Ah, beer, Belgian chocolate, and basilicas (sorry, had to keep the “B” theme)! When discovering Bruges, these are some of the best things to expect on your visit. Bruges is a super cute city with charming buildings and medieval streets that make you feel like you fell into a fairytale, as well as an amazing food scene, think beers, fries, and waffles – often smothered in chocolate, and great places to soak up the culture and lifestyle of this Belgian gem.
If you only have a day here, here are our picks for the best things to do in Bruges!
A one-day Bruges travel itinerary
Start your day off with a treat
Delight your taste buds with an order of a Belgian waffle, drizzled with chocolate, and topped with a fresh fruit of your liking – I always go with banana or strawberries – to start off your morning in Bruges on the right foot! These treats are perfect for any time of day and I definitely recommend grabbing one later on your Bruges adventure as well.
See Bruges on a canal tour
Like Venice, sometimes a city just has to be seen from the water! Hop onto a Bruges canal cruise with Boat Trips Brugge for a fun, informative trip around the city in just 30 minutes. Learn about the history of the city, understand why the canals are so important to it, and see the city from a new angle before beginning your walking tour through Bruges!
Bruges canal tours begin at 10 a.m. with Boat Trips Brugge.
Stop at 2be
Make a quick stop at 2be to snap pics of their famous Beer Wall and if you’re so inclined, head inside the shop meets bar meets museum and get a pint of something refreshing and truly Belgian. Get your beer from the terrace bar so you can savor your brew and the incredible views over the river!
Visit the Belfry Tower
In the heart of the city is the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Belfry or Belfort bell tower from the 13th century. The tower’s significance is that it’s one of the oldest examples of medieval, civilian, and public architecture. Climb the 366 steps to the top of the 83-meter tall tower to hear the bells (there are 47 of them!) and of course enjoy an incomparable panoramic view of Bruges. If you need a break during your climb, you can take a breather in the treasury and see documents and archives from the Middle Ages.
Do expect a bit of a wait here to climb to the top. While waiting or when you come back down, try and get a photo of the tower where it’s straight – it’s harder than it sounds as the tower is leaning! Not as much as the one in Pisa, but it definitely has a tilt to it.
Snack on some fries
One of my favorite things in Belgium is being able to order street fries smothered in mayo! Pick up some poppable snacks as you walk to your next destination on the list.
Experience the Basilica of the Holy Blood
Every major European city has a must-visit church and this is Bruges’. The name refers to the vial of Holy Blood, said to be the blood of Jesus Christ, housed within and put on display during worship. Even if you’re not Christian, it’s worth visiting the basilica to see this religious artifact as well as the church itself, which has two chapels. The lower level is very simplistic and reserved, whereas the upper level chapel is colorful and done in a Gothic style.
Visit Bruges City Hall
Both historical and political, stop at Bruges City Hall to see one of the oldest city halls in the region, from about the 12th century, and take in the incredible Gothic architecture before heading inside to see the stunning Main Hall.
Next up is a bit of cultural immersion with visits to two fun and funky (and flavorful) museums. First up is Choco-Story, and I think the name gives it away as to what you’ll be learning about. Here, learn the chocolate making process and how Belgians have perfect the art of it and create simply divine bites of chocolate.
The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily and is about €9,5 for an adult ticket.
After learning about the sweet side of Belgium, it’s time to learn about the salty at the only museum dedicated to Belgian fries – the Frietmuseum. Learn about the history of potatoes, their addition to our diets, and the recipes behind these crispy on the outside and soft on the inside snacks at this unusual museum. Enjoy some samples in the basement before you head back out into the city!
The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and an adult ticket is €7.
Optional: Windmill Walk
Another option if you don’t want to visit the two museums is to check out the Windmill Walk during your 24 hours in Bruges. A bit further east from the major attractions, you can see four windmills near the city gates, with the most well-known being the Sint-Janshuismolen. This mill has been in operation since 1770 and still grinds flour to this day and is located in its original site. You can go inside the mill from June through September. It’s the perfect place for pictures of the quiet greenspace and overlooking the historic city center.
De Halve Maan Brewery
We’ll be crossing the city to get down to De Halve Maan Brewery, or Half Moon Brewery, an established brewing company in Bruges. Join them for a 45-minute brewery tour, offered in French, Dutch, and English, and a tasting of their Brugse Zot Blond if you want to sample some of the best beer in the city!
Take a lap around Minnewater Lake
After your beer experience, leave the brewery and head south to visit the romantic Minnewater Lake or Lake of Love. Stroll hand in hand with your grande amor along the walking paths, take a rest on a park bench, and get some pictures of the swans floating in the lake. You’ll also want to save time to cross the Lover’s Bridge to make sure your love is everlasting!
Buy some lace
If you still need a fantastic souvenir for a loved one, head to Rococo, a renowned lace maker. They’ve been making lace since 1833 and have a fantastic collection of old and modern lace items. You may even be able to see a demonstration of how the pieces are made and how much dedication and work goes into every single item in the shop.
Heading back into the historic part of the city, begin your evening in the Markt! Enjoy the medieval buildings around this square, sit and people watch, pop into a local bar or pub, or make it even more romantic by taking a horse-drawn carriage ride. Find a spot for dinner near the Markt and indulge in beer and traditional dishes like mussels, croquettes, and meatballs – and more fries if you’re so inclined!
What else would you add to the list of the best things to do in Bruges in a day? Tell us in the comments below or on Twitter!