Bruges is a charming city in Belgium that I have been longing to see since forever ago. With an Old Town full of colourful gingerbread houses, poetic canals, cobbled alleyways and historic squares; Bruges is a place that oozes with timeless, fairy tale like charm.
Wandering around Bruges with absolutely no plan in mind, I came across so many beautiful sights that felt like they have just popped out of a storybook or just been frozen in time. The entire city is so mesmerising that even a day in Bruges was enough to capture a piece of my heart.
Commonly known as the “Venice of the North”, Bruges has a web of canals that surround its medieval architectural jewels. It is no shocker that Bruges is often ranked as one of the prettiest cities in Europe. I mean, just look at the pictures!
I had one of the best times exploring Bruges, which is why I have written this guide on how you can see it in one day too.
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Is a day in Bruges enough?
Most of the touristic sights in Bruges are located in its city centre, which is very compact in size. One can easily explore it in a few hours and still have enough time to discover some lesser known areas as well.
Having done a short-day trip there last summer, I didn’t feel rushed even for a second and got to see everything that I wanted to. However, since then, I have read many wonderful stories about the city beautifully lighting its charming houses into the night so I do want to come back and experience that someday.
If you have time, then I reckon staying here for a night to experience that special something and wake up to warm waffles in the morning. If not, then a day’s length is good too.
How to get around Bruges?
Like I mentioned before, everything touristy is quite close to each other in Bruges. I love exploring a new place by foot, which is exactly how I found my way around Bruges. Honestly speaking, I don’t think I would have come across a lot of the spots that I did, if it wasn’t for getting lost in the cute alleyways.
But if you want to make your time here extra memorable, then you could experience it by a boat or horse carriage too. I personally found the horse carriage to be very expensive, but the canal trip is under 10 euros for 30 mins and looks so romantic.
How to get there?
Located in the region of Flanders in Northern Belgium, Bruges can be easily reached by train or car. My mother and I were staying in Brussels for 3 nights and it is from there that we decided to do a day trip to Bruges.
Brussels to Bruges trains leave every 20 minutes or so and usually take around an hour to reach. You can either buy the tickets online or get them directly at the station itself. Since we didn’t have any fixed plans for this trip, we just bought two return tickets on the spot hassle-free.
Brussels’ train station is also very well connected to other cities in Europe, so you can find a good connection to Bruges very easily. You can also visit Bruges via car but remember that since some areas of the city are pedestrian only, the best parking that you may find would be at the train station itself.
CG’s tip: Ghent is between Bruges and Brussels and many people like to make a pit stop there on the way to Bruges. Most of the time, you could stop in Ghent and then take the train again to Bruges without having to pay extra. However, we wanted to dedicate a day each to both the cities, so we visited them on two separate days.
How to best spend a day in Bruges?
We started our day in Bruges by walking to Market Square from the train station and stopped on the way every time we saw something cute. There are so many beautiful parks and medieval buildings that you cannot not stop and take a photo or two in between.
The Minnewater, or the Lake of Love is an old medieval port of Bruges. Along with its adjacent park, the lake is perfectly located near the train station.
Legends say that it is because of the story of a girl called Minna and her lover, Stromberg that this lake got known as the Lake of Love. Today, it is home to many wonderful swans that make it all the more romantic. In my opinion, it’s a perfect place to start your Bruges endeavour.
Market Square or Grote Markt
Probably my favourite place in Bruges, the Markt is a historic traffic-free square in the city centre with many cafes, restaurants, shops, hotels and touristic sights. Also known as the Historic Centre of Bruges, this square is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
If you have been looking for the brightly coloured step-gabled houses and merchant quarters of Bruges to take a million pictures, then I have got some good news for you. Now converted into restaurants and shops, these buildings can be spotted from any corner of the square. So, grab a waffle or frites (or both) and find yourself a nice spot to people-watch and take in the beauty that is this square.
And although it is hard to take your eyes off these postcard perfect houses, don’t forget to see two of the most important sights in Bruges: the Belfry tower and the Historium, which casually lie on the square too.
This 83-metre medieval tower was once the imposing guardian of the city that would warn its residents of fires and other imminent danger. Today, not only is it an iconic bell tower but also a place where you can have the best bird‘s eye view of Bruges.
In my opinion, a day in Bruges is not complete until you climb the 366 steps to get to the top and take in the view. The tickets cost €8 for adults but be mindful of the long queues of people that also want to familiarize themselves with the 800 years of legacy that lay inside.
Have a meal near the market square
Having left our hotel in Brussels hours back and after walking so much, we definitely wanted to stop and fuel ourselves before seeing the rest of the city.
We had our lunch at Marco Polo noodles and I just loved the fact that they had vegetarian options and were happy to offer a little bit of customisation as well. Luckily, we entered the restaurant at the correct time as it got super crowded afterwards and they had to turn people away because of the limited seating (something to keep in mind).
I would totally recommend having some tea and lunch here, especially if you are a fan of Asian food like me.
Very close to the historic centre lies another beautiful medieval square that dates back to the 9th century. The Burg Square is believed to be one of the earliest inhabited places in Bruges and by the looks of it, it’s easy to tell why.
It’s amazing that there are so many sightseeing gems within such a short distance in Bruges. I mean, just the Burg Square itself is home to Bruges City Hall, the Basilica of the Holy Blood and an Old Civil Registry, all of which are stunning in their own regard.
We could only visit the Bruges City Hall from inside as the Basilica was really crowded. And as much as I want to see everything in one trip, I also love having something to come back for. If you are an art lover, then you may want to buy a ticket to see the artwork Madonna and Child by Michelangelo at the Basilica. It is the artist’s only sculpture that left Italy before his death and is an absolute treasure if you ask me.
CG’s tip: There is a really cute confectionary shop selling Waffles on a stick called Go.fre Brugge. It is located right next to Burg Square and even if you don’t have a sweet tooth like me, you will still love visiting it because of how pretty it is.
I remember coming across a picture of it the day before my visit but didn’t know what it was called. Luckily, we stumbled upon it whilst getting lost in the city centre and couldn’t help but admire it for a while.
Hands down, this bridge was one of the most picturesque places in the city that I came across. And even though it does get really crowded here, you can still get pictures without anyone in them with a little patience.
Spend the rest of the day in Bruges at leisure
After I am done exploring, I really enjoy visiting local shops and boutiques in a new place to get a glimpse of their fashion and buy unique things that will always remind me of my time there. More than half of my wardrobe is from my travels across the globe and I just love when I can connect an outfit to a destination rather than just a brand.
There were many such shops leading up the market square but we decided to visit them on our way back instead. Because, let’s be honest, taking shopping bags around for the whole day is no fun at all. And, we also didn’t mind walking back the same way while stopping every now and then in eye-catching shops.
Some tips for visiting Bruges:
- Bruges is one of those places that’s good in any season. From summer festivals to winter Christmas markets, I couldn’t possibly tell you that one’s better than the other. However, if you are after less crowded places like me, then Spring or Autumn is the ideal time to visit.
- If you love chocolate, then don’t forget to sample some of the most luscious Belgian chocolates in the many shops that surround Bruges’ historic centre.
I hope that this guide helps you plan your day in Bruges without any issue and in case you ever need any other information, feel free to leave a comment below or send me a direct message on Instagram.
Want to keep reading? You might like "The Ultimate Warsaw, Poland Guide" and "The Ultimate Hallstatt, Austria Guide" too.
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