How to Visit Bruges and Ghent if You Only Have One Day (2023)

Bruges and Ghent are two charming, small towns in Belgium, each just a short train ride away from Brussels. In a perfect world, Bruges and Ghent each deserve their own day for exploring. However, if you are short on time, you can visit Bruges and Ghent in one day.

We visited Bruges and Ghent in one day from Brussels. It’s a long, busy day, but we loved it. For the best experience, you need to get an early start. Bruges, the more popular of these two towns, tends to get very crowded midday. To avoid spending your valuable time in line, get to Bruges in the morning.

On this day trip, you can stroll fairytale streets, dine on waffles and chocolate, take in the view from two belfries, go on a canal cruise, and visit an ancient castle. Here is our exact itinerary through Bruges and Ghent. Enjoy!

Table of Contents

One Day in Bruges and Ghent

7:30 am: Train from Brussels to Bruges

I told you that we started early! But we also skipped breakfast since we had a really good breakfast spot to try in Bruges.

It takes about one hour by train to travel from Brussels to Bruges.

8:30 am: Arrive in Bruges

From the train station, we walked into Bruges. It only takes about 15 minutes to walk from the train station into town.

To get to our breakfast spot, That’s Toast, we walked up Oostmeers into town.

8:45 am: Breakfast at That’s Toast

This breakfast spot lived up to its reputation. For breakfast, we ate granola, fruit, and several different kinds of French toast. It was delicious.

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When we got here, which was right after opening time, the place was mostly empty. Forty-five minutes later, when we left, there was a line out the door.

10:00 am: The Belfry of Bruges (the Belfort)

From That’s Toast, we spent 30 minutes walking to the center of Bruges, taking lots of photographs, and walking around Market Place, the main square in Bruges.

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The Belfry of Bruges is the tallest tower that dominates the center of town. If you want a nice view over the city, it is worth climbing the 366 steps to the top.

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The Belfry opens at 9:30 am. We got in line at 10 am, and yes, there was already a line, but it wasn’t too bad. Only a limited number of people are allowed on the top of the Belfry at a time, so the line tends to move slowly.

It’s a nice view from the top but there is a mesh fence that makes photography difficult. I had to use my iPhone to get photos without the black mesh in the way.

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10:45 am: Basilica of the Holy Blood

After climbing the Belfry, we walked over to Burg Square and made a quick visit to the Basilica of the Holy Blood. It is gorgeous inside and free to visit.

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11:10 am: Canal Tour of Bruges

From the Basilica of the Holy Blood, we strolled through town, towards Rozenhoedkaai, a very popular photo spot in Bruges. In early April, without the trees green and leafy, it’s not quite as pretty. The giant crane doesn’t help, either, but sometimes that’s just the way it goes.

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Right from this spot you can board a boat to cruise through the canals of Bruges. Apparently, 11 am is still “early” in the day because we were able to get right on without a wait. In fact, we actually had to wait for more people to arrive to fill our boat. Later in the day this was a much different story. The lines grew to over a hundred people long, and that’s not the way you want to spend a day in Bruges!

For roughly 30 minutes you cruise through the canals, getting a history lesson from your driver. It’s a gorgeous way to see the city.

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Travel Tip: For the best photos, try to get a seat near the front of the boat.

Cost: 12€
Hours: 10:00 am – 6:00 pm

11:45 am: Chocolate and Waffles

We walked back through Market Place to two spots we wanted to try to satisfy our sweet tooth.

Dumon Chocolatier is one of the best places to go in Bruges for chocolate. Even if you don’t buy anything here, it’s still worth a quick visit just to see it. I think it must be the cutest building in Bruges.

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Nearby is Lizzie’s Waffles, one of the best spots, so we were told, for waffles in Bruges. Since we just did a huge chocolate tour of Brussels the day before (is a chocolate hangover possible?), we chose to get a plain waffle. It might look boring in the photo but it was tasty. Lizzie’s Waffles is a sit-down restaurant so plan on spending about 30 minutes here.

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Another great spot for waffles in Bruges is Chez Albert. This is a street food waffle stand that always had a line we walked by. It’s located near Market Place.

Here are more photos walking through Bruges.

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1:00 pm: Lunch

We ate lunch at Brasserie Brugge Die Scone, a decent restaurant located near that famous photo spot, Rozenhoedkaai. We picked this restaurant simply because we wanted to sit outside and have a nice view of Bruges. The food is a little overpriced, but I would expect that almost anywhere in the center of Bruges.

1:45 pm: Scenic Walk through Bruges

After lunch, we started to work our way towards the train station.

We walked along the canal towards the Church of Our Lady. What another beautiful spot in Bruges! The Bonifacius Bridge is another place to take one of those iconic photos of Bruges. Just expect to share this spot with a lot of people.

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We continued along the streets and canal to Minnewater Park. In early April, it is mating season for the swans, and they were all gathered in the park along the water’s edge.

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We took one last look of Bruges from the park and then finished the walk to the train station.

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2:30 pm: Train to Ghent

It takes 30 minutes to travel from Bruges to Ghent. The Gent-Sint-Pieters train station is a 30-minute walk from downtown Ghent, so to get into town it is quicker to take a taxi or the tram.

Trams pull up in front of the train station. You can buy a round-trip tram ticket from the automated machines at the tram stop.

To take the tram into town, take line 1 towards Eindhalte. Get off at Korenmarket, the center of Ghent. Later in the day, to get back to the train station, take line 1 towards Flanders Expo. It takes about 15 minutes by tram to travel between the train station and Korenmarket.

3:45 pm: Rain in Ghent

When we arrived in Ghent, large, dark clouds were fast approaching. We rushed to St. Michaels’ Bridge and the Lys River, one of the prettiest spots in Ghent, hoping to see it before the rain arrived. We were just a little too late. The skies opened up and we ended up waiting out the worst of the rain under the awning of a souvenir shop.

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4:15 pm: Gravensteen

Once the rain slowed down, we half walked, half rain to Gravensteen. This ancient castle has been standing here since 1180. It has been used as a prison and even as a filming location for the BBC series The White Queen.

You can tour the rooms of the castle, visit the armory, and learn about torture in medieval times. But the best part of the visit is the view from the top of the castle. Miraculously, the skies cleared up and we had awesome views over Ghent.

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5 pm: Graslei and Korenlei

Now that the skies were clear, we walked back towards St. Michael’s Bridge. I really wanted to get a nice photograph of Graslei and Korenlei, a photogenic spot on the River Lys. On warm, sunny days, this is a popular spot to hang out, have a drink at a café, and enjoy these beautiful views.

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5:10 pm: Wandering through Patershol

Before arriving in Ghent, I had read that the Patershol neighborhood is a very scenic spot to visit in town. Well, maybe we were missing something, but this was not worth the little bit of time we spent here. After the pretty streets in Bruges, this neighborhood, while pretty, was nothing spectacular.

St. Nicholas Church, on our way to the Ghent Belfry

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5:30 pm: The Ghent Belfry

For a beautiful view of Ghent, climb the Ghent Belfry. From here, you can see St. Nicholas’ Church, St. Bavo’s Cathedral, and the beautiful buildings of Ghent. Plus, there is no black mesh fencing to get in the way of photos.

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The Belfry is open until 6 pm and the last admission is at 5:30 pm. We just made it! Get updated hours and pricing before you go on the official website.

6 pm: Dinner in Ghent

We ended our day with dinner in Ghent. We picked a spot on Korenmarket called Vaudeville, a mistake, since the food was mediocre and expensive.

Better spots to try are Passion (Belgian and Dutch food, located near the Belfry) or Du Progres (French and Belgian food, located on Korenmarket).

7:00 Travel Back to Brussels

From Korenmarket we took the tram back to the Gent-Sint-Pieters train station and then took the 7:23 pm train back to Brussels, arriving at 7:53.

It’s a long day and we didn’t get to see everything, but we did get to see the highlights.

(Video) BEST Day Trip From Brussels (Bruges and Ghent)

What We Would Have Done Differently

Ideally, spend one full day in Bruges and one full day in Ghent to have the best experience. You get to slow down and savor these cities. We did feel rushed while in Bruges, trying to see as much as possible while still saving time for Ghent.

You have the option to only visit Bruges, of course, skipping Ghent completely. Even though we only had a few hours in Ghent, we really enjoyed our time here. The rain made it more fun and then ending the day with sunny skies was nice. I’m so glad we got to see Ghent from the Belfry.

I would also skip walking around the Patershol neighborhood. We only spent 15 minutes doing this, but it felt like a waste of our time, and we almost missed the view from the Belfry.

The key to making this day work is the very early start in Bruges. We got to climb the Belfry in Bruges and take the canal cruise with almost no time spent in lines. Had we waited in long lines we would have had very little time in Ghent.

Traveling by Train in Belgium

The train makes it very easy to get from Brussels to Bruges and Ghent. You can purchase your tickets in advance or buy them at the train stations.

We purchased our tickets online in advance. The advantage of doing this is that you do not have to spend time in the stations buying your tickets. I know that it only adds a minute or two, but there were two instances where we just made the train. If we had to take time to purchase tickets, we would have had to wait another 10 minutes for the next train. It’s not a lot of time, but when you’re trying to visit both Bruges and Ghent in the same day, those minutes add up.

To purchase your tickets online in advance, visit belgianrail.be. When you are purchasing these tickets, you enter the date of travel but you do not enter a time. The ticket is good for one specific day for one journey, any time of day. For example, if you purchase a ticket for May 1 from Brussels-Midi to Bruges you can take any train on May 1, whether it’s at 7:30 am or 5:50 pm. This is great because if you don’t make that 7:26 am train, you can just catch the next one at 7:32 with the same ticket.

The only downside to purchasing your tickets in advance is if you change your date of travel to Bruges and Ghent.

To do this round trip from Brussels, we bought three one-way tickets: Brussels to Bruges, Bruges to Ghent, Ghent to Brussels. This costs about €33 (in 2023) for one standard 2nd class ticket for an adult. For people under the age of 26 years, you can choose the “Go Pass” which saves several euros per ticket.

We printed our tickets at home and brought them with us for this day trip.

Where We Stayed

We stayed at the Pullman Hotel in Brussels. This hotel is located right next to the Brussels Midi train station. The location is brilliant. We could walk to the train platform from our hotel in 5 minutes. Since we were right next to the train station, taking a 7:30 am train wasn’t so bad. Plus, this is a great place to stay if you are arriving in Brussels by train or taking a train to your next destination. To get to the city center of Brussels it is just a 10-minute metro ride.

Travel Ideas for Brussels

Are you planning to spend a day in Brussels? Taking a chocolate tour is one of the most popular things to do in the city. If you want to save some money and tour the best chocolate shops in Brussels, take a look at our self-guided chocolate tour.

How to do a Brussels Chocolate Tour on Your Own

And if this visit is part of a bigger trip through Europe, learn how to visit Brussels, Bruges, Ghent, Paris, and Amsterdam in 10 days.

10 Day Amsterdam Brussels Paris Itinerary

Are you going to Belgium? If you have any questions about how to spend one day in Bruges and Ghent, comment below!

More Information for Your Trip to Belgium

PARIS: Start with our article Best Things to Do in Paris for ideas of what to do in Paris. Plan your time in the city with our 2 Day Paris Itinerary and 3 Day Paris Itinerary. We also have a Paris Hotel Guide, advice on visiting Paris with kids, a Paris Food Guide, and advice for visiting Paris at Easter.

NETHERLANDS: Learn how to spend 2 perfect days in Amsterdam and the best things to do in Amsterdam. We also have a guide on Where to Stay in Amsterdam and how to visit Utrecht and The Hague.

LUXEMBOURG: In our One Day in Luxembourg Itinerary, learn about the best things to do in Luxembourg City and how to plan your time.

LONDON: Start with our article Best Things to Do in London for ideas of what to do in London. Plan your time in the city with our 5 Days in London Itinerary. We also have a a guide on Where to Stay in London and the best things to do in London at Christmas.

EUROPE ITINERARIES: Check out our article 10 Days in Europe: 10 Amazing Itineraries for 10 different ways to visit the best places in Europe. And if you have less time, check out our guide to 25 Ways to Spend One Week in Europe.

How to Visit Bruges and Ghent if You Only Have One Day (50)

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(Video) One day in Bruges and Ghent 🇧🇪 I Exploring Europe - Ep. 9

FAQs

Can you do Ghent and Bruges in one day? ›

Bruges and Ghent are two charming, small towns in Belgium, each just a short train ride away from Brussels. In a perfect world, Bruges and Ghent each deserve their own day for exploring. However, if you are short on time, you can visit Bruges and Ghent in one day. We visited Bruges and Ghent in one day from Brussels.

Is one day in Bruge enough? ›

Is one day in Bruges enough? 1 day in Bruges is completely enough to explore its historic centre. If you follow this itinerary you can cover the main attractions only in a day. Nevertheless, it's worth staying at least one night to see the city at night time.

How many days do you need in Bruges and Ghent? ›

Bruges deserves a minimum of 2 nights. You could break it out 2 nights and 2 full days in Bruges and 1 night and at least a half day in Ghent. Or you could do a day trip to Ghent spending three nights in Bruges. Ghent Is a 30 minute train ride from Bruges, so it makes for an easy day trip.

How much time do you need in Ghent? ›

It's easy to spend at least 2-3 hours within the castle and its grounds. Be sure to enjoy the stunning view of Ghent from the rooftop.

Which is more beautiful Ghent or Bruges? ›

You're looking for beauty around every corner

While Ghent has lovely and historic areas, they're mixed within a modern city. On the other hand, Bruges looks like a movie set (it was) or part of Disney World come to life. There's something magnificent everywhere you look.

Is it better to stay in Bruges or Ghent? ›

With both historic destinations bathing in canals and medieval quaintness, touristic Bruges is spoken of as the ultimate European flashback, while larger Ghent is often hailed as being more authentic.

Is Bruges a walkable city? ›

Bruges, the ancient mediaeval town near Flanders fields in Belgium, is a city best cycled or walked around. The authorities have made it easy by providing plenty of signage, bicycle lanes, and even free public bicycle pumps (see below).

How much time is needed in Bruges? ›

Small and compact, the Flemish city of Bruges is characterised by its red brick buildings, medieval architecture, and winding canals. Easy to explore on foot, you'll be pleased to know that you can see most of the city in under 24 hours.

Is Antwerp better than Bruges? ›

Bruges is famous for its fairytale feel, canals and picturesque old town. Antwerp on the other hand is famous for its port, diamonds and historic city centre. Each city oozes character and charm but both give visitors different experiences of Belgian life.

Is one day in Belgium enough? ›

The good news is that Brussels is a compact city that can be easily explored on foot. Therefore, only having 1 day in Brussels, is enough time to visit the main sites and try some of Belgium's delicious food…and Belgium beer, of course! Brussels is not only the capital of Belgium and a very business-oriented city.

What is the best month to visit Bruges? ›

Although Bruges is beautiful all year round, late spring and summer (between May and August) is an ideal time to visit. I'm particularly a fan of visiting in the shoulder season – around May or September – when the weather is warming up but you won't spend too much time stuck in lines or crowds.

Is Ghent worth seeing? ›

So, Is Ghent Worth Visiting? Ghent Belgium is 100% still worth visiting. As I mentioned it's more local than Bruges and there's still enough to see. From medieval castles, to boat tours, and local shopping!

Is Ghent bigger than Bruges? ›

Getting Around in Ghent and Bruges

Both Ghent and Bruges are ideal for exploring on foot, and they feature first in our mega-list of the most walkable cities in Europe. However, Ghent is slightly larger than Bruges and at times, you may need to take the tram or bus.

What is the number one tourist attraction in Belgium? ›

1. Grand Place, Brussels. La Grand Place (also known as De Grote Markt), is rimmed by finely preserved guildhalls and other grand buildings that showcase Belgium's vernacular architecture at its best. One side is dominated by the ornate medieval town hall, a masterpiece of Gothic architecture.

What are three things that Bruges Belgium is known for? ›

17 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Bruges
  • BRUGES IS FAMOUS FOR ITS LACE MAKING. ...
  • IT HAS MORE CASTLES THAN ANY OTHER COUNTRY. ...
  • THE BELGIANS INVENTED FRIES, NOT AMERICANS. ...
  • THERE'S A WHOLE BAR DEDICATED TO POTATOES. ...
  • BRUGES IS HAUNTED. ...
  • THERE ARE COUNTLESS MYTHS AND LEGENDS. ...
  • GET CAUTIOUS WHEN IT COMES TO CHOCOLATE.

Is Ghent similar to Bruges? ›

Bruges and Ghent count as the historic gem cities of Belgium. Both offer visitors a similar medieval backdrop, enchanting cobbled streets, captivating canal tours, 360° Belfry views and Belgian waffles galore.

Do they speak English in Bruges? ›

Belgium has three official languages. Flemish Dutch, French and German. Flemish Dutch is spoken by 56% of the population, French 40%, and German 1%. Even though English isn't an official language of Belgium, it is still spoken by 55% of its people.

Which is better to visit Bruges or Brussels? ›

Brussels is vibrant and packed full of things to do, whatever appeals to you. Bruges is completely different. It's smaller and has a fairy tale feel with medieval architecture, meandering waterways and picturesque moments seemingly around every corner.

Where is the world's most walkable city? ›

Sauntering into first place, the enchanting Italian city of Florence ranks as the world's most walkable city. Within 10 minutes, visitors are able to admire the unique Ponte Vecchio bridge, as well as the iconic Cathedral of Santa Maria—which boasts the largest brick dome ever constructed.

Is there a red light district in Bruges? ›

With its mediaeval and mediaeval-esque buildings, cobblestone streets, and canals, Bruges is known as a picture-perfect tourist destination. Its charms attract people from all over the world, but unlike in Amsterdam, the must-sees in Bruges do not include the red-light district.

Does Bruges have Uber? ›

Thousands of riders request rides with Uber every day. You can generate revenue by using the Uber app in Bruges while getting riders where they need to go.

How far is Bruges train station to city Centre? ›

Brugge train station is to the south of the historic city centre, but all of the city's many attractions are within a 25 min walk. If you want to head to the city centre from the station, the only option is to walk or take a taxi, as there are no public transport options available.

What is a typical breakfast in Belgium? ›

The breakfast in Belgium consists of breads, toasted or untoasted, with several marmalades, jams, and chocolate & nut spread or just with a bar of chocolate. Other common toppings include sliced meats and cheeses. Pastries and croissants may be served on Sundays, but are mostly not eaten on weekdays.

What is a typical dinner in Belgium? ›

Moules-frites / Mosselen met friet: mussels cooked or steamed with onions and celery served with Belgian fries. The recipe has often been referred to as the country's national dish but is also popular in the neighboring Nord region of France.

What is Belgium's signature dish? ›

Moules. As Belgium's national dish, each pan of steaming mussels is served with a helping of the obligatory chunky frites. Traditionally sent out mariniere-style, with cream, parsley and a splash of white wine, there's also a hearty version with beer marinade worth seeking out.

Is one day in Antwerp enough? ›

If you only have one day in Antwerp, there are plenty of amazing things to do. From exploring the adorable streets of the old city to getting your fill of Belgian chocolate at Chocolate Nation, a visit to Antwerp is a perfect stop in your Belgium itinerary.

Is Brussels or Antwerp prettier? ›

The winner: It's a tie. The choice between Antwerp and Brussels depends on your personal preference. If you prefer a city with a rich heritage and historical and political importance, go to Brussels. If you prefer a city with a vibrant atmosphere and lively energy, Antwerp is your best bet.

What is the most popular restaurant in Belgium? ›

Along with Hof van Cleve, these are the 10 best restaurants in Belgium:
  • Hof van Cleve, Kruisem.
  • L'air tu temps, Liernu.
  • Boury, Roeselare.
  • The Jane, Antwerp.
  • Zilte, Antwerp.
  • Arabelle Meirlaen, Marchin.
  • Bartholomeus, Knokke-Heist.
  • Hertog Jan, Antwerp.
Nov 10, 2022

What should you not miss in Belgium? ›

  • Immerse yourself in Belgium's legendary beer culture. ...
  • Enjoy the beach in Ostend. ...
  • Go kayaking and hiking in the Ardennes. ...
  • See the famous altarpiece in St-Baafskathedraal in Ghent. ...
  • Visit Museés Royaux des Beaux Arts in Brussels. ...
  • Take a walk around Grand-Place in Brussels. ...
  • Go to Musée Hergé

What can you do in one day in Belgium? ›

Brussels in One day Itinerary – Best of Brussels in a day
  • The Brussels Cathedral – St Michael and St Gudula.
  • Royal Palace of Brussels.
  • Palais du Coudenberg.
  • Brussels/Belgium Tourist Information Center.
  • Mont des Arts Gardens or Kunstberg.
  • Grand Place/Grote Markt.
  • Houses of the Grand Place.
Apr 5, 2021

What are the do's and don'ts in Belgium? ›

  • Tip #1: Do arrive early for cross-border trains.
  • Tip #2: Do know the names of the cities you'll be visiting in French, Dutch & German.
  • Tip #3: Do know that 'Bruxelles Midi', 'Brussel Zuid' & Brussels South are the same train station in different languages.
  • Tip #4: Do bring your walking shoes,

What is the rainiest month in Belgium? ›

On average Belgium gets more rainfall than the UK and slightly less than the Netherlands, the rainiest months are July (mid-summer) and December (early winter).

Is Bruges worth a day trip from Paris? ›

Yes, a Paris to Bruges day trip is decent for families who wish to explore the beautiful picturesque of the medieval town. Kids can try munching on delicious Belgian chocolates and waffles, that are a must try!

Which month has the best weather in Belgium? ›

The best time to visit Belgium is during the months of April, May and June and between September and October. These are the times the weather conditions are perfect; festivals are abundant, nature is at its beautiful best and activities are aplenty.

Can you do a day trip to Bruge? ›

Thanks to the city's central location, it's really easy to plan a day trip to Bruges. Small and compact, you can set off from home early in the morning, take a whizz around the city and get home comfortably in time for bed.

How long is the train journey from Brussels to Bruges? ›

The train from Brussels to Bruges usually takes 59m, but can take just 53m on the fastest services. You'll be travelling direct on this route with SNCB.

Which is better Brussels or Ghent? ›

In either Ghent or Brussels, you'll find plenty of activities to fill your time. Most visitors tend to spend more time in Brussels than Ghent because of the overall number of sights and activities. The ideal length of time for a trip to Ghent is 1-3 days, and the ideal length of time for a trip to Brussels is 1-5 days.

What are alternatives to Bruges? ›

Ghent, Leuven, Namur, Antwerp, Ypres etc.....

How much time do I need in Bruges? ›

Three nights and two full days is a good amount of time to spend in Bruges. Given its small size, you may run out of things to do if you spend longer there. An alternative option is to add on another night and spend your third day in pretty Ghent, which is just a half hour train ride away.

How much time should you spend in Bruges? ›

Two days in Bruges will allow you to see all the best sights in the city without feeling rushed. On a weekend visit to Bruges you can lose yourself in the cobblestone streets, explore the fascinating historic buildings, cruise the canals in a boat tour, and eat copious amounts of Belgian chocolate and waffles.

How many hours do you need to see Bruges? ›

Small and compact, the Flemish city of Bruges is characterised by its red brick buildings, medieval architecture, and winding canals. Easy to explore on foot, you'll be pleased to know that you can see most of the city in under 24 hours.

How do I spend a day in Bruges? ›

What to Do in Bruges in One Day
  1. Visit Market Square.
  2. See the scenery at Minnewater Lake.
  3. Learn about history at the Beguinage.
  4. Grab a beer at De Halve Maan brewery.
  5. Tour the Church of Our Lady.
  6. Indulge at The Old Chocolate House.
  7. Take a canal cruise.
  8. See Town Hall.
Jan 9, 2023

Which is better Bruges or Brussels? ›

Brussels is vibrant and packed full of things to do, whatever appeals to you. Bruges is completely different. It's smaller and has a fairy tale feel with medieval architecture, meandering waterways and picturesque moments seemingly around every corner.

Is half a day enough in Ghent? ›

It's possible to see Ghent in only half a day, but you have to plan in advance what exactly do you want to see. There are 3 major landmarks – St. Bavo's Cathedral, Belfry Tower and Castle of the Counts. For the castle, you'll need about 1-2h to see everything.

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