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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 hadn’t thought much about Belgium before I started researching for our trip but when I stumbled across Bruges, I couldn’t seem to turn away! Bruges is a rather small medieval town in the north of Belgium with canals weaving through the city. Many even refer to it as the “ Venice of the North.” I’d say that statement is kind of stretch. Still, 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 city 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? Because you’ll get to experience the real Bruges as evening sets in and that’s what 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. It’s just enough time for an amazing experience. Although, I could’ve stayed longer! Here are just a few of the ways you can enjoy 24 hours in Bruges!
1. Eat (lots of) Belgian Waffles.
You’d be committing a crime if you traveled to Belgium and didn’t try the Belgian waffles! Ok not really, but nearly! A proper Belgian waffle is light on the inside and perfectly crispy on the outside. Try them with fresh strawberries, warm cherries, whipped cream, chocolate or all of the above! We tried them at two different places and they were both delicious!
House of Waffles
Gingerbread Tea Room
2. Try Some of the Best Chocolate in Bruges.
We tried many places including the famed chocolatiers such as Dumon, but we ultimately decided that Chocolat de Julie is our favorite and we loaded up before leaving the city! It’s debatable on where to find the best chocolate in Bruges, but try not to get too hung up on that. Truth be told, it’s incredibly unlikely that you will find any bad chocolate in Bruges. Keep in mind that higher cost doesn’t necessarily mean better quality around here either. Unless it’s unique or you just have to have it, there’s no reason to overpay.
For example, I bought a mellocake (modern-day pinwheel) at the chocolate shop, but later found (and bought) more at a separate shop for 1/3 of 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.
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. If you’re up to it, you can even tour the brewery.
4. Tour the Beer Museum and finish with a Bruges Beer Experience.
If you love beer, then you will LOVE the beer museum! There’s a lot to learn about the ol’ glass sandwich… maybe enough to make you the local beer expert (when you get home, of course). Even better, 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!