The city of Bruges, Belgium is truly a beautiful city. Bruges (pronunciation: rhymes with “rouge”) is one of the most well-preserved Medieval cities in Belgium. The city’s name means “pier, or landing port” which it received due to its long history as a shipping port. Today, the river that once ran through the city has been re-directed to make more room for the many visitors which it receives. While it does deserve at least a few days to get the real feel of the city, many travel itineraries don’t allow for more than just a quick day trip to Bruges. That being said, it is still very possible to see a lot of the city and still enjoy your short amount of time. Here is what to do to make the best of 24 hours in Bruges.
Take a Free Walking Tour
One of my favorite ways to start a visit to a new city is by taking a free walking tour. Experienced and knowledgeable guides take you on a walk around the city and offer tons of great information on the way. Free walking tours are great to orient yourself to a new place and learn about the city as well. I did my walking tour with Can You Handle It Tours, and had a fantastic time.
One of the lovely canals in Bruges that you may see on your walking tour
One of the most iconic structures in Bruges is its Belfry. Built between 1482 and 1486, the Belfry towers above the city at 83 meters high. Visitors can climb the 366 steps to the top of the tower for some incredible views over Bruges. On the day I visited, the lines were insanely long and I didn’t quite feel like being at the top of a tower with a crowd. In addition, it costs €12 to enter, and that is valuable waffle-buying money, so I opted to enjoy the Belfry from the ground.
Burg square is one of the main (and oldest!) squares in Bruges. It is said that this area was already inhabited by the 2nd century and that by the 9th century, it was the central base for the Count of the Flanders area (the region in Belgium where Bruges sits). The square is surrounded by the Town Hall, the Old Civil Registry, the Old Court House, and the Basilica of the Holy Blood. Odds are, you’ll pass through Burg Square on your way to many of Bruges’ best sites.
Look at all that amazing architecture!
Insider Tip: I’m told that the waffle truck often found in Burg Square has freshest waffles in all of Bruges. They make your waffles right in front of you, rather than warming up already-made waffles (like many shops do).
Make sure to stop at this waffle truck if you see it!
The Basilica of the Holy Blood
Located in Burg Square is the Basilica of the Holy Blood. This small but beautiful chapel is home to a vial of what is believed to be Jesus’s blood. I’ve heard mixed things about actually getting to see the vial. I’ve heard it’s only on display on Fridays. I’ve heard you have to pay for the museum in order to see the relic. I’ve heard that it sits right there in the chapel. I’m not sure what the real dealio is, but it was still a pretty magical place to visit when I was there on Easter Sunday.
Ten points if you can pronounce this word! Rozenhoedkaai is one of the most photographed places in all of Bruges. It’s not hard to understand why- one snapshot can contain everything that makes Bruges so special. The canals and the old brick buildings from the Middle Ages make this area a favorite for many visitors. I, myself, have about a million photos from this spot.
If you have seen the movie In Bruges, this is also a location you’ll be interested in. In the photo below, on the left-hand side, you can see two buildings with red rooves. This is the hotel that the main characters stayed at in the movie.
If you have not seen In Bruges, I highly recommend you do so before visiting this city. It makes the trip a little extra special. Plus, it’s a hilarious movie and you are missing out.
Relics of St. Donatians Church
This was one of my favorite finds in Bruges. St. Donatian’s Church was built in the year 950. It stood in Burg Square until 1799 when it was destroyed while under French rule. The church was all but forgotten when, in 1955, the Crowne Plaza hotel in Burg Square began expanding its facilities and came across the ruins of the foundation of the church. The hotel preserved these relics and weaved their hotel around what they discovered.
The relics are free for the public to view, but make sure to ask the front desk employee for permission to go down there. The space is used for meetings and weddings, and they don’t want tourists crashing their private events.
The foundational walls of historic St. Donatian’s Church
Some of the relics found on the site
Insider Tip: In order to preserve the ruins and control the number of people who visit, this site is not advertised officially through the Bruges Tourism Board. Before you go downstairs to the ruins, you may notice the sign that says “closed for visit.” Most of the time you can ignore this, as it is a way to deter the masses of tourists from going down there.
The Old Chocolate House
If you haven’t gotten your full experience of Belgian chocolate yet, you need to hit up the Old Chocolate House. On the first level is your typical, small Belgian chocolate shop. But if you go up the old narrow staircase, you will enter possibly the cutest little tearoom you’ve seen. The menu offers light snacks like waffles and other pastries. But the real reason to go is for their hot chocolate.
They have chocolate from all over the world, which you can use to make your hot chocolate. But obviously, I’m going to suggest using Belgian chocolate. You can add fun stuff like whipped cream, or cinnamon, or if you’re feeling extra fun, add some Bailey’s or Amaretto liquor. I went with a classic dark chocolate, for only €4.
Loving the set up at the Old Chocolate House
They bring out a giant mug of hot milk, along with a cookie, a piece of their chocolate, and a chocolate cup filled with chocolate chips. You pour as much of the chocolate chips as you want into the hot milk and stir them with a small whisk. Once the chocolate is melted into the drink and it is to your liking, sip away at your hot chocolate.
Seriously you guys, the mug is enormous
St. Bonifacius Bridge
Oddly enough, I learned about the St. Bonifacius Bridge while looking through the postcards at a Bruges souvenir shop. I saw the picture and thought to myself “I HAVE to find this place!” I’m so glad I did because it ended up being another one of my favorite places in Bruges. The small bridge is tucked away from the busier streets in Bruges. And the whole area really reflects the “fairytale charm” that is often associated with Bruges.
The view from St. Bonifacius Bridge
Insider Tip: This is a favorite for many visitors in Bruges. I recommend going early in the day or later in the evening to avoid crowds.
Crazy crowds on a Sunday afternoon!
The Bier Pipeline
Belgium is well-known for its beer, and in Bruges, the local beer is brewed by De Halve Maan Brewery (the Half Moon Brewery). The brewery sits in the city center, but as it became more and more popular they needed to build another facility. A second brewery and bottling plant was built, but it had to be built far outside of the city. The presented a problem in being able to efficiently transport the beer from outside the city, into the main brewery and pub.
So these geniuses invented an underground pipeline that flows 3276 meters from one brewery location to the other. (That’s just over two miles long). Flowing at about 1,000 gallons per hour, this record-breaking pipeline allows De Halve Maan Brewery to serve their beers to the millions of people that visit Bruges.
This is the only place the underground pipeline is visible
Insider tip: Along with the locally crafted beers, De Halve Maan Brewery also has second-best view of the city, after the Belfry. If you want to skip all those stairs and waiting in line, grab a beer and head to the rooftop of De Halve Maan Brewery!
Minnewater Park is possibly the most beautiful park in Bruges. At the center of the park is Minnewater Lake, or “The Lake of Love.” This park is a great place to get away from the crowds of the city center, and enjoy the quiet waters, the beautiful trees and flowers, and the city’s iconic white swans.
A beautiful canal in Minnewater Park
“Lover’s Bridge” in the distance
Bruges is such a lovely Medieval town in Belgium, and there is so much to see and do. 24 hours in Bruges is not enough to see everything the city has to offer, but you can certainly get a full day in! When I visited on a Sunday, I found that the city got insanely crowded by the late-morning. While Bruges was immensely beautiful, I felt that the crowds put a damper on the experience. I recommend going during a weekday to avoid the crowds, and you should consider spending the night too!