Greetings, Internet Stranger! So you want to have a perfect 24 hours in Bruges? First, you better make sure you know where Bruges is. Bruges is a well-preserved medieval city in the Flemish (Dutch) speaking part of Belgium. It is the first city whose existence I first learned of in a movie–the very violent and funny In Bruges.
I was so captivated by the medieval architecture and canals that made Colin Farrell so bored that I became determined to make a stop In Bruges as soon as possible. Follow me for 24 hours in Bruges as I take you to all the best places that a fairy tale town can offer.
24 Hours in Bruges
Where to Stay?
Bruges is a fabulously cozy city. So for your 24 hours in Bruges, you’ll want to stay someplace that’s equally fabulously cozy. You’ll have many options from which to choose, but I strongly recommend the Rose Suites. It’s affordable and in a convenient location. Plus there’s a yummy breakfast every morning, and the friendly owners are full of advice about the city. What could be better?
If you’re still investigating and you’d rather explore over 400 great deals on hotels in Bruges, click here.
24 Hours in Bruges
What to Pack?
The weather in Belgium is unpredictable, and it definitely rained several times during my 24 hours in Bruges. So the two most important things you’ll need to bring are an umbrella and some rain boots. My favorite travel umbrella is the Repel Teflon Waterproof Umbrella. It is strong enough to stand up to the sometimes-quite-strong winds of Bruges.
For rain boots, I recommend the Asgard Rain Boots. They are comfy/cozy and keep my feet dry all day. Plus they’re cute enough that I can wear them on a stroll about the Markt without feeling like some gauche American with gross feet.
Finally, if you’re not from Europe, you need a universal adapter if you’re going to plug in electronics. European electrical outlets don’t work with either American or British plugs. I suggest the NEWVANGA travel adapter. It’s usable with any electrical outlet in the world, so you won’t need to keep buying new adapters. I always carry two with me, just in case something happens to one.
24 Hours in Bruges
Morning: Explore Medieval Bruges
In theory, I appreciate any type of comment that is left on my blog, even the ones telling me not to wear my seatbelt or I will drown in my own urine. But in practice, some comments are so annoying that I can’t allow them to be published for the good of my sanity, and for me the most annoying comments are the ones that tell me things like, “24 hours isn’t enough time to spend in Rome!!! OMG!!!”
I know that, Internet Stranger! That is why I end every post by saying that you should spend more than 24 hours in most cities! I just believe in taking every trip one day at a time.
But Bruges isn’t Rome, and while 24 hours in Bruges might not be enough to see everything, 48 hours basically is. It is a small city that is made for wandering and exploring, and I encourage you to get out and ramble in its beauteous wonders as much as you can. But if you need some help getting started…
Approximately top 5: Medieval Bruges
1) The Belfort
The Belfort is the bell tower right on the Markt. You can’t miss it! But if you are confused, just refer to the picture above. Now you definitely won’t miss it!
The Belfort, which dates back to the 13th century, is 272 feet tall and contains 47 bells. I guess Belgians don’t like round numbers. What would be wrong with making it 300 feet tall and giving it 50 bells?
The Belfort is expensive, but the entry is worth it for the incredible views you will get of Bruges at the top. See!
I took all of those myself…In Bruges!
24 Hour Tip: Be careful going up the Belfort
It’s a long and painful climb to the top of the Belfort, and while I have never been mistaken for Wonder Woman, I am not in terrible shape. Remember the scene in In Bruges where Colin Farrell tells the large American family that they are too fat to climb up the bell tower?
That’s the Belfort he was talking about. Be sure to pace yourself on the trip up. Take time to examine the bells and pretend that you are Esmerelda the gypsy and Quasimodo is waiting in the wings.
Pro Tip: Don’t let any of the bells fall on your head!
2) Medieval Squares of Bruges
When you’re done at the Belfort, use the rest of your morning to explore the adorable little medieval houses and the rest of the two main squares in Bruges: Markt and Burg. The picture above is Markt, getting ready to celebrate Belgian National Day.
And this is one of the shiny buildings in Burg square. Which one do you think is prettier? Do denizens of Bruges spend hours debating whether they prefer Burg or Markt? I have a hard time imagining the people of Bruges debating much of anything. If I lived in Bruges, I’d spend all my time drinking beer and eating chocolate. Speaking of which…
3) Indulge in Belgian Chocolate at the Chocolate Line
Believe me, Bruges has enough architectural delights to last you a whole day. You can also stop and buy some delicious Belgian chocolates to snack on later in the day. My favorites are these beauties that I bought at a place called The Chocolate Line. They are all Belgian pralines, which means that they have a thin chocolate shell and a hazelnut chocolate filling. They were delectable, but next time I go back I want to try some more unusual flavors.
4) Waffle at Chez Albert
You might be thinking to yourself that a waffle is not lunch. That only proves that you have never encountered a real Belgian waffle, which is definitely big enough to make a meal, especially if you put chocolate sauce and strawberries on top.
There are two kinds of waffles in Belgium: Brussels waffles and Liege waffles. Brussels waffles are light and fluffy and you can put lots of different toppings on them. Liege waffles are crispier and sweeter because they’re made with pearl sugar in the batter. These from Chez Albert are Liege waffles.
Technically speaking, it’s not authentic to get so many toppings on a Liege waffle, but it was Albert’s idea to put so many things on it, not mine. Plus this was delicious and I regret nothing.
5) The Historium
TheHistorium is an interactive history show set in one of the historic buildings on the Markt square. The show lasts for one hour and takes you on an imaginary tour of medieval Bruges, when the city was at the height of its wealth and influence. You follow the story of a teenage boy who is trying to work as an apprentice while simultaneously helping the girl he has a crush on.
24 Hour tip
I recommend buying a ticket in advance online to make sure you get the time you want.
Through the use of video projection and vaguely creepy puppets, you get to explore many different areas of the Bruges of the Past, from the docks…
to Van Eyck’s art studio…
to a tavern.
The Historium promises the tour will delight all five senses, and indeed there were some smells that were pumped in, like the soap when our unfortunate teenage male protagonist had to explore a bathhouse. (I’m not including pictures for that scene.)
I considered the Historium to be a highlight, not for the Smell-O-Vision, but because it helped me understand that though Bruges is a quaint little tourist attraction now, it used to be a powerful and culturally important center of commerce.
24 hour treasure
When you’re done with the show, head through the small interactive museum that will teach you more about the history of medieval Bruges. You can also step out on the balcony and enjoy some lovely views of the Markt.
This is Belgium, so of course you can also stop for a Duvel brand beer inside the Historium. Just don’t take one from the ceiling!
24 Hours in Bruges
Afternoon: Legends of Bruges Walking Tour
The Legends of Bruges Walking Tour is a pay what you wish tour that leaves at least once a day from the Markt. For this 24 hours in Bruges itinerary, I recommend the 2PM tour. You don’t need to reserve in advance; you can just show up. I loved this tour because I learned so many Fun and Gruesome facts about Bruges, and FGFs are some of my favorite things in life. Come with me and I will explain the most F and G FGFs Bruges has to offer.
three fun facts about bruges
1) what language do they speak?
Historically, there has been no love lost between the Flemish speaking denizens of Belgium and the French speaking denizens of Belgium. In 1302, in an attack known as the Bruges Matins, Flemish soldiers rose up against the French soldiers in the town.
Since you can’t tell a Frenchman from a Flemchman just by looking at him, the Flemish would ask suspicious people to repeat a phrase that is difficult for a native speaker of French to pronounce. If you said this phrase like a Frenchie, the Flemish would hit you with a weapon called a “good night”. That’s so mean! Who even knows how to speak Flemish anyway?
2) Why are there swans?
Another legend concerns the notorious swans of Bruges. Apparently in the 15th century, the Bruggians led a revolt against their Emperor Maximilian. (He was Austrian, so I’m not quite sure how he ended up ruling Bruges. But European ruling houses often get really complicated.)
As part of this revolt, they executed a subordinate of the emperor’s, one Peter Longneck. So as punishment, Maximilian decreed that the people of Bruges had to keep “long necked” swans in the canals forever and ever. Badass, Maximilian! I think more medieval emperors should resort to that kind of poetic justice.
3) How about tragic love stories?
A final legend is the legend of the Minnewater Lake, also known as the Lake of Love. The legend is about a young woman named Minne who was in love with a young man whom her wealthy father deemed Unsuitable. Mean Dad tried to make Minne marry another, but instead she ran away. Her true love finally found Minne by this lake, but only after she had died of some tragic medieval ailment. So the lake has the name Minne in her honor.
24 Hour Treasure
Aside from the tale of Swan Vengeance by Emperor Maximilian? I also like that the tour entitles you to one free beer from a pub called Cambrinus and a free chocolate gift with purchase at the Chocolaterie de Burg.
I got beer-filled chocolates, which I’m pretty sure means I win at the game of Bruges because beer and chocolate are the most Belgian things ever! The only way to make them more Belgian would be to eat them with a side of frites while reading a Tintin comic.
24 Hours in Bruges
Evening: Chez Vincent and the Markt Lights
I stopped at Chez Vincent for one reason only: because the New York Times said that the place serves amazing Belgian frites. For those of you who do not know, Belgian frites are legendary for being fried two times in beef fat, which makes them extra crispy on the outside and impossibly fluffy and potatoey on the inside. It really is true that after eating Belgian frites, you are spoiled for other kinds of fries.
I ate my frites with a kipcorn, a kind of chicken sausage coated in cornbread and fried. I’m not sure it exists outside of Belgium and the Netherlands, so I’m happy to have run across it here. The cornbread coating was very crispy, but the chicken on the inside was flavorful and not greasy. The service at Chez Vincent is famously brusque, but you’re not here to get smiled at, are you? You’re here for the frites! Just grab a table outside and enjoy the power of fried starch.
24 Hour Tip
You have to bus your table yourself at the end of the meal. But the plus side to this is you don’t need to tip!
Once you’ve finished your frites, head to the Markt! Bruges is not a town that is known for its nightlife. However, it is always possible that there will be some evening activities on in the Markt. I was lucky enough to be in Bruges for the rockingest Belgian party of the year: Belgian National Day. This holiday, celebrated on July 21 every year, commemorates the day that Belgium became an independent nation under King Leopold I.
Don’t worry! Leopold I wasn’t the terrible Belgian king who slaughtered and exploited basically everyone in the Congo. That was his son, Leopold II. So we need have no uncomfortable feelings about Belgian National Day. Unless you’re from the Belgian Congo. Then I feel like hard feelings are still okay.
Most of the songs were in Flemish, a language I couldn’t understand even if someone threatened to bash my head in. Occasionally the Belgians would break this up with an exuberant rendition of an American pop song from the 1980s. I sang along with enthusiasm when we got to “Holding Out for a Hero”, but I still don’t know what Bonnie Tyler has to do with Belgian National Day.
There was one song in French, “La Vie en Rose”, but the Flemish Belgians sang it with such exaggerated Frenchieness that I got the distinct impression it’s still not overpopular to be a French speaker in Flanders, even though you might not get your head bashed in anymore.
However, even if you’re not lucky enough to be in Bruges on Belgian National Day, it’s worth it to check out the Markt at night to see the buildings all lit up.
See! It’s like you’re in a dream, but you’re awake!
Further Reading/Watching: 24 Hours in Bruges
Are you ready to start booking your hotel in Bruges right now? Then let me help you get started with some further reading! I like the Lonely Planet guide to Brussels and Bruges. It’s really one of the only guides for these two cities out there, and I like that it’s organized according to neighborhood.
One of the funniest books I’ve ever read about Belgium is A Tall Man in a Low Land. (OK, it’s one of the only books I’ve ever read about Belgium, but bear with me. This tale of an Englishman’s travels around Belgium will crack you up big time. I always hear this book in John Cleese’s voice in my head when I read it.
And if you want more Belgian hilarity, I need to recommend the film In Bruges. This movie is the funniest movie you’ll ever see about gangsters, drugs, and medieval architecture. I don’t even like Colin Farrell, but he’s great in this movie. See it!
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend 24 hours in Bruges. If you have an extra 24 hours in Bruges, try adding this itinerary.