24 hours in Bruges

Bruges is famously a fairy-tale and picturesque town. Known for its Medieval architecture, cobbled lanes, canals and swans, Bruges is best explored on foot. And its small enough to do so too; the historic city centre is about 430 hectares in size.

Here’s a suggested 24-hour itinerary for Bruges, taking in all the main sights with no need for public transport.

Morning

For breakfast, head to Nomad in the south west corner of the old city, near the concert hall. With its filament lightbulbs and clean, modern design, this kitchen/bar feels as though it could be in trendy Shoreditch – there’s even a section in the menu called ‘Healthy Hipster’. The food is delicious and locally sourced. Try their self-declared ‘famous’ eggs Benedict.

Begijnhof bridge
Begijnhof bridge

After breakfast there’s a short walk in the direction of the train station to Minnewaterpark. Here you’ll find a quiet green space beside the rectangular lake. Also known as the ‘Lake of Love’, it’s a popular spot among couples as well as Bruges’ iconic swan population.

On the way back into the centre of town is the peaceful Begijnhof, a quiet courtyard ringed by white houses, now home to a convent of nuns. Its gateway bridge outside is another one of Bruges’ many postcard scenes.

Afternoon

Head to Grote Markt and the Belfry, Bruge’s most popular tourist attraction. The cobbled market square is a bit of a tourist-hub, with pricey horse and cart rides and expensive souvenir shops. But it’s a must-see for the views from the Belfry alone.

It’s quite a climb to the top. But after 366 steep steps and some tight squeezes you’re rewarded with panoramic views of the whole of Bruges. The tower is open between 0930 and 1800 and costs €10, or €8 for people aged under 26 (remember to bring ID!).

The Basilica of the Holy Blood is a short walk away from the Belfry. This 12th century church takes its name from a phial said to contain the blood of Jesus Christ, on display inside. The church is free to enter and contains some stunning Gothic architecture.

Behind the church, boats leave on regular canal tours and you mustn’t forget to take a very Instragramable shot of the canal with the Belfry in background, from Rozenhoedkaai road.

And for lunch? Just spend the afternoon grazing on delicious, if a little overpriced, pommes frites, waffles and chocolate. You’re on holiday, after all.

Evening

Once it’s dark you should spend some time wandering around the town. Bruges looks even more charming at night when the churches, the Belfry and the canals are all lit up.

Bruges Belfry at night
Bruges Belfry at night

For dinner, try #Food on Oude Burg, a colourful little restaurant with vinyl records for place-mats and a unique twist to its food. Items on the menu include insect burger and chocolate-covered meal worms. Non-insect options are also available.

End the night in Café Rose Red, near the Grote Markt – look for the pub with roses hanging from its wooden ceiling beams. There’s an incredible selection of beers here and the staff are very knowledgeable and attentive if you find yourself stuck for choice. It’s more akin to a wine bar than a pub, such is the attention to detail. Each beer comes with its own branded glass. Suggested drinking game: find the beer that comes in its own wicker basket.

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