5 reasons to fall in love with Belgium: chocolate, fries, beer, and…Bruges! If you can enjoy the first four whenever you want, a trip of at least 2 days in Bruges will allow you to discover the last but not least one.
Bruges is, rightly, considered the most beautiful town in Belgium, a small urban settlement, romantic, fairytale, bohemian, captivating through its simple appearance. It’s a tiny town, so you only need a weekend in Bruges to remain faithful to its beauty forever.
The medieval buildings that reflect their impressive facades in the water of the canals, the cobbled streets, and the graceful swans that carol the whole city are just some of the elements that will place Bruges Belgium at the top of the most beautiful places you have visited.
In Danish, Bruges means bridge, so it’s no wonder how many bridges there are in the city, bridges over the water channels. These channels have brought it recognition as the Venice of the North.
I know many towns share this title, but I promise that Bruges deserves it. If you haven’t been here yet, it’s time to do it, and I hope this Bruges itinerary will help you plan your next trip to the lands of Belgium.
To better understand this city, I invite you to read the entire article until you reach the bottom of the page, where you can find a short history of Bruges.
Best options for a last-minute trip to Bruges
If you are on the last hundred meters with planning a vacation in Bruges, then this list is your main help to do it quickly and efficiently:
Best experiences and tours in Bruges:
♦ Boat Cruise and Guided Walking Tour
♦ Belgian Waffle-Making Workshop
♦ Choco-Story Chocolate Museum Tour
♦ Belgian Beer Tour
♦ Frietmuseum Entry Ticket
Best hotels to stay in Bruges:
♦ Hotel Van Cleef – gorgeous hotel next to the canal
♦ B&B Marie-J of Bruges
♦ Boutique Hotel De Castillion – absolutely stunning interiors
♦ De Zomere B&B
Where to stay in Bruges
If you arrive here for the first time and choose to spend 2 nights in Bruges, I recommend you live in the central area to get to know the city as well as possible. Finding a hotel near the train station can also be a good idea. If not, it’s okay anyway because Brugge distances are very short.
Being so touristy, you probably already realize that hotels in Bruges cannot be too cheap, but you can find places to stay in Bruges at reasonable prices. You can also opt for guest houses, and the experience will be pleasant. These are my recommendations for the best places to stay in Bruges for each budget:
- budget: Central Bruges B&B
This is a B&B located 1 km from the Grote Markt, the primary market of Bruges. The rooms are in a typical house from Bruges; they are spacious and modern, equipped with everything necessary. Guests can enjoy free Wi-Fi, the terrace, and a delicious breakfast.
CHECK the price and availability
- mid-range: Boutique Hotel De Castillion
Hotel de Castillion is superb, newly renovated, and located just 500 meters from the Grote Markt. The rooms have a retro style, in tune with the fairytale atmosphere of the city. Guests can enjoy room service, a bar, and an exceptional breakfast served in a 15th-century basement.
CHECK the price and availability
- luxury: Hotel Van Cleef
You will fall irreparably in love with Hotel Van Cleef and especially its terrace, overlooking one of the most beautiful canals in Bruges. Some of the rooms have a direct view of the canal! Every centimeter of the hotel has been carefully studied and arranged so guests can enjoy one of the most Instagrammable accommodations in Bruges.
The hotel has many facilities you can enjoy, including massage and a library full of books. Indeed, the prices are higher, and I see it on the list of hotels in Bruges for more special occasions and perfect for couples.
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2 Days in Bruges – how to spend a weekend in Bruges
2 Days in Bruges – Day 1
The Quay of the Rosary (Rozenhoedkaai)
You must start your visit to Bruges with the cherry on the cake or the most photographed place in the city: The Quay of the Rosary or Rozenhoedkaai. It bears this name because here they used to sell rosaries a few centuries ago. Nowadays, you can find many souvenirs here instead.
The meeting place of the Groenerei and Dijver canals is just a few hundred meters from Market Square and looks sensational. It’s the first image that appears when you search for information about a city break in Bruges, and it is also the favorite place of photographers.
You have to come here at different times of the day, including after dark, to see how beautifully the buildings, the sky, and the famous willow are reflected in the canal’s water.
READ ALSO: Giethoorn boat rental
Market Square / Grote Markt | 2 days in Bruges
You cross the Nepomucenus bridge, arrive at Market Square, and immediately understand that this is the primary market in the city. Here you can feel the city’s energy the best, and you can also find one of the city’s symbols: the Belfry tower. Since it’s a reference point for the town, it’s good to arrive here on the first of the 2 days in Bruges.
Market Square is loaded with history, but nothing in today’s atmosphere reminds us of historical events. Both festivals and public executions took place here. Perhaps only the buildings with medieval architecture still bear the imprint of what happened here centuries ago.
Being the heart of the city and the first place you must reach when you visit Bruges, it is not surprising that thousands of tourists cross it every day. The square is in the shape of rectangles and is surrounded by the typical Belgian gingerbread houses. The most representative buildings are Lakenhalle (Hall of Cloth), Provinciaal Hof (Provincial Palace,) and Belfort.
READ ALSO: Things to do in Ghent in one day
Wednesday is a special day in Market Square when merchants come to display their goods in their stalls. We are talking about fresh vegetables and fruits, cheeses, flowers, practically a real market.
Although I introduced it in the first part of the first day of the 2 days in Bruges itinerary, Market Square must also be seen in the evening because it is even more beautiful when illuminated.
An unmissable attraction in Market Square is the Historium. Here you will be able to explore the Golden Age of the city by visiting seven thematic rooms, but also thanks to the virtual reality that will immediately introduce you to the atmosphere of the 15th century, the Golden Age of the most beautiful city in Belgium.
Belfry Tower or the Belfort van Brugge
The only regret I left Brugge with is that I didn’t get to climb the 366 steps to the top. I am convinced that the view is fabulous and is one of those images that remain imprinted on your retina for a long time. So, make sure you book a tour at least two days in advance so you don’t miss one of the main tourist attractions in Bruges to make your Bruges weekend unforgettable.
The Belfry Tower houses an old treasury that includes ancient maps from the Middle Ages, a clock with a unique and complex mechanism, and a colossal carillon. The tower was built in the 13th century, measures 83 meters high, and is part of UNESCO World Heritage Site.
If in the past it was used to keep important documents and to be able to observe dangers from a distance, today the Belfry is transformed into a museum and observation point. From its top, you can have the most beautiful and comprehensive panorama of the city of Bruges. Try to get here in the morning, as soon as you’ve had your coffee in Market Square.
The tower did not have an easy “life,” suffering changes caused by fires. However, it survived and evolved, becoming today one of the symbolic buildings of the city, a must-see on your weekend in Brugge. Tickets: €14
Canal cruise | Weekend in Bruges
Of all the things you can do in the 2 days in Bruges, this one is my favorite. It seems the most interesting, accessible, and original method to explore the city and find information about many of its architectural jewels in real time.
After climbing the 366 steps in the Belfry tower and having lunch, a boat tour on the canals of Bruges is the relaxation you need. Such an experience lasts around 30 minutes, and prices start from €12/person. Or, if time is limited, I recommend you try this tour that includes a boat ride and an 85-minute tour to explore the main places to visit in Bruges.
There are several places from which these boats depart, but you will find one very quickly, especially in the area of the central markets. The boats are medium size and can hold about 20 people in them. The guides even provide valuable information and introduce a joke here and there to relax the atmosphere.
For example, from the guide, I found out which is the smallest window in the city and which was the first bar opened here, a bar called Café Vlissinghe, and still operating from 1515 until now. Boating is an activity you cannot miss when spending a weekend in Bruges.
Church of Our Lady
The Church of Our Lady hosts Michelangelo’s famous sculpture, Madonna and Child, made entirely of marble. It was made in Italy and later transported to Bruges in 1504. I start with this information because it is, without a doubt, the main reason why the cathedral is so visited.
Of course, with or without this famous sculpture, Notre Dame must be seen, being the tallest building in the city and the third tallest brick building in the world, its tower measuring 122 meters.
The exterior of the building is built in the unmistakable Gothic style, while inside, we can see Baroque influences in the sculptures and ornaments. In short, it’s a gorgeous church. Too beautiful not to add it to the 2 days in Bruges itinerary.
As tall as it is, it took as long to build it because the church was built brick by brick, for over two centuries, between the 13th and 15th. We can point out that it was worth the wait.
The church must have a priceless and independent value and even more adding the works of art inside. Besides the Madonna and Child, you can admire hundreds of years old paintings and the tombs of the Dukes of Burgundy. The conclusion is you cannot miss it during your weekend in Brugge.
Explore the medieval Saint John’s Hospital | 2 days in Bruges itinerary
Saint John’s hospital is also on the list of places to visit in Bruges, just 2 minute’s walk from the Church of our Lady. They say it’s one of the oldest in Europe, dating back to the middle of the 12th century.
You can visit the pharmacy and see old medical instruments, some works of art, and an impressive collection of archives, but you will have to pay the price of the entrance ticket, which is currently €12. However, if you are only interested in the inner courtyard and the facade of the building, you can do it for free.
De Halve Maan brewery
What would a visit to Burges be without beer? Whether you are a fan of this drink or not, I recommend adding a visit to De Halve Maan, a brewery with a tradition dating back to 1856, to your Bruges weekend.
It’s a unique experience indeed and one of the best things to do in Bruges. Here you can taste many types of beer, but the most special is Brugse Zot. De Halve Maan shocked audiences worldwide in 2016 when they built a 3 km long pipeline connecting the brewery in town with the bottling plant outside.
The brewery also organizes tours where you can participate in the entire beer manufacturing process and taste several varieties.
Next on the list of places to see in the 2 days in Bruges is the Beguinage, the city’s oasis of peace, a place so silent that you can listen to your thoughts without being disturbed by any external noise.
This is where the beguines lived. What are they? Widowed women formed a religious community based on the lifestyle of the apostles: simplicity, preaching, and modesty. Beguines did not take oaths and could leave this community at any time.
The Beguinage or Begijnhof in Bruges was founded in 1225, and the last beguine in Bruges died in 1930. They no longer exist, and the houses are occupied by nuns of the religious Order of St. Benedict.
All the houses are white, and there’s a green space with tall trees in the middle. It’s the perfect place to retreat from the sea of tourists that storm the city, especially since many do not visit it. Moreover, is one of the few free things to do in Bruges.
2 Days in Bruges – Day 2
Only a few tourists know that there are even windmills in the city of Bruges. A few centuries ago, they exceeded the number of 20, but currently, there are only four, and they are all located in the N-E part of the city, between Dampoort and Kruispoort, along the canal that surrounds the city.
The ones in the images below are the oldest of the 4, and one of them can even be visited inside, where there is a small museum. It’s called Sint-Janshuismill, and it was built in 1770.
It’s worth taking a morning walk here and admiring them, mainly since they are in a park with long alleys and benches along the water. You can see a beautiful perspective of the city from the hills.
Groenerei Canal | Weekend in Bruges
I discovered the Groenerei Canal by chance, walking through all the city streets and trying to capture its beauty during my 2 days in Bruges.
Later I discovered that it’s considered the most beautiful, romantic, and charming canal in Bruges, thanks to the elegant villas it passes by, the bridges that arch over it, and the vegetation that dresses them in colors. Hard to express in words, but it has a unique beauty.
My favorite part of the Groenerei Canal is between the Meebrug and Peerdenbrug bridges. The first is from the 14th century, and the second is less old, dating from the 17th century. In the pictures, you can see the city’s flag.
One of my favorite places to visit in Bruges is the Hansa Quarter. Here I managed to connect to the glorious past of the locality in the best way, mainly thanks to an observation magnifying glass that offers you reconstructed images from that period, a virtual reality.
It’s been more than 700 years since merchants gathered in the Hansa Quarter to sell their products, but something from the atmosphere from that time seems to have remained and floats in the air.
In the center of this square is the painter Jan van Eyck statue, the greatest Flemish painter who lived and died in Bruges. It faces the dominant building in this square, Burgher’s Lodge. Its facade is decorated with many statues, but the bear stands out; it’s the lodge’s symbol.
Frietmuseum | 2 days in Bruges
Did you know that the famous french fries were not invented in France but Belgium? Bruges has the Frietmuseum, which you should not miss when you get here. You will find many exciting details about how fried potatoes appeared and the sauces and spices used to give them an even more pleasant flavor.
Moreover, you can even taste some delicious fries here. If you are not interested in how fries came about, then don’t worry, because Bruges offers a wide range of museums for all tastes. Here are two other suggestions:
- Groeningmuseum – it hosts an impressive collection of Flemish art by artists from the area
- Choco-Story – a museum dedicated to chocolate and its use in various preparations, with a rich history of thousands of years
Town Hall & Burg Square
The next main square after Market Square is Burg Square, located just a few steps from the first. And here, you will discover beautiful buildings with different architectural styles but harmoniously intertwined.
We meet gothic, renaissance, and neoclassical architecture, and the structures that stand out, from my point of view, are the Town Hall, which dates from 1376, and the Basilica of the Holy Blood.
Burg Square has several street artists, and between the two main squares, there is a row of shops with souvenirs and goodies, from waffles, chocolate, and other sweets you cannot refuse.
Basilica of the Holy Blood
One of the most controversial places in Bruges is the Basilica of the Holy Blood. Here is a relic that is said to contain the blood of the Savior. Every year for more than 700 years, the Holy Blood is carried through the city on Ascension Day.
The church has two parts: the ground floor and the 1st floor, where the relic with the blood is located. The two parts are connected by a circular staircase and are incredibly different in appearance. And if we refer to the facade, it’s unusual for a church and looks like an administrative institution.
It has the shape of a rectangle with many details; some are painted with gold.
The Basilica of the Holy Blood is located in Burg Square, and you can visit it for free. Indeed, it’s one of the most popular tourist attractions in Bruges. Many believers are happy to participate in the processions. Officially, nobody proved that the blood belonged to Jesus, except for some stories and theories.
Blinde Ezelstraat is a beautiful pedestrian street connecting Fish Market with Burg Square. What makes it unique is this gorgeous arch with statues and golden details.
The street’s name comes from an inn from the 15th century located on this street, Den Blinden Ezel, or the blind donkey.
I know, a ridiculous name, but it still marks this street today. Walking on this street and admiring the beautiful details is one of the best things to do in Bruges.
Bonifacius Bridge | Weekend in Bruges
Although Rozenhoedkaai is theoretically the most photographed place in Bruges, at the Bonifacius Bridge, we met a lot of tourists eager to take pictures of this bridge that leads to the Church of our Lady.
It’s one of the most recently built bridges in Bruges, around the beginning of the 20th century. However, it has a medieval appearance that does not differentiate it from the rest of the bridges in the city.
There is also a legend that comes with this bridge. They say that after crossing the bridge, the first person who crosses your path will be your partner for the rest of your life.
If we have visited the oasis of peace, it is time to explore the city’s green oasis. Minnewater, or Lake of Love, is one of the most frequented places in Bruges, especially by couples.
It’s located on the city’s outskirts and introduces you to another part of the Bruges story, one with nature, flowers, water, and graceful swans.
There are several assumptions about the name Minnewater and what it means, but the most recognized is that it means Lake of Love. Minnewater is also where the Reie river enters the Belgian city and splits into beautiful water channels.
Several events occur annually in the Minnewater Park in the city of Bruges, but the most important is the Cactus Music Festival. Also, there are several restaurants with a beautiful view around the lake, in case you get hungry and want a lunch with a view in Bruges.
Other things you can do in Bruges in 2 days
Attend an exhibition inside Belfry Tower or in the fish market
Bruges is one of the favorite cities of artists. No wonder. From the looks of it, it’s a never-ending source of inspiration for them. You can admire their works in several places in the city, but I suggest you go to the Fish Market, where you can look at beautiful paintings of the town and even buy one.
Also, the Belfry tower hosts at least exciting exhibitions on the ground floor. For example, I had the opportunity to meet Eddy Van Meulebroeck and his futuristic and visionary sculptures.
Visit a Christmas Shop
You probably already knew or imagined that Bruges is one of the most beautiful, especially at Christmas. Indeed, the city looks splendid, dressed in festive decorations, and has several shops dedicated to this celebration. The good part is that they are open all year round.
There’s nothing wrong with buying Christmas globes in summer, right? One of these stores is located very close to Burg Square and is called Käthe Wohlfahrt. From garlands and globes to music boxes and wooden horses, you can find everything you could want in terms of Christmas decorations here.
Also, one of the most beautiful Christmas markets in Europe takes place in Bruges. So if you consider visiting the city around the winter holidays, you should know it’s a good choice.
Try waffles, fries, and chocolate
Bruges is not only a romantic and highly well-preserved medieval city but also a culinary destination. The taste buds will be delighted by all the delicacies offered by the shops and restaurants. Don’t forget to make room for them during the 2 nights in Bruges.
From infinite types of Belgian chocolate to waffles with all kinds of toppings, sauces, and fruits, as well as fried potatoes with sparkling beer, Bruges has something for all tastes. Something with a lot of calories, of course. By the way, did you know that you can participate in a workshop where you can learn to make the best chocolate?
Shall I tell you a secret? Always choose chocolate; waffles are a bit overrated, from my point of view. However, if you are a fan, you must try House of Waffles, where you will find the best waffles in Bruges. If we talk about chocolate, my recommendations are Chocolatier Dumon and Leonidas.
These two are some of the best chocolate shops in Bruges. We abandon desserts and move on to food, although I think the order should have been another.
You cannot leave Bruges without trying the mussels cooked in wine, the Flemish beef stew, and the famous seafood and vegetable stew called waterzooi. If you want to try a little bit of each, it won’t hurt to take part in a private culinary tour.
I’m joking; of course, you can only eat chocolate in the morning, at lunch, and in the evening if you want. You’re in Belgium, after all!
Admire the swans
The swan has been the symbol of wealth and power of the city since the 15th century. Many stories and legends explain how and why these graceful birds appeared in the town.
The most often told is related to a curse, according to which the number of swans is not allowed to fall below 58. Their number is roughly double that needed to keep the curse away. Otherwise, all kinds of terrible things can happen to the city. According to the legend, of course.
Walking around the city, especially near the canals, you will always notice them. All are white, without any exception. But, in 2014, a black swan appeared out of nowhere.
The winged beauty created a lot of controversy at the time, dividing the city in two. One side wanted the bird to stay, while the other wanted it to disappear. However, after a while, the black swan disappeared.
Admire the architecture
I don’t even know if mentioning the city’s architecture makes sense. It’s gorgeous and deserves to be admired for a long time. But, if you have a little time, even less than a weekend in Brugge, and you can’t cross all the streets of the city as you would like, you should know that the most representative buildings in the city in terms of architecture are:
- Basilica of the Holy Blood
- The City Hall building
- Notre-Dame Cathedral
- Gruuthuse Museum
- The Belfry Tower
- Burgher’s Lodge
Q & A about a 2 days in Bruges itinerary
How to get to Bruges
It’s easy to travel throughout Belgium. Public transport is very well developed, and I recommend the train as the best option for traveling between cities. The closest airport to Bruges is the one in Brussels, and from there to Bruges, it will only take an hour.
I took that route by train, but in the opposite direction, Bruges – Brussels. I came to Bruges from the Netherlands by bus and used the Flixbus company for the Amsterdam to Bruges route. This is also an affordable and relatively fast option. It can be cheaper than the train, especially if you don’t buy the train tickets ahead of time.
Getting around in Bruges
I recommend riding a bicycle, even if the cobbled streets can be challenging. However, even though it may seem like a romantic activity, and it is, I would not encourage you to go for carriages.
Not only are they quite expensive, but I have seen injured horses. I don’t know what the conditions are and the daily schedule of these animals, but it’s certainly not easy for them.
I suggest you go for option number 3: walking. It’s so pleasant to discover the town’s little hidden secrets, sneak along narrow alleyways, cross bridges, and gaze with pleasure at the gingerbread houses in a line along canals, so you won’t even notice that you’re tired walking.
How many days do you need in Bruges?
Considering you only need an hour to cross the city from one end to the other, I think you should spend a minimum of a whole day and a maximum of 3 days. 2 days in Bruges seems to me the ideal time to enjoy everything the city has to offer, without having to be on the run.
What is the best month to visit Bruges?
Bruges is beautiful at any time of the year, but summer is the best time to go there if you want the highest possible temperatures. Another plus is that the days are long and you can include several places to visit in Bruges in one day.
However, to avoid crowds, I recommend spring and autumn. The weather in Bruges Belgium, during these seasons, is pleasant enough.
Winter is also a good choice if you want to see the Christmas market and the city dressed up for Christmas. I am convinced that it’s like a fairytale, especially since Bruges has a tradition in this sense and a lot of shops full of cute decorations.
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What to pack for your Bruges city break?
To spend 2 nights in Bruges, you don’t need huge luggage. Depending on the season you arrive here, make sure you don’t shiver from the cold. So, in spring and summer, try to take several types of clothes, from t-shirts, shorts, long pants and jackets or blouses with long sleeves.
A folding umbrella and an external battery would also be helpful in the luggage. Winters are pretty cold, and you would do well to have thick clothes with you, especially since Bruges does not seem to me to be the most suitable destination for clothes shopping. Where else would chocolate take place??
A short history of Bruges
The Vikings founded the city in the 9th century, and thanks to the connection between the river that crosses the city and the North Sea, it quickly became one of the most important commercial ports in Europe.
A few hundred years later, more precisely in the 12th century, Bruges had already obtained the official status of a city. From then until now, Bruges has undergone many transformations, some good, some bad.
The 14th century represented a flourishing period for the Venice of the North. Still, the rise of another Belgian city, Antwerp, led to Bruges’s rapid and sudden decline. Antwerp had now assumed the leading position in the port industry.
However, in Bruges, magnificent buildings were still being built in the Gothic style. We can still admire them today since they are exceptionally well preserved. The city recovered only at the end of the 19th century, the beginning of the 20th century when it became an international tourist destination precisely because of its undeniable beauty.
Rumors about the fairy-tale city in the north of Belgium began to circulate throughout Europe. The first tourists were the British and the French, later discovered by travelers from everywhere. Returning to recent history, in 2000, Bruges again reached a peak of its “career.
It was included on the UNESCO Heritage list, which brought it additional world recognition. And here we are at the moment when I tell you and insist that you see this open-air museum called Bruges.