This post is also available in: French
Wondering how to spend one day in Bruges? From exploring the Market Square to taking a canal tour, there are so many things worth doing in this charming Belgium city – and you can easily see the best the city has to offer on a day trip to Bruges (though overnight is even better!).
I have been to Bruges twice, and its beauty never ceases to amaze me. Designated by Unesco as a World Heritage City, Bruges feels like it popped out of a fairytale with its cobbled alleyways, charming squares, picturesque canals, and beautiful architecture. A day trip to Bruges is a must, but I totally recommend that you stay overnight, like I did both times, so you can admire it during the night.
Disclaimer: This post contains an affiliate link. This means that should you click on certain links and then subsequently purchase a product, I will receive a small commission.
Table of Contents
Where is Bruges?
Bruges is a medieval city in the region of Flanders in Northern Belgium. It’s about 86km from Brussels and just 38km from Ghent. It’s also within easy distance of several cities in The Netherlands, like Rotterdam and The Hague.
Is One Day In Bruges Enough?
Bruges has a compact size and can easily be explored on foot, by boat, or by horse carriage. Of course, despite its small size, there are still many things to see and do in the city. But the compact size and walkability definitely mean that you can see the highlights of the city with just a day in Bruges.
Can You Visit Bruges On A Day Trip?
I highly recommend staying in Bruges overnight as I love taking a night walk. However, you can easily visit Bruges on a day trip from Brussels. Traveling by train, it takes just an hour to reach Bruges, and trains run regularly. You can easily leave Brussels in the morning and return in the evening.
Bruges One Day Itinerary
Here are my suggestions for how to spend 1 day in Bruges, especially for first-time visitors. You can easily fit all of these in on a day trip or overnight visit to the city, and you’ll have seen the best the city has to offer by the time you leave.
Market Square or Grote Markt
Start your 1 day in Bruges at the Market Square is located in the center of the city, and it’s a traffic-free square renovated in 1996.
The square is dominated by the 13th-century Belfry, but there are other fascinating buildings around it, like the Provincial Palace, rebuilt in 1887 in Neo-Gothic Style, and the statue of Jan Breydel and Pieter de Coninck, heroes that played a major role in the Battle of the Golden Spurs in 1302.
Just in front of the Belfry, you will find two canteens selling the best, fried potatoes I tasted in Belgium.
The Belfry of Bruges is one of the 33 Belfries around Belgium declared as a World Heritage Site. It stands at 83 m above ground and the view from the top is breathtaking as you can see the whole town. You have to climb 366 steps to get to the top, but it is, totally worth it.
This 13th-century medieval tower used to serve as an observation deck, warning the residents of Bruges of imminent danger and also as a clock. They also kept the city’s archives there, but they were destroyed in a fire in 1280. Nowadays the Belfry works as a clock tower and a carillon with 47 bells. The queues to the Belfry are always long, and tickets cost 8 € for adults.
Selected Tours in Bruges
Great War Flanders Fields Minibus Tour from Bruges. On this one day trip to Ypres, you will learn about World War I as you visit key sites from the period.
30-Minute Private Tour by Bike Carriage. See the city from a different perspective with this private tour for up to 3 people.
Bruges: Highlights and Hidden Gems. A 3-hour walking tour of the city.
Private Food Tour with 10 tastings. In this 3 hour tour explore Bruges while tasting the local delicacies.
3-Hour Beer and Chocolate Tasting Private Tour. Explore Brugue, taste chocolates at the Choco Museum and a 3-course meal at a brewery.
Canal Boat Tour
A visit to Bruges is incomplete if you don’t take one of the half-hour tours in the canals and visit this magnificent city from a different angle. Your captain will also share some interesting stories from the history of Bruges and the buildings you see along the way.
The famous canals were originally built as shipping lanes and are now considered to be a UNESCO World Heritage site. I had the chance to do a canal boat tour only on my first visit to the city, the second time the canals were frozen from the cold. Tickets cost 8 €, and there are five embarkation points through the city.
Located in Market Square, Historium is a great attraction for children. On this 1-hour interactive experience you will step back in time, and through the seven thematic rooms, you will discover how life was in the golden ages (15th century) in Bruges. Tickets cost 14 € for the explorer ticket that includes entry to the Historium Story and Exhibition. There are more ticket options available here.
The museum has an impressive collection of Flemish Primitive paintings that includes works of by Jan van Eyck, Hans Memling and others.
Explore the Hansa Quarter
Between the 13th and 15th century Bruges was an important trading centre due to its location between the commercial regions of Scandinavia, Germany and England from the one side and Spain, Italy and France from the other. A stroll through the Hansa Quarter will take you through the mansions of the wealthy international merchants of that time.
Visit the Church of our Lady (Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk)
This beautiful church has an extensive collection of artworks, with the most famous being Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child.
Admire the Burg Square
The medieval Burg Square, located close to the market square, has many impressive buildings that include the Bishop’s Palace, the Town Hall, Old Civil Registry, and the Holy Blood Basilica. (The Bruges City Hall is a popular place for a photo op, by the way!)
The Basilica of Holy Blood
While you’ll certainly pass by the Basilica when exploring Burg Square, it’s one of the top sites in the city and deserves its own spot on your Bruges 1-day itinerary.
From the outside, the Basilica may not look much like a church at all, but it contains two different chapels with unique designs. One is quite Romanesque, while the other is Neo-Gothic.
But it’s what’s inside that makes the Holy Blood Basilica stand out from the other churches in Europe. Inside the chapel, you’ll find the Holy Blood – a display of what’s said to be a cloth and vial of blood from Christ at the time of his crucifixion. Supposedly it was collected by Joseph of Arimathea and brought to Bruges from the Holy Land by Thierry of Alsace, who was the Count of Flanders.
Take a night walk
When the night falls, the city becomes even more romantic, perfectly lit up. A walk through the alleys and canals to admire the unique atmosphere is a must.
See the swans in Minnewater Park.
A beautiful park located close to the train station, where you can relax and see swans swimming in the canals. The swan is one of the city’s symbols. According to the legend, in 1448, the people of Bruges executed one of the town administrators belonging to the court of Maximilian of Austria.
As his coat of arms featured a swan, Maximilian punished the residents of Bruges by making them keep swans in their canals.
Eat chocolate and waffles.
Belgium is famous for its waffles and amazing chocolates. There are many chocolatiers around the town and many waffle shops. I loved my waffle on the stick purchased in a shop opposite Burg square.
More Things To Do In Bruges In A Day
Looking for even more places to visit in Bruge in one day? Here are a few other recommended activities that didn’t quite make the Bruges one-day itinerary above (I had to keep it realistic, after all!) but are still well worth doing.
Visit the De Halve Maan Brewery
Did you know that there used to be 50 breweries in Bruges? And now there’s just one single brewery left in Old Town Bruges?
That brewery is De Haalve Maan Brewery. You have a few options for visiting – you can take a 45-minute behind-the-scenes tour and sample their Brugse Zot, or you can relax in the beer garden or grab a bite to eat for lunch.
Shop At The Bruges Christmas Market
If you’re visiting in December, the Bruges Christmas Market is a must-visit! It’s located in Market Square and around the city as well, with stalls selling food and warm beverages plus all types of gifts. Even if you’re not shopping, just wandering and taking in the sights is worth it.
The city also has an ice skating rink open during this time of the year too.
Stop by the Bonafacius Bridge
As you wander through the city (and perhaps after visiting the Groeningmuseum), stop by the Bonafacius Bridge. It’s not only one of the most picturesque spots in Bruges but is one of the newest bridges in the city (built in the 20th century). You’ll get a great view of the famous canals here.
How to get to Bruges
The easiest way to get to Bruges is via Brussels.
You can either drive there and leave your car in one of the parking spaces at the outskirts of the city or go by train as I did. It is very easy and affordable. You take the train from any of Brussels central stations or even Brussels international airport, and in approximately 1 hour you are there. You can book your tickets online here or at the station.
Please note that Belgian rail has the internet weekend ticket with a 50% discount for return tickets if your outward and return journey is made between Friday after 7 pm and Sunday. From the train station, it’s about a 15-minute walk to the town centre. Apart from walking you can take a taxi or the bus.
When Is The Best Time to Spend A Day in Bruges?
Like many European cities, the best time to visit Bruges is during the shoulder season – April to June and September to October. Since it’s such a popular city, it can get crowded, and I recommend trying not to go at the weekends in the summer.
Both times I went to Bruges were during the winter, and I really enjoyed it. As long as you don’t mind colder weather, it’s a great time to see the city without the crowds. Plus, you’ll get to see the Christmas markets if you visit in December!
Where to Eat in Bruges
For breakfast and waffles:
For lunch and dinner:
We loved our 3-course lunch at the De Koetse, a restaurant serving Belgian cuisine for more than 25 years located in the heart of the city. We went there for lunch, and it was packed with people. A 3-course lunch menu for 27 € was also on offer.
Where to stay in Bruges
Hotel the Orangerie: A luxurious boutique hotel located in the heart of Bruges, along ‘De Dijver’ canal. The hotel is housed in a 15th-century Carthusian convent. Click here for more information and to check the latest prices. Click here for more information and to check the latest prices.
The Pand Hotel: Another luxurious boutique hotel in the heart of the historic center of Bruges, housed in an 18th-century mansion. Click here for more information and to check the latest prices.
Ibis Budget Train Station: Basic clean rooms located next to Bruges train Station. Click here for more information and to check the latest prices.
Travel Tips for Spending One Day in Bruges
Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you plan your day trip to Bruges.
- Be prepared to walk. Bruges is a walking city, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes, especially if you have a lot of activities on your Bruges one-day activity list.
- Bring cash. Euros are the currency used in Bruges. While most places will accept credit cards, note that some smaller businesses may not so be sure to bring some cash.
- Spend the night. As I mentioned above, I do recommend spending the night so you can experience the less-crowded evening and early morning during your day in Bruges.
- Most people speak English. Flemish, a dialect of Dutch, is the local language, but since the city receives so many tourists, most people will also speak English.
- Consider a guided walking tour. If you like to learn about the history and culture of a destination, consider joining a walking tour. You can find “free” ones that leave from Market Square (just be sure to tip!) or join a more official one.
Is Bruges or Ghent Better?
Bruges vs. Ghent…which Belgium city is better? If you have time, I highly recommend visiting them both as each have something different to offer. But if I had to choose, I would pick Bruges. To me, the small city is something straight out of a fairytale. It’s definitely worth adding to your trip, even if you only have one day to spend in Bruges.
If you’re still having trouble deciding, check out my post on Ghent or Bruges, where myself and other travelers share our opinions in detail.
Have you been to Bruges? How do you find this 1-day itinerary to Bruges?
If you are looking for more information about Bruges, check The Trusted Traveller’s Guide: Things to do in Bruges, Belgium.