Bruges feels like a medieval fairy tale land.
One of Belgium’s most celebrated historic cities, this capital of Western Flanders once served as the commercial heart of Europe during the Middle Ages. A day trip to Bruges is a wonderful addition to your Belgium travel itinerary.
The city’s compact size and egg-shaped perimeter make it conducive to aimless wandering. Don’t be scared to get lost in its feudal streets; you’re guaranteed to encounter meandering canals, crowned steeples, and hidden parks.
I took a day trip from Brussels to this UNESCO World Heritage Site to uncover the its famous Gothic charm.
(For your visit to Brussels, read: Discover kid friendly activities in Brussels.)
Here is an overview:
Day trip to Bruges: How to get there from from Brussels
- It only takes a little over an hour to reach Bruges via a direct-line train from Brussels. Trains run almost every hour.
- Once you arrive at Bruges station, go out the main exit, cross the street and hang a left. The historic district is less than a 10-minute walk away.
- An adult weekend round-trip ticket costs approximately €15 and standard weekday fare costs almost €29. Tickets can easily be purchased the same day from a kiosk or ordered online.
Not to miss highlights on your day trip to Bruges
This itinerary is for visitors who plan to arrive by 10:00 in the morning.
I recommend starting at the city’s center: Markt Place. This public square lies in the shadows of the city’s famous belfry tower and is a orientation point for a walk. The stair-step, brick facades of the old guild halls are now homes to buzzing restaurants.
The blocks surrounding the Markt are filled with shops and cafés catering to tourists. Yes, it’s crowded here, but it’s a fun spot for people-watching and features some well-preserved samples of Brick Gothic architecture.
At the Mark you can also travel back in time, and experience the medieval Bruges, as you have another highlight, the…
Experience medieval Bruges up close in the Historium and immerse yourself in fascinating scenes from 500 years ago. Discover the incredible architecture and storied merchants in the Historium’s themed halls.
Combined videos with special effects and stage sets bring the past to life. With a VR headset, you can even experience interactive 360° videos and see medieval Bruges up close.
A highlight is the Historium Tower, which offers you a breathtaking view from a height of 35 meters. Stroll through bathhouses and backyards as they might have looked 500 years ago. Video displays bring forgotten places to life and let you explore the area as if you were there yourself.
A visit to the Historium is an unforgettable experience for anyone who wants to experience history up close.
From here, it’s a short stroll east to the Burg, the city’s other ancient main plaza.
In the 9th century, the Burg became the municipal base of operation of Flanders.
You’ll be amazed at what there is to discover in Burg Square. While the Market Square is the heart of Bruges, the Castle Square is its soul. This has been the center of power for centuries, and even today the city government is headquartered in the 14th-century Gothic town hall.
The town hall, also called Stadhuis, was built in 1376. Inside you can admire the beautiful Gothic hall, decorated with its paintings from around 1900.
Surrounding this magnificent and majestic square are monumental buildings that characterize the cityscape. Each of them was built over the centuries and reflects the architectural style of the period. Here, you’ll find a variety of architecture: the Gothic Town Hall, a Court of Justice built during the Renaissance, the Baroque era Deanery, and Romanesque Basilica of Holy Blood.
A handy architectural guide gathered in a single place!
It will take you from the Basilica of the Holy Blood to the Freiamt and the Provost’s Office, allowing you to fully experience the beauty of the Castle Square.
Basilica of Holy Blood
While you’re visiting the Burg, the Basilica of the Holy Blood is worth a quick gander. For the ones who want to believe it, it houses a sacred relic: “A vial said to contain drops of blood from Jesus Christ.”
In the Upper Basilica, the relic of the Holy Blood is displayed for visitors to venerate every day from 14:00 to 16:00. There is also an exhibition every Friday morning from 10:15 to 11:00.
Though built in the 12th century, the upper chapel was renovated in the 19th in a Victorian Gothic style illuminated with stained-glass windows and colorful murals. The lower chapel, however, retained its austere Romanesque roots.
The Basilica of the Holy Blood and the Museum are open daily from 10:00 to 17:15. On Fridays, Sundays and holidays, the Upper Basilica is not accessible between 10:45 and 12:15 due to Mass, unless you wish to attend Mass.
Admission to the Basilica of the Holy Blood is free, while admission to the Museum costs 5 euros. Children under 12 have free admission.
Burg 13, 8000 Brugge, Belgium
You’re standing on what is not only the most photographed square in Bruges, but also a place of historical significance.
The Rosary Quay, or Rozenhoedkaai, was once a market where rosaries were sold.
Today it offers a breathtaking panorama that has inspired many artists to set up their easels and capture the idyllic image. You can watch them at work and maybe even take home a hand-painted image of Belgium’s most famous panorama.
You’ll also have a good view of the hotel from the movie “See Bruges …. and die”, where the main protagonists stayed and jumped out of the window.
Let yourself be enchanted by this special place and enjoy the postcard view of the hustle and bustle on the water, on the bridge and in the alleys.
Discover why Bruges is nicknamed “The Venice of the North.”
Leave the Markt and Burg and cross south to experience the city’s trademark waterways. During medieval times, the canals served as the artery of Bruges, connecting it to trade on the North Sea.
Follow the canals away from the crowds to uncover some quaint side streets and greet the swans.
Chocolate lovers take note! A sweet surprise awaits you off the beaten tourist track at Choco-Story Bruges.
This chocolate museum is a true temple for chocolate lovers from all over the world.
Here you can learn everything about cocoa and chocolate, from recipes to the history of this sweet delicacy. You can even meet the experts who make Belgian chocolate! You’ll have the opportunity to talk to experts about the health benefits of chocolate.
In a charming 15th-century wine bar, you’ll learn how cocoa is transformed into the delicious confection. You can also browse an extensive library of everything you need to know about chocolate.
Have you ever wondered how the Mayans made their cocoa drink? At Choco-Story Bruges you will finally find the answer to this question, as well as many other exciting facts about chocolate.
Immerse yourself in the vital transformation of cacao into chocolate, learn about the history, geography and botany behind it, and discover secret recipes.
For those for whom the very word “chocolate” brings a smile to their face, a visit to Choco-Story Bruges is a must.
- Self-guided audio tour of Choco-Story Bruges
- Live chocolate making demonstration & chocolate tasting
- Personalized audio guide available for children in all 11 languages
- Consult an extensive library of works on cocoa and chocolate
- Talk to experts about chocolate
Chocolate Workshop at Choco-Story Bruges
Prepare for an hour of sweet creations and discover how to make your own irresistible chocolate treats. Under the guidance of an expert chocolatier, you’ll learn new skills and practice the art of chocolate making.
In addition to the workshop, you’ll have the opportunity to visit the Choco-Story Museum, where you’ll be taken on a culinary journey through the history of chocolate. Be amazed by a fascinating demonstration of how chocolate is made and taste the Belgian chocolate creations that will enchant your senses.
This fun workshop will give you an unforgettable experience and a chance to deepen your love of chocolate. So don’t hesitate and sign up now to create your own sweet delights and spend an unforgettable day at the Choco-Story Museum.
The museum has a sweet and educational charm and offers many opportunities for interactive experiences. The workshop is relaxed and there is plenty of delicious chocolate to take home.
Duration: 1 hour
The Church of our Lady
In this church you can discover a world of artistic treasures.
Did you know that Bruges is home to a Michelangelo treasure? The altarpiece in the church’s large chapel enshrines a white marble sculpture of a sorrowful Madonna and Child created by Michelangelo around 1504. It was originally designed for the Piccolomini altar in Siena Cathedral. The sculpture was purchased by the Moucron family of Bruges merchants and brought to Bruges.
In the choir of the church you can admire the impressive Passion Triptych by the court painter Margaret of Austria, as well as the mausoleums of Charles the Bold and his daughter Mary of Burgundy from the 15th and 16th centuries.
The church also stands out for its 115.5-meter-high brick tower. This makes it the world’s second tallest brick tower.
Together with the Belfort and the Sint-Salvatorskathedraal, characterizes the “skyline” of Bruges. The interior of the church has been restored to its former glory.
Open Monday thru Sunday from 9:30 am – 5:00 pm. Mariastraat, 8000 Brugge, Belgium
As you explore your way south, stop for a healthy, vegetarian lunch at De Bron.
Diners have a choice of fixed menus based off portion size: soups, small, medium, and large plates. Your waiter will help explain the menu in English. Most ingredients are locally sourced and there is also a good choice of organic beers.
To enter the restaurant, you may have to use the buzzer at the front door then enter through the door on the right.
Katelijnestraat 82, 8000 Brugge, Belgium. www.eethuisdebron.be
And if shouldn’t focus that much on a healthy lunch, and instead would like to find out about the secrets of Belgium fries… then I recommend you:
Yeaph… French Fries are actually not French, but Belgium. The ones who came up with the idea ‘just’ spoke French, what can happen in some parts in Belgium. 🙂
If you like “French” Fries, then visit the Frietmuseum in Brugge.
In the heart of Bruges, in a historic building dating from the 14th century, an exciting insight into the history of potatoes and French fries awaits you.
Get practical tips on how to make the perfect crispy fries and try them yourself with a variety of delicious sauces.
Explore interactive exhibits and let your kids take on the role of a French fry cook – an unforgettable experience for young and old alike.
If you’re a true fry fan, the Friet Museum in Bruges is the place to be. Immerse yourself in the world of these golden delicacies and discover why Belgium is famous for its fries. Here you can order delicious fried potatoes and sauces, explore the history of the potato and fill up on interesting facts about French fries.
The modest Friet Museum is the perfect place for an unforgettable day out in Bruges.
Books and Brunch
This is a chill spot to get caffeinated or munch on hearty salads, sandwiches, and sweets. It also doubles as a funky bookstore where it’s easy to lose time perusing the printed word.
Open Monday thru Friday from 9:00 am – 3:00 pm. Garenmarkt 30, 8000 Brugge, Belgium. www.booksandbrunch.be
Take a detour through the secluded gardens of Astridpark on the way back to the city center. Catch some fresh air from tranquil spot on the grassy lawn and watch the activity around the gazebo and pond. This is a good location for a picnic if the weather is nice.
8000 Brugge, Belgium
Bruges Beer Museum and Beer Tasting
If that doesn’t sound like the right afternoon activity… Taste different Belgium beer at Bruges Beer Museum.
Learn about the famous and delicious Trappist and Abbey beers, the brewing process, women and beer, and food pairing.
The Bruges Beer Museum offers a unique experience that goes far beyond the concept of an ordinary museum. Here you will find interactive technologies that immerse you in the world of beer, and of course the delicious beer itself!
Take a self-guided tour and get an inside look at how beer is made, participate in a fun quiz, and finish the experience with a refreshing beer in the bar.
Belgium’s beer culture is legendary, and the Bruges Beer Museum is the perfect place to immerse yourself in this world. Take a guided tour of the brewing process, learn about ingredients and discover the fascinating history of Trappist and Abbey beers. You can also learn how to pair different beers with food and experience the history of women and beer first-hand.
The museum also has something for the little ones: The Kids Tour is an entertaining story about the Bruges Bear that can be read or listened to in ten different languages. A perfect opportunity for the whole family to discover the Bruges Beer Museum!
Good to know: The venue provides audio splitters for the blind and visually impaired with an escort. The hearing-impaired can experience the same tour as other visitors by watching footage on the iPad Mini in Flemish sign language.
- Admission to the museum
- Beer tasting (3 samples of 15cl) (optional)
- Use of a tablet with headphones for each visitor over the age of 4
- Special audio tour for children
The Belfort Belfry is the tallest building in the old district. It used to hold municipal archives and serve as an observation post.
You’ll have the opportunity to climb the Belfry, an 83-meter-high 13th-century tower that is one of Bruges’ three iconic landmarks. Climbers will be rewarded with unspoiled views and an up-close look at the carillon with 47 melodious bells. On the climb up, there are a couple of floors with exhibits about the tower’s history and mechanics.
Together with the towers of the Church of Our Lady and Saint Salvator’s Cathedral, it forms an imposing backdrop. Once you’ve climbed the 366 steps, you’ll be rewarded with a breathtaking view of Bruges and the surrounding area. Along the way, you can stop at the Treasury, which once housed the magistrates, the city seal and the city treasury.
Upstairs, you will find the impressive music roll that controls the carillon. From the tower room you can even see the piano on which the carillon is played today. The carillon in the tower consists of 47 bells and is played by a city carillonneur. Special carillon concerts can be heard during the summer months.
The Belfry is an outstanding example of medieval architecture that reflects the importance and self-confidence of cities and citizens. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1999, along with 55 other belfries in Belgium and France. This historic landmark of Bruges is not to be missed.
Beware, it can get loud up there when the bells ring! A limited amount of visitors are allowed up at a time, so expect a bit of a wait.
Open every day from 9:30 am – 6:00 pm. Admission: adults € 10,00; seniors and youth under 26 years € 8,00. Markt 7, 8000 Brugge, Belgium. www.visitbruges.be/en/belfort-belfry
Behind the Liebfrauen Church you will discover the Bonifatius Bridge – a popular photo motif!
You will be amazed by the Boniface Bridge in Bruges. It may be one of the youngest bridges, but it symbolizes the city in a wonderful way. There is a mysterious atmosphere here and there are numerous romantic and fantastic views vying for your attention.
Regardless of the time of day, this is a place of magical attraction that you simply must see.
The surrounding landscape is simply enchanting and almost fairytale-like. Right next to the bridge is the Hotel Bonifacius, whose wooden façade is so unusual that it seems to have been taken straight from the stories of “The Lord of the Rings” or “The Hobbit”.
Close by is the Gruuthuse Bridge, on which stands the white house of Arents – the only bridge in Bruges with a building on it.
Da Vinci’s Gelateria
You deserve a reward after all that walking and climbing. From the belfry, head a couple of blocks northwest to Gelateria Da Vinci’s to indulge in some sumptuous, home-made gelato. Once you get your dessert, grab a concrete seat in the nearby square and enjoy.
Open Monday thru Sunday from 11:00 am – 11:00 pm. Geldmuntstraat 34, 8000 Brugge, Belgium. www.davinci-brugge.be
Get Lost in the Side Streets
I spent the rest of my afternoon exploring the quiet streets in the northern section of Bruges. The neighborhood and parks here felt more residential and canals narrower and more intimate. If you have extra time and energy, wander to the eastern boundary of the city to view some of the city’s old windmills. It was the perfect end to my day trip to Bruges.