Beautiful Bruges, with its fairytale architecture, lovely canals, and tasty treats (see: frites, chocolate, beer), is a delightful small European city–and whether you’re taking a day trip to Bruges or spending the night, you can see quite a bit of the city with only one day in Bruges.
Bruges is our favorite city in Belgium, and while its phenomenal beauty does bring in the tourist crowds, that’s no reason to stay away: the city definitely lives up to the hype.
Heading to Flanders and want to make sure you make the most of your opportunity to see Bruges in a day? This one day Bruges itinerary will show you how!
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The Perfect One Day in Bruges Itinerary
Start your day at Market Square (Markt).
Bruges’ Markt is a colorful delight of a town square: dominated by the towering Belfry on one side and an array of colorful buildings on another, this is the perfect spot to start your one day in Bruges.
You’ll see horse-drawn carriages queueing up toward the center, frite carts selling piles of delicious treats, and if you happen to be visiting in December, one of Bruges’ legendary Christmas markets.
Climb the Belfry for great views of Bruges.
Want to get amazing views of Bruges from above?
Before leaving the Markt, head 366 steps up to the top of the towering Belfry. Tickets run 12 Euro as of the time of writing this Bruges blog post.
If you’re trying to snap photos of the Belfry itself from the foot of the tower, though, don’t be surprised if you can’t get the picture quite right–the belfry actually leans to the east!
Stroll over to the Bruges City Hall.
Completed in the 15th century in a late-Gothic style, the Bruges City Hall is truly remarkable to see from the outside.
And since it’s practically around the corner from the Markt and close to the next stop on this one day in Bruges itinerary, it’s well worth a quick photo op!
Step inside the Basilica of Holy Blood.
Located in Burg Square, right next door to Bruges City Hall sits one of the most interesting houses of worship in Bruges–and one that you might walk right by without realizing it was a church at all if you don’t know it’s there.
The Basilica of Holy Blood contains two chapels: a lower Romanesque one and a neo-Gothic upper one, and it’s the upper chapel where the most interesting feature of the chapel lies.
The chapel houses an impressive relic: a vial of blood and cloth that is said to contain the blood of Christ from the time of his crucifixion.
Take a canal cruise.
Bruges’ canals are absolutely beautiful, and there’s no better way to experience them than from the water.
Hop onto a canal cruise to get a quick tour of the history of the city while taking in absolutely gorgeous views, including views of Bruges’ most famous viewpoint–the Quay of the Rosary.
Of all the places to visit outlined on this one day Bruges itinerary, we’d consider this the most unmissable!
Meander through Bruges’ streets.
After wrapping up your canal cruise, spend part of your one day in Bruges meandering through the beautiful Old Town streets–stopping for lunch and potentially snacks (most importantly, Belgian frites and chocolate) along the way.
Keep an eye out for chocolate shops and lace sellers (another specialty of the region), and consider doing a little souvenir shopping as you explore Bruges.
Make your way to St. Salvator’s Cathedral.
Dating to the 10th century (but not without major renovation work throughout the centuries), Belgium’s beautiful cathedral is absolutely worth a quick peek during your one day in Bruges.
Pay a visit to the Groeningemuseum.
Best known for its superb collection of Flemish primitives, Bruges’ premier art museum houses an impressive amount of Belgian art through the centuries and makes an excellent afternoon stop during your Bruges itinerary.
Snap photos at Bonifacius Bridge.
Located very close to the Groeningemuseum, the Bonifacius Bridge and the Arents courtyard next to it are arguably some of the most photogenic spots in Bruges–in our opinion, anyway.
The beauty of Bruges’ architecture and canals are on full display here, despite the fact that the beautiful bridge was built in the 20th century, making it one of the newest in the city!
Stop by the Church of Our Lady.
The stunning Church of Our Lady is right by Bonifacius Bridge, and is one of the most notable churches in Bruges, especially for being the home of a striking Madonna and Child sculpture completed by Michelangelo in 1504.
The church is also known for being the final resting place of Charles the Bold (the last Valois Duke of Burgundy) and his daughter, Mary.
Head over to Minnewater Lake.
Making your way to Minnewater Lake will take you over and along some of Bruges’ lovely canals before you arrive at the peaceful lake, which is the perfect place to kick back and relax.
Also known as the Lake of Love, keep an eye out of the Lovers Bridge while there, and of course for all the beautiful swans that call the park home.
If you’re visiting the city on a Bruges day trip, finishing up at Minnewater Lake will leave you fairly close to the train station, making it an excellent final stop on this one day Bruges itinerary.
If you’re spending the night in Bruges, after visiting Minnewater Lake, you’ll no doubt be ready to dive into a hearty Belgian dinner–be sure to order at least one of Belgium’s famous beers!
Where to Stay in Bruges
If you can, we highly recommend spending a night in Bruges as part of this one day in Bruges itinerary–here are some of the loveliest hotels to consider staying in, depending on the budget you have in mind.
Hotel Notre Dame — Cozy Hotel Notre Dame is located within a quick walk of most of Bruges’ major sights, including a five-minute walk from Town Hall, and boasts comfortable rooms, an included continental breakfast and excellent reviews.
The Black Swan Hotel — Housed in a 17th-century building just around the corner from Grote Markt, the popular Black Swan Hotel is perfect for visitors to Bruges looking to stay in a beautiful, centrally-located building without a luxury price tag. Be sure to check out the gorgeous conservatory, where an included breakfast is served each morning!
Relais Bourgondisch Cruyce — Luxurious Relais Bourgondisch Cruyce is a stunning boutique hotel located in a prime location within Bruges: not only along a canal, but at the place where two canals meet!
Featuring magnificent rooms decorated with antique decor, wonderful views, and exceptional reviews, Relais Bourgondisch Cruyce is the go-to choice for luxury seekers or those celebrating a special occasion during their trip to Belgium.
Bruges Itinerary Map
Getting Around During a Day in Bruges
This one day Bruges itinerary is designed to be entirely walkable–if you would like, you can spend the entire day on foot, and that includes getting to and from the Bruges train station (it’s about a 20-minute walk from the Market Square, and most of the walk is quite charming).
More Than One Day in Bruges?
With more than one day in Bruges, you can find plenty more fun things to do in Bruges to keep you busy: consider tracking down the beautiful Bruges windmills, paying a visit to some of Bruges’ quirkier museums like the Frite Museum and Beer Wall, and lingering in plenty of chocolate shops (or even taking a chocolate workshop).
Of course, if you have longer than a day in Bruges, there’s no reason you need to stay in the city at all: Bruges is perfectly located for taking countless day trips, including to Ghent, Brussels, Antwerp, and the WWI battlefields near Ypres, just to name a few.
Tips for Seeing Bruges in a Day
Spend the night if you can.
While you can certainly get a lot of sightseeing done on a day trip to Bruges, spending the night will allow you to experience the city at its absolute best (read: most uncrowded) in the early morning before the daytrippers arrive, and in the evening after they leave.
Consider taking a “free” walking tour.
With only one day in Bruges, some of the city’s secrets and stories will no doubt remain hidden–but you can uncover quite a few by taking a “free” Bruges walking tour!
We loved the walking tour we took on our first trip to Bruges and walked away having learned quite a bit about the city. If you enjoy walking tours, consider starting your morning with a tour that leaves from the Markt!
We left “free” in quotation marks, because while these tours advertise as being free, what they really mean is that you can set your own price–the tour guides are paid based on tips, so be sure to compensate them for their time after the tour!
Get inspired to visit by watching In Bruges.
Starring Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson as two Irish hitmen hiding out in Bruges, the 2008 dark comedy features plenty of scenes showing off the beauty of the city–and if you watch In Bruges before arriving to spend one day in Bruges yourself, you’ll no doubt recognize a few spots along the way!