8 Books to Read before Visiting Bruges

Books on Bruges is a collection of books on the Flemish city that should be read before visiting.

Bruges is probably best known for its abundance of luxurious chocolate shops and a wide selection of flavoured beers.  With its cobbled streets, medieval buildings and a multitude of canals to explore it is not surprising that this gothic, Flemish city has grown in popularity in recent years.  Whether you are choosing to visit for the now well-known Christmas markets or during the summer months where you can take a relaxing cruise down the numerous canals, this is a thriving city marking the map for Belgium. 

For bookworms, there are numerous bookshops for you to trawl through and even a cafe offering books alongside your brunch. For those wanting to read about Bruges before visiting there are also several novels that either mention the city in passing or use the Flemish burg as a backdrop for the narrative whether in a factual or fictional way.  These are novels that I am sure will be loved by armchair travellers as well as those researching for an upcoming trip.

Bruges, Belgium canals at night.

Bruges: Books you should read

#1 Bruges-La-Morte (Georges Rodenbach)

Written in 1892, this is a symbolic novel of how the historic ‘dead city’ city was viewed at the time.

Hugues Viane is a widower who has turned to the melancholy, decaying city of Bruges as the ideal location in which to mourn his wife and as a backdrop for the narcissistic wanderings of his disturbed spirit. He becomes obsessed with a young dancer whom he believes is the double of his beloved wife, leading him to psychological torment and humiliation, culminating in a deranged murder.

 Read my full review on Bruges-la-Morte to understand more about this story.

#2 The Square of Revenge (Pieter Aspe)

Featuring the bad-tempered, libidinous, alcoholic but skilled police investigator Deputy Commissioner Pieter Van In, this is one of four novels in a series that reveals the darker side of the beautiful Belgian city of Bruges.

The perpetrators who broke into an elite jewellery store in Bruges stole nothing but dissolved a fortune in priceless gems in jars of powerful acid—a perplexing crime that entangles Deputy Commissioner Pieter Van In and his beautiful colleague, assistant district attorney Hannelore Martens, in a wealthy family’s darkest, deadliest secrets.

If you read and enjoy this first novel then I would also suggest picking up copies of The Midas Murders , From Bruges with Love and The Fourth Figure.

#3 Niccolo Rising (Dorothy Dunnett)

The time is the 15th century when intrepid merchants became the new knighthood of Europe. Among them, none is bolder or more cunning than Nicholas Vander Poele of Bruges, the good-natured dyer’s apprentice who schemes and swash buckles his way to the helm of a mercantile empire.

Niccolò Rising finds us in Bruges, 1460. Jousting is the genteel pastime, and successful merchants are, of necessity, polyglot. Street smart, brilliant at figures, adept at the subtleties of diplomacy and the well-timed untruth, Dunnett’s hero rises from wastrel to prodigy in a breathless adventure that wins him the hand of the strongest woman in Bruges and the hatred of two powerful enemies.

 From a riotous and potentially murderous carnival in Flanders to an avalanche in the Alps and a pitched battle on the outskirts of Naples, Niccolò Rising combines history, adventure, and high romance in the tradition stretching from Alexandre Dumas to Mary Renault.

If you enjoy this first novel in a series of eight books then you can go on to read The Spring of the Ram, Race Of Scorpions, Scales Of Gold, The Unicorn Hunt, To Lie with Lions, Caprice And Rondo, and Gemini which follows the House of Niccolo around Europe and Africa.

In Bruges by Martin McDonagh

Buy Now: In Bruges

#4 In Bruges (Martin McDonagh)

After a shooting in London goes hideously wrong, two hitmen, Ray and Ken, are sent to hide out in the strange, Gothic, medieval town of Bruges, Belgium, by their volatile and dangerous boss, Harry Waters.

While awaiting instructions from him as to what to do next, the pair attempt to deal both with their feelings over the botched killing and their differing attitudes towards this curious, otherworldly place they’ve been dumped in until the call from Harry finally comes through and all three men are enmeshed in a spiral of bloody violence that few will get out of alive.

#5 The Master of Bruges (Terence Morgan)

Master painter Hans Memling is without peer in the artistic world of fifteenth-century Bruges. But when he falls in love with the Princess, Marie, daughter of his powerful patron, the Duke of Burgundy, his life begins to unravel.

Made reckless by his passion for Marie, Hans accepts an invitation to visit old allies in London. But there he will find himself plunged into the final stages of the War of the Roses and embroiled in one of the greatest political mysteries of all time.

#6 Hunting in Bruges (E.J.Stevens)

The only thing worse than being a Hunter in the fae-ridden city of Harborsmouth is hunting vamps in Bruges.

Being shipped off to Belgium sucks. The medieval city of Bruges is quaint, but the local Hunters’ Guild is understaffed, the canals are choked with dead bodies, and there’s no shortage of supernatural predators as likely suspects.

On second thought, maybe Bruges isn’t so bad after all.

With a desire to prove herself, protect the innocent, and advance within the ranks of the Hunters’ Guild, Jenna Lehane hits the cobbled streets of Bruges with blades at the ready. Someone, or something, is murdering tourists and dumping their bodies in the city’s scenic canals. With the help of a mysterious stranger, Jenna begins to piece together clues that are dotted throughout the city like blood spatter.

Determined to stop the killings, Jenna delves into a bloody local history that only raises more questions—but some secrets are best left buried. Jenna must put her combat training to the test as she struggles to unearth the truth about an ancient enemy.

#7 Christmas in Bruges (Meadow Taylor)

A satisfying short story for the busy holiday season…

Inspired by the beauty depicted in the movie “In Bruges,” Paula decides to spend Christmas by herself in the gorgeous Belgian canal city. One evening at a cozy bistro, she is very pleasantly surprised to meet her old college boyfriend and very first love, James. As they walk through the snowy streets, they laugh at their younger selves and ponder the unexpected course their lives have taken over the past nine years.

Paula, a promising actress, became a teacher, while James abandoned medical school to serve as a medic in Afghanistan. But as Christmas Day approaches, James’ painful war memories threaten their rekindled love.

#8 The Chocolate Lovers’ Christmas (Carole Matthews)

Christmas is just around the corner but the women of The Chocolate Lovers’ Club have more to worry about than present shopping . . .

Lucy loves running Chocolate Heaven but she hasn’t spent time with her boyfriend, Aiden, in weeks. And then her ex-fiancé turns up and things become even more complicated.

Nadia hasn’t let herself get close to a man in a long time, yet she can’t help feeling drawn to Jacob. Will he be her last chance for a happy ending?

Chantal and her husband, Ted, are besotted with their baby daughter Lana – but she’s not sure that’s enough to base a marriage on.

Autumn is dealing with a tragedy that has hit too close to home. But when she doesn’t get the support she needs from her fiancé, will she look elsewhere for comfort?

Can friendship overcome all in . . . The Chocolate Lovers’ Christmas?

Read my full review of The Chocolate Lovers’ Christmas to see how Bruges features in this story.

Bruges may be one of the smaller cities we have visited but that has not stopped a wealth of authors writing about it.

Bruges in Beligium still has the tradition horse and carriage for tourists to use.

Not a mode of transport I agree with, but many tourists still use the traditional horse and carriage as a way to see the city.

Have you read any books that mention the Flemish city of Bruges? I would love to add to this list.

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8 Books to inspire travel to Bruges via @tbookjunkie

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