You’ve got just a few hours – maybe a day – to discover Bruges? Here’s the page for you! “The perfect day in…Bruges” provides information about THE things to see and do in a day in Bruges.
As the German title of the famous movie “In Bruges” suggests: Bruges is to die (for). Not literally, of course (as in the movie). I’ve been there several times, and it has been a nice week-end trip at any time of the year. If you’ve got just one day, you should stay in the city center (like the historical Relais Bourgondisch Cruyce, featured in the mentioned movie; see recommendations below), and you’ll be able to get to the must-sees by foot and/or boat.
08:00 – 09:00
The historical center of Bruges is a nice, small place – no need to start a 6 a.m. with your tour. Having a nice breakfast at 8 is perfectly OK. Belgium is famous for some culinary highlights, like chocolate, French fries and beer. OK, the latter two might not be the best choice for breakfast, but (liquid) chocolate definitely is. And should be available in every good hotel restaurant or breakfast place.
9:00 – 11:00
Bruges is famous for its canals, so the first sightseeing item is a boat tour on the channels. There a several places in the old town where boat tous start, like this one:
You will get a good impression of the city and pick some of the sight-seeing highlights for later.
The small channels are very picturesque:
And you’ll be able to take lots of pictures from small house features and items like these:
11:00 – 11:30
Return to the central market square, called “Burg Square” (“castle square”) and have a coffee. The market square is a very picturesque sight itself…
…and features lots of cafes and restaurants – of course a bit more expensive and maybe a bit less in quality, as usually at the “typical tourist spots”. However, when the weather is fine, is is a great place to watch the hustle and bustle:
On the square, there’s the bellfry tower (“Belfort”) – and yes, this is the famous tower from the movie “In Bruges”.
It costs about 5 Euros and a bit of effort to climb the tower, but the view of the channels from above is worth it. And you’ll see why Bruges is also called “Venice of the North”,
Featuring the final show-down between Colin Farell, Brendan Gleeson and Ralph Fiennes, the bell tower is one of the most famous places in Bruges, besides the market place and the churches (see below). Nowadays – and maybe due to the gruesome movie scene – you’ll not be able to jump from the tower into the abyss. The platform is secured by a mesh wire fence:
Being 86 m high, you’ll have to climb 366 steps to the top floor of the tower. And you’ll be reqarded with an excellent view of the entire city:
12:30 – – I4:00
Lunchtime! Bruges offers many nice places – I recommend a few places below for dinner, but of course they usually offer lunch as well. And in the more expensive ones lunch might be a real bargain.
14:00 – 16:00
Time for a bit of exercise: a Walking Tour along the medieval roads and buildings beams you back a few hundred years. If you neglect the thousands of tourists that walk along with you. Nevertheless, thre are numerous attractions that you should not miss. Like the “Church of Our Lady”,
…holding one of Michelangelo’s very few sculptures outside of Italy, the Madonna with Child. The “Basilica of the Holy Blood” keeps a vial of what some people believe to be Jesus’ actual blood (supposedly). And the Groeningemuseum offers a famous collection of paintings by the Flemish Primitives like Jan Van Eyck and Hans Memling. Personally, I liked the small monastery-like building called “Begijnhuisje” or Beguinage, surrounded by a nice garden:
More ideas for sight-seeing in Brussels are found here: https://theculturetrip.com/europe/belgium/articles/how-to-spend-a-weekend-in-bruges/
16:00 – 16:30
Take a break and enjoy a coffee in one of the numerous nice coffee places, maybe together the famous Belgian Waffels. Stroll along the small streets and alleys and enjoy the cute shops and art galleries everywhere, like this one, featuring modern art:
16:30 – 18:00
Why not something special instead of the 20th church along the way? Learn how to make the famous Belgian Chocolates, for example during this class:
You can buy Chocolate everywhere, but that’s boring – do it yourself! The class takes about 2,5 hours, and you will end up with delicious pralines and chocolates that are the perfect present from Bruges to take home for friends and family.
18:00 – 19:00
Short break! Even with the manageable size of Bruges old town, you will have piled up a few kilometers of walking today – so have a short rest and prepare for a delicious dinner.
19:00 – 19:30
Even in winter, the bars and restaurants around the market square offer tables outside. However, I would suggest outside seating only in summer. These electric heaters make it cosy and warm in winter, but it’s really a waste of energy. But with the right temperatures, an aperitif on the market square is something not to be missed.
19:30 – 21.30
Bruges offers a very large number (almost 1.000!) and variety of restaurant, considering the size of the city. And all of those that we tried were really good. These are our suggestions – all of them a pretty small and reservations in advance might be a good idea:
Gruthuusehof: old building in the center of the old town, next to the “Church of Our Lady”; small place with excellent food; reservation definitely required. https://www.gruuthusehof.be/nl/home/
Mariloup: a tiny place, reasonably priced, with a weekly menu and small items like croquettes; a mixture of Belgian and Thai food. https://www.mariloup.be/
T’Zwart Huis (“the black house”): a traditional place that featured in the above mentioned movie, nice atmosphere and good food. https://www.tripadvisor.de/Restaurant_Review-g188671-d741832-Reviews-T_Zwart_Huis-Bruges_West_Flanders_Province.html
De Jonkman: if you’re up to spending a bit more for an award-winning place (2 stars in Guide Michelin), the place to go is this small restaurant in the outskirts of Bruges (about 4.5 km from the market square). https://www.dejonkman.be/en
And finally, some general hints for your visit to Venice:
- Where to stay?
Relais Bourgondisch Cruyce, a famous historical hotel (where Colin Farell and Brendan Gleeson stayed in the above mentioned movie)
Grand Hotel Casselbergh Bruges, a nice old-fashioned 4-star hotel, very central location, reasonably pricedHotel Dukes’ Palace, a luxury 5 star hotel in the old town center – of course a bit more expensive, but a nice building like a medieval castel
Hotel Duc de Bourgogne, a nice old-fashoided 3-star hotel, very reasonably oriced (double room around 100 Euro per night), directly at the channel and very centrally located, the white building on the right on this picture:
or any other nice hotel in the historic center – there’s a large choice in the middle price range. For anything cheaper you’ll probably have to look at the outskirts.
- Best travel time:
The movie “In Bruges” features Bruges in Winter – interesting, but cold and maybe wet. It’s nicer in summer, as many activities include being outside.
- Transfer from the airport in Brussels:
train; the central train station in Bruges is within easy walking distance to the historic center.
How to get there
The easiest way of getting to Bruges when arriving by flight at Brussels National Airport is through the direct railway connection that leaves every hour. If you just missed the last connection, and don’t want to wait, you can take a train to Brussels-Zuid first and then transfer. Both routes should take about an hour and a half. Once at the Bruges station, you can either take a bus – there are plenty – to the center or enjoy a brisk, 20-minute walk.
*According to a German Court decision, all texts containing links to commercial pages (e.g. links to Tripadvisor, Airline, hotel or restaurant websites) have to be identified as “commercial” (in German “Anzeige”). As my texts do contain links like that, I therefore identify each post and page containing a link as “Anzeige”. However (and referring to the “About Me” page) I would like to point out that I do NOT post any sponsored content in my texts. I pay for all my trips myself.