on a dinner date with a drug dealer called Chloe, and manages to get in a fight with a Canadian couple.
⑥ Bruges Market Square
In real life: This beautiful market square lies at the heart of the city.
In the movie: Ken and Ray enjoy a beer on the terrace. Ken is keen to climb the Belfry; Ray can’t see the point:
Ken: “You coming up?”
Ray: “What’s up there?”
Ken: “The view.”
Ray: “The view of what? The view of down here? I can see that from down here.”
Ken: “Ray, you’re about the worst tourist in the whole world.”
In real life: Climbing the 366 steps of the 83-metre-high Belfry is a must-do.
In the movie: Ken faces his gangster boss Harry at the top of the Belfry, with fatal consequences for one of them.
⑧ Bistro ‘t Zwart Huis
In real life: A cool bistro with live blues and jazz music.
In the movie: Ray and Ken enjoy a Belgian beer here.
⑨ Jan Van Eyckplein
In real life: During the Middle Ages this was an inland port. It features a statue of the 15th century Flemish painter Jan Van Eyck.
In the movie: Ken and Ray relax on the square in front of the statue, talking business and tactics.
⑩ Jerusalem Chapel
In real life: Located in Peperstraat 1, the 15th century Jerusalem Chapel has magnificent stained glass windows and the mausoleums of the church founders, Anselmus Adornes and his wife.
In the movie: It was used to replace the Basilica of the Holy Blood. Ken does the touristy thing by climbing the stairs to view the relic of the Holy Blood on display.
⑪ Groene Rei – Meestraat Bridge – Peerdenstraat
In real life: The Groene Rei is a picturesque canal where you can find the Almshouse De Pelikaan and a 19th century pavilion. The Meestraat Bridge crosses it.
In the movie: Ray and Chloe make up on the Meestraat Bridge. Later Harry chases Ray through the Peerdenstraat.
⑫ Restaurant Diligence
In real life: An authentic and cosy restaurant at Hoogestraat 5 with French-Belgian bistro cuisine.
In the movie: This is where the scene with the prostitute and the dwarf was filmed. You can have a drink at the bar where Collin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson were seated!
⑬ Basilica of the Holy Blood
In real life: The relic of the Holy Blood is kept in the Gothic upper chapel and is worshipped every Friday. On Ascension Day every year, the relic is venerated in the streets of Bruges during the Procession of the Holy Blood.
In the movie: Ken goes to see the relic, although it’s filmed in the Jerusalem Church.
⑭ Fish Market
In real life: Fresh fish is still sold here Tuesday to Saturdays, in a building which dates back to 1815.
In the movie: Gangster boss Harry chases Ray through the alleyways to finish him off for good.
In real life: One of the most photographed spots in Bruges; the name refers to the rosaries that were sold from stalls here. The rosaries were made from ivory and amber imported from the east.
In the movie: Ray and Ken hide out in the boutique hotel Relais Bourgondisch Cruyce. While Ken enters into the spirit of Bruges and takes a boat trip from the Rozenhoedkaai, Ray is less enamoured by the city: “Two weeks in Bruges? In a room like this? With you? No way!”
⑯ Astrid Park / Botanical Garden
In real life: A municipal park that was created in 1850 and named after Queen Astrid in 1935, although it’s also called the Botanieken Hof (Botanical Garden).
In the movie: Ken, given the mission to kill his partner Ray, approaches his target. You can walk through the children’s playground where the action takes place.
From here you can walk back to the railway station. I’ve taken you a different way back, to the Gentpoort and then along the old canal which encircles the city.
I hope you enjoy your walk through Bruges. If you have any questions or require more information on any aspect of Bruges, just drop me a line below.
Here’s a good book on Bruges (plus other Belgian cities):