Not only is Bruges one of the most picturesque cities in Europe, but it’s also small and compact, meaning the medieval streets, canals, and beautiful buildings are easy to explore on foot.
This Flemish city, located northwest of the Belgian capital Brussels, is a popular destination for a weekend getaway because of the many things to see and do. But, it’s also a great place to visit if you’ve only got one day to look around.
There are many amazing things to do in Bruges and you won’t be able to fit in everything within a 24-hour period, but with this itinerary you’ll discover the very best of what the city has to offer.
You can follow each of our listed things to do as part of a self-guided walking tour of the city, or you can use them as suggestions and a starting point to create your own itinerary.
Check out this ultimate guide on how to spend one day in Bruges and we guarantee you’ll want to stay longer.
1. Visit the market square
When you visit Bruges, the first place to stop by is the main market square (Grote Markt) at the centre of the city.
In the shadow of the iconic Belfry, there are many cafes and restaurants around the edge that offer great places to sit and admire the stunning architecture and the beautiful Gothic buildings surrounding the square.
If you’re after a more leisurely start to the day, grab a coffee or even a Belgian beer and savour the taste while you take in the view.
The Grote Markt is quietest in the morning too, so it’s a great opportunity to see it before the crowds come.
2. Climb the Belfry
The Belfry of Bruges towers over the market square and it’s one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city, so it should definitely be on your itinerary when spending one day in Bruges.
Dating back to the 13th century, the Belfry has long been the main feature of the Bruges skyline, and the 47 bells still ring out at regular intervals.
Not only is it great to visit if you’re interested in history, making the climb up the 366 stairs will bring you to the top of the tower where you’ll find the most breathtaking panoramic views over Bruges.
3. Take a picture at the Quay of the Rosary
A short walk away from the Belfry you can find one of the most photographed locations in Bruges, the Rozenhoedkaai (Quay of the Rosary).
At a bend in the canal this spot is popular for tourists to get a snap of the shimmering waterways and the old buildings on the other side.
You don’t need to stay long, but you can always take a break and sit by the canal before moving on.
4. Book a boat trip
If you only have one day in Bruges, there’s no better way to see a lot of it in a short period of time than by boat.
You can book a boat tour from a few different spots along the canal, including right at the Quay of the Rosary.
In less than an hour, the boat tour will take you from one end of the old city to the other, passing by sights such as the Sint-Janshospitaal, which you might not have time to see on foot.
The pilot will also provide a guided tour as you go, so you’ll learn a lot about the city too.
5. Grab some Belgian fries for lunch
Now that you’ve already seen a few sights in the city, you might be starting to feel a little peckish. Fortunately, there are many fantastic places to eat in Bruges.
Right next to the Quay of the Rosary is one of the best places to get lunch in the city – Casa Patata. Here you can try Belgian fries, a popular dish and a great way to fill up before exploring more of Bruges.
You can have them with a sauce, such as fritessaus, or have a range of toppings, and there’s always the option to take them out to sit by the canal.
6. Stop by Bourgogne des Flandres brewery for a drink
There are plenty of amazing places to get a drink in Bruges, and if you’re looking for somewhere to quench your thirst after lunch then you’re in luck.
Head back across the canal and just around the corner you’ll find Bourgogne des Flandres, a brewery with a bar where you can sample their locally-brewed beers.
The best way to try a few different beers is by buying a flight of six, which come in a range of colours and flavours.
There are chairs and tables right by the canal so it’s the perfect place to relax with a drink, and if you’re still peckish they provide a few bites to eat including some very tasty pretzels.
7. Walk over the picturesque Bonifacius Bridge
On your way to the next main stop on this Bruges one-day itinerary, make sure to pass by another of the most picturesque spots in the city – Bonifacius Bridge.
This small pedestrian bridge is a popular location for a photo as it crosses the scenic canals under the shadow of the Church of Our Lady and the Gruuthusemuseum.
While there might be a queue to get a good photo opportunity, taking a pic here is one of the most romantic things to do in Bruges.
8. Visit the Church of Our Lady
Along with the Belfry, another impressive structure in the Bruges skyline is the Church of Our Lady (Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk), with its 115-metre-high tower being the tallest in the city.
You can enter part of the museum for free, but for a small charge it’s worth taking a look at what it holds inside the main church museum.
In addition to numerous paintings, including remarkable triptychs, you can see Michelangelo’s stunning sculpture, Madonna and Child.
9. See the Burg Square and Stadhuis
Along with the Grote Markt, Burg Square is another beautiful plaza to visit. With the stunning Gothic architecture of the city hall (Stadhuis), it will probably look familiar as it’s one of the most famous sights in Bruges.
There are benches around the square to sit and relax, or you can head inside the city hall which, dating back to 1376, has a lot of history.
Inside, you can explore a captivating multimedia exhibition that showcases the evolution of Burg Square, as well as a museum section that offers insights into the city’s history. The city hall is an excellent destination for anyone seeking to comprehend the timeless presence of Bruges.
10. Look inside the Basilica of the Holy Blood
Right by the Stadhuis is the Basilica of the Holy Blood, which is worth visiting for its stunning Gothic architecture, intricate decorations, and the religious relic it holds – a vial said to contain a cloth with the blood of Jesus Christ.
The basilica is not only a place of worship but also a cultural and historical gem, providing visitors with a unique insight into the city’s heritage and beliefs.
The Basilica doesn’t take long to look around either, so it’s a great place to stop by if you’re only spending one day in Bruges.
11. Try a Belgian waffle
Next to Burg Square, you’ll find one of the best places to buy waffles in Bruges – Chez Albert. If you’re hungry or just fancy a sweet treat, make sure to stop by.
With a range of toppings available, you can make your ideal dessert. We recommended going all out with ice cream, strawberries, and chocolate sauce!
You can take your waffle away to sit in Burg Square or the Market Square, so you can enjoy while admiring the fascinating architecture. Or, head over to the canals nearby, where it’s often quieter and there are usually free benches.
12. Take a walk along the canals
If you have some spare time during your one day in Bruges, it’s always worth taking a moment to wander the various canals around the city.
The paths alongside the canals are usually quiet too so tt’s a good way to get away from the crowds too. Plus, in the evening the sunset looks beautiful reflecting on the water.
If you’ve been following our itinerary, now is a good time to have a stroll down the waterways and work up an appetite before dinner.
13. Have dinner
Bruges has many fantastic restaurants, so you’ll never be short of options if you’re looking for somewhere to have dinner.
However, if you’re only spending one day in Bruges, our top recommendation is In’t Nieuw Museum. Choose the chef’s menu with the beer pairing for an unforgettable dining experience.
You can also read our blog about the best restaurants in Bruges for other ideas of where to eat.
14. Grab a drink (or two!)
If it’s not too late by the time you’ve finished eating out, there are many great beer bars in Bruges that are worth a visit.
We’ve already mentioned Bourgogne des Flandres, but De Halve Maan is another brewery in the city that you can visit and try some of the beers that are brewed on-site.
Other great bars to try include the Duvelorium, which has a balcony overlooking the Market Square, and the quirky and atmospheric Bieratelier Brugge, where you can buy a flight of 12 beers for a fun night out.
Bruges one-day itinerary FAQs
Is one day in Bruges enough?
Bruges is a small and compact city, so all of its main attractions are within close proximity and easy to walk to, making it possible to pack in a lot within 24 hours. If you plan your itinerary well, one day in Bruges is enough to see a lot of what it has to offer without feeling like you’re missing anything.
That said, as such a charming city it deserves a longer visit to fully explore and appreciate its beauty, so we’d definitely recommend staying at least a couple of nights if you can!
What are the must-see attractions to see when spending one day in Bruges?
If you’re looking for things to do in Bruges in one day, these should be on your itinerary:
- Climb the Belfry and see the view from the top
- Sit by the canal and taste some of the locally-brewed beers
- Take a boat tour to see the city from the water
- Walk over Bonifacius Bridge then visit the Church of Our Lady
When is the best time for a day trip to Bruges?
While the city is popular with tourists all year round, try to avoid visiting in summer when it’s busiest, especially if you’re only spending one day in Bruges. Aim for late spring or early autumn months, such as May or September, as it’ll be warm enough so you can enjoy walking and exploring its beautiful streets.