Fairytale houses, quaint canals and horse-drawn carriages are just some of Bruges’ biggest draws.
While many choose to spend a full weekend in Bruges, some prefer to see the highlights on a Bruges day tour or day trip from nearby Brussels, Ghent or Antwerp.
If that sounds like the perfect introduction to Bruges to you, then you’ll find our Bruges one day itinerary for first time visitors below plus various tips for your visit.
We hope you find it useful!
Bruges One Day Itinerary For First Time Visitors
Stroll through Minnewaterpark
Minnewaterpark surrounds Minnewater Lake, also known as the Lake of Love, thanks to a local legend.
It’s a really pretty area, especially in summer.
It’s also located close to the train station and is on the way to the main tourist areas, which means it’s the perfect way to start your 24 hours in Bruges!
See the sights on a free walking tour
One of the best ways to see a new city is through a walking tour – and free ones are often just as good as paid for ones.
We personally went on the Bruges Free Walking Tour and we thoroughly enjoyed it. Not only did we learn a lot about Bruges but we were also taken to a chocolate shop to try some free samples!
Guided by locals, you’ll be shown and told about top sights and attractions like:
- The Belfry of Bruges
- Saint John Hospital
- Bonifacius Bridge
- Church of Our Lady
- Burg Square
Although you won’t go inside any of these attractions, you’ll be shown them from the outside and learn the history about them.
One of the reasons why we recommend doing a walking tour in the morning is because it’ll give you some ideas of what you might want to see again in the afternoon.
Have lunch at Books & Brunch
We’re suckers for interesting eateries, especially ones involving books, so we think having lunch at Books & Brunch is an awesome thing to do in Bruges.
They serve various salads, sandwiches and soups at lunchtime, alongside a healthy dose of sweet pies, ice cream and waffles for dessert.
And as you’ll be surrounded by the various tomes of their secondhand bookshop, it makes for a really chilled out experience.
Go on a brewery tour around De Haalve Maan Brewery
Beer is almost as synonymous with Belgium as chocolate is – and a trip to Bruges’ best brewery: De Haalve Maan is a top thing to do in Bruges.
Between 11am and 4pm daily, you can be shown around the brewery on 45 minute tours to learn how the beer is made.
And if you want to experience something extra special then you can go on their XL tour at 2.15pm daily, which includes a professional beer tasting of three different beers down in the cellars after the tour.
Either way, if you love beer, you’ll love this tour!
Shop for souvenirs
Before seeing more sights, you should buy some traditional Belgian souvenirs – either for yourself or friends and family back home.
In Bruges, chocolate and lace are the souvenirs of choice.
For lace, you should head to ’t Apostelientje, which specialises in handmade vintage lace products.
See The Basilica of the Holy Blood
The Basilica of the Holy Blood is a 12th century Roman Catholic church in Burg Square and is another top sight to see in Bruges.
Not only is the building itself magnificent but it’s also home to a vial which is alleged to contain a cloth of blood from Jesus Christ.
Every day, this golden vial encrusted with gemstones is put on display for Christians and tourists alike to marvel at.
Even if you’re not religious, it’s a wonder to behold!
Climb the Belfry Tower and walk around the Markt
The Belfry of Bruges is one of the city’s most sought-after attractions and can be found within the very pretty Markt (Market Square).
At 83 metres tall, the views across the city and surrounding countryside from the Belfry Tower are fantastic! Just remember that you’ll need to climb a tiring 336 steps in order to see them.
The reason why we’re suggesting you should come much later in the day is because most daytrippers head here for around 10-11am.
Come 3pm, most daytrippers have started to leave for the day, so you’ll spend far less time in line and be better able to see this popular part of Bruges in all its fairytale beauty.
Cruise the canals by boat
You only have to look at a few photos on Instagram to realise that the canals of Bruges are one of its most picturesque features.
During a quick 30 minute cruise, you’ll be shown Bruges from its waterways and told a bit about the city and the sights you pass.
We’d recommend taking one of the last boat trips of the day as it’ll be quieter, and at certain times of the year, you can see Bruges at dusk, which is just magical!
Note: Cruises run daily March to mid-November from 10am to 6pm (last departure at 5.30pm).
Have dinner at ONE Restaurant
Once inside, you’ll be met with the most quaint and charming little restaurant you ever did imagine.
And on the menu? Expect traditional Belgian dishes like Flemish stew, saucy meatballs and steak tartare. Delicious!
But be warned! This unassuming little restaurant is super popular so you’ll need to book ahead.
Eat Belgian waffles as dessert on the go
We hope you saved room for dessert! You didn’t really think we’d write a one day Bruges itinerary without mentioning Belgian waffles did you?
Famous the world over for their thickness and large squares, Belgian waffles are the ultimate sweet treat in Belgium.
Whereas some waffles will be served with cream and fruits, others will be drizzled with hot sauce (chocolate and caramel are often firm favourites!)
But either way, you won’t have to go far before finding a street food stall or waffle kiosk selling this delightful little treat well into the night.
When’s the best time to visit Bruges?
Bruges is one of Belgium’s most touristy cities so avoiding the crowds is tough.
But by visiting in November, January or February, you’ll definitely see less people and be better able to see Bruges for all its fairytale charm.
The weather won’t be the best – expect rain, overcast days and even snow – but as Bruges is a small city, you won’t have to walk around outside for too long to see each attraction.
If you would prefer better weather and want to visit through spring and summer, then you should definitely try to time your visit for a weekday.
Christmas is also a beautiful time to visit Bruges but it’s also one of the most popular times of year to visit.
When we last visited, we went to Bruges during the first week of December, and even then the Christmas crowds had arrived. This was a shame but couldn’t be helped!
Is one day in Bruges enough?
As you can see from this itinerary, one day in Bruges is more than enough to see the top highlights.
But if you want to see lesser known spots as well, then we’d recommend spending a weekend here instead – although it will be pricey compared with staying in other Belgian cities!
How to get to Bruges
Most visitors either fly into Belgium or catch the Eurostar – both options mean arriving in Brussels first.
From the capital, you can catch a train to Bruges, which takes about an hour. Trains run frequently throughout the day so this is a great option – and super easy!
You might have noticed we haven’t included The Old Chocolate House in our Bruges one day itinerary. Most Bruges itineraries do so why haven’t we?
Although this cafe is an incredible little place and often touted as selling the best hot chocolate in Bruges, it’s crazy popular. Like crazy so.
Especially at peak times, you can easily wait in excess of an hour for a table.
And with just one day in Bruges, we simply couldn’t recommend it as you’d have to miss out on seeing or doing something else.
But if you’ve got longer to spend in Bruges, then by all means do make an effort to come here… especially if you love hot chocolate!
Well there you have it… our tips for the perfect Bruges one day itinerary! What are you most excited to see first? Do you have any other questions ahead of your visit? Let us know in the comments below…
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