Bruges has become a popular and fancy weekend gateway destination due to the gorgeous architecture and the lovely canal system. The majority of visitors that comes to Brussels decides to spend one day in Bruges, as well, travelling here by train. The city is now one of the most photogenic towns in Europe, so it understands why so many choose to visit it.
We flew to Belgium on a weekend, spent three nights in Brussels and took day trips to Ghent and Bruges. We travelled by train between the cities and walked through the city centre and the surroundings. Although we didn’t prepare much, we saw a lot on these day trips. Here is a little inspiration on how to organize your time if you only have one day in Bruges!
We visited Bruges on a late autumn day when golden leaves were falling into the canals and streets, and the temperatures were pleasant. Still, yet many tourists were roaming around the city, much more than expected.
Getting to Bruges by Train
Bruges can be reached by train from Brussels, Ghent, and Antwerp. A return train ticket, to any destination in Belgium, is half price on weekends from 7 pm Friday until Sunday. One return train ticket from Brussel to Bruges, on the weekend, costs 15.40 EUR, 17 USD and the ride takes no more than 1hour20minutes.
Getting to and around the City Centre
If you come with luggage and you want to spend a couple of days in Bruges, take eighter a cab or take the tram. Line 4, 13 and 14 from Platform No. 1 outside the station will take you to Grote Markt.
COST: 3 EUR, 3.5 USD for a 60 minutes ticket, bought from the bus driver or ticket machine.
Bruges train station is just south of the city centre. From here it’s a pleasant 20-minute walk to the Main Square. Without a doubt, you cand see all that Bruges has to offer by strolling the cobbled streets. You won’t need a car, not even a bike since it might be crowded. And you don’t need an expensive horse-drawn carriage drive to take through the city centre.
Take a Walk to the Minnewater Park
Leave the train station and head northeast towards Minnewater Park, a truly romantic place in Bruges. Enjoy the silence and the scenery of this park considering Bruges it’s going to be crowded. Right in the heart of Minnewater, you’ll discover the Minnewater Lake or Lake of Love, home to many fascinating and heartbreaking stories of love. Take a few minutes to walk farther into the park and get some lovely pictures. Heading to the city centre, you might bump into some majestic swans swimming through the canals.
Visit the Church of Our Lady
Among other beautiful art pieces exhibited in this church, you can contemplate Michelangelo’s famous statue: Madonna with Child. Although the Church of our Lady is a must for every art lover, the exterior is also imposing. Just approach the church from the alleys on the channel side, and you will understand why everyone is taking pictures here.
COST: The church can be visited free of charge; the 6 EUR, 6.5 USD admission fee is for the museum.
Explore the Main Square or Grote Markt
All visitors will find themselves gathering in the beautiful main square, Grote Markt, which was the medieval trading centre. The main square is lined with plenty of restaurants, outdoor cafes, souvenir shops and even food stalls during the workdays. The two main spots that surround the Grote Markt are the Belfry Tower and the Historium. For your one day in Bruges program, this place it’s a must.
Eat Belgian Waffles
Eating Belgian Waffles is a must during your visit. With such a great variety of toppings, choosing one is a hard task to do. If you can imagine, people are waiting patiently in line to taste some. But judging their smile after trying some, the waiting was worth it.
Climb the Belfry Tower of Bruges
The Belfry Tower that stands tall at the Grote Markt served as a guardian to alert inhabitants of fire or other disasters. It is 83 metres tall, and it is a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1999. The Belfry is open every day from 09:30 am to 6:00 pm. To get to the top, you have to climb 366 steps, but the view from above is well worthy. Expect long waiting queues even in late autumn weekends so visit the tower early morning or late in the afternoon.
COST: 12 EUR, 13.5 USD
Get a medieval Lesson at the Historium
After strolling through Grote Markt, step inside the nearby Historium. An 8-minute virtual reality experience will take you back in medieval time. The museum is a series of rooms with a story to follow – there are projections, exciting music and special effects. After the medieval lesson, step outside to the terrace where and you’ll have a fantastic view over the Grote Markt.
COST: 17.50EUR, 19USD
Explore the Old Town or Stadhuis
Stadhuis is one of the oldest buildings in Bruges, beautiful on the outside and impressive in the inside. The remarkable paintings all around the walls define essential events in the history of Bruges. You can learn more from the audio guide provided from the front desk.
COST: 6 EUR, 6.5 USD
Eat Belgian Fries
Eating fries is another must during your visit to Bruges. There are many places where you can buy this Belgian speciality, but you should taste some around the Main Square.
Take a Canal Boat Tour
Like nearby Ghent, Bruges also has gorgeous canals that cross the city. A 30-minute boat ride will offer you a different perspective over Bruges: impressive architecture, beautiful bridges, hidden alleys, statues and swans. The boats depart from various locations around the city every 30 mins and run from 10 am-6 pm from March to November. The tour is very informative and takes you to different places.
Although it seems like cliché, a canal boat tour is a must if you spend at least one day in Bruges.
COST: 10 EUR, 11 USD
Roam around the cobblestone Alleys
Leave the bustling city centre behind, roam around the peaceful alleys and stop along the way to admire the romantic canals lined with picturesque and historic buildings. That’s the Bruges you are looking for: soundless, charmful and vivid.
Taste the Belgian Beer
A must for every beer lover is to taste the Belgian beer. And in Belgium, there is plenty of beer to be drunk. You can discover the Belgian beer culture at an interactive museum or learn the brewery process in a family-run business. Purchase a beer from a shop with more than 500 types of beers or enjoy one in a historic cellar. The opportunities are countless when it comes to beer in Belgium.
Walk to the Windmills
Although you planed only one day for Bruges, if you manage your program well, you might find enough time to visit the windmills. A water canal surrounds the Old Town of Bruges so head northeast to see the windmills that date back in the 18th century. Being along the canal, it allows for a pleasant 30-minute walk and, gives you a different glimpse of Bruges. There is no access inside the windmills, but you can take photos from outside.
Getting back to the Train Station
A fairly easy 3km walk will take you back to the station. If that is too much for you, it will definitely be a taxi available for you in the area.