Buildings on the waterfront in Bruges


How to spend a day in… Bruges, Belgium

Of course there are beer tastings and chocolate shops aplenty, but there is so much more to this romantic European city…

Updated July 2020

By Kate Gilbert

With its cobbled streets, winding canals and imposing spires, it’s hard to imagine a more captivating town than Bruges. Here’s how to become enchanted by one of Europe’s most picturesque medieval towns in a day...

Couple on waterfront in Bruges


In the morning...

Head to the Markt

Bruges’ central plaza, the Markt, is the vibrant heart of the city. The square has held a market here since 958, and one still takes place every Wednesday. Marvel at the gothic town hall and ornate Guild Houses, and look up at the vigilant Belfry tower (while debating whether it’s leaning or not). People watch over a coffee at one of the many cafes that spill onto the square.

Enjoy a Belgian brunch

Waffles in Bruges

Getty Images

As you wander the city, you’ll be struck by a sweet smell wafting through the air, so give into temptation with a delicious brunch of the town’s famous waffles. Head to Chez Albert off the main square, or pick up some smothered in chocolate and cream from the many street vendors.

In the afternoon...

Climb the Belfry

Bruges belfry

G&M Therin-Weise/Robert Harding

Standing at 83 metres tall, the UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the oldest examples of medieval architecture. Those brave enough to venture up the 366-steps will be rewarded with unparalleled panoramic views, and if you are at the top on the hour, you’ll hear the 47 melodic bells chime.

Take a Canal tour

Dubbed the ‘Venice of the North’, Bruges’ intricate canal system weaves through the historic centre making a boat trip unmissable. The stunning architecture is reflected back in the water and the captains make entertaining tour guides. A boat ride takes around half an hour, and you can pick one up from various docks across the city. If you would like a more in-depth look, Princess Cruises offer a half day walking and boat excursion.

Eat Moules frites

Plate of moules frites

Eliott Van Buggenhout/Unsplash

Belgium takes its mussels seriously and along with their famous frites (the country lays claim to inventing the humble chip, something hotly contested by their neighbours the French). Try Chez Leon or restaurant Breydel-De Coninc and eat them like a local using an empty shell to pinch out the tasty morsels.

Share a kiss at Lover’s Lake

In a secluded spot, you’ll find the tranquil ‘Minnewater’ or the Lake of Love. Local legend has it that your love will last forever if you have a kiss on Lover’s Bridge. Watch the graceful swans paddle by or wander arm in arm into the beautifully peaceful Minnewater Park.

In the early evening...

Go shopping for chocolate and lace

A chocoholics wonderland, you are never far from sampling some melt-in-the-mouth delights. Head to Chocolate Line for eccentric flavour combos and to see the full cocoa production from roasting beans to hand crafting. For classic flavours, try Dumon Chocolatier or Pralinette. If you don’t have a sweet tooth, Belgium has been leading the way in the intricate art of lacemaking since the 16th century and their exquisite tablecloths are a perfect souvenir.

Visit at least one church

The 13th century Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk (Church of Our Lady) Old Town, UNESCO World Heritage Site, Bruges

Christian Kober/Robert Harding

The beautiful Basilica of the Holy Blood is famed for housing a phial inside thought to contain a piece of cloth with the blood of Jesus Christ on it. Alternatively, the imposing Church of Our Lady dates back to the 13th century and looms over the city as the tallest structure and contains Michelangelo’s sculpture of ‘Madonna and Child.’

Finish the day with beer tasting

The only way to end the day in Bruges is with a flight of beer. For hops enthusiasts, a tour at De Halve Maan (The Half Moon) brewery is in order. However if you just want a drink with a view, head to 2be Beer terrace bar for a pretty canalside spot and a photo opportunity by their infamous wall of beer.

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About the Author

Kate Gilbert

Kate Gilbert

Formerly the Digital Director at Red Magazine, Kate has been writing for women’s magazines and editing websites for over 10 years. From a stint living in Asia, to backpacking across Myanmar and road-tripping around Europe, Kate is happiest when she's off exploring new places, preferably eating questionable street food along the way.

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