Last Updated on 9th March 2023 by Sophie Nadeau
Small and compact, the Flemish city of Bruges is characterised by its red brick buildings, medieval architecture, and winding canals. Easy to explore on foot, you’ll be pleased to know that you can see most of the city in under 24 hours. Here’s your ultimate guide on how to spend one day in Bruges.
Please note that Bruges is known in Brugge in Flemish. While I would highly recommend visiting the city in of itself over the course of a few days so as to truly soak up all of the attractions, Bruges can also be seen as an easy day trip from Brussels.
- Is 1 day enough for Bruges?
- Things to know before visiting Bruges
- The best time to spend one day in Bruges
- How to spend one day in Bruges
- Where to stay in Bruges
- What to wear when exploring Europe
Is 1 day enough for Bruges?
I would say YES, one day is more than enough for Bruges. The city is small, compact, and all of the major attractions are within a few minutes walk of one another.
This, added to the fact that the Belgian city is very touristic, means that you’ll likely see everything you want to see in the space of a day before heading off to another city! You can even do both Bruges and Ghent in one day if you’re really pressed for time, and we actually suggest this in our Belgium itinerary!
Things to know before visiting Bruges
This itinerary for 1 day in Bruges is quite intensive and will involve a fair amount of walking. As such, I suggest wearing comfortable shoes such as cute trainers or ankle boots. I don’t recommend wearing any sort of high heel as there are plenty of cobble stones and the two don’t mix well.
The local language spoken in Bruges is Flemish, which is a dialect of Dutch. However, don’t be too worried as Bruges is a very touristic city and so most people working in the tourist industry will have a fantastic level of English.
For even more information about the Belgian city, be sure to check out our guide to the best things to do in Bruges. And for an insider look at the city, be sure to check out our article about the best-kept secrets of Bruges.
The best time to spend one day in Bruges
The best time to visit the city is from April to June and in September and October when the weather is at its best but the crowds are not too great.
As with many other highly frequented destinations in Europe, you should also be wary for pickpockets. Bruges uses the Euro and, while many places accept cards, some smaller independent businesses remain cash only.
How to spend one day in Bruges
Snap a photo of the Quay of the Rosary
One of the most important things to know before visiting Bruges is that it gets very busy as the city is one of the most popular destinations in Europe.
As such, I would highly recommend heading the the Quay of the Rosary (known as the Rozenhoedkaai in Flemish) first thing in the morning so that you can snap your photos without having to wait in too many crowds!
Basilica of the Holy Blood
Located in the iconic Burg Square, the Basilica of the Holy Blood (known as Heilig-Bloedbasiliek in Flemish) is named for a religious relic which is alleged to contain a drop of holy blood that was collected by Joseph of Arimathea.
The ecclesiastical building itself was constructed in the 12th-century and is now considered to be one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture in the city. In a city where almost everything will cost you a fair bit, it’s worth noting that the Basilica itself is free to enter!
Please note that part of the church has now be transformed into a museum, which costs €6 to enter. After leaving the Basilica of the Holy Blood, you’ll want to continue your one day in Bruges by heading down the Blinde Ezelstraat.
Steps away from Burg Square, one of the most narrow and charming streets in Bruges can be found in the form of Blinde Ezelstraat. Literally translated into English as the ‘Blind Donkey Street,’ the cobbled lane features several impressive brick buildings and an archway of the City Hall building. It’s one of the best places to visit in the city and is well-placed to visit the next stop on our tour.
Climb the Belfry
For one of the best bird’s eye views of Bruges that the city has to offer, then I would highly recommend climbing the Belfry. The tower stands at a height of 83 metres and, thanks to the fact that the Belfry (known as Belfort van Brugge in Flemish) can be seen from all over Bruges, it has since become a symbol of the Belgian city.
In order to get to the top, you’ll have to walk over 300 steps (366 steps to be precise). From the top, you can see the moated canal that rings its way around the city, as well as all of the other iconic attractions that Bruges has to offer.
Good to know: It’s best to visit the Belfry earlier in the day as this is one of the top attractions in Bruges, and so can get pretty busy later on, even though tickets are limited. As tickets are limited for the tower, then you’ll want to buy them in advance.
Market Square (Grote Markt)
The main market and city square of Bruges is the Grote Markt, which lies in the shadow of the Bruges Belfry. If you happen to be visiting Bruges during Christmas time, then the Grote Markt is where the annual Bruges Christmas Market is held.
Have lunch at That’s Toast
One of the best brunch and lunch spots in town is That’s Toast (address Dweersstraat 4, 8000 Brugge, Belgium). As you can imagine from the name, the café serves up delicious dishes based around bread.
There is indoor seating, as well as a lovely little terrace out the back which is best enjoyed on a sunny day. There are vegan and vegetarian options on the menu, as well as speciality coffee.
Unfortunately the restaurant doesn’t take reservations and is instead first come first served. However, the café runs continuously during opening times and so I recommend avoiding peak lunch hours (between 12 and 2 PM) if possible.
After you’ve had a bite to eat, then I recommend escaping the crowds for an hour or so and heading into Minnewater for a little down time- the rest of this 1 day itinerary is pretty packed! Literally translated into English as the ‘love of Lake park,’ this green space features giant chess boards, and even a historic castle.
Minnewater Kasteel has since been transformed into a restaurant and is located in the centre of the park. Though Minnewater is located a short walk away from the city centre, it’s ideally located for heading to the next spot on our one day in Bruges itinerary.
Known as Ten Wijngaerde in Flemish, the term ‘Beguinage’ comes from the French words ‘béguinage’, which is used to denote a housing complex which was constructed so as to house beguines.
These were religious women who lived together as part of a community but didn’t have to take any vows or retire from the world. The beguinage of Bruges was founded in 1245 and women voluntarily practiced a life of religious devotion, though they were free to leave at any time.
Today, the complex comprises of a central green space courtyard (though you’re not allowed on the grass), a simple church, and 30 houses that were constructed in the 1500s. Be sure to be quiet and respectful when visiting as people still live there today.
Of course, no itinerary for Bruges would be complete without heading out on a canal tour. There are five landing stages where the various visits depart from and tours last for around half an hour.
In this time, a captain will guide you through the iconic Bruges canals, which were originally constructed to serve as shipping lanes for the city and are now classed as UNESCO world heritage sites. Book your Bruges boat tour and guided walking tour here in advance.
Head to de Halve Maan Brewery
I’ve left this tour until later in the day as this will allow you to enjoy all of the beer samples on offer without getting so tired that you can’t enjoy the rest of this Bruges itinerary. The Halve Maan Brewery is a little touristic, but offers one of the best immersive beer experiences in Bruges.
The tour itself takes visitors around the brewery and teaches you about the beer making process, as well as the history of beer in Belgium. The price of every tour ticket includes a complimentary beer. There’s also a souvenir shop where you can buy beer to take home with you.
One thing you should know is that dinner in Bruges does not come cheap, especially if you’re looking for a finer dining experience or indeed wish to go somewhere with a particular romantic ambiance. Some of the top places to eat in Bruges include ONE Restaurant (Arsenaalstraat 55), Bistro Bruut (Meestraat 9), and Je Restaurant (Langestraat 83).
Drinks at Le Trappiste
End your one day in Bruges the right way by having drinks at Le Trappiste (address: Kuipersstraat 33, 8000 Brugge, Belgium). Though a little touristic, this bar is recommended on pretty much every Bruges itinerary, and for good reason!
Le Trappiste bar is set against the backdrop of an 800 year old cellar, meaning that it’s completely underground. As well as just over two dozen draught beers, there are plenty of bottled beers on the menu. It’s also possible to buy food. For more information about beer, be sure to check out our beginner’s guide to beer in Belgium.
Where to stay in Bruges
As a very popular city (one of the most popular travel destinations in Europe), you’ll want to plan ahead and book your accommodation well in advance when it comes to visiting Bruges.
Another option if you want to save money could be to stay in Ghent or Brussels and see Bruges as a day trip. Otherwise, here are some of the best places to stay in Bruges based on location and web-reviews:
Snuffel Hostel: Just a ten minute walk away from the Belfry, this hostel offers a variety of different rooms including mixed and female only dorms. Other amenities include free Wi-Fi, breakfast, and baggage storage. Check prices and availability now.
Hotel Academie Bruges: A four-star hotel which is fairly affordable is Hotel Academie Bruges. Situated in the Onze-Lieve-Vrouw Quarter, colourful rooms are situated a stone’s throw away from all the major attractions in town. Check prices and availability now.
Hotel Dukes’ Palace: For the crème de la crème of Bruges accommodation, consider staying in the five-star Hotel Dukes’ Palace. Situated against the backdrop of a 15th-century palace, amenities include a spa and hot tub. Check prices and availability now.
What to wear when exploring Europe
In the summer, you can’t go wrong by pairing a cute midi dress with classic white tennis shoes for a laid-back smart casual look that’s just as chic for walking around a city’s cobbled lanes as it is for wandering coastal paths. I love this dress and have it in several colour ways. In terms of tennis shoes, this is my go-to shoe.
When it comes to winter in Europe, most places (with the exception of a few islands) can get pretty cold and so warm layers is a must. I find that cute ankle boots like these ones are the perfect mix of practical meets cute.
Shoulder seasons (spring and summer) in Europe tend to come with a mix of rainy and sunny days and so, again, layers are a must. Trench coats and sneakers are the best uniform to explore the continent in.
Finally, a cross-body bag like these ones is a must. I personally use a crossbody bag by this brand and love its shape, size, and versatility. As well as being convenient and compact, it’s one of the safest ways to transport your valuables, all the while looking chic. I also recommend bringing along a travel adapter like this one so you can charge all of your electronics during your stay!
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Sophie Nadeau loves dogs, books, travel, pizza, and history. A fan of all things France related, she runs solosophie.com when she’s not chasing after the next sunset shot or consuming something sweet. She currently splits her time between Paris and London. Subscribe to Sophie’s YouTube Channel.