Once the most important town in Belgium, being its comercial and industrial heart between the 13 and 15 centuries thanks to the Zwin canal, that linked the tow to the sea, Bruges was forgotten after the stagnation of the canal, in the 15 century. Losing its access to the sea, Bruges was left isolated. After years of recession, the small charming town turned the tables rising once again to become the European Capital of Culture in 2002 and its city center is now a World Heritage Site of UNESCO.
Its medieval atmosphere, reflects a city where little had changed during the centuries, giving those who wander its small, stoned streets the sensation of traveling back in time. Despite being such a explored tourist destination, Brugges remains a smalll city, its donwtown can be fully visited in only one day, which makes it perfect if you are planning a one day trip, leaving from Brussels or Ghent.
What To Do In Bruges In One Day
How to get there
To visit Brugges there are two main routes, you can either take a ferry, as Brugges used to be a port city and still conserves its litoral and docks, or you can take the train from both Brussels or Ghent. Leaving from Brussels, the very next stop for the train will be Ghent, so bear this is mind, and perhaps plan a visit there as well.
You can visit Brugges during the day and head to Ghent to spend the night and explore the city in the next day, going back to Brussels after. Most of people choose to spend the night in Ghent instead of Brugges by the fact that Brugges, despite being charming, doesn’t really offer a night life, so if you plan to stay over-night, expect a calm and chill night. If you are looking for parties or a more agitated night, Ghent would be a better option.
What to do
As I said, Brugges is a small city, but it has a lot to see, and will definitely keep you busy for the whole day. Besides, the medieval look and feeling will make you feel like staying there admiring every scenes, from the ghosty alleys to the stone buildings that stand there, watching the streets for centuries.
The main square of Bruges,it is surrounded by the most beutiful buildings in the city, and important landmarks like the Provinciaal Hof, the the former meeting place for the provincial government of West Flanders, Huis Bouchoute, Craenenburg, the the famous Belfry of Bruges and the Historium a cool experience where you can learn more about the history of the city.
Belfry & Halle
Located in Bruges Markt, the Halle was built as the city’s main market and is famous by its bell tower, the Belfry, it is the symbol of the city and used to house treasury and the municipal archives. It is possible to climb the tower for a small fee, on your way up you will see the Treasure Room, and from the top you will have probably the best view from Bruges.
Once the house of the bishop or Bruges until 1794, it is now occupied by government offices of the West Flanders.
Basilica of the Holy Blood
A small church located in a central Plaza known as Burg, inside the church it is possible to have a glimpse at the crystal vial in which it is claimed to be kept a drop of Christ’s blood brought from the Holy Land in 1149 on his return from the Second Crusade.
Built between 1376 and 1420, it is one of the oldest buildings in Bruges and the oldest Town Hall in the whole Netherlands. Don’t miss the Gothic Hall on the first floor of the building.
Church of our Lady
The tallest spire in Belgium, the church was built around 1230 but was only completed in the 14th or 15th century. In its altar was placed the Virgin and Child, a sculpture made by Michelangelo, close to it you can see the Adoration of the Shepherds by Pieter Pourbus, one of the most famous paintings in Belgium.
At the end of the Dijver canal, on the left side of it, it is possible to see the Dijver Masions, a collection of mansions built in the 15 century, the most famous one, known nowadays as Gruuthusemuseum was the house where the English king Edward IV took shelter, now turned into a museum it displays a collection of antiques, carvings, tapestries, and weaponry. Next to it is the Brangwyn Museum, that exhibits porcelain, ceramics, paintings and drawings.
At the Dijver Canal it is also possible to take a boat trip through the canals of Bruges, the city is known as the Venice of the North due to its many canals that cross the city.
Also located in the Dijever Canal is the Groeninge Museum, that houses Bruges’ best collection of art. Besides traditional Flemish art the museum also displays neoclassic and post-war modern art asd well as a collection of views of old Bruges
Founded by Margaret of Constantinople in 1245, this is the only preserved Beguinag in the city of Bruges, the complext of white houses used to be home of the Beguine, a christian women members of a semi-monastic order. No more Beguines live there nowdays and the complex were turned into a convent.
Museum St Janshospital
Sint-Janshopital is the oldest building in Bruges and one of the oldest in the entire Europe. Its building was used for more than 800 years by nuns and monks as a hospital, caring for pilgrims, travellers, the poor and the sick. Nowadays, visiting its museum you can have a better idea of how the medicine and hospitals used to be back in the medieval era.
St Salvator’s Cathedral
Built in the 10th century as a common parish church, St Salvator’s Cathedral receied the title of cathedral only in the 19th century, becoming the main church in Bruges and the oldest parish church in the city. Dedicated to Saint-Donatius of Reims, inside you can see old paintings and retables, brass tomb plates and reliquaries.
Built during the construction of the second ring of ramparts initially in 1297, it was rebuilt in a different stye in 1369, Ezelpoort is one of the few city gates remaining in Bruges. The gate is located in a beautiful green area, which makes a walk there even more pleasant.