Cobblestoned streets lined with colorful gingerbread houses, horsedrawn carriages and gently winding canals. Take a day trip from Brussels to Bruges to one of Europe’s most charming cities.
The fairytale town that you have undoubtedly seen splashed all over your social media platforms is located in northern Belgium. As a Belgian, I have visited Bruges many times and I can unequivocally say it is every bit as bewitching as it looks.
As the country is the size of a pocket square, with a very comprehensive public transport system, getting around is quick and painless. Living in the capital of Belgium myself I tend to jump on a train and head to Bruges from Brussels for a day whenever I need a spark of magic.
In this guide I have bundled various highlights of Bruges, vegetarian-friendly places to eat and drink, the best chocolate & waffle stores, and a couple of practical tips for your visit. Scroll down to find a map, which might prove useful when strolling through the city.
Caroline Muller is an award-winning travel blogger. She writes and photographs full-time while oscillating between Sicily and Brussels as a home base. She has documented over 60 countries across six continents and does not plan to stop any time soon. A staunch vegetarian for over 25 years, she loves exploring local cuisine in search of that perfect (plant-based) mouthful.
With this blog, she hopes to help you travel slower, more sustainably and a hella lot more meaningfully. Pack your bags!
Brussels to Bruges Planning Guide
BRUGES AT A GLANCE
- Tourism Office: Visit Bruges Website or Tourist Office 1 (Markt 1 – Historium); Tourist Office 2 (Stationsplein 5); Tourist Office 3 (‘t Zand 34 – Concert Hall). Opening Hours 10.00 am – 05.00 pm.
- Bruges Card: If you are planning on visiting multiple museums it might be worth looking into getting the Bruges Musea Card, which includes 11 museums.
- In case you want to spend the night: ($) Hotel Central; ($$) B&B Canal Delux; ($$$) Exclusive Guesthouse Bonifacius or 15 Sustainable Boutique Hotels in Bruges
Is Bruges Worth a Day Trip From Brussels
READ | Is Bruges worth visiting?
There is but one right answer to this question and it is a resounding “HECK YESS!”. The UNESCO World Heritage site that is Bruge is a veritable treasure trove of medieval charm waiting to be explored. It honestly feels like time has stood still here, with the ever-present clip-clop of horse-drawn carriages running through cobblestoned streets lined with colorful gabled houses.
One day in Bruges will give you a taste of what the city has to offer and be just enough to convince you a second, third and, most likely, fourth visit is required. As a Belgian, I have visited the city on many occasions and it simply never gets less impressive.
Embark on an enchanting day trip from Brussels to the fairytale city of Bruges is hassle-free with the direct train transporting you between the two cities in just one hour. Once you arrive at the station, a comfortable 20-minute walk takes you right to Grote Markt or Main Square of Bruges where you can start exploring.
10 Things to Do in Bruges on a Day Trip
If you are planning on taking a day trip from Brussels to Bruges and want to get the most out of your journey, you might want to do a little planning in advance.
Don’t get me wrong, there is no better place in Belgium to simply ditch Google Maps and simply amble along the tiny cobblestoned streets. But in doing so, it took me three trips to find the best viewpoint and to figure out you could actually visit the City Hall.
I have patched together 10 of my favorite things to do in Bruges, aside from languorously strolling the streets. Covering all 10 in one day might be a smidge ambitious, my advice would be to pick 5 and leave the rest for second visit. It gives you a reason to come back!
BRUGES GUIDE | Complete one day in Bruges itinerary
ACCOMMODATION GUIDE | 15 Sustainable Boutique Hotels in Bruges
BRUGES AT CHRISTMAS | Christmas markets in Bruges
MORE DAY TRIPS FROM BRUSSELS IN SPRING | 16 Day trips from Brussels by train
BRUSSELS ACCOMMODATION GUIDES | 15 Sustainable Boutique Hotels in Brussels
1. Oogle the Grote Markt of Bruges
If ever there was a time to overtly gape, it is when stepping onto the Grote Markt of Bruges. Aside from the Grand Place in Brussels, there is none to match its splendor in the entire country. On my third visit to Bruges, I finally took a guided walking tour to learn about the history of this magical place.
The square itself has been around since the 10th century when it served as the central market where vendors would sell their goods. These days a weekly market is still held on Wednesday morning.
At the middle of the square stands a lifesize statue of Jan Breydel en Pieter de Coninck, the leaders of the Brugse Metten revolution, when Flanders rebelled against its French King in the 14th century.
The Grote Markt is surrounded by colorful houses with gabled rooves. If you look up, you might spot a few statues perched on these rooves, these depict the origins of the houses. The basket was once the guildhouse of the weavers while the mermaid was the guildhouse of the fishermen.
What to do on the Grote Markt: Climb the Belfry, visit the Historium, grab a drink at Craenburg – the spot where the heir to the Habsburg Dynasty was imprisoned in the 15th century. At the time of writing the Provinciehuis (the large white building next to the Historium) was closed for renovation.
Best views over the Grote Markt: Belfry or the tower of the Historium
The Grote Markt from a different angle: If you were contemplating spending a night in Bruges you might want to stay at Hotel Central which has views over the Grote Markt from it’s rooms.
2. Climb the Belfry
Opening Hours: 09.00 am to 08.00 PM || Tickets Price: €15 (US$16)// Reservations obligatory as spaces are limited. Get tickets online.
The 13th century Medieval Belfry was once a repository for municipal charters and archives as well as a watchtower nowadays the symbol of the city and a great viewpoint. The former no longer the case the latter two still very much relevant these days.
Reaching the top requires climbing 366 steps on a tightly wound, circular staircase. If you are suffering from any form of vertigo or claustrophobia I would advise against this climb. The viewing platform itself is located right underneath the bells, which when rung are very loud. You might want to avoid heading up on the hour.
The 360° views over Bruges are quite something, although they are to be enjoyed from behind a thick layer of chicken wire. Although well worth the climb, it is personally not my favorite viewpoint of Bruges. The Historium (mentioned below) is in my humble opinion much nicer, and easier to climb.
3. Take a boat tour
Bruges, often referred to as the “Venice of the North,” boasts an intricate network of canals that weave through its medieval streets, providing a picturesque backdrop for canal cruises. The city’s canals have a rich history dating back to the 12th century when they were constructed for commercial purposes, facilitating trade and transporting goods.
I must admit, I have taken the cruise three times so far and my favorite was over Christmas. The 45-minute cruise allows you to see the beautifully decorated façades of the city’s well-preserved medieval buildings from a different perspective. Yes it’s touristy, but in the end, who cares!
Boat tours typically cost €12 (US$13) and tickets can be bought from one of five vendors dotted around the historical center. We went to the Rozenhoedkaai and jumped on the boat there. For the best views perch at the very back of the boat. Tours have English-speaking guides.
TIP | Combine a boat tour with a guided walking tour. The top-rated 2.5-hour tour is great value for money as it takes you through the various highlights of the city + includes a boat tour for only €18 extra versus the single ticket for a boat ride.
4. Visit the Historium & grab a drink
The Historium in Bruges invites visitors to journey back through the annals of history in a meticulously recreated setting. Upon entering, you are immediately transported to the bustling Bruges of the 15th century through a captivating audio-visual experience.
The immersive exhibition uses virtual reality and special effects, to recreate the medieval ambiance, complete with the bustling market square, vibrant guilds, and the iconic Belfry of Bruges. This is a first of a kind for Belgium! Make sure not to miss the panoramic platform with views over the Grote Markt. It is well worth paying a little extra to also get the VR experience.
On the first floor of the museum, you will find the bar Duvelorium. This watering hole is freely accessible to anyone, even without a ticket to the museum. When we visited during Christmas it was a nice place to warm up, and see the incredible view.
GOOD TO KNOW | The Historium has toilets available. These are free if you purchased a ticket to the museum, if not a payment of €1 is requested.
INSIDER TIP | It is well worth climbing up to the tower of the Historium to see the best view in Bruges, even better than the Belfry. Costs €5 (US$6) if you purchase a ticket for the Historium. If you just wish the climb up the tower entrance fee is €12.
5. Explore the historical center
If you are visiting Bruges from Brussels on a day trip, you will most likely stick to the historical center when exploring. On my first trip, I simply followed the flow of tourists and they naturally brought me to the various highlights of Bruges. I admit, not the most structured approach but boy was it fun!
Aside from the Grote Markt and Burg Square there are a few other spots you will definitely want to cross off your Bruges to do-list. The most famous viewpoint of the city is the Rozenhoedkaai, this is also a great spot to start your canal cruise. A 2-minute walk will take you to the Fishmarket.
The Medieval Boniface Bridge and nearby Gruuthuse Museum are worthy of a picture, or two. The Church of our Lady is rather unassuming but does have an authentic Michelangelo on display. Saint John’s Hospital is a museum of Medieval Medicine that has a great viewpoint from the bustling KatelijneStraat.
A little further out lies the Jan van Eyckplein and a set of beautiful, and much quieter canals including the Spiegelrei and the oldest bar in Brugge, Vlissinghe. To make things easier, I have plotted all of the above places to see in Bruges on a map which you can find a little further down.
6. Visit the Basilica of the Holy Blood & the City Hall
On my first day trip from Brussels to Bruges I did not bother going inside the Basilica or the City Hall, in fact, it took me until my fourth trip to actually step foot inside and boy am I glad I did!
Basilica of the Holy Blood
Opening Hours: 10.00 am – 05.15 pm || Address: Burg 13, 8000 Brugge
The Basilica of the Holy Blood is a masterful blend of Romanesque and Gothic styles, encapsulating centuries of religious fervor and historical significance. Legend has i the basilica safeguards a relic believed to be a droplet of Christ’s blood, a sacred artifact brought to Bruges after the Second Crusade in the 12th century.
After taking in the beautiful façade, step inside the lower chapel, a masterpiece of Romanesque intricacy, walk upstairs to the upper chapel and admire the Gothic architecture. The Basilica is surprisingly small but filled to the rafters with intricate frescoes.
Bruges City Hall
Opening Hours: 09.30 am – 05.00 pm || Address: Burg 12, 8000 Brugge || Entrance Fee Museum: €/US$8
Bruges City Hall, dating back to 1376-1421, stands among the oldest in the Low Countries. Its Gothic architecture influenced city halls across Belgium. The Gothic Hall on the first floor is nothing short of majestic and can be visited upon purchasing a ticket. The ground floor is free to visit.
The Gothic Hall is adorned with 20th-century paintings, depicting the history of Bruges. In a small adjacent room, Bruges’ maritime past is showcased with augmented reality models. Grab a pair of headphones and listen to the narrator (available in many languages).
7. Indulge in all the artisanal sweets
The historical center of Bruges is positively littered with “best Belgian chocolates” and “authentic Belgian waffles”. Sadly many of the products are not produced in Bruges, and therefore do nothing for either the local economy or your experience. Here are a few artisanal stores where you might want to pick up a little something to take back with you to Brussels.
BEST HOT CHOCOLATE: The Old Chocolate House has a wonderful first floor where you can grab all sorts of different hot chocolates. We took the speculoos version, which is divine!
BEST ARTISANAL BISCUITS: We picked up the most delicious artisanal gingerbread cookies at Maison La Confiance, an artisanal biscuit maker who produces their goods right here in Bruges.
BRUGES WAFFLES: You might be able to get a Brussels waffle or a Liege waffle in Brussels, but you will definitely not find a Bruges Waffle. This relatively new invention can be tried at Otto Waffle.
FOODIE TIP | We found most of the above spots when we took a Bruges Food Tour which included 10 tastings. It was a great combination of history & scrumptious food!
8. Visit the Beguinage
Opening Hours: 06:30 am -06:30 pm
Nestled within the UNESCO World Heritage-listed heart of Bruges lies the Beguinage. This tranquil retreat, founded in the 13th century, was once home to the Beguines, a community of devout women who lived a quasi-monastic existence. Many cities in Belgium including Mechelen, Brussels and Antwerp have similar, yet much smaller, beguinages.
Today, the Beguinage is made up of whitewashed facades and a serene courtyard. I love visiting in spring when the whole green courtyard is littered with colorful flowers. Inside the beguinage, you will find a sober chapel dedicated to St. Elizabeth (free to visit) as well as a small museum.
As you walk across the Begijnhof Bridge, you walk through the 18th-century main entrance. The first little Beguin house on the left, right after the entrance, is the museum. This tiny bolthole has original 17th and 18th-century furniture, paintings and lacework.
GOOD TO KNOW | The Beguinage has strict opening hours which are enforced by the closing of the two main gates.
9. Relax in the Minnewater Park
The Minnewater Park is quite idyllic and a great spot for a leisurely stroll, away from the bustling historical center. I chanced upon in quite by accident when hunting down the ice skating ring one year on the Bruges Christmas Market.
Local legend has it the lake was named after a young woman named Minna, who fell deeply in love with a soldier from a neighboring kingdom. She ran away to the forest to be with her lover, only to die of exhaustion in his arms.
Minnewater Park is located in southern Bruges, next to the Beguinage and the iconic swan-filled lake. During the summer the park hosts a lot of open-air concerts and music festivals. The most famous of which is Cactus Festival in July.
GOOD TO KNOW | If you decide to walk from the Bruges train station to the historical center (roughly 20 minutes) you can opt to take the scenic route, which takes you right through Minnewater Park.
10. Visit a local brewery
Bruges has two local breweries operating right in the historical center and they can (and should!) be visited if you have time.
Halve Maan Brewery Bruges
Founded in 1856, Brewery Halve Maan in Bruges boasts a rich brewing legacy. The iconic Brugse Zot and Straffe Hendrik rose to international fame to such an extent, the brewery ran out of capacity to brew & bottle in the historic center.
The brewery wanted to stay true to its heritage and keep brewing its starlets inside the historical center. The solution turned out to be a pipe running between the historic brewery to a newly built bottling factory outside of the historical center, transporting the freshly brewed beer underneath the historical cobblestoned streets. Genius!
Bourgogne des Flandres Bruges
Opening Hours: 10.30 am – 06.30 pm (closed on Monday) || Address: Walplein 26, 8000 Brugge || Tours: Visit the brewery with an audio guide including 1 tasting for €15 (US$18).
Bourgogne des Flandres has been around since 1911 and managed to survive WWI and WWII unscathed until finally the family brewery inside the Bruges’ city walls had to close in 1958 due to the abundance of lesser niche beers like German lagers.
In 2015 this historic beer returned to the historical centre of Bruges once again. Their local has a lovely terrace right on one of the main canals of Bruges and is the perfect spot for a beer in the spring/summer. We opted to do a tasting of blond and triple Bourgogne des Flandres instead of the full tour due to time constraints.
How to Get To Bruges From Brussels
Getting to Bruges from Brussels can be done in a variety of different ways. I always use Omio to check for the quickest routes and book at affordable prices.
Brussels to Bruges by Train (time saver)
The easiest way to travel from Brussels to Bruges is by hopping on the direct InterCity (IC) train which takes a little over one hour. You can take the train in any one of the three train stations (Brussels North, Brussels Central, Brussels Midi). Bruges has only one train station.
Train cost Brussels to Bruges
Brussels to Bruges return costs €32 (US$35). In the weekend a return ticket will cost just under 50% less and comes out to be €18 (US$20). If you are traveling with more than 3 people, or are planning on taking more trains in Belgium look into purchasing a 10-ride ticket for €100 (US$110).
Bus from Brussels to Bruges (budget option)
The cheapest bus from Brussels to Bruges is in fact not a local bus but a flixbus, which takes 1h25 and runs multiple times day. Find the timetable and book your ticket via Omio. Prices start at €10 (US$11)
Drive to Bruges from Brussels for a day trip (convenience pick)
Driving from Brussels to Bruges will take about 1h20, if there is no traffic. Park your car in the underground parking ‘t Zand or right around the Bruges train station.
Day Tours From Brussels to Bruges
Getting to Bruges from Brussels is super straightforward, especially on the train. That being said a return train ticket can easily cost €60 ($75) while some of the day tours are cheaper.
- VALUE FOR MONEY: The best value/money day tour to Bruges from Brussels available. Includes a guided walking tour of Bruges and a professional English-speaking guide.
- RECOMMENDED: Day tour from Brussels to Bruges with a local. This private and personalized tour gives you a unique local insight into Bruges. Tour price includes train tickets from Brussels.
- TIME SAVER: Brussels day tour to Bruges & Ghent. This is a super great value/money tour that combines both Bruges and Ghent. The tour price is cheaper than if you took the train from Brussels yourself.
Where to Eat & Drink Vegetarian and Vegan Food in Bruges
READ | 10 Best vegetarian & vegan restaurants in Brussels; Locals guide to Brunch in Brussels; 12 Vegetarian Restaurants in Bruges
THAT’S TOAST: The best spot for Brunch in Bruges. It’s all about toast, sweet, savory, you name it they have it! Vegan and vegetarian friendly. Ideal for breakfast/lunch.
SANSEVERIA: A super cozy bagel place that has a host of bagels with a variety of toppings. Vegan and vegetarian friendly. Ideal for breakfast/lunch.
GARLIC N GREENS: Delicious Indian food in the heart of the historical center. Vegetarian and vegan options are available. Perfect for lunch or dinner.
OTTO WAFFLE ATELIER: The one and only Bruges waffle. Gluten-free and topped off with coconut sugar and/or some delicious chocolate sauce. Great for a snack.
HOUSE OF WAFFLES: The best spot to grab traditional waffles in Bruges. Recommended to me by a local friend, and boy did it not disappoint. Great for a snack.
ODA ROOFTOP BAR: The only rooftop bar in Bruges. If the weather is great, the bar is worth stopping for a drink.
Map of Places to Visit in Bruges in a Day
This article contains a lot of information including the key highlights of Bruges, where to eat & drink as well as practical information about locker storage and where to find the tourism office. To ensure you get the best out of your travel to Bruges from Brussels I plotted the various points on this online map.
Where to Store My Luggage in Brussels
If your day trip to Bruges from Brussels is a pitstop on a longer journey, you might want to store your luggage while exploring the city. Brussels does not have a huge amount of locations where one can store their luggage. Your best bet is to store your items near Brussels Central Station or Brussels Midi station.
BRUSSELS MIDI (SOUTH): Lockers are located near platform 6. Prices start around €4/day for a small locker and €12/ for larger lockers. Storage is accessible 24/7. Payment can be done with (credit) card or coins.
BRUSSELS CENTRAAL: Lockers are located near platform 5&6, as you head down the stairs, turn left. If you have a choice, pick the lockers at Brussels Midi instead as they are in a better-lit area of the station and easier to access. Storage is accessible 24/7. Payment can be done with (credit) card or coins.
Where to Store My Luggage in Bruges
Bruges train station has a relatively small amount of lockers where you can store luggage of varying sizes. As you get off the train, walk past the Relay store and turn left – right before you walk outside the station. Lockers are available 24/7, payment can only be done by card.
GOOD TO KNOW | If you open the locker, it forfeits any tariff you may have paid e.g. check that you have everything you need before you store your luggage because once it is in the locker that is it.
PRICING | Small lockers start at €5.5 (US$6) for 24 hours, while XL lockers start at €11 (US$13).
Brussels Day Trip to Bruges Practical Tips
Best time to travel to Bruges
I thoroughly enjoy visiting Bruges 365 days a year, however June, July and August are choc-a-bloc full of tourists. Christmas in Bruges is the most magical time of year (but also the coldest). April, May and October see lesser crowds with moderate temperatures.
Distance between Bruges and Brussels
Bruges Central is roughly 96 km (60 mi) from Brussels Central Station.
Is one day enough to visit Bruges
The historical center of Bruges if small and walkable. With a bit of careful planning, you can cover the major sites in Bruges in one day.
Last train from Bruges to Brussels
The last train from Bruges to Brussels leaves at 11.23 pm
Best tours to take in Bruges
How long is the train journey from Brussels to Bruges
If you get a direct train between Brussels and Bruges you can get from A to B in just over one hour.
Which train station from Brussels to Bruges
I took the train from Brussels Midi, this train also stops in Brussels Central and Brussels North so you can take any of the three main train stations in Brussels to get to Bruges.
Minimize Your Impact When Visiting Bruges
Bruges is one of the most beautiful places in Belgium and well worth a visit. Since receiving the UNESCO-heritage status in 2000 and the screening of the movie In Bruges in 2009 the city has well and truly found itself on the tourist radar and suffers from overtourism.
Below are a few pointers to make your visit more sustainable.
TAKE PUBLIC TRANSPORT: Ditch the car, chances are high, and you will only end up in a nerve-wracking struggle to find parking anyway.
PURCHASE LOCAL: If you are in the mood to buy a souvenir, ask where it was made before you purchase. There are still local artisans showcasing their goods.
STAY A LITTLE LONGER: Consider making your visit to Bruges a weekend trip instead of a day trip.
THE HORSE-DRAWN CARRIAGES CONUNDRUM: The horse-drawn carriages in Bruges are subject to rigorous rules with mandatory rest days and a maximum of 8 hours of work daily. When temperatures soar above 30°C, horse-drawn carriages are legally not allowed to operate. That being said, personally, I am not a fan of any tourist attractions involving animals, rather opting to walk around instead.
Wrapping Up Your Brussels to Bruges Day Trip
Embark on an enchanting day escape from Brussels to Bruges, just an effortless one-hour train journey away. Bruges, adorned with cobbled streets and medieval splendor, is without a doubt one of the prettiest places in all of Belgium and one I keep coming back to.
Begin your adventure by exploring one of the main attractions of Bruges, the impressive Markt Square, where the iconic Belfry of Bruges presides over the city’s rich history. Glide through the serene canals, unlocking the poetic beauty that earned Bruges its title as the “Venice of the North” or simply get lost in the many cobblestoned streets.
MORE INSPIRATION FOR VISITING BRUSSELS & BELGIUM
Bruges: One day in Bruges itinerary
Bruges: 15 Sustainable Boutique Hotels in Bruges
Bruges: Day trip from Paris to Bruges
Brussels: A local’s guide to 2-days in Brussels
Brussels: 10 Most beautiful castles around Brussels
Brussels: Where to stay in Brussels: A local’s guide
Brussels: Best brunch spots in Brussels
Namur: Best things to do in Namur
Antwerpen: What to do in Antwerp for a weekend