Bruges was my favorite city in Belgium! Here’s what you should know to plan a day in Bruges.
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Bruges is a gorgeous city, perfect for meandering the streets, ducking into tea houses, and taking long walks along the canals. It was my favorite of the three cities I visited: Brussels, Bruges, and Ghent. Next time I go to Belgium, I’ll probably base my trip in Bruges and use the super-easy trains to get around.
Planning Your Time in Bruges
You can also easily do Bruges as a day trip from Brussels or Antwerp if that’s what you have time for. You can even combine Bruges and Ghent in one day if you’re pressed for time and can’t decide between them!
Bruges sits just off the coast, meaning it’s not a beach town but has an inlet that provides major economic significance over the centuries. The detailed roof architecture is one of the biggest things you’ll notice, and you’ll find it all over the city!
Bruges is full of nature, which I loved. It’s sometimes called “the Venice of the North,” which is hilarious because the only similarity is the canals. So, not at all like Venice. But still a gorgeous city with wide waterways crossing the major areas.
You can do boat rides through the city to see if from the water. They’re pretty quick and tend to be full boats, but it’s a beautiful way to experience Bruges!
A Self-Guided Walking Tour of Bruges
Doing a self-guided walking tour is a great way to check out the city’s highlights. Here’s the route I suggest to see the major spots in an order that makes sense!
Starting at the train station, you’ll walk 5 minutes to the historic part of the city. Instead of entering the walls, walk alongside the canal on a lovely tree-lined path. This follows the canal to Poertoren Tower & Lover’s Bridge, a picturesque spot over the biggest point in the canal.
Turn left and follow the canal until you hit the Sashuis house, which is just one of the many homes and buildings in the area with that iconic roofline associated with Belgium. If you’re lucky, you may see a flock of swans enjoying the water in the canals.
From there turn left again to enter The Beguinage, an active convent. It’s a small area with homes, places of study, and a church circled around a green space full of trees.
Follow the path around to the other entrance. On this path, we actually came in the back way, so this is the main gate onto the town itself. Follow Wijingaardstaat until it dead ends into Katelijnestaat and turn left, heading into the main part of town.
You’ll pass the Church of Our Lady in Bruges (O.L.V. kerk), which is beautiful and stark if you want to step in. The tombs and other bits are now a museum, but you can enter the sanctuary for free.
When you hit a square with a statue of Simon Stevin, turn right and follow Oude Burg. This will take you to the Belfry of Bruges, the medieval town hall. You can climb the Belfry – steps only, no elevator – and the top offers a view of the entire city!
Back out on Oude Burg, turn right when it dead ends into Wollestraat. This takes you to the Nepomucenusbrug bridge, which is probably my favorite scenic spot in the city. You get the architecture, the canals, a gorgeous willow, and both the Belfry and the Church of Our Lady in the background. It’s also one of the more popular spots to catch a boat ride!
Continue on by turning left to head along Rozenhoedkaai. Take a left one block past the canal to see the Vismarkt, the local fish and craft market. Or continue past it to reach Burg Square, the major square of the city.
Here, you can find Bruges’ City Hall, the Old Recorder’s House, the Brugss Vrije (a history museum focusing on Flanders). Additionally, this is where the most recognizable photo of Bruges rooflines comes from – look above the restaurants to the colorful rooftops!
From there, feel free to wander! There’s plenty more to the town, but this route gets you the major sights in one walk.
Bruges Restaurants & Breweries
No trip is complete without a few great food stops! And since Belgium is known for its beer and chocolate, a day trip should focus on those.
If you go to one Bruges brewery, it should be De Halve Maan. Beer has been brewed there for over 500 years, and the current owners have been running it for five generations. It offers tours or you can head to the bar and restaurant for a DIY tasting!
The menu is large and set up like a newspaper, giving plenty of options for good food. I particularly liked tripel beer and the croquette was delicious.
Another great brewery is Bourgogne does Flandres. It’s a good brewery to try typical Flemish-style beers. They offer tours but I opted to head to their bar and enjoy a Christmas beer they’d just put on tap. It was delicious, and their outdoor patio gives beautiful views of the canal and surrounding architecture.
Need a coffee break? Stop in at The Novel for a coffee and cake! It’s a cute modern cafe that I loved – if I lived here, this would be my regular spot. They also serve breakfast if you need something more substantial!
If you haven’t yet, pick up some chocolate at The Old Chocolate House. They also have a tea house where you get some nibbles and warm up with a hot chocolate or tea!
Bruges is a lovely city that’s already calling me back. But you can certainly do it in a day from Brussels if that’s what you have time for!
Want this walking tour laid out in an easy-to-follow guide? I offer it on Thatch which makes it easy to follow in real time with map views and built-in restaurant stops!