A Travel Guide to Bruges, Belgium

I’ve just spent three fantastic days in the stunning Belgian city of Bruges and I’m writing this travel guide sat in Brussels airport waiting for my flight home.

One thing that struck me during my pre-trip research was that so many people only spend one day in Bruges. Blog posts entitled ‘A day trip to Bruges’ and ‘How to spend 24 hours in Bruges’ are everywhere and plentiful. I’m not sure why people don’t count Bruges worthy of a longer visit but I’m here to tell you it was worth every second of our three nights there.

Rozenhoedkaai - A Travel Guide to Bruges, Belgium

Technically, this is my second trip to Bruges. I visited when I was 10 years old but barely remember a thing. So, although I have walked these gorgeous streets before, I saw them through new eyes.

I visited Bruges with my husband, Jamie, for our sixth wedding anniversary and we spent three days wandering around in a beer and sugar-induced haze – Belgian beer and Belgian chocolates are some of the best in the world you know! For a perfect city break, here’s my personal travel guide to Bruges, full of our insider tips and recommendations!

Bruges Canals at Night - A Travel Guide to Bruges, Belgium

Things to do in Bruges

While Bruges is technically a city, it’s on the smaller side, which is great if you’re looking for a more chilled out trip. That’s exactly what we needed; the relaxing vibe and smaller area meant we could explore at a leisurely pace. We mainly ate and drank our way around the city but we did manage to see most of the major sites too.

Markt Square - A Travel Guide to Bruges, BelgiumBruges Canals - A Travel Guide to Bruges, Belgium

Marvel at the Markt Square

Bruges is the place to see stunning, historical buildings! The Markt Square is jaw-dropping, with the majestic Belfry tower looming over the beautiful and impressive Provincial Palace. Having served as a marketplace since the year 958, the Markt Square is steeped in history! Grab some Belgian chocolates from a nearby Chocolatier and perch on a bench to take it all in.

Horse and Cart, Bruges Markt Square - A Travel Guide to Bruges, BelgiumMarkt Square Painter - A travel guide to Bruges, Belgium

Climb the 366 steps to the top of the Belfry

While the 366 steps may seem like too much of a challenge after all those Belgian waffles, I can guarantee it is worth the effort. On a clear day, you are rewarded with far-reaching, panoramic views over the red-tiled roofs of the quaint city and a bird’s eye view of the Burg Square below. The admission fee for the Belfry is 10€ for 26-64-year-olds and 8€ for 6-25-year-olds and 65s and over, so it is great value. Just be aware though that you must climb up a very narrow, winding staircase with people going both ways, so be prepared for tight spaces and a steep incline.

Interesting fact: The Belfry leans just under a metre to the east. So, yes it is wonky! It’s not just your eyes!

The Belfry - A Travel Guide to Bruges, BelgiumA Travel Guide to Bruges, Belgium

Enjoy the view from Rozenhoedkaai

This view seems to feature on every piece of marketing material I’ve ever seen for Bruges – that iconic picture perfect photograph of the gorgeous buildings reflecting in the waters of the canal while the Belfry peeks out in the background. While visiting Bruges, you really must spend a few moments taking in this beautiful scene, especially at night.

Rozenhoedkaai - A travel guide to Bruges, BelgiumRozenhoedkaai - A travel guide to Bruges, Belgium

Explore the City Hall and Old Courthouse in Burg Square

Burg Square is the only thing I can remember from my first visit to Bruges. Even as a child, I remember being amazed by the beautiful, ornate buildings. And no less today! Burg Square was a lot quieter than the Markt Square, which means you can enjoy the scene in relative peace. Don’t forget to wander inside the city hall, where for 4€ you can view the city hall and the old courthouse next door! If you think the city hall is beautiful on the outside, just wait till you get inside!

City Hall, Burg Square, A travel guide to Bruges, BelgiumCity Hall, Burg Square, A travel guide to Bruges, Belgium

Tour the canals by boat

At only 8€ for a 30-minute boat trip, this is one thing not to be missed! While walking around Bruges is a great way to see the city, you get a completely different perspective from a boat. Our tour guide spoke four languages and provided us with an interesting history of the city as we went – 8€ well spent.

Bruges Canal Boat Tour - A travel guide to Bruges, BelgiumBruges Canal Boat Tour - A travel guide to Bruges, Belgium

Chill out in Minnewater Park

Just a stone’s throw from our hotel, we enjoyed Minnewater Park immensely. The weather was extremely kind to us during our visit and the park is so pretty in the sunshine. If you want to chill out and take it slow, head to Minnewater for a laid-back stroll and a drink at the reasonably priced cafe on the lake.

Minnewater Park - A Travel Guide to Bruges, BelgiumMinnewater Park - A Travel Guide to Bruges, Belgium

Indulge in Belgian chocolate, waffles and beer

A trip to Belgium wouldn’t be complete without indulging in the local delicacies. Famous for its chocolates, waffles and beer, we made sure to sample ample amounts of delicious goodies! Check out The Old Chocolate House for a delectable selection of chocolates at reasonable prices and (they claim) the best hot chocolate in the world! Although, it was far too hot during our trip, so I can’t vouch for that!

Eating Belgian Waffles in Bruges - A Travel Guide to Bruges, BelgiumBelgian Waffles with Chocolate and Banana - A Travel Guide to Bruges, BelgiumBelgian Beer - A Travel Guide to Bruges, Belgium

Cycle the city

Although not something we did ourselves, seeing the city from a bike is an extremely popular and safe way to get around. Bike hire places are dotted around the city and it’s definitely something I’d like to do if I return. Plus it’s an excellent way to burn off those extra chocolates!

Cycling in Bruges - A Travel Guide to Bruges, BelgiumA Travel Guide to Bruges, Belgium

Check out the Groeningemuseum

If art’s your thing (sadly not mine), check out the Groeningemuseum for a fabulous collection of Flemish Primitive and Renaissance paintings. Admission is 8€ per adult and the museum is open Tuesdays to Sunday from 9:30 am to 5 pm.

View from Bonifacius Bridge - A travel guide to Bruges, BelgiumHorse and Cart - A Travel Guide to Bruges, Belgium

Wander and get lost

Bruges is beautiful, there’s no doubt about it, and some of the most beautiful streets are a little harder to find than the popular tourist hotspots. To find the real Bruges, just wander off the tourist trail with no map and no destination. After all, getting lost in a city is often the best way to see it.

Bruges Streets - A Travel Guide to Bruges, BelgiumBeautiful Buildings in Bruges - A Travel Guide to Bruges, Belgium

Look out for ladies making lace in their doorway!

Bruges is famous for traditional lace making, with beautifully intricate designs. Although I didn’t purchase any lace myself, it was amazing to see this lady (in the picture below) working away and making lace in the doorway of her home.

Lace Making Bruges - A Travel Guide to BrugesGirl Playing Harp - A Travel Guide to Bruges, Belgium

Accommodation in Bruges

We stayed in the Ibis Budget Centrum Station hotel, perfectly situated next to the main train station for the city. Although we like to treat ourselves from time to time, we do primarily choose budget hotels, especially for city breaks. The cheaper we travel, the more often we can travel, and we only need a clean, comfortable room to lay our heads each night. So the Ibis Budget Centrum Station was fine for us. If you don’t fancy a hotel, there are tons of AirBnBs across Bruges, although we booked this trip at the last minute and the available apartments were a too pricey for our budget.

Ibis Budget Centrum Station - A Travel Guide to Bruges, Belgium

Getting to Bruges

Although Bruges doesn’t have its own airport, there are various ways of getting there. After weighing up the options, we decided to fly from London Heathrow to Brussels and hire a car to drive from Brussels to Bruges. Although many people recommended the train from Brussels, hiring a car worked out quite a bit cheaper for us. Our hotel was on the outskirts of the city and had plenty of available parking. However, if you are staying in the centre of the city, you may find it difficult to find a parking space, so I definitely advise researching this in advance if you choose to hire a car. Other alternatives include taking a ferry or using the Eurostar which travels directly to Bruges.

Nightime reflections in Bruges Canals - A Travel Guide to Bruges, Belgium

We absolutely loved this quaint, historical city and can’t wait to return. Next time, we’d love to visit during the winter as I’ve heard it’s super pretty!

We enjoyed some delicious food during our stay, so stay tuned for my recommendations on the best places to eat and drink.

Rozenhoedkaai - A travel guide to Bruges, Belgium

Have you been to Bruges? Or is it still on your list?

As always, all pictures belong to and were taken by James and Zara Aitken.

Shameless plug: If you enjoyed my Bruges travel guide and photography, hop on over to Instagram and say hey! @zara_passportforliving and @jamesaphotography.co.uk

This was not a sponsored post; all opinions are my own.

A Travel Guide to Bruges, Belgium
A Travel Guide to Bruges, Belgium

27 thoughts on “A Travel Guide to Bruges, Belgium

  1. What a fabulous exploration of Brugges! I so enjoyed your beautiful photographs. I had the misfortune to visit one day, long ago, and in freezing fog, so my impressions were very different. 🙂 🙂

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  2. I LOVE to read posts like this about my hometown! You’re so right, spending only 1 day in Bruges is NOT enough. It’s great you spent 3 nights there, good decision!
    Just one thing though, it’s very easy to get to Bruges, you can catch a train in Brussels airport that goes directly to Bruges, it takes about 1,5hrs. 🙂

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    1. Thanks for your comment, we loved the three days we spent there. You are so blessed to live in such a beautiful place. I don’t mean it’s impossible to get to Bruges, but when you consider that most European cities have their own airport, it just makes Bruges a little harder to get to. I know it put us off in the past as the train journey or drive from the airport is just something extra to arrange. We decided to hire a car in the end and drive from Brussels to Bruges just because it worked out a lot cheaper but the train would’ve been good too. 🙂

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  3. Bruges has been on my travel hit list for some time. The only factor that’s really deterred me is, like you say, Bruges doesn’t have its own airport so it’s a little tricky to get to for a long weekend away. It looks like exactly the kind of place I’d love though – one of those city’s you can just wander aimlessly, taking a ridiculous amount of photos! Yours are beautiful by the way 🙂

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    1. Yes, the lack of an airport deterred us for a while to but it was worth the extra little jaunt (only an hour from Brussels airport). As I live in the UK, the flight was only 45 minutes from London so it was easier to get to than I expected!

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  4. Although I much preferred the city of Ghent, I do wish I had more time to explore Bruges when I was there. I am a guilty one-dayer. I found it very easy to take a train from Brussels to get there, but I’m interested in the idea of renting a car too. Was it difficult to find parking in Bruges?

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    1. I heard that Ghent is even more beautiful but we didn’t want to rush around to see both cities in three days, so thought another trip to Ghent itself would be better. We booked a hire car because the train worked out almost double in price for our dates and I knew that our hotel had a car park right next door, so it just seemed a more logical option for us. Although I have heard the train from Brussels to Bruges is easy too.

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  5. Beautiful pictures of a great place. I love Bruges, it really takes you back in time. Did you also visit the monastary? Its very peaceful to wander the grounds. Thank you for a nice read on your post 🙂

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