Last Updated on March 26, 2023 by Goya
After a brief but full-on afternoon in Brussels and a good night’s rest, we take a train first thing in the morning for a Bruges day trip. This little pocket of heaven has always been a tourist magnet for its historic centre untouched by the passage of time (a UNESCO World Heritage site), its chocolate-scented cobbled streets and its all-around romantic vibe, but it appears to have seen even more of a surge in popularity thanks to the movie In Bruges. And it’s really not hard to see why! Bruges is a fairytale city in Belgium that looks like it’s been plucked straight out of a storybook.
If you are planning a trip to this beautiful town, here’s a Bruges one-day itinerary — that we ourselves did back in 2017 and still remains entirely possible — that will help you make the most of your time in this charming city.
First posted in July 2017, this article has since been updated with the latest information as of March 2023.
Our train journey is nice and easy and takes us to Bruges in just over an hour. We decide to start our day by exploring some of Bruges’ historic landmarks.
Minnewater, also known as the Lake of Love, is a picturesque lake situated at the southern edge of the historic city centre in Bruges, Belgium. As travellers walk towards the city centre from the train station, Minnewater is the first sight that welcomes them.
The lake is surrounded by a serene park that offers walking paths, benches, and picnic spots where visitors can sit and enjoy the stunning scenery. The canal that connects to the lake is lined with trees, creating a green canopy that adds to the peaceful and romantic atmosphere of the area.
Legend has it that the lake’s name comes from the tragic love story of two lovers who escaped their parents to be together but were caught and put to death. As they died, they were transformed into swans and continued to swim together in the lake’s tranquil waters.
Minnewater is a must-visit spot for anyone exploring Bruges, and an ideal place to start the journey into the fairytale-like city.
As you walk from the train station to the city centre, after passing by the beautiful Minnewater, the first thing you stumble upon is the entrance to a beguinage (Begijnhuis) — which also happens to be the first one we see since the one in Amsterdam.
Picturesque and serene, the Begijnhuis here is a former home for beguines (lay women who devoted their lives to Christianity without taking formal vows) that now houses a museum. After a quick search, we learn that it dates back to the 13th century and is considered one of the best-preserved.
The entry is €1 only, so we wander in to take a look.
Art Gallery Koetshuis
From the beguinage, we continue our walk until we find Art Gallery Koetshuis, a charming gallery located in a former coaching inn that features beautiful bronze sculptures by Marc Claerhout and other wonderful creations by his daughter Kathleen Claerhout. While it’s not a usual stop in Bruges day trip itineraries, we absolutely adored spending some time here.
St John’s Hospital (Sint-Janshospitaal)
There is plenty to see in Bruges. So we treat ourselves to a Musea Brugge combi-ticket to visit the Church of Our Lady (Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk), Sint-Janshospitaal and the Belfry of Bruges.
Our first stop is the medieval St John’s Hospital; a former hospital that now houses a museum. We wander around the medieval wards, marvelling at the extensive (and at times, odd (see below)) collection of art, medical instruments and hospital records in one of the oldest hospital buildings in Europe. We also pay a visit to the hospital’s historic pharmacy, which is extremely well-preserved and transports you immediately to the 17th/18th century:
The Church of Our Lady (Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk)
Next up is the Church of Our Lady, known for being one of the tallest buildings in Bruges (it boasts a tower with sweeping views of the city), as well as the home of Michelangelo’s world-famous Madonna and Child.
NOTEWORTHYThis sculpture has quite an interesting story. It was smuggled not once but twice, and once ended up in a Nazi repository for stolen art. Want to know how it made its way back home? Then, you might want to check out The Monuments Men directed by George Clooney.
For lunch, we treat ourselves to mussels (moules) at the quirky Arthie’s and try local beauties like Bourgogne des Flandres:
Then to some sweets from La Belgique Gourmande, a chocolate shop that sells delicious artisanal chocolates:
The Belfry of Bruges
Fuelled by our meal and beers, or rather to work off lunch, we climb up the Belfry of Bruges and enjoy the views of the city:
Before we quickly proceed to stuff our faces with more chocolates and waffles:
Bruges Canal Tour
… And enjoying more views of Bruges from below, with a boat trip (8 euros back in 2017, and still remains affordable in 2023 with 12 euros) on the famous canals of “the Venice of the North”:
Tintin Shop Bruges and Basilica of the Holy Blood
Once back on land, we make sure to visit the Tintin Shop, and then the more ominous Basilica of the Holy Blood. The latter is best known for housing a phial rumoured to contain a cloth with the blood of Jesus Christ, and is hands down one of the most atmospheric churches in Bruges.
One slightly disappointing bit of our Bruges day trip back in 2017 was the Museum-Gallery Xpo: Salvador Dalí. The exhibition space is definitely very Dalí and gives you a chance to have an intimate look at some of his lesser-known works and sketches. However, the lack of structure and the information given (if not for the 2€ audio guide) means the whole thing can become quite lacklustre for someone who is not as familiar with Dalí’s work and style – And lacklustre isn’t really a word you would normally associate with Dalí.
Overall, considering the 10€ entry fee (or 8€ for students) — that remains unchanged as of 2023 —, and the name of the place, you can’t help but expect a little more of a museum… and a little less of a small gallery.
FOR COMPARISON:For a little more, you can join a guided tour (like this one) at Dalí’s Theatre-Museum in Figueres, Spain and spend a whole day immersing yourself in Dalí’s magic!
Dinner at De Bottelier
Before we head back to Brussels, we make one last stop: De Bottelier.
The food here is rich and delicious and the atmosphere is utterly quirky and welcoming. With the rain now starting to pitter-patter on the window, this place feels like a restaurant equivalent to a fuzzy, warm comfort blanket. And there is no better way to end a lovely day than with a meal in a place like this!
With the sun now set, we reluctantly make our way back to the train. We wove to come back even before we leave the city because Bruges is like that. It is a place that stays with you, like something out of a fairytale or a happy childhood memory. So if you ever find yourself in Belgium, make sure to add Bruges to your list of places to see. You won’t regret it.
If you are looking for something fancier for dinner, you may want to check out this post on Michelin-star restaurants in Bruges by Pocket Wanderings. And if you would like to continue chasing stars in other destinations, you may want to check my posts on Michelin-star restaurants.
FAQs | Bruges Day Trip
Is One Day Enough for Bruges?
As you can see in this post, one day is enough to see the highlights of Bruges, but it’s recommended to stay at least 2-3 days to fully explore the city.
Is Bruges Worth Visiting?
Absolutely! Bruges is definitely worth visiting for its charming canals, well-preserved medieval buildings, delicious cuisine, and overall romantic atmosphere. It’s a perfect destination for a weekend getaway or a longer vacation to soak up its charm and beauty.
Is Bruges a Walkable City?
Yes, Bruges is a very walkable city, with many of its attractions located within the historic centre, which is car-free. The historic centre is small enough to be easily explored by foot or bike, allowing the visitors to enjoy the beautiful architecture and picturesque canal views at a leisurely pace.
It is worth noting, however, that while the narrow cobblestone streets make Bruges a charming destination, it can also make it a bit challenging for those with mobility issues.
What Is the Most Beautiful Part of Bruges?
The historic centre of Bruges is considered to be the most beautiful part of the city with its charming canals, cobbled streets, and well-preserved medieval buildings. Some of the most picturesque spots in Bruges include Minnewater, the Church of Our Lady, the Belfry tower, the Markt square, and the Beguinage.
What Is the Best Time to Visit Bruges?
Bruges is a great destination to visit any time of the year. During the off-season months of November to March, you’ll find fewer crowds and lower prices for accommodation, transportation, and attractions. You can also experience the magical Christmas markets during this period. From April to May or September to October, you can enjoy milder weather and fewer crowds than during peak summer months. The warmer summer months (June to August) offer the best weather to explore outdoor activities but be aware that tourist spots are usually very crowded at this time and prices may be higher.
Which is Nicer Bruges or Brussels?
Both Bruges and Brussels have their own unique charm and attractions, so it depends on what you are looking for in a destination. Bruges is a small, picturesque city known for its well-preserved medieval architecture, romantic canals, and some of the best chocolate and beer in the world. On the other hand, Brussels is a more vibrant and cosmopolitan city with a mix of old and modern architecture, world-famous museums, galleries, and historic landmarks. So, while both cities are beautiful, your personal preferences may determine which one you find “nicer”.
Can You Do a Day Trip to Bruges from London?
Yes, it is possible to do a Bruges day trip from London. There are frequent trains that run from London to Brussels, and then it’s a short train journey from Brussels to Bruges. However, it is important to note that Bruges has a lot to offer, and one day may not be enough to fully explore the city’s attractions and soak up its charm. Plus, it may be a bit tiring due to the travel time and the amount of walking needed in the city itself.
It may be better to consider a guided tour, which will usually include transportation and a knowledgeable guide to show you the best of the city within a more comfortable amount of time. Alternatively, it is recommended to stay overnight in Bruges to truly experience the city’s charm and see more of its historical and cultural attractions.
How Long Is the Train Journey from London to Bruges?
The train journey from London to Bruges typically takes about 3 to 4 hours, depending on the train and route taken. The journey involves taking the Eurostar from London to Brussels, and then a connecting train from Brussels to Bruges. The time may vary depending on the number of stops and the type of train service used. The travel time is subject to change, so it’s always best to check beforehand for the latest schedules and any disruptions or changes to the route.
Bruges Day Trip [Mapped]
Well, that is it — I hope you enjoyed joining us for a little Bruges day trip and this post has given you a good idea as to what to see in Bruges in one day.
If you are planning to spend more time in Bruges and/or want to see more museums/sites in a day (or all 13 of the unique museums and monuments within the walls of the city), you might want to check the opening times and different combination tickets available on Musea Brugge‘s website.
Oh, and when you’re ready, don’t forget to come to join us in Rome!
Lots of love,
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