The Perfect One Day in Bruges Itinerary

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 (or in Flemish, Brugge) 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!

Kate sitting on a wall next to a canal in Bruges Belgium, with a wooden inn in front of her. Kate is wearing a black coat--by mid-November in Europe, you'll want a coat in many areas!
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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.

Grote Markt in Bruges Belgium with 4 colorful buildings visible with green awnings out front--an essential stop during your 3 day Belgium itinerary

Climb the Belfry for great views of Bruges.

Want to get amazing views of Bruges from above?

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Before leaving the Markt, head 366 steps up to the top of the towering Belfry.

Tickets run 14 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!

Horses parked in Grote Markt Belgium with Belfry visible in the background

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!

bruges city hall facade with bruges christmas tree in front during bruges winter

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.

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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.

Front facade of the Basilica of Holy Blood in Bruges Belgium, an essential stop on a one day in Bruges itinerary

Take a canal cruise.

Bruges’ canals are absolutely beautiful, and there’s no better way to experience them than from the water.

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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!

If you’d like to combine a canal cruise with a walking tour of the best of Bruges, this combined tour is a great option.

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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.

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Be sure to stop 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.

Facades of several typical Flemish buildings in Bruges Belgium, as seen on a day in 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.

golden doors marking entrance to church and leading into sanctuary in brugge belgium

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.

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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 is 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!

Kate Storm in a black coat standing on a brick footbridge in Brugesduring a trip to Belgium

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.

facade of the church of our lady bruges belgium as seen looking up from footbridge

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 for the Lovers Bridge while there, and of course for all the beautiful swans that call the park home.

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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.

B sure to order at least one of Belgium’s famous beers with your meal!

Bruges canal with boats in the background--don't miss your chance to take a canal cruise during your 3 days in Belgium itinerary

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!

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Since it’s so popular to take a day trip to Bruges, visitors who are able to spend a night in city will have the privilege of seeing it without its crowds, which is a special experience!

Here are some of the loveliest hotels to consider staying in, depending on the budget you have in mind for your Bruges trip.

beautiful bruges belgium typical flemish facades as seen on a side street


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.

This cozy hotel boasts comfortable rooms, an included continental breakfast, and excellent reviews.

Check rates & book your stay at Hotel Notre Dame!

Grote Markt in Bruges with a parked vespa in the foreground


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!

Check rates & book your stay at The Black Swan Hotel!

statue in the center of a square in brugge belgium on a moody winter day


Relais Bourgondisch Cruyce — Luxurious Relais Bourgondisch Cruyce is a stunning boutique hotel located in a prime location within Bruges.

You can find this property 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.

Check rates & book your stay at Relais Bourgondisch Cruyce!

Map of Your Itinerary for Bruges, Belgium

Take This Map With You! Click each highlight to pull up the name of the destination. To save this map to “Your Places” on Google Maps, click the star to the right of the title. You’ll then be able to find it under the Maps tab of your Google Maps account! To open the map in a new window, click the button on the top right of the 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.

The train station is about a 20-minute walk from Market Square, and most of the walk is quite charming.

people walking through market square during one day bruges itinerary

More Than One Day in Bruges, Belgium?

With more than one day in the city, 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).

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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.

View of Bruges skyline from Hotel Asiris

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.

If you’re visiting during the summer high season or (to a lesser extent) during the Christmas markets, this is even more true.

Bruges Markt Building with Christmas lights in the foreground. Don't miss exploring the markt as part of your one day Bruges itinerary

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!

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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!

If you’d rather take a more traditional walking tour with a set price in advance, this walking tour gets excellent reviews and includes a canal cruise.

Book your Bruges walking tour today!

view of bruges belgium from the top of the belfry

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.

If you watch In Bruges before arriving to spend one day in Bruges yourself, you’ll no doubt spot a few filming locations as you explore!

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4 photos of viewpoints in bruges, black text on a white background rads "how to spend a day in bruges belgium"
About Kate Storm
Image of the author, Kate Storm

In May 2016, I left my suburban life in the USA and became a full-time traveler. Since then, I have visited 50+ countries on 5 continents and lived in Portugal, developing a special love of traveling in Europe (especially Italy) along the way. Today, along with my husband Jeremy and dog Ranger, I’m working toward my eventual goal of splitting my life between Europe and the USA.

2 thoughts on “The Perfect One Day in Bruges Itinerary”

  1. Bruges is one of my favorite European cities. It may be tiny, but it’s so charming. I came here with my mom for a day last year and we just adored it. Your itinerary was pretty similar to ours. Like you say in the article, we wish we had stayed overnight in a hotel to explore it just a bit slower over two days, but one is also enough. Gorgeous photos, and thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks so much, Lauren! Agreed, it is so charming–we’ve visited twice now and are definitely open to a third trip, lol. Glad you guys had a fantastic day in Bruges!


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