Bruges buildings and canal

One Day in Bruges from Brussels Not to Miss

Yes, you can do a day trip from Brussels to Bruges – easily and without a car. See how I spent a lovely one day in Bruges from Brussels by train that completed my perfect Brussels travel itinerary as an over 40 solo traveler.

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To assist in your over 40 solo travel planning for Bruges, don’t forget to check out my great Belgium travel guide currency, language, culture, holidays, safety, tipping information and more, along with my travel resources.

Also, check out the free WIFI Bruges offers. Can’t beat that for international travel help.

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Bruges, Belgium

Is Bruges Worth Visiting?

Located in the Northern region of Flanders, Bruges is best known for its lace, Gothic architecture surrounded by medieval 12th century walls, and its many canals making Bruges affectionately called the “Venice of the North”.

Boat on Bruges canal
Bruges canal
Bonifacius Bridge Bruges
Bonifacius Bridge

Bruges was considered the commercial capital of Europe in medieval period and has been the center of the Flemish Primitive painting since the 15th Northern Renaissance period. The historic center of Bruges is, in fact, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Of course, Bruges has great waffles, chocolate and beer with breweries dating back to 1856. You can also see Bruges beauty and highlights in the 2008 film, In Bruges (awesome movie, by the way).

Overall, Bruges is simply charming and well considered one of the best cities you should visit in Belgium. I loved it.

How Long Do You Need in Bruges?

Get there early and one day can be enough for Bruges’ many top sites and activities.  More than one day is better, of course. I would jump at the chance to go back. However, if you only have one day, do not skip Bruges. You won’t regret it.

Can you do Bruges and Ghent in one day?

I have mentioned in my Ghent post that you technically can do both in a day trip to Ghent and Bruges from Brussels, but in my opinion that is not ideal.  Give yourself at least one day in Bruges and one day in Ghent

Bruges is Walkable

Bruges is fairly compact and almost entirely pedestrianized (you’ll see more bikes than cars), making Bruges an even more ideal location to fit in multiple, stimulating things to do in Bruges as a solo traveler.

Bruges streets
Old Town Bruges

Day Trip to Bruges from Brussels

Another thing that makes Bruges great for solo travel is it’s so easily accessible by train. You know me – I’m all about the train systems in Europe. I love that they are inexpensive, extensive and eco-friendly. They also take the hassle out of solo travel.

How to Get to Bruges from Brussels by Train

From Brussels to Bruges, the train departs Bruxelles-Central station. Trains run from Brussels to Bruges every 30 minutes and take just over an hour until reaching Brugge Centrale station. Check here for Brussels train schedules and current ticket prices. The center of Bruges is just minutes away from the train station by foot.

Here’s a bonus if you’re taking day trips from Brussels on the weekend:  buy a Weekend Ticket. They are non-exchangeable and non-refundable, but as long as you outbound and return anytime between 7pm Friday through Sunday, you save 50% on train fare. On any destination in Belgium, as a matter of fact.

If it’s more convenient, however, you could catch a bus from Brussels to Bruges – also inexpensive and eco-friendly.

If you don’t want to go alone, try a Brussels to Bruges day tour. If on a tour, make sure it hits a lot of the top sights in Bruges and activities I mention below.

Best Time to Visit Bruges

One of the best things about being solo over 40: not worrying about building a travel schedule around school and summer break, unless you are in school, of course. Been there, done that.

So, I was able to see Bruges in early May when it was not crowded and touring Belgium is less expensive. Bruges was cooler than summer (dress in layers), but still a very pleasurable experience. I recommend this time, or late September, to visit.

Get in the know of what’s going on Bruges before you go. I hear there are some great beer, chocolate, and music festivals in Bruges. These could make you want to change your travel dates or wish to extend your one day in Bruges from Brussels to two.

Bruges canal tour on one day in Bruges from Brussels
Bruges canal tour dock

Where (and What) to Eat in Bruges

Beer. Chocolate. Need I say more?

Ok, fine, so if you absolutely must have more in terms of sustenance, there many restaurants in Bruges, and award winning restaurants, to choose from for one day in Bruges.

Although wine is my vice, my goal was to partake in the Bruges breweries and stuff my face with Belgian chocolate. I achieved that goal by the way. I don’t do things half-ass. 

Lunch at De Halve Maan Brewery on one day in Bruges from Brussels
Lunch, De Halve Maan Brewery

If beer is your vice, try including the Bruges Beer Experience in your day to learn about beer and do tastings.

Top Things to Do in Bruges, Belgium

Like I said, one day in Bruges will not leave you bored. Here are what I consider the top things to see and do in Bruges.

Bruges Canal Tour – With all of the canals in Bruges, a Bruges canal tour is a must on the list things to do in Bruges. Consider this Bruges’ version of the “walking tour” and a great way to meet people. Your guide will tell you all about Bruges’ history and culture as you cruise through the water-lined medieval buildings.  Tours usually run 10am – 5pm.

After the 30-minute cruise, you may have made a friend for the day to wander Bruges attractions, or dine, with.  So, yes, make this the first thing you do in Bruges.

People on boat Bruges canal tour on One Day in Bruges from Brussels
Bruges Canal Tour

Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk (The Church of Our Lady) This church that took two centuries (13th to 15th) to complete resides in the heart of the old city. Its 122-metre brick steeple can be seen over the Bruges skyline from many locations.

Mary of Burgundy Church of our Lady Bruges
Mary of Burgundy, Church of our Lady

The artistry of the interior and tombstones of Mary of Burgundy (who ruled in the 15th century) and her father, Charles the Bold, are exquisite. The jewel of this location, however, and high on my bucket list of art to see, is undoubtedly Michelangelo’s marble Madonna and Child sculpture (a.k.a. “Madonna of Bruges”). It was the only piece of Michelangelo’s to leave Italy during his lifetime. It survived several wars, including WWII as seen in the film, The Monuments Men. It’s truly amazing it still exists today. Go see it.

Madonna and Child statue Church of our Lady Bruges
Madonna and Child

Burg SquareBruges’ center of power for centuries, and former fortress of Bruges, it is also one of the oldest sections of the city where inhabitants have existed since the 2nd century. It is flanked by impressive buildings, including the 14th century Gothic Town Hall (The Stadhuis) and the Basilica of the Holy Blood (both Romanesque and Gothic).

The City Hall was the seat of Bruges’ government for more than 600 years and one of the oldest city halls in the Netherlands region. The façade was originally painted by Jan van Eyck but has since been destroyed.

Make your way through Blinde Ezelstraat (Blind Donkey Alley), a narrow pedestrian passageway between Town Hall and the Basilica of the Holy Blood, to Vismarkt, the old fish market.

Jan Van Eyck Square from Bruges canal
Jan Van Eyck Square

Bruges Belfort (Belfry) – Prominent in the square is Bruges’ 83-meter high medieval bell tower that used to serve as an observation point and housed treasury and municipal archives. Go up the narrow staircase of 366 steps (free to enter) for an unparalleled view of Bruges.

Bruges Belfry on one day in Bruges from Brussels
Bruges Belfry

Markt Square – The Belfry towers over this large square of open-air restaurants, shops and post office in colorful, medieval-style buildings is quite picturesque and a popular spot to gather in Bruges. In the center is the monument to Pieter De Coninck and Jan Breydel, the leaders of the Brugse Metten.

Markt Square Bruges on one day in Bruges from Brussels
Markt Square

Heilig-Bloedbasiliek (Basilica of the Holy Blood) – Back to Burg Square, enter this basilica which gets its name from a relic that supposedly contains drops of Christ’s blood brought back after the 12th Century Crusades. The relic is hidden behind a silver tabernacle and brought out for pious veneration at 2pm daily. 

Museum St-Janshospitaal (St. John’s Hospital) – I must say, this building was way cool. Formerly a hospital, it’s one of the oldest in Europe. Today it houses multiple artworks in addition to six, 15th century masterpieces by Flemish painter, Hans Memling, including the triptych altarpiece of St John the Baptist and St John the Evangelist. Entry also allows visits to hospital’s restored 17th-century apotheek (pharmacy), accessed by a rear door.

St John altarpiece Museum St-Janshospitaal Bruges
St John Altarpiece

Minnewaterpark– coming from the train station, this will be one of the first things to see in Bruges. This lovely park is very tranquil and scenic, with swans swimming on the neighboring Minnewater (Lake of Love), that used to be a water reservoir.  Sit on a bench or grab some great photos.

Swans in Minnewaterpark Bruges canal
Swans on Minnewater

Groeningemuseum – Bruges’ most celebrated art gallery is where you’ll see works by celebrated Flemish Primitive masters, Jan van Eyck and Hans Memling, among others as well as those from other artistic periods.

Picasso MuseumYou know me, I’m big into Picasso. Any chance I get to see his art, like in Antibes, France, I’ll take it.  This little Picasso Museum in Bruges certainly did not disappoint. Go see this permanent exhibition of 300 works by Picasso at the Xpo Center on the Site Oud Sint-Jan (Old Saint John site).

Picasso Museum Bruges
Picasso Museum
Hallway inside Picasso Museum Bruges
Picasso Museum

De Halve Maan BreweryDe Halve Maan is the oldest brewery in Bruges dating back to 1856. You’ll learn a little bit about it on your canal tour. Drop in for a hearty Belgian lunch with a Brugse Zot Blond (delicious!) or take their tour with tastings offered daily. Tours start on the hour from 11am to 4pm and last 45 minutes. Since you’re only doing one day in Bruges, you may wish to book your tour in advance.

Entry to De Halve Maan Brewery on one day to Bruges from Brussels
De Halve Maan Brewery entrance

My Bruges One Day Itinerary

What can you do in Bruges for one day? Here is my self-guided, one day in Bruges from Brussels by train that you can use for your over 40 solo travel. Let’s see if you enjoy it as much as I did.

  • 8:50am – Bruxelles-Central, train to Bruges
  • 9:53am – Arrive Bruges
  • 10am – Stroll through Minnewaterpark (stop for chocolate)
  • 10:45am – Church of Our Lady
  • 11:15am – Museum St-Janshospitaal (stop for chocolate)
  • 12:30pm – Canal Tour
  • 1:15pm – Lunch at De Halve Maan Brewery
  • 3pm – Picasso Museum (or you can choose the Groeningemuseum) (stop for chocolate)
  • 4:30pm – Burg Square
  • 5:30pm – Bruges Markt, Bruges Belfry
  • 7:30pm – Train back to Brussels

Let Me Hear From You

I would love to hear if this post was helpful to you on how to spend one day in Bruges from Brussels by train. Post me your thoughts or questions in the Comments section below. Thank you!

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