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24 hours in Bruges Belgium: the best things to see and do

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Is one day in Bruges enough? By our normal standards, we didn’t stay too long in Bruges, but we were still here long enough to scoot over a lot of territory, and to get a great feel for the city.  I was, however, starting to tire of the miserable weather.  Not that it was stopping us from doing anything, but I’m used to the sunshine and beautiful weather.  I can handle the cold.  I actually quite like it, but grey skies can get a bit depressing after seven days of it.

Bruges is another water city.  Oh, how wonderful!  But it’s going to have to prove to me that it’s better than Ghent to take out the award for the best canal city in Belgium.  Time to give it a test run.

24 hours in Bruges 

There’s no room in the old city of Bruges for our motorhome, that’s for sure. But, like so many of the Belgian towns we’ve visited, Bruges welcomes those visiting in motorhomes with open arms.  Just outside the city,  they have provided a HUGE overnight parking area, specifically designed for buses and motorhomes.  Even better, it’s only a 5-10 minutes walk across a bridge and through a beautiful park into the city.

We found ourselves a great spot for the night, tucked away down one end.  At the time of parking, there was only one other French vehicle nearby.  This suited us perfectly, as we like our space.  That’s why we travel in a motorhome.

Soon we are on our way, kicking our feet through the multi-coloured autumn leaves that blanket the grass of Minnewater Park.  We don’t have a true autumn in my home state so I always get a buzz out of seeing the changing colours.  It means winter is on the way.  Something else we never see much of at home.

Autumn leaves in Minnewater Park Bruges Belgium 24 hours in Bruges
LOVE the bright, vibrant colours that represent Autumn

With its medieval buildings, and UNESCO World Heritage protected inner city, and intimate feel, Bruges feels like the fairytale that you read as a child.  And, with the canals that weave through the city, it’s often referred to as the “Venice of the North”.

I think it’s this reference that made me expect something more of Bruges, having been completely entranced by Venice, and maybe…..unfairly…..it made me feel a little less attached to Bruges.  The voice in my head also keeps telling me that it’s because I LOVE Ghent!!

Back in the 13th century, Bruges was a walled city.  Today, all that remains are a couple of gates and windmills.  The ramparts have now become the green heart of the city, extending for six km around the old town.  It continues to add to the fairytale feel, and I imagine Rapunzel and her golden hair tumbling from the tops of these towers.

Kruispoort gate Bruges 24 hours in Bruges
One of the gates that was part of the former wall

As we walked along, we saw a sign of great things to come.  As we rounded a corner and emerged from the thick tree covering, we saw this beautiful building.  On the edge of Minnewater sat this incredible building.  I later learned that this was the former gatehouse of a castle, now a brasserie called Kasteel Minnewater Restaurant. I am always amazed at how magnificent the gatehouses in Europe are.  You can only imagine what the castle must have looked like!

Kasteel Minnewater Bruges
Looks almost mystical across the lake

Best things to see and do in Bruges

Grote Markt

No surprises for what I’m going to find in Bruges’ Grote Markt, but I am still looking forward to it.  This one is huge and there’s so much going on when we arrive.  Unfortunately, it was really, really difficult to get too many good photos as the square was covered with big trucks, setting up for a marathon the next day.  Such a shame, as it is lined with incredible medieval buildings.

Grote Markt Bruges 24 hours in Bruges
You can see here it is such a huge space
Grote Markt Bruges
The statue holding the fort in the centre of Grote Markt
Cranenburg House Bruges
Cranenburg House
Historium Brugges
The second level balcony is where we sat in the Duvelorium

Belfry of Bruges

This is the medieval bell tower that sits imposingly on one of the corners of the Grote Markt.  To the sides and back of the tower is the Market Hall, and a courtyard that is tucked away from the hordes of people that flock to this important part of the city.  It’s a great place to stop for a break.

Belfry of Bruges
The Belfry

Visit the Duvelorium Grand Beer Cafe in the Bruges Historium

Ok, so maybe, just maybe, I should take a tour through the Historium. But, apart from war history, I prefer to get my fill of history from walking around old streets in old towns, looking at old buildings.  But, I have heard that this Historium offers a great experience if indoor museums are your thing.

Our sneaky find was the Duvelorium Grand Beer Cafe that is on the second floor of the beautiful building that houses the Historium.  But, it’s not without its’ own claim to fame either, being the only real Duvel cafe in the world.  For non-beer drinkers, Duvel is a well known Belgian beer.

If you’re lucky (or stalk someone as we did), pull up a stool at the edge of the balcony and treat yourself to an incredible panoramic view of the entire square.  From here, beers in hand, we took in all the colour of the buildings and the sound of the bagpipes from the band that was performing below us.

Drinking beers at the duvelorium in Bruges 24 hours in Bruges
A glass of De Koninck and a cheeky glass of Brugge Zot.
Bruge Grote Markt bruges in 24 hours
A move away from the stone coloured building here

Burg Square

Close by the Grote Markt is another large square, the Burg, which has some equally impressive buildings.

The Town Hall, built in 1376, was another Gothic masterpiece containing 49 statues of the Counts of Flanders.

Town Hall Bruges
Another great example of Gothic architecture

Adjacent to the Town Hall is the Old Civil Registry office, with the common Renaissance facade and plenty of gold decoration.

The Old Civil Registry office Bruges
The Old Civil Registry office

The Basilica of the Holy Blood (left in the photo below) was built in 1134 as the residence of the Count of Flanders. Sometimes I just cannot fathom the beauty of these buildings that were built so long ago.  Even more mystifying is how they are still standing today.  This facade was refurbished in 1890 in Gothic style.

Basilica of the Holy Blood Bruges bruges in 24 hours
Basilica of the Holy Blood

Take a photo from Rozenhoedkaai

If you don’t, you’ll be the only one in tens of thousands who take a photo from here each year.  This is THE most photographed spot in Bruges.  And for good reason.  It’s a location that seems to scream “postcard” shot from across the waterway.

Rozenhoedkaai the most photographed spot in Bruges
Rozenhoedkaai in Bruges
Another view from the Rozenhoedkaai

Cruise the canals of Bruges

Boats can be hired all around the waterways.  It’s a great way to see the city, and of course, it’s very relaxing with someone else doing all the work.

Boat rides in Bruges
Taking a boat ride in Bruges
A typical view of boats and medieval buildings

Stop for a moment on the Bonifaciusbrug Bridge

Now that’s a mouthful.  Any wonder it’s been affectionately termed the Lovers’ Bridge.  Here in this area that is close to Minnewater Park is another small park and this pretty bridge.  Whether it be from the park itself, or upon the bridge, you can be assured of a marvellous view along the canals.
 
Stop here to watch the canal boats sail underneath as they carry another group of visitors around the waterways.  Nearby you can stop for a coffee or a glass of one of Belgium’s finest beers.  But beware, horse-drawn carriages scoot through here at a fair clip.  Luckily you can usually hear their hooves click-clacking on the cobblestone streets.  It still pays to keep your wits about you.
Minnewater Bridge Bruges
The Minnewater Bridge

Beguinage

Like in the towns of Leuven and Mechelen, there is a beguinage in Bruges also.  You might remember that these areas of small streets and small houses were originally belonging to a group of women, who took vows but were never formally “tied” to the church.  Despite this, these areas were recognised as religious communities.

Houses of the Bruge Beguinage bruges in 24 hours
I especially love the blue and white on this house
Houses of the Bruge Beguinage
Another cute house and love the arches
Houses of the Bruge Beguinage bruges in 24 hours
Two houses – both so tiny

Can you see the potential in these old homes?

Some rundown houses in the beguinage in Bruges
Some rundown houses in the Beguinage

 Bruge Monastic Community

Also part of the Beguinage, this walled sub-city is home to the Benedictine nuns.  The nuns have resided here since the last beguines left in the 1900s.

Monastic community Bruges
One of the buildings on the walled edge of the community

As you walk through the large grassy park area in the centre, signs around you ask for respect by keeping your voice down. This is, after all, a place for quiet reflection.

Then I looked up.  Surrounded by old, reddish-brown brick buildings, it was a strange sight to see small timber houses built high up in the trees.   In a location where peace and quiet is a right of passage, the sight of the tree houses made me think of kids running around and trying their best to scale the heights of the trees.  It does not make me think of serenity.  Apparently, they are art, so whilst I still don’t profess to understand the connection, the strange location probably makes a little more sense to me now.  They aren’t practical, they are purely visual.

Tree houses in the monastic community in Bruges
Weird location for a tree house

Why you should visit Bruges

As we left the Monastic community, we found ourselves right back at the Minnewater Lake once more.  We had explored Bruges’ old town from one side to the next, taking in so many things that I couldn’t possibly write about them all here.  Churches, historic hospitals and galleries.

We spent a while in a beer museum (of sorts) which had the most amazing range of memorabilia, authentic (second hand) glassware, and souvenirs.  Actually, there were more beer stores here, carrying hundreds and hundreds of types of beer, than I have ever seen anywhere else.  I told you the Belgians loved their beer!

And chocolate. And frites.  I have nearly got to the end of a Belgian city story without mentioning either of them.  Chocolate shops are everywhere, and I made sure I stopped and bought some from local artisan Jean de Bruges.  As for the frites, of course, we had some.  Our vow to not leave a Belgian town without having frites hasn’t missed a beat.

It’s a city of beauty, without a doubt.  Is it better than Ghent?  I’ll probably always think Ghent is better.  But, you know what, it’s really splitting hairs.  I’m so lucky to be able to visit and experience both of these amazing places that I think I will settle on them being even.

If you are wanting to learn even more about Bruges, why don’t you also have a look at The Travel Hack’s weekend experience here?

In the meantime, here are a few more picturesque views of Bruges to help you make up your own mind and to hopefully whet your own appetite for a future visit.

trees over the water in Bruges Belgium
I love the trees hanging over the water here
Buildings right on the water in Bruges
Buildings right on the water

As we returned to our motorhome park, we were astounded to see that the entire car park was now full to capacity.  Our spot, that hours earlier had been quite private, was now completely surrounded by Belgians, French and Dutch.  We were so pleased we arrived when we did or else we may not have been so lucky to secure a spot.   This is such a great location that I guess it’s now quite well known.

Where to stay in Bruges

If you want to find the best places to stay in Bruges, I would recommend staying close to the main attractions.

For hotels, prices, availability and reviews, check out Trip Advisor.

Review of Aire: best aire in Bruges

Kampeerautoterrein Brugge, Bargeweg 8000 Brugge

  • Costs vary depending on the season.  From 1 April to 30 September, the 24-hour rate is €25. From 1 October to 31 March, you will pay €19.
  • This is a well equipped, well-maintained site.  There are actually two carparks here.  One is a smaller one, and the other much larger.
  • All services are available here and included in the tariff: fresh water, waste disposal and electricity.
  • Payment is via a machine (cash or credit card).
  • The entire area is a hard stand.
  • Each parking area has immediate access to electricity posts reducing the need to run long extension leads.
  • Close access to Bruges.  A short walk is all that is required.
  • Secure and quite quiet at night. (except if you have a partying neighbour in close proximity 🙂 )
campervan park bruges in 24 hours
We were one of 37 motorhomes parked up here
Interparking payment station at Bruges
All payments at this Aire are taken by this machine.
Bruges Belgium

22 thoughts on “24 hours in Bruges Belgium: the best things to see and do”

  1. I love Bruges but I’ve visited twice and both times it was raining!! In Ghent on the other side, I experienced sunshine as well!!

  2. Yeah, as you can see from the skies in my photos we didn’t get good weather either. And, we had the same in Ghent. Sunshine would have made me love Ghent even more. Oh well. That’s European life 🙂

  3. Bruges is a stunning little city, and it’s great to know that they do think of the motor home parking. We see more and more campers on the road these days.

  4. Well, you are making me exited – we are off to Bruges this year – sounds wonderful. I’m now going to look up Amsterdam, Paris, Cinque Terre, Como, Positano, Ravello, Sorento, and I’ve already checked out Santorini!! Great stuff.

  5. You will absolutely love Bruges David. Cinque Terre is on line and some more Paris is coming. I haven’t got any of my Amalfi Coast stories up yet…..so many places so little time to write 🙂 Positano is definitely on my list of faves for the Amalfi.

  6. The Eurostar is amazing. I wish where I live (Australia) was so much easier to connect to other countries. I think I’d be on the Eurostar all the time 🙂 It’s only a couple of hours at most I think on the train from London. As for those houses….mmmm…wouldn’t that be terrific.

  7. I’d love to visit Bruges. I’ve heard a lot about it and your photos look really good! The colours are beautiful! Definitely on my list if I one day settle back in France – I won’t be too far!!

  8. Hi Eloise, that’s the wonderful thing about Europe (and especially France – Belgium)….everything is so close. If you ever get back there Bruges is definitely one to visit but also try Ghent, very similar in some ways to Bruges but so much better. There’s a post on this too if you’re interested.

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