One day in Bruges is simply not enough.
If that’s all the time you then this is the perfect itinerary for you.
Just an hour away from Brussels by train, Bruges makes for an easy day trip. It’s also a great place to spend the night before heading off in the morning to explore somewhere new.
In this post I want to share a practical itinerary and some helpful tips on making the most of your trip to Bruges. Even if you only have one day you’re still going to have a great time!
Don’t forget about the other amazing small towns in Belgium you can visit – for example, why not consider a day trip to Antwerp as well?
Either way, you’re going to have an incredible time in Bruges.
Let’s jump right into it!
When’s the Best Time to Visit Bruges?
Like with most Western European cities, Bruges is busiest during the late spring, summer, and early fall. This is when most people have time off of work and when the weather is ideal for traveling.
During the summer prices for accommodation and tours are going to be slightly higher.
Make sure to book your hotel or accommodation as far in advance as possible to avoid any issues with availability. You’ll also be able to secure the best rates by booking as early as possible.
To avoid the crowds it’s best to visit in April, May, late September, and October. The weather is still great for spending time outdoors during these months and the crowds of tourists haven’t started to pick up yet.
If you can get the time off work or aren’t completely set on summer travel this is when I’d recommend visiting for the best experience!
How to Spend One Day in Bruges
In this post I’ll assume you’re starting your day off at 10AM.
You can adjust it depending on your timeframe and whether you’re arriving from Brussels or waking up in town.
- Speaking of Brussels – check out this super helpful post on how to spend a Sunday in Brussels by Sophie over at Bitten By The Bug!
Start at the Market Square
The Market Square in the center of the Old Town is the best place to start your day.
From here you can easily access all of the main tourist attractions. The square itself is one of the most picturesque places in Belgium.
Take some time to walk around and admire the architecture and beautiful buildings around you. Visiting earlier in the day is the best bet since the square won’t be too busy yet.
The highlight of the Market Square is the large tower that dominates the skyline – the Belfry.
It’s possible to head up to the top of the Belfry where you’ll be rewarded with an amazing view of Bruges and the surrounding area.
If you haven’t had breakfast yet try wandering through the surrounding streets and keeping your eye out for a bakery or small cafe. During the warmer months many places will have outdoor seating. It’s a fun experience to sit outdoors and enjoy a bite to eat before heading off to explore.
Go On a Walking Tour (Or Boat Tour)
Starting at 11:30 there’s a free walking tour leaving from the statue in the Market Square.
The tours are run by “Legends of Bruges” and they’re great way to learn more about the medieval history of this charming town.
While you could always explore on your own walking tours bring you to all the best places and see if you from having to wander around aimlessly.
The tours take between 2 to 3 hours so don’t forget to wear comfortable shoes. There’s a break in the middle and make sure to leave the guide a tip!
If you don’t feel like a walking tour you could go on a boat tour instead. Boat tours give you a different perspective of the town and can result in some pretty amazing photographs.
From March until November there are 30 minute tours running everyday. The tour costs 8 euros per person and they’re great if you want to sit down and relax while enjoying the scenery.
Get Something for Lunch
After the tour it’s time for lunch!
You can’t visit Belgium and not try some Belgian beer. Be sure to visit somewhere with a decent selection of beers so that you can get the true local experience.
There are a number of restaurants and small eateries throughout the Old Town. Head over to TripAdvisor to see what’s available or just walk around and stop by wherever seems interesting.
Personally, I recommend visiting Jilles near the Fish Market. They have some great Burgers, the prices are reasonable, and there’s a great selection of beers.
It’s the perfect lunch stop during a summer trip to Bruges!
Visit the Famous Basilica
Steps away from the Market Square is the Basilica of the Holy Blood. In this Basilica there’s a vial where the blood of Jesus Christ is believed to be kept.
It’s completely free to visit the inside although there’s a donation expected.
Even if you’re not religious this is a cool experience and something that you need to do when you’re visiting Bruges.
The Basilica is small inside and it should only take you 20 to 30 minutes to check out the vial.
Learn More About Bruges
At this point you’re probably ready to relax. Visiting a museum or gallery is the perfect thing to do right now!
There are two great museums in Bruges that I would recommend checking out. These are the Groeninge Museum and St. John’s Hospital.
St. John’s Hospital is one of the oldest hospitals in Europe. This makes it rather unique and it’s pretty cool to walk around and explore the building.
The Groeninge Museum is one of the best museums in town and showcases artwork from Flemish and local artists.
Both of these are great places to spend some time learning more about local history and culture. They’re also great if you’re looking for somewhere to escape the rain or heat.
As for galleries, there are a number of different art galleries and artists shops throughout the Old Town area. Wander around and pop into any of the shops or galleries that seem interesting to you.
Eat a Belgian Waffle
This is something you can choose to do before or after dinner. I like to grab a waffle late in the afternoon and finish it while exploring the city some more.
The best place to find a Belgian waffle in Bruges is right in the city center in the Market Square. This is the historic centre of the town and on market days there are a number of street vendors selling waffles.
The waffles range in price from 1 to 3 euros depending on how many toppings you get. I recommend going with the classic Belgian waffle topped with whipped cream although that’s more of a personal preference!
If the Market Square is too busy you can find some other vendors and cafes selling waffles throughout the Old Town. Don’t hesitate to check out some different menus to see where you can find the best waffles.
It’s Dinner Time!
Don’t forget to walk around for a short while after finishing your waffle. You want everything to settle down in your stomach before you eat dinner.
As always, I recommend heading over to TripAdvisor to compare restaurants and find somewhere to eat in Bruges. You can set filters depending on your preferences, budget, and location of where you want to eat.
There are so many different restaurants and small eateries that I can’t recommend one specifically.
For a unique experience it’s a good idea to grab dinner right in the Market Square. Here you can enjoy the amazing view and watch the crowds of tourists while eating your meal.
For more quiet, romantic, and peaceful dining experience I recommend stopping somewhere outside of the Market Square. Prices will be lower and you’ll be able to enjoy your meal without the crowds of tourists around you.
Brewery Tour or Self-Guided Walking Tour
After dinner it’s up to you to decide how you want to spend the rest of your night. If you’re not staying in Bruges then you’ll probably have to start making your way back at this point.
Otherwise, there are a few things to do at night that are pretty interesting depending on what you’re looking to do.
During its medieval history there were more than 50 breweries running at any given time in the small town of Bruges. These days there are only three breweries still brewing delicious beer.
These would be the Fort Lapin, De Halve Maan, and the Bourgogne des Flandres breweries.
At each of these you can go on a tour and sample some fresh Belgian beer. The tour will also bring you through the brewery facilities giving you a better idea of how beer is made here in Belgium.
If you’d rather just sit in a bar and sample different beers without going on a tour I recommend heading to the Bauhaus Bar. There are more than 25 different Belgian beers on top and there’s a lively young crowd every night of the week.
Alternatively, you can easily walk around on your own. Going on a self-guided walking tour of the town is a great way to discover its hidden gems without feeling restricted to a guide or itinerary.
And there you have it!
This is a great one day in Bruges itinerary that’ll help you make the most of your time even if you’re only visiting for the day.
If there’s anything I missed or if there’s something you would like to recommend don’t hesitate to leave a comment down below.
Where to Stay in Bruges
The Relais & Chateaux Hotel Heritage is one of the best hotels in town.
It’s a 4-star luxury property that was originally built as a private mansion in 1869. The 19th-century building has been renovated and turned into this stunning luxury hotel with spacious rooms, high ceilings, and tasteful decoration.
The best part about the Hotel Heritage is its location just 150 feet away from the Market Square. Staying here it’s easy to get out and explore the city!
For a better look at the property I recommend checking out my in-depth Relais & Chateaux Hotel Heritage review.
Alternatively, if you’re looking for something a little more reasonably priced I would recommend checking out the Hotel Ibis Brugge Centrum.
This property is part of the Ibis chain of hotels and it’s perfect if you’re looking for something affordable, comfortable, and well-equipped for a short-term stay.