Hidden in Bruges, Belgium – The Godshuis Gardens – Naturalistic beauty in a historic setting

April 9, 2024

We’ve been in Belgium for two weeks now – filling our time slowly with the treasures of the region.  We are staying in Brugge, and I’ve been fascinated with often seen medieval houses that usually have a name and number printed on the side.  These ‘Godshuizen’ tend to also have pretty little gardens attached, so I spent a day riding my bike to all that I could find here and made a study of them.

The city’s Godshuizen or almshouses are tucked away, hidden and when you discover them you feel like you’ve found a truly secret and special place. There are 44 of them in the city and many of them are characterized by with white brick buildings surrounding by pretty gardens filled with tall trees and trimmed shrubs, roses, naturalistic plants and geraniums divided by low box hedges.

Godshuis in Brugges by rochelle greayer
Welcome to Bruges, Belgium, where there is an unexpected flourish of wild plant and gardens surrounding historic buildings.

Literally translated, Goshuizen would mean ‘Houses of God’ but this translation is a little misleading.

They are not churches or places of worship but rather they are houses for the poor and needy.  They are in fact housing for the poor, needy, elderly and widows and widowers that were built by rich families and corporations as early as the 14th century.  

Sometimes the houses were constructed by corporations or guilds, for their members who had lost their income or were unable to work because of illness, handicaps or other mishaps.

Goshuis garden in brugge belgium by rochelle greayer

Most of the time these houses form a complex around an inner courtyard where the inhabitants can get their water and grow vegetables in little gardens (though most of the ones I saw, contained many more flowers than edible crops).

goshuis garden in brugge belgium by rochelle greayer

They also typically have also have a chapel where the people are supposed to pray for the souls of their benefactors – but this is the only religious obligation.

Godshuis in Brugges by rochelle greayer

Many of these remain today and many of them have the sweetest most charming gardens.

ehinops and goldenrod garden by rochelle greayer
Purple globe thistle tumbles over roses and other plants in an almshouse garden in Bruges, Belgium.
picturesque belgiamn house with shrubs and garden in front. Godhus Gardens in Belgium by Rochelle Greayer pithandvigor
Many of these picturesque Belgian houses boast beautiful gardens filled with colorful flowers, lush greenery, and charming features.
roses and hydrangea in a formal garden - Godhus Gardens in Belgium by Rochelle Greayer pithandvigor
Godshuizen Brugge, also known as beguinages, are historic structures in Bruges, Belgium. These almshouses were built in the Middle Ages to accommodate elderly or disabled individuals in need. Today, they serve as peaceful retreats with charming architecture and gardens, attracting visitors from around the world.
red helenium and purple flowers (lupine and agastache) in Godhus Gardens in Belgium by Rochelle Greayer pithandvigor
Red Helenium, lupine and agastache in a garden.
naturlistic and natural style garden with colorful plants and flowers- Godhus Gardens in Belgium by Rochelle Greayer pithandvigor
A contained cottage garden or a naturalistic plant haven with edges, these charming Belgian gardens are full of bright beautiful plants.
charming cottage garden with a white house  - Godhus Gardens in Belgium by Rochelle Greayer pithandvigor
Wild plantings outlined in formal boxwood hedges provides organization and structure to loose and pretty naturalistic garden plants.
bright orange helenium in a Godhus Gardens in Belgium by Rochelle Greayer pithandvigor
Helenium grows in a lush clump in front of a white brick building in Brugge Belgium.
pink cabbage roses in Godhus Gardens in Belgium by Rochelle Greayer pithandvigor
Pretty pink cabbage style roses in Bruges belgium garden.
Wild and untamed naturalistic gardens - called Godhus Gardens in Belgium by Rochelle Greayer pithandvigor
Belgium is home to stunning gardens like the Royal Greenhouses of Laeken and the beautiful gardens of the Château de Belœil and also the stunning and slightly wild godshuis gardens in Brugge. Experience the tranquility and beauty of these lush green spaces, perfect for strolling or picnicking.
A neat white church-like building with evergreen gardens surrounding it in belgium.
These houses boast beautiful gardens that add charm and elegance to their exteriors. With vibrant flowers, lush greenery, and well-maintained landscaping, these properties offer a picturesque setting for outdoor enjoyment.
Godhus Gardens in Belgium featuring echinops and other purple flowers.
Echinops, also known as globe thistle, is a beautiful flowering plant with spiky, spherical flowers that attract pollinators like bees and butterflies. Native to Europe and Asia, this perennial plant is often grown for its striking appearance in gardens and landscapes.
Godhus Gardens in Belgium - white brick houses with wild gardens in front.
A godshuis in Bruges, Belgium, is a historic almshouse originally built to provide housing for the poor and elderly. These charming buildings now serve as unique guest accommodations, offering visitors a glimpse into the city’s rich history and architecture. Staying at a godshuis in Bruges is a truly special experience.
Godhus Gardens in Belgium by boxwood grasses ad a white hosue with a red door.


images by rochelle greayer

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