How to Spend 24 Hours in Bruges
On our recent trip to Amsterdam, we had the opportunity to take a side trip to Belgium. I honestly hadn’t given much though to Belgium until I started researching our spring trip to Amsterdam. When I stumbled across Bruges, I couldn’t get it off my mind! If you’ve never heard of it, Bruges is a rather small medieval town in the north of Belgium with canals weaving through the city. Many refer to it as the “Venice of the North,” but I’d say that statement is kind of stretch. Nonetheless, the canals are charming and the city is magical! Bruges is definitely worthy of a spot on your itinerary even if all you have is 24 hours.
Unfortunately, it’s charm is no secret and the little town can become quite busy during the day. Given its location, about an hour from Brussels and 2.5 from Amsterdam, it is a popular place for tourists and groups to come for a day trip. Unfortunately, a few hours or even half a day simply wouldn’t do this place justice! Even 24 hours in Bruges is a whirlwind, but it’s plenty of time to experience some of the best things to do.
If you’re thinking of adding Bruges to your Amsterdam itinerary, especially if you are unsure if and when you will return to the region, I HIGHLY suggest that you go ahead and book a room to settle in for at least one night. Book two nights if you can. Why? Staying overnight and giving yourself a full 24 hours allows you to get to experience the real Bruges as evening sets in. An evening in Bruges will really steal your heart.
Around 5 or 6 pm, the crowds begin to thin and the town quiets down. There’s little going on other than picture-perfect, fairytale views. This is when you grab a beer, perch yourself along a peaceful canal and soak it up. I don’t think I’ve been anywhere more peaceful!
What can I do in such a short time?
We stayed two nights at the Hotel Prinsenhof giving us two evenings but one full day. I found the hotel on TripAdvisor and decided to book based on the endless glowing reviews. The praises were spot on and I highly recommend a stay here if you get a chance to visit Bruges. We met a couple during our trip that also raved about Duke’s Palace which is very close to Prinsenhof. Both hotels are perfect in location – quiet streets and walking distance to everywhere.
I’m really glad we decided to stay the second night. It’s just enough time for an amazing experience without feeling like you missed out. Here are just a few of the ways you can enjoy 24 hours in Bruges!
1. Eat (lots of) Belgian Waffles.
You’re committing a crime if you travel to Belgium and don’t try the Belgian waffles! Ok, not really, but you get it. A proper Belgian waffle is light on the inside and perfectly crispy on the outside. Try one with fresh strawberries or warm cherries. Don’t forget to add whipped cream and maybe some of that amazing chocolate!
We tried them at two different places, House of Waffles and Gingerbread Tea Room. Unsurprisingly, they were both delicious! Another popular spot to grab a waffle is at Chez Albert. We didn’t get a chance to try one here. Oh, if we just had more time… or, perhaps, eaten less chocolate!
House of Waffles
The first place we tried for waffles was at the House of Waffles. Warm cherries on the lightest, crisp waffle I have ever eaten was incredible.
Gingerbread Tea Room
Waffles: Round 2 goes to the Gingerbread Tea Room. We chose this quaint little restaurant based on vicinity to our hotel. Since we had to catch a train, we couldn’t venture too far. However, I’m so glad we found this little gem because my waffle with fresh strawberries and whipped cream was the perfect way to end our stay in Bruges.
2. Try Some of the Best Chocolate in Bruges.
We tried MANY places in Bruges on a quest for our favorite chocolate shop. Ultimately, Chocolat de Julie won the vote for our favorite chocolatier. Have you ever tried to haul a carry on full of chocolate home? I have. We loaded up before heading out of town with enough chocolate to last weeks!
It’s widely debatable on where to find the best chocolate in Bruges. There’s the famous Dumon and, of course, Leonidas. Godiva, though now under Turkish ownership, remains a Belgian staple and can be found all over. Try not to get too hung up on “brand name” chocolate. The solid truth is that it’s incredibly unlikely that you will find bad chocolate in Bruges. Chocolatiers such as Dumon and Leonida are delicously smooth, but come with a price tag. When it comes to chocolate in Bruges, higher cost doesn’t necessarily mean better quality. There are plenty of equally delicious options at every price point.
For example, I bought a mellocake (modern-day pinwheel) at one chocolate shop. Later, I found (and bought) several more at a different shop for 1/3 of the cost. I actually preferred the flavor of the less expensive mellocakes. Despite the cost, we still returned to the first shop because they had the best chocolate covered almonds! The point here is to try several shops. In fact, try as many as you can! They all are delicious and have their own unique offerings and specialties.
3. Have a Bier on the Canal.
Belgium is home to some of the finest beer in the world. What better way to relax than to grab a bier from a local brewery, sit by the water, and enjoy a picturesque view in every direction? Even if you aren’t typically a beer drinker, you shouldn’t skip trying out a Belgian brew. Chances are, you’ll pleasantly surprised. Head over the Bourgogne des Flandres or De Halve Maan and enjoy a few of life’s finest moments. Some of the brewery offer tours if you want an inside look at Belgian beer production.
4. Tour the Beer Museum and finish with a Bruges Beer Experience.
If history is your thing or you just want to learn more about craft brewery, take time to explore the Beer Museum. There’s a lot to learn about the ol’ glass sandwich. Maybe enough to make you the new local beer expert when you get home. I’m not a beer fanatic, but I really enjoyed this museum. There’s a ton of history and information on how beer has been crafted over time.
At the end of the museum, you’ll have a chance to try out various drafts at the museum bar. As part of the €15 ticket, your studious efforts will be rewarded with 3 perfectly poured brews of your choice at the end of the tour. There’s a €9 ticket if you prefer to forego the beverages as well as discounted tickets for families and groups.
5. Visit the Bruges Markt.
The Markt is the main square in the heart of Bruges. It is here that you’ll find the Provinciaal Palace as well as the Belfry which can be seen from all across the town. If you’ve got the energy, you can even climb the 366 steps to the top and enjoy incredible views of Bruges and the surroundings!
The Markt, namely, is also a marketplace. If you’re here on a Wednesday, be sure to stop by in the morning to visit all of the local vendors offering various items such as fresh produce, cheese, meats, flowers and other handmade items. This square is also host to concerts, celebrations, and festivals held in Bruges.
If you need a centralized point or just general point of reference, the Markt is a great place to start your day in Bruges. Hop on a carriage ride or set out on a walking tour. Use the Belfry as your compass, seen from anywhere in the city, and you literally cannot get lost!
6. Relax in the park
Don’t be afraid to step off the beaten path. During the day and weekends, the Markt can get busy with day trippers and tour groups. Stroll only a few blocks away and you’ll leave the crowds behind to find many hidden gems, including some lovely parks.
From the Markt, head down Breidelstraat in the direction of the Beer Museum. Take a right at Burg Square and continue straight for about 5 more minutes. Taking this route, you will run right into Koningan Astridpark, a beautiful little park just outside the bustle. If you’re here in the spring, you may get lucky enough to be welcomed with many colorful blooms! Enjoy a quiet walk, relax with a good book or set a picnic and indulge in your favorite local cheeses, fruits and chocolates!