Bruges, Belgium is a compact city, yet it is bursting with historic charm and fun things to do. A 3 day Bruges city break is a great length of time to explore the many aspects of this charming city.
A lot of visitors to Europe don’t know about the wonders of Bruges. While the city lacks the glitz and glamour of another European metropolis’, there is a certain charm within the streets of Bruges that cannot necessarily be found in the center of London or Paris.
Don’t leave home without: DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Belgium & Luxembourg
Bruges City Break: Day One
Legends of Bruges Free Walking Tour
A great way to begin your 3 days in Bruges is to do legends of Bruges free walking tour. The tour will orientate you in the city, taking you around its highlights, and giving you an initial insight into some of its intricate tales.
The tours are suitable for all ages and are personal, with a local resident tour guide. They offer 3 different tours of Bruges, Below we will list out the tours and options.
- Basic Legendary Free Walking Tour: Departs daily at 9:45 A.M. (except for January to March), 11:30 A.M. and 2:00 P.M. It is available in English and Spanish.
- Bruges By Night: This nightly walking tour will take you to the dark side of Bruges. Departs every night at 8:00 PM. It is available in English and Spanish.
- A Taste of Bruges: A daily tasting tour that takes you to the best places to eat in Bruges. Departs every day at 11:30 except Monday, and no tours from January through March. This tour is only available in English.
Once the tour is complete, visiting the two town squares is another great starting point as you begin your exploration of the city.
Visit Markt Square first to enjoy the 270-foot belfry, the bountiful cafes, and colorful buildings, as well as the gothic buildings that line the square.
One of the best things to do in Markt Square is to climb the Belfry and see if it really leans. Be sure to wear sturdy shoes – it’s 366 steps to the top.
Burg Square is one of the most historic parts of Bruges, with buildings in a range of architectural styles: Gothic, Renaissance and Neo-Classicist.
The Gothic Town Hall of the square is one of the oldest in the Low Countries, and is an accredited, beautiful building – in fact, it is where the city was governed for 600 years.
In the afternoon, check out one of Bruges’ many museums. One of the most loved is the Choco-Story museum, which demonstrates how chocolate is made – and has a choco-taste questionnaire that can match you with your perfect chocolate!
If you haven’t got as much of a sweet tooth, check out Frietmuseum, which strongly advocates that Belgium, not France, invented the French fry!
It discusses the introduction of the potato to Europe and why they’re so popular in Belgium and relays how exactly potatoes turn into fries.
It’s fascinating for any lovers of the fried meal component! There’s also a popular café in the basement – which serves some of the country’s very best fries.
Things to do in Bruges – Day 2
Basilica of the Holy Blood
There’s plenty of cathedrals and churches within the city to spend the second morning of our 3 days in Bruges. One that’s well worth a deeper exploration is the Basilica of the Holy Blood, which is a church on Burg square.
It contains a vial of blood that is supposedly from Jesus, and the building is adorned in a Romanesque style.
Church of Jerusalem
Another church must-see is the 15th century Church of Jerusalem. With four preserved windmills, the church enables visitors to see the complex historical web of the country’s religious past.
Visitors are thrown right back into the past of the city and Belgium itself, which educates visitors into this amazing part of the town.
Don’t leave home without: DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Belgium & Luxembourg
Church of Our Lady & Michelangelo’s Madonna with Child
The last must-visit church in Bruges is the Church of Our Lady & Michelangelo’s Madonna with Child.
It took two centuries to build the church and it houses an adaptation of the Madonna and her child, which was created in Italy and exported to Belgium in 1504.
It differs from other adaptations: it demonstrates a mother who is sorrowful at her son rather than warm and affectionate, like most other demonstrations. The uniqueness of the image makes it a must-see in Bruges.
Belgian Waffle Lunch
Break up your day with a bunch of Belgian waffles – a staple when you’re visiting the country. They are sold mainly as street food, so you’ll never be too far from a sweet pick-me-up.
Half Moon Brewery
A great way to spend your second afternoon in the city is by going on a brewery tour of the Half Moon Brewery. It’s the favorite place in the city to try some local Bruges Zot Blond and even purchase some for yourself.
The brewery tour describes how beer has been brewed there for hundreds of years: homebrewers, in particular, will love the stories it beholds.
From the top of the brewery, it’s possible to see all over Bruges – so you can stand and contemplate the city that you’ve been exploring. Love beer? Why not explore Europe’s beer trail.
To finish off your second day in the city, take a trip to Diamantmuseum, which is especially appealing to those with an enthusiasm toward diamonds and gemstones.
Even if you’re not a diamond fan, the museum is free to enter and displays a range of diamond jewelry and decorative ornaments.
Day 3 – Things to do in Brugge
Explore Bruges by Bike
A great way to spend your second morning in the city is to rent a bicycle and travel around the city on two wheels. This will enable you to see the beautiful Bruges streets from a different angle and at a slow pace.
Be sure to check out the quaint cobbled streets of the center during your bike ride, and make sure you visit the Rozenhoedkaai if you have not already.
Doing this on your last day in the city means that you have a chance to re-visit any neighborhoods that you enjoyed previously.
Travel to the North and East of Bruges
An area that might be worth visiting by bicycle is the north and east of Bruges.
Away from the touristy areas, these spots consist of cobbled side streets and beautiful houses, some with hand-made glass windows and many with beautiful flowers outside.
Although a lot less touristy, there are plenty of cafes and local bars to grab a drink from during your ride.
Any art fans will love the Groeninge Museum, which contains many early Flemish pieces and is included in your museum pass.
Its most famous portrait is perhaps Margaret van Eyck, and it also includes Da Vinci model machines and Old Master Paintings.
Related Article: Ghent or Bruges? Which Belgium Cities to Visit (and Why!)
Canal Boat Tour
One of the best ways to conclude your time in the city is by going on a canal boat tour. Bruges is known as ‘The Venice of the North’, there are lots of canals to enjoy in this Belgian city.
It connects the city to the North Sea, so is a crucial stop for merchant ships. The Dijver Canal is perhaps the most popular canal route of the city, with different buildings lining the banks – it is also where Bruges Police Station and the Arenthuis Museum are based.
Day Trips from Bruges
If you’re not quite done with historic, quaint cities, check out Ghent. It’s just 30 minutes by train from Bruges, and cars are not permitted into the center, which gives it a wonderfully relaxed feeling.
Not to mention the impressive Gravensteen Castle. Walk the cobbled streets and enjoy gazing into a boutique shop. Spend your day admiring the 900-year-old castle or experiencing the gorgeous Saint Bavo’s Cathedral.
Pleasure your palate with the effervescent delight of Belgian beer on a beer tasting tour of Ghent. With a connoisseur guide, stroll around the city and visit ambient bars renowned for their fine selection of beers.
Educate your taste buds to recognize the subtle flavors in each distinctive beer variety and learn about the history of Belgian brewing from your knowledgeable guide.
Then enjoy dinner and a drink in one of the riverside bars. Here are some of the reasons you should visit Ghent.
Read more 15 Top Things to Do in Ghent, Belgium
Ieper is a tiny town near to the French border and is perhaps one of the most historically significant places from WWI in Belgium. It contains the ‘Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing’.
This site commemorates the names of all of the grave-less British Commonwealth soldiers who lost their lives before August 1917 in the area.
It is a touching site guaranteed to move anyone who passes underneath. Ieper (or Ypres in French) is also home to quaint cobbled streets and tranquil restaurants.
Flanders Fields Battlefields
These are accessible by tour or car rental. Important ones to visit are Tyne Cot Cemetery, Essex Farm Cemetery and Dressing Sation, Hill 60 Preserved Battlefield and Langemark German Cemetery.
Other great spots to visit to learn all about the war in this area include the In Flanders Fields Museum and the Passchendaele Museum. These historical sites will help you learn about the enormity and tragedy of the war in Belgium.
Delve into the poignant history of World War I on a full-day tour of the Flanders Battlefields from Bruges.
Follow in the footsteps of soldiers with an accomplished historical guide and visit moving memorials that immortalize soldiers lost in battles.
Gaze at endless rows of graves at the German Military Cemetery; revitalize with a traditional Belgian lunch at a local restaurant; and visit Flanders’ Field Museum to see exhibitions that speak eloquently of the area’s turbulent past.
Another great day trip option from Bruges is Ostend, a seaside city. In the summer, visitors love to head to the coast to stretch out on the beach and in the winter, there’s great shopping, seasonal shows, and ice skating opportunities.
All year round, visitors can enjoy the great street art of the city and learn about the diverse history – Ostend was an important place in the Great War.
Brugge Travel Tips
How to get to Bruges
Bruges is one of those typical European cities, it is easily accessible by car, bus, train and even ferry with a few connections. Below we will cover how to get to Bruges so you can decide what option is best for you.
Most travelers visit Bruges from Brussels and the closest airport to Bruges is the Ostend airport that has a limited amount of flights. Most tourists skip this option since it costs more than the other options and the flight times aren’t that great.
If you’re looking to fly to Bruges, your best option is the Brussels airport. The Brussels airport is 110 Km (68 miles) to the east of Bruges and is serviced by many of the top airlines. The international code for Brussels airport is BRU.
From Brussels airport you can easily take the train, a rental car or the bus to Bruges.
One thing we love about Europe is its trains. One year we spent a whole summer just using the trains to get around Europe. It was way easy, and it was extremely affordable.
One of the best ways to get to Bruges is by rail. Bruges is extremely well connected by rail with trails from Ostende, Ghent, Brussels, and Antwerp.
The central station in Bruges is a short walk from the town center that is serviced by the major train companies in Europe.
Train journey times to Bruges are: Brussels to Bruges by train takes around 1 hour. London to Bruges 3 hours and 20 minutes with a connection in Brussels. Paris to Bruges takes 2 hours and 50 minutes including a connection in Amsterdam.
For those travelers who are looking to get to Bruges by ferry, there’s no direct way to do that however it’s very easy with one or two connections.
For those travelers who are looking at taking a scenic way to Bruges, you can take a ferry from England to Belgium, ending in Bruges.
The Zeebrugge ferry operates weekly and it takes about 13 hours and 15 minutes. Another popular ferry is from France to Dover that is just 47 miles from the port of Dunkirk.
There are a few coach or shuttle bus options that service Bruges and offer direct routes connecting the city with Ostend, Zeebrugge, Brussels, Ghent, and other destinations.
They offer daily connections between Brussels south station and Bruges station which takes around two hours depending on traffic.
For those traveling by renting a car or having their own car Bruges is 100km (60 miles) west from Brussels. It’s a short distance that is connected with a straight shot down the E40 motorway that connects the two cities.
It is best to make sure you give yourself plenty of time since the access roads into the city centers can become extremely busy at times, its best to park at the multistory car park at the main railway station which is a 15-minute walk from the city center.
There are even a few services that offer shuttle rides from the train station to the city center.
The Best Time to Visit Bruges
Just like most parts of Europe, the traveling year is divided into three seasons for travelers: peak season, shoulder season, and off-season each very different from the other one and those seasons can be different depending on what city or part of Europe you’re visiting.
These sessions aren’t based so much on the weather, they are based on the amounts of tourists visiting during a set time.
The weather year-round in Bruges is considered to be chilly and damp, during the summer months the temps in Bruges usually don’t climb higher than 70 making it extremely comfortable to explore the city and all of its wonders.
The best time to visit Bruges is from June to August, this is when the weather is mild, and this is when the flowers are in full bloom and the trees are at their greenest.
This is considered peak season and visiting Bruges during this time of the year is simply amazing, there are great outside festivals and outside bars/restaurants for travelers to enjoy.
Visiting Bruges during peak season though can have its drawbacks, it’s a little city so visiting this time of the year city centers, streets and restaurants will be full.
So be prepared for lots of travelers everywhere. This can be changeling at times. On top of that this is when hotels and admission to popular attractions are the highest, so also be prepared to spend a little more money visiting Bruges during peak season.
Another great time to visit Bruges is from April to May or September to October. This is considered shoulder season in Bruges and it is when there is way less tourist compared to peak season, prices tend to drop along with the temps.
Visiting Bruges on the shoulder has its benefits and its drawbacks, we love visiting during this time. It is very comfortable out since temps sit around 50 and there are fewer people around in those popular little narrow streets.
If you are planning to visit Bruges during this time of the year it is smart to pack a raincoat or umbrella, Feb-March and Oct to Nov have the highest chances of rain.
It is best if you are visiting Bruges during the shoulder season you should plan in one or two extra days as rainy days.
In winter temperatures around Bruges drop but don’t reach freezing. December is a popular time to visit Bruges for its famous Christmas markets that start from the end of November and last to December 25th.
After the Christmas markets close Bruges is pretty quiet on the tourist front from January to February.
If you are visiting Bruges during the offseason, expect a few businesses to be closed. This can be a huge disappointment if your heart is set on doing something, so always check if in advance businesses are up and running from January to March.
Where to Stay in Bruges
Looking for accommodation in Bruges and are not sure where to start? We’ve got you covered. There is a wide range of accommodations for every budget.
No matter what you are looking for there is something for everyone.
Best Restaurants in Bruges
If you’re visiting Bruges on a budget, you can’t go wrong with a delicious meal from Bocca. This Italian restaurant is technically fast food, but the taste and quality of food definitely don’t compromise with its easy service.
It’s one to visit for all pasta lovers – even if you’re not on a budget – because the range of pasta shapes and sauces is second to none in the city.
A favorite couple hangout, Pro Deo has a reputation as one of the coziest joints in Bruges. They serve local specialties at reasonable prices, so if you’re after a real taste of Belgium, head to this restaurant!
Some of the most popular items on the menu are the lasagne and Flemish stew. If you’re wanting to seek out the finer things, head to the delicious Pomperlut.
Its small menu means it excels in most of what it offers: some of its most popular items are the Angus steak and chorizo crust cod. The meals it offers are simple, yet quintessentially Belgian, and local wine is aplenty.
Recommended Multi-day Tours of Belgium
- Amsterdam to Bruges in Comfort: Start in Amsterdam and end in Bruges! With the discovery tour Amsterdam to Bruges – Comfort, you have a 8-day tour package taking you through Amsterdam, Netherlands and 13 other destinations in Europe. Amsterdam to Bruges – Comfort includes accommodation as well as an expert guide, meals and more.
- Belgium Bike & Barge: Start in Bruges and end in Brussels! With the discovery tour Belgium Bike & Barge, you have an 8 day tour package taking you through Bruges, Belgium and 7 other destinations in Belgium. Belgium Bike & Barge includes accommodation as well as more.
- Dutch Sights & Belgian Delights: Start and end in Amsterdam! With the ocean cruise tour Dutch Sights & Belgian Delights, you have a 8-day tour package taking you through Amsterdam, Netherlands and 6 other destinations in Europe. Dutch Sights & Belgian Delights includes meals, transport.
- Best of Holland, Belgium, and Luxembourg: Start and end in Amsterdam! With the discovery tour Best of Holland Belgium and Luxembourg Summer 2018, you have a 10-day tour package taking you through Amsterdam, Netherlands and 10 other destinations in Europe. Best of Holland Belgium and Luxembourg Summer 2018 includes accommodation as well as an expert guide, meals, transport and more.
- Europe Escape: Start and end in London! With the coach/bus tour Europe Escape – 12 Days, you have a 12-day tour package taking you through London, England and 14 other destinations in Europe. Europe Escape – 12 Days includes accommodation as well as an expert guide, meals, transport and more.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Antoine is a Canadian travel writer and blogger who now lives in the Cayman Islands. He’s on a mission to show you the less-visited side to places around the globe. Follow his adventures on his blog – www.travelinglife.com.
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