The city of Bruges is timeless. The medieval market square lined with gingerbread houses and the romantic canals in Bruges will melt your heart. Of 20,000 residents strong in the city centre, Bruges can be easily explored in a day. Our one day in Bruges Itinerary is packed with activities, and it will definitely get you wanting more.
If you are heading to Brussels, Paris, or Amsterdam, you SHOULD squeeze in a day trip to Bruges or even a half-day tour to experience this European gem. Continue reading to find out what to do in Bruges in one day itinerary.
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you click one of them, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
One day in Bruges Itinerary – What to do in Bruges in one day?
Did you know that Bruges is called Brugge? Bruges is the French name for the city and Brugge is the Dutch name.
The capital of West Flanders, Bruges is also called the ‘Venice of the North” and is often referred to as a village than a city. The medieval city of Bruges rose to prominence in the 14th and 15th centuries due to the expansive canal system. In the later centuries, it lost its sheen and was almost neglected. Which was in a way good, as it preserved much of the city’s charm from invasions and modern world wars.
Train station – Arriving from Brussels to Bruges
We took an early train from Brussels and arrived in Bruges when the city was still waking up to waffles. From the train station in Bruges, the central square is a short distance away. We reached Bruges at around 08:00 am and the market square was closed. So we explored some of the open monuments and sites that were open 24/7 and captured some of the beautiful spots in Bruges minus the crowds.
Trains are available from most stations in Brussels and connect Bruges through their SNCB rail network. We departed from Brussels Midi and arrived in Bruges in an hour.
Nearest Airport to Bruges is Brussels Zaventem Airport, and it takes 1.50 hours to reach Bruges from Brussels Airport. Take a day tour to Bruges from Brussels. Book your tour here.
The Lake of Love – Enjoy a stroll at Lake Minnewaterpark
As you walk from the train station, you will find many green spaces and beautiful medieval sculptures. Lake Minnewaterpark or the ‘lake of love’ is a beautiful and tranquil green space in Bruges. Legend has it that there was a man named Stromberg, who was in love with Minna.
As with most love stories, there was a villain, Minna’s father who disapproved of their love. Minna escaped to the forest and the lake. The tragedy of the story is that the girl died here, in the arms of her lover. Since then the charming lake has been a magnet for lovers who are bonded in eternity.
A lover’s bridge is located at the central part of the park, as a testimony to undying love. You will also find beautiful swans at the lake, making a splash in the water. Swans symbolize grace, love, devotion, and partnerships. Spend an hour or so here and then continue to the heart of the city of Bruges.
Explore the medieval Saint John’s Hospital – Sint-Janshospitaal
The Saint John Hospital is an 800-year-old medieval hospital. The interiors are filled with art collections, archives, medical items, and instruments from bygone days. Visitors are allowed access to explore the medieval wards, as well as the chapel.
The hospital is open Tuesday to Sunday, from 09:30 am to 5:00 pm. Adult tickets are for 12 euros (2019)
Markt Square – Experience the medieval Market Square
Markt Square is the iconic landmark of Bruges. This is the fairy tale place that you see in picture-perfect postcards and yes, they are for REAL. The market place has been in operation since 958 AD. The gingerbread houses, in beautiful Flemish architecture and the gold, green decorations are truly mesmerizing – I just wanted to bring them home with me to Canada 🙂
We do recommend arriving at Market Square early. You will see the market square setting up in the morning, as vendors pour in with local goods and delicacies. The market square is lined with restaurants and they are empty, making way for perfect photography shots, in the morning.
By 10:00 am, when the markets were set up, we tried some roasted chicken at one of the food stalls. Let me TELL you, there were sooooo delicious that we couldn’t let it go. All the food and flowers sold here are sourced locally and the market has been operating for centuries. So definitely enjoy a piece of vintage and medieval history in the market square.
Salil and I had so much fun exploring the market square, sipping on some warm cappuccino, and walking through the market square as it was being set up. We were also lucky to have arrived here on a Wednesday when local food and flower stalls and vendors were in.
In the centre of the square, you will find the statue of Jan Breydel and Pieter de Coninck. They were two freedom fighters who fought against the French at the beginning of the 14th century.
We enjoyed some soup and sat by the statues to admire the gingerbread houses. Oh so pretty!
For your one day in Bruges Itinerary, this is MUST visit spot. In and around the Markt, there are other popular sightseeing attractions as well, that you shouldn’t miss.
The Markt is surrounded by two MOST important sights in Bruges – the Belfry Tower and the Historium.
Be mesmerized – Belfry Tower or the Belfort van Brugge (in Dutch)
Standing tall at the market square is the Belfry tower. The Belfry of Bruges (or Belfort van Brugge) is an iconic medieval bell tower in the city. It is 83 metres tall and has a long legacy of 800 years. The belfries are structures that enclose bells for ringing as part of the tower of a civic (city) hall.
The tower of Belfry was important in the middle ages as it almost served as a guardian to alert residents of fire or other calamities. It forms a part of a 13th century complex of buildings. The Belfry tower has been recognized as UNESCO World Heritage sites since 1999.
The Belfry is open every day from 09:30 am to 6:00 pm. Adult tickets are for 12 euros (2019).
You can climb up the Belfry Tower for panoramic views of the city of Bruges. It only has 366 steps. On the way to the top, you can visit a museum to learn about city archives from the Middle Ages. There are about 47 bells at the carillon. You will learn more about the carillon and the ‘Triumphant Bell’ when you reach the top level. It is amazing to see the bell and the clockwork so closely.
During summers, you might experience a long wait time as the tower can only hold up to 70 people at a time. So we recommend opting for a tower tour in the evening (before close).
Historium – Learn history with multi-media
Another sightseeing stop located by the Markt is the Historium. It is a fun and an interactive way to learn about Bruges history. I wish I had this in school, wouldn’t that be cool? Although most of the stories highlighted here are fictional, mixed with facts; it is surely an entertaining way to learn more of the medieval city. Videos refer to the 15th century period in Bruges.
The Historium is open from 10:00 am to 06:00 pm every day. You can buy tickets online or at least 2 hours before closing on site.
There are 3 types of access tickets to choose from. You can either visit (and explore/watch/learn) the medieval Bruges discovery tour for 14 euros (adults), or add a drink at the end of the experience for 19.50 euros.
The virtual reality experience of Bruges, called the time traveler, is amazing and you should include that if you are heading to the Historium and an all-inclusive ticket for that, will be $17.50 euros (no drink/food).
Take a Guided Rickshaw Tour
Right outside the Historium and in and around the Markt Square, you will find private guided tours to explore the city. They are in a tuk-tuk or an East Indian Rickshaw style. The rickshaw tour for two is a sightseeing tour for 1-2 hours, where you will be getting a glimpse of all the tourist highlights of Bruges, including access to hidden areas, without the long walk or drive.
The tour starts and ends at the Historium. Book a guided tour in a Rickshaw here
Waffle on a Stick
After morning exploration, its time for some quick snack. We decided to go for waffles with a twist. Waffle on a stick is a delicious take on Belgian waffles. And it is SWEEET!
The confectionery store is located on Breidelstraat 11, 8000 Brugge, called Go.fre Brugge. Definitely give it a try. It is located in a lane pretty close to our next sightseeing stop.
The Burg Square
Another medieval square located at the city center Bruges is the Burg Square. The Burg square dates to 9th century. It is believed that this is one of the earliest inhabited places in Bruges, dating back to second or third centuries.
Inside and in and around the Burg Square, you will find a few sightseeing gems that are worth a visit. The Bruges City Hall (The Stadhuis), an Old Civil Registry (1537 which was a Court House) and the Basilica of the Holy Blood.
The Basilica of the Holy Blood – Of Jesus
The Basilica of the Holy Blood is the most interesting of all structures here at the Burg Square. It is a Roman Catholic minor church in Belgium. The church is adorned in gilded statues. It is easy to not spot this chapel, behind a gorgeous staircase. The church is a dual basilica with a Gothic upper church and Romanesque lower level.
The Basilica of the Holy Blood is well-known for a vial (or phial), containing a small piece of cloth which is said to be stained with drops of blood of Jesus. The vial is located on the upper level. In order to see the display, you will have to be at the basilica at certain times. Hours are 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m., 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Go and attend the mass and see the vial for your self!
Bruges Old City Hall
The most impressive building on the Burg is the Town Hall. This beautiful Gothic Bruges Old City Hall was built in 1376, making it is one of the oldest in the Low Countries/entire Netherlands.
The City Hall is adorned with statues. They were destroyed during the French Revolution and were later re-built. The interiors have timber ceilings and painted murals. The council chambers from the original site were replaced by one “Gothic” hall.
The city of Bruges was governed by this administrative building for more than 600 years. You will find many historical details and information here at the Bruges City Hall.
Bruges City Hours are from 09:30 to 5:00 pm every day. Ticket prices 4+ euros.
After exploring the Burg Fortress, time for quick lunch. There are restaurants located near Burg Square as well. Or if you still have some more energy for a quick stroll, then head to the narrow lane linking the Burg Square with the old fish market – Vismarkt to the canals.
Vismarkt is a fishmarket, which is located in the covered arcade, set up for the purpose of selling fish and sea food. This also means if you are a sea food lover, head to De Gouden Krones Brugge for lunch or dinner. This restaurant is also a good Instagram Spot!
Add Belgian Frites to your Bruges Itinerary
You will have to have Belgian Frites (Loaded Poutine). Although we were still FULL, from all the food in the morning, we still decided to try out some loaded Belgian frites by the canal side. Bruges is usually very humid, but we were there in September and the weather was pleasant.
Take a Canal Tour
Although it might sound very clichéd, a canal boat tour is a MUST do activity in Bruges. The waterways led to the prosperity of Bruges in medieval times and taking a ride over the river is sort of customary and essential. The canal tour lasts an hour and costs 14 euros for two.
We did the tour in the afternoon and it was co-shared by 10-12 other people. It was not crowded, but for 14 euros, there is no privacy or romance. Just romance with the medieval sights of Bruges, you know what I mean
When you are in Bruges for a day, taking the canal tour will also allow you to experience more of what the city has to offer. In the entire loop of the tour, you will view beautiful medieval buildings and most of the iconic sights of Bruges.
The Skyscraper aka the Bruges Whale
While you are enjoying your canal ride, you will see a giant blue dolphin protruding from the water towards the sky (arching Jan Van Eyck Square at the city’s center). The Skyscraper is the result of 5 tonnes of waste from the oceans, collected over 4 months to shape the Bruges Whale.
The height of the Skyscraper is that of a 4 storied building. Can you imagine the waste that’s in it? Insane
Learn about beer in a Local Brewery Tour in your Bruges Itinerary
Bruges is known for its beer and there a few breweries in town that are worth a visit. Most tour guide books refer to the De Halve Maan (Half Moon) brewery and their Brugse Zot drink, we thought to doing things a little differently.
We opted for the Bourgogne des Flandres Brewery for a tour and really enjoyed it. Although Bourgogne des Flanders is not as popular as De Halve Maan brewery in Bruges, we have 3 reasons, why this brewery should be visited instead.
- For 10 euros, you get the guided tour of the brewery as well as a FREE pint of famous Bourgogne des Flandres beer – red-brown beer, with a creamy finish
- You can try 6 different varieties of beer YAY
- Its location: Located at a quaint street, relaxed environment inside the bar. BONUS: You can sit and sip by the canal = awesome views
Bourgogne des Flandres dates back to a legacy of beer making since the 1800s. The brewery disappeared in the 1930’s only to be re-discovered again.
The tour is a self-guided audio tour, and at the end of the guide, a beer consultant talks to you and shows you how raw beer looks and tastes like (I didn’t quite like the raw beer taste, but Salil did)
You can either choose to enjoy the evening by the canal and beer here (add a cheese and meat platter to go). Or you can head back to the market square to enjoy the night.
When we walked back to the Markt, we saw that all the food stalls were gone (for the day). I wonder how much work and time they have put in each day to keep the market traditions alive, really impressed.
Once the stalls are gone, the stage is clear for some live music. You will also see people enjoying a stroll or eating, good opportunity to relax and slow down for the night. For dinner, head to one of the restaurants by the Markt for some comfort food and another round of Belgian beer, before calling it a day.
Romantic or Cozy Dinner in the river city of Bruges
Here are some dinner options in Bruges. Food in Bruges in restaurants is not very cheap, but for the taste, ambiance, and heritage, it is worth it for a night
- Pro Deo Bistro – One of the best places to try traditional Belgian stew – stoofvlees (traditional stew)
- Belgian Pigeon House – Very upscale restaurant, perfect for cocktails and romantic dining
- The Olive Tree Brugge – Located very close to the Markt, the Olive Tree Brugge offers fresh and artificial free Greek/Mediterranean food.
- Sans Cravate – San Cravate is a modern restaurant by a Michelin Chef, at a reasonable price
- Den Gouden Harynk – This restaurant serves French and Belgian cuisine in a very upscale ambiance. Wine at this restaurant is good.
If fine dining is not for you and you wish to eat something quick (we know you had a long day), then we have some options for you as well
- Chez Albert – For waffles, sandwiches, deli
- Brazi’s Café – Fast food restaurant with vegetarian food options
- Bocca – Budget Italian Restaurant
- House of Waffles – Fast food place for coffee, waffles, sandwich, wraps
2 days in Bruges Itinerary
If you happen to stay in Bruges and want to explore more of the city, here are some options for you
Bruges Ommeland – Bruges Ommeland is an adjacent region to the city of Bruges. Many bike tours are offered from Bruges, where you can explore sightseeing stops like the Loppem Castle or the Castle Wijnendale.
Visiting a Museum
Normally we would place a museum or a historical site as a must-visit, but what do you choose from when the entire town is laced with medieval and Gothic learnings? Hard to choose. So here are some museums worth visiting on your second day in Bruges.
- Gruuthusemuseum – The Gruuthusemuseum is a museum of applied arts, housed in medieval Gruuthuse (the house of Louis de Gruuthuse) The display collection ranges from the 15th- 19th century, with insights to the life to a rich family living in Bruges in those times. There are art exhibitions held here as well.
- Groeningemuseum – The Groeningemuseum is a municipal museum, with displays Flemish and Belgian paintings from the 18th and the 19th century (from Jan van Eyck to Marcel Broodthaers).
- Frietmuseum – The one and only museum of Fries in the whole world.
- Choco-Story – The Chocolate Museum – Visit this museum to learn about chocolate history and how it was brought to Belgium.
Taking a Day trip from Bruges
Day trips are possible from Bruges to Amsterdam and Great War Flounders Field.
- Guided tour to Amsterdam lasts 12 hours, so it will take your full day appointment. Book your day tour to Amsterdam here
- Great War fields of Flounders in Ypres is another day trip option from Bruges. Book your day tour to Flounders here.
- You can also take a day trip to Ghent in Belgium.
Pro Tip: If you are traveling from Brussels, a trip to Bruges and Ghent is possible on the same day. Book your day tour here
Travel Tips for Bruges One Day Itinerary
Here are some of the essential travel tips for the Bruges Itinerary.
Travel Visa/Travel Documents
Bruges is located in Belgium. Belgium belongs to the Schengen Zone. If you have a non-visa exempt passport for Schengen countries, you will require a visa to travel. The most important thing to keep in mind here is that is not a visa on arrival, but the same visa that you take for France or Netherlands applies here (Schengen Agreement) Learn about the Schengen Visa process here.
If you possess a European Union passport, you are visa-exempt.
From 2022 onwards, countries like the USA and Canada will have to apply for travel authorization (ETIAS) online prior to arriving in Bruges. It can be applied online and received via email within 24 -48 hours, before travel.
Where to stay in Bruges?
Looking to extending your stay in Bruges? Here are some hotel options for you.
- Hotel NH Bruges – Of NH Hotel chains, this is a 4-star accommodation, located very close to most of the sightseeing spots in Bruges. Offers free breakfast. Check out the hotel and book your stay
- Hotel De Orangerie – This stunning hotel overlooks the canal in Bruges. It is a luxury hotel with a grand setting. The hotel building dates back to a 15th-century covenant. Check out the hotel reviews and book your stay
- Hotel Novotel Centrum – Located close to the city center, this 3-star hotel in Bruges is a budget option with a convenient address. Check out the hotel reviews and book your stay
We recommend using Booking.com to find accommodation. It is our favorite hotel website for quickly comparing the prices of multiple hotel booking sites at once.
Best Time to visit Bruges Belgium
The best time to visit Bruges is during the late spring or summer months. The weather is warm and nice, less damp or rain. You will also see tons of greenery around as well.
We visited Bruges in September which is considered a shoulder season (off-season). The weather was mild, with some overcasts during the day, but it didn’t rain the day we were in Bruges. Most tourist areas were not crowded.
Top things to do in Winter Time in Bruges
During winter and Christmas time, Bruges is a real treat. There are Christmas markets set up at the Markt Square. There are seasonal fix/events that you can partake and select Belgian Chocolates and holiday decorations to take it back home.
Festivals such as the Ice Sculpture and Christmas Lightning all happen in grandeur here in Bruges. Learn more about winter guide in Bruges here.
What to eat in Bruges Belgian?
Belgium is popular for so many foods and Bruges is no exception. We found that experiencing food by the canal, at the market square or at a brewery adds a whole new meaning in Bruges and definitely makes for great memories.
- Definitely try the food at the market square. Your options range from meat to wine and cheese, fruits, chocolates, soup, waffles and crepes, Belgian Frites and more
- Belgian Beer – You can try it at a brewery or bar/restaurant. Try Belgian beer at this popular restaurant – 2be
- Waffles of all kinds – On a stick, Belgian waffles (squared and Liege Waffles)
- Hot Chocolate – Try Hot Chocolate at House of Waffles. You will be given a cup/glass of hot milk and chocolate on a stick. Stir the chocolate into the hot milk and viola – HOT CHOCOLATE is ready for you.
Souvenirs to buy in Bruges
Don’t forget to pack these goodies from Bruges
- Belgian Chocolates
- Artwork and handicraft
- Lacework for home decorations
- Buy gingerbread shaped Bruges magnets and key-chains
Safety in Bruges
We found Bruges to be very safe and welcoming. In the early morning hours, you will not find a lot of people on the streets, but it is safe to walk and admire the buildings and stores. The market square gets busy during the day, so watch out for your wallets and don’t leave anything out in the open.
We personally have not experienced any theft or tourist ‘troubles’ in Bruges, so we can say it was safe. But follow general safety and precautionary measures at crowded locations like the canal tour or the market square.
Evenings are quiet, but safe to take a stroll to enjoy.
Bruges have remained a popular destination for solo backpackers and couples for years. The cobblestone lanes, the medieval vibes, and my favorite real-life gingerbread houses didn’t disappoint us. It is definitely a MUST visit when you are in Belgium.
We hope you enjoyed our one day in Bruges Itinerary activities!
Additional Belgium Europe Resources
- Brussels Day trips – Day trip ideas from Brussels to other cities and countries
- Dinant Guide – Dinant Activities
- Packing List for Europe – All seasonal packing list for Belgium Europe
- Europe Itinerary Samples – Grab this 27 itinerary samples for Europe