Bruges Belgium is a beautiful historic town about an hour away from Brussels by train. This UNESCO world heritage site is small, super walkable, yet packs in a lot of really interesting historic sites and beautiful paths to explore.
I loved Bruges and really enjoyed the general feel of the town. It was rich with history, abounding in beautiful architecture, and just had this relaxing, peaceful feel. It was a lovely place to just get lost, wander, and explore.
Visiting Bruges optionally with Ghent
Sometimes people will combine a visit to Bruges together with another historic town Ghent. Both cities are on the same train line and therefore you can stop off at Ghent first, then head towards Brugges, and then head back to Brussels (or vice versa).
We ended up spending almost all day in Bruges, so we decided to head straight back to Brussels for the night and then visit Ghent the following day. An alternative option would have been to stay in Bruges for the night, but we already had a longer-term hotel booked in Brussels.
Trains to Bruges from Brussels Central take either 1 hour and 9 minutes or 1 hour and 13 minutes. You can pre-purchase tickets at this link. Below are some of the early morning times we were considering. Please do check the website for the latest information in case the below is not up to date.
7:45AM - platform 4
7:56AM - platform 2 (slightly faster)
8:45AM - platform 4
8:56AM - platform 2 (slightly faster)
Explore the Belfry of Bruges clock tower
The Belfry clock tower is probably one of the most popular attractions, and thus lines can form pretty easily. We decided to head straight for the Belfry immediately after we arrived in the city (around 9AM). It's a pretty pleasant walk from the train station into the center of town. We just used Google Maps and it was pretty easy.
The Belfry of Bruges opens at 9:30AM and you can climb to the top for 12 Euros. I highly, highly recommend going to the top! You get see the inner workings of a HUGE clock tower. It was fascinating to see the gears move and hear the large gong-like sounds when the clock tower struck.
By seeing this, I can just start to imagine how complex a watch is. I really enjoyed it.
Another benefit of climbing to the top is that you get to see gorgeous views of the city.
When we arrived before 10AM there was no one in line and we were able to enjoy a rather crowd-free visit. On our way out around 11AM, we saw a long line forming that went out the door and snaked around outside. These days, with COVID-19 restrictions in place, it's possible that access is limited.
Wander Around the Beautiful Squares and Quaint Neighborhoods
The most enjoyable part of Bruges is actually just walking around and exploring all the cute streets, shops, and squares. It was relaxing and fun to just wander around with no real agenda in mind (after having visited the clock tower first thing!).
Below is a famous corner for photography. The day we went it was a bit cloudy, so the photo is not as striking as it would be if the sky were blue and the water was blue as well.
Lunch in Bruges at Nous (Michelin Plate)
There is A LOT of good food in Bruges. We ended up choosing a Michelin plate restaurant called Nous, a tiny little cozy spot tucked away on a side street where everything seemed to be done by Chef Olivier himself in the open kitchen.
Marinated cod, fennel, egg, caviar Moules frites Thai style Duck breast, layered potato Brownie with fruit
We enjoyed a lovely 4-course tasting for only 37 Euros. The food was fusion European with influences from all over the world.
Church of Our Lady Bruges
In the afternoon we wandered around and stumbled upon this beautiful bridge and canal right next to the Church of Our Lady Bruges. There is supposedly a Michelangelo painting inside.
Romantic bridge where lots of people take photos!
Burg Square - Basilica of the Holy Blood
In Burge Square you can also visit the Basilica of the Holy Blood, called such because it was built in the 12th century to house a vial holding a piece of cloth that is said to have some of Jesus's blood on it. The vial is said to have been brought to Bruges during the Second Crusade by the Count of Flanders, who received it from his brother-in-law, King of Jerusalem Baldwin III.
The vial is guarded by a priest but you can line up and view it.
Walking through Minnewater Park is a perfect way to head back to the train station. It's situated between the town center and the train station, so it's a lovely walk in either direction. We ended up walking through the park on our way back to the train station, which was lovely.
We caught a late afternoon train and made it back to Brussels in time for dinner. Had we booked a hotel in Bruges, we would have tried booking one of the many excellent restaurants in Bruges, such as L.E.S.S. (which I had my eyes one!).
Up next: Ghent! [Update: A Day Trip to Ghent]
Maison Dandoy – Brussels’ Best Belgian Waffle
Top Places to Eat Around the Grand Place Brussels
Cantillon, Best Lambic in the World
I’m on a Podcast! HK, Food, and Europe during Covid Times
Hello from HK (again) – Our 7-Week Detour in Brussels