What to Do in Bruges in One Day: The Ultimate Guide

The romantic city of Bruges in Belgium is the stuff of fairytales (get the reference?) and was even part of the Hanseatic League. It’s the ultimate weekend getaway! Even if you can only do Bruges in one day, you’ll get plenty done in this compact UNESCO-heritage listed city center.

See the most charming buildings from the Middle Ages, some of them housing museums, others restaurants and others hotels. In this guide I won’t just be sharing a map of Bruges with my recommendations, but also my things to see, what to eat, and some recommended hotels. Here’s all you can get up to with one day in Bruges!

Map of Bruges

What to See in Bruges in One Day

Here’s a list of all you can see in Bruges, but if you’d rather have a guide, try one of these tours:

De Markt

This is the best place to witness Bruges’ rich past as a trading town. Your eyes will be drawn to the impressive Provinciaal Hof, next to which you’ll find the tourist information center. This square used to be used as place for trading. As you’ll notice, since Bruges is such a picturesque town, there are many free things to do in this list.

De Belfort

De Belfort used to be the storage location for goods for trading. It was first built in the 13th century and can be visited for free. The tower has only stood there since the 15th century. Climbing the 366 steps will give you a great view of Bruges. You may encounter some long lines though, so time your visit for earlier in the day.

De Burg

On this square, which lays right next to the Markt, I didn’t just spot a few scarily realistic living statues, but also a wedding. Not surprising, since this is where you’ll find the town hall, which houses the grandiose Gothic hall. Couples still get married here every day!

If it’s not occupied for a wedding you can visit it for a few euros and my jaw dropped to the floor. The enormous space is covered in gold leaf and colourful wall paintings depict episodes from Bruges rich history. Must see!

De Brugse Vrij

You can visit with the same ticket, which makes it a great deal. The previous court of Bruges is located next to the town hall, and I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen a greater contrast than this. Where the Gothic hall is light and shiny, the Renaissance hall in De Brugse Vrij is dark and moody.

A massive wooden fireplace will have instilled a great sense of fear for Bruges criminals, right before their sentencing. I was scared in for them when I visited.

Crowne Plaza

This hotel is a relatively unknown little gem. Across from the Town Hall, located on De Burg, lies Crowne Plaza. It was built on the remains of the impressive St. Donaas Cathedral.

The structure, of which building commenced in 944, was broken down after the second French invasion of 1799. The ruins lay undiscovered until the hotel was built. They can be visited for free, just ask the friendly doorman upon your entrance of the hotel.

Don’t forget to look at the exposition, showcasing objects found in the ruins. On show are, amongst other things, a centuries old coin and a 15th century grave with paintings.

Brugse Vismarkt

You can reach De Brugse Vismarkt by passing through the Town Hall and de Brugse Vrij. The name literally stands for Bruges Fish Market, and that’s because this is the prime spot for trading and buying fish during weekdays, and has been so since 1745. Don’t forget to explore the area, I really enjoyed the vibe here.

Walplein, Simon Stevinplein + De Halve Maan

This is a great area for food. You’ll also find the oldest brewery in Bruges here: de Halve Maan. You can read more about my picks in the where to eat section below.

Begijnhof

The Begijnhof is small, but fun. It’s a community of charming white houses dating back to the 16th to 18th century, home to nuns. One of the houses, ‘het Begijnhuisje’, functions as a museum and can be visited for only €2.

Considering I basically live and breathe by my bank cards and had no cash, I had to skip. I did, however, catch some singing nuns in the church, which was an incredibly serene and intimate moment.

Minnewater

Adjacent to the Begijnhof lies Minnewater, a lake – and possibly the most romantic spot in all of Bruges. Although it is the star of a rather dark myth. After the execution of a governor of Bruges in 1488 the lake is cursed: it will forever be the home to a flock of swans.

Why this *terrible* fate, you ask? Well, the dear governor’s family coat of arms was a swan. You’ll have the best look at the swans from one of the many adorable bridges.

Volkskundemuseum

Het Volkskundemuseum or Museum of Folklore lies a bit further away from the city centre, but a stroll will take you past the nice Jan van Eyckplein. The museum is housed in an old factory workers house, and shows how Bruges inhabitants lived in the 18th and 19th century.

The decors are recreated with an eye for detail, and I really enjoyed my visit. It costs €4 to visit. Take your time and take in all the amazing details. This is also a great example of one of the top things to do in Bruges when its raining.

Gruuthuuzemuseum

This museum was closed when I visited Bruges. Such a shame! But behind the museum you’ll find a park that transports you back in time to the Middle Ages. The canals, gardens and stone bridge look like an absolute fairytale. Cherry on top was the fact two young girls played flute and violin. Lovely!

Chocolatiers

In the city centre you’ll stumble over the many chocolate makers (I read there’s over 50 of them). And obviously it’s a crime against humanity to not support local economy and taste some chocolates, right?

You could also do this chocolate and beer tasting to really enjoy Bruges’ chocolate economy!

Stadswal

Finally, it’s worth having a stroll on the old city walls, where you’ll see an old city gate and four traditional windmills. If you climb the mill you’ll have a free view of the city. This was a great place to have a picnic if the weather permits it.

Bruges City Centre

And finally: don’t forget to just wander around the town, especially if you’re spending two days in Bruges. Take random turns, and stroll the streets, taking in the atmosphere.

Anything between the former city walls is charming, and often right out of a fairytale set in the middle ages. And while you’re at it, you might want to try some cheap eats in Bruges!

What to Eat in Bruges

Bhavani

On my first night in Bruges I sat down at Bhavani at the Simon Stevinplein for some great Indian food. The restaurant is charming, with a great open bar and subtle Indian details. Don’t expect Indian music blaring out of the speakers, this is not that kind of place.

Choose a €35 menu, or go low budget. I had a vegetarian lentildahl with naan and a drink for €20. The homemade ice tea was absolutely dreamy. If you’re looking to keep things slightly more budget than this, just sit down and have an ice tea on the terrace.

Frites

Flemish fries are an institution, and should not be lacking from any day trip to Belgium. In front of the Belfry towers you’ll find to stalls selling fries. The fries are firm, not too salty or oily and the mayo was brilliant. I’m not normally a very big fan of fries, but even I loved these!

If you’re really a fries fan, book tickets for the Fries Museum in Bruges!

Bonbons

I’m not sure what the translation of this is, but it’s basically chocolate filled with lots of yummy goodness! Honestly, you haven’t visited Bruges unless you’ve tried the chocolates.

One of the oldest chocolatiers, you’ll find at the Katelijnestraat: Sukerbuyc. Prices start from €4.40 for 100g bonbons (about 8 stuks).

Try the local specialty: ’t Brugs Swaentje. This chocolate is shaped like a swan, and is filled with praliné, cookies, and about a million secret ingredients (I think, because OMG so good).

I preferred the milk chocolate one over the pure one. I believe they’re open seven days a week, so no need to time your visit.

De Halve Maan

There’s really only one place to drink your beer in Bruges. Brewery de Halve Maan is the only remaining ORIGINAL brewery in Bruges, and if you’re so inclined you can choose to visit it with a guided tour.

Just sitting down on the sunny terrace and sipping on your Brugse Zot, you’ll be perfectly content. I really liked the atmosphere with many young people..

Waffles

Another staple in Belgian cuisine: the waffle! Honestly, there is no greater motivation for living than knowing you live in a world where waffles with strawberries and whipped cream exist.

I simply wandered in to a place where the waffles looked best. I can’t remember the name but I found it where Walplein and de Wijngaartstraat meet. Take your waffle to the nearby Minnewater, and eat it while overlooking the pond with swans.

Photo via Booking.com

Where to Stay in Bruges

Are you planning to stay over? Good, Bruges really is best seen in two days! Here’s my recommendations for hotels.

€ Ibis Budget Hotel

Next to the train station of Bruges, you’ll find the ibis budget hotel. Perfect if you’re arriving by train, and in only a few minutes you’ll walk straight into the city centre.

As with ibis, their rooms are always comfortable. I love their beds, and despite the affordable price, you’ll not be lacking anything.  Check current prices and availability here.

€€ Boat Hotel de Barge

You know me: I love an original place to stay. That’s why my midrange choice would be the Boat Hotel De Barge.

Yep, a hotel in a boat on one of the canals in Bruges. How cool is that? The rooms are comfortable and the hotels food options are highly rates. Check current prices and availability here.

€€€ Hotel Die Swaene

he true historical character of Bruges, you’ll see reflected in the hotel rooms of Hotel Die Swaene. The hotel lies right in the middle of the UNESCO-heritage listed city centre, and looks out over a canal.

Staying here will make you feel like you’re living in a mansion from the 17th century! Check current prices & availability here. 

These were my top things to do in Bruges in one day! I really enjoyed my visit. These tips should surely cover you for at LEAST one day in Bruges, but probably even two days or more.

If you’re planning an overall trip to Belgium, don’t miss my city guides for Brussels, Ghent, Mechelen, Leuven, and Antwerp!

What are your best tips for things to do in Bruges in one day?

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